The American Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865. While more than 600,000 soldiers died, the effects of that conflict extended far beyond lives lost.
After the death of King Saul, Israel was embroiled in a civil war for seven years. At one point in a battle, an army captain lamented, “Must the sword devour forever?” (2 Sam. 2:26). The conflict had been long and exhausting. Today’s reading narrates the final episode in this dark period of Israel’s history.
For years Ish-Bosheth had been fighting for his right to be king, but things were not going well. The general of his army had been killed in Hebron (2 Sam. 4:1). There was not much hope of victory left. Two leaders in Ish-Bosheth’s army decided to take matters into their own hands. They snuck into Ish-Bosheth’s house and killed him in his sleep (vv. 5–6). Cutting off his head and hands as proof of his death, they fled to David’s headquarters. They wrongly assumed that by delivering the body of David’s rival to him, they would be rewarded.
It is interesting to examine what David did during this time. He did not plot or scheme to claim the throne. He did not kill his rivals. Instead, the author presents David as waiting well: conducting funerals, writing laments, having children, and administering justice. In contrast, Joab, Abner, Rekab, and Baanah were all opportunists, willing to shed blood to advance their cause. David knew that he had been anointed by the Lord and waited for His timing. In accordance with the Law’s requirements for the murder of an innocent person, David again dispensed justice.
>> Often the Christian life is filled with times of waiting for God. These periods of waiting are often the times when we are forced to rely on God the most. David knew this dynamic well. His psalms often encourage us: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:14).
It is hard to be still and wait. Lord, You move behind the scenes, even when we cannot perceive what You are doing. We ask for Your assurance when we are in waiting periods that You have ordained.