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Open Rebellion

January 16 2022

Book: 2 Samuel

Scripture: 2 Samuel 2:1-11

This morning we will consider a brief story from 2 Samuel chapter 2 and before I begin, I need to say how greatly indebted I am to Ralph Davis’s outline of this text and his emphasis on what the story teaches us about the kingdom of God.

1 After this David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And he said, “To Hebron.”

Notice already that David continues to speak to God before he makes decisions. This is something Saul failed to do.

Notice also that God tells David to leave his Philistine city and travel to Hebron. This is a significant moment because Hebron is a significant city. Hebron was the place where Abraham chose to settle down in the land of Canaan.

In other words, God told David to settle down in the town of Abraham, which is probably a nod to his promise to Abraham in Genesis 17:6 – “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.”

There is now a king living on Abraham’s land.

2 So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. 4 And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

Notice that David’s kingdom begins small. At this point, David is only recognized as king over one tribe – his own tribe. When God’s kingdom begins in earnest, it begins small.

And there is actually an important Bible principle here. Jesus, the true David, talked about the kingdom constantly. He referred to the Gospel as the Gospel of the kingdom. And he used a lot of parables to describe the kingdom.

One of the main points Jesus makes about the kingdom is that it starts small. Matthew 13:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

When we were a young church plant, I used to quote Zechariah 4:10 all the time. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”

Our church has grown, but the principle of the kingdom remains. Everything God starts will begin small. It’s how He works. So, when you think about the ministries you are involved in – small groups, Bible studies, outreach efforts – be careful not to measure success the way the world measures success. It may begin small and bear little fruit, but God rejoices in that work.

After everything David has been through, his kingdom begins with a town and a tribe. But it will grow.

When they told David, “It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul,” 5 David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him.

6 Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing. 7 Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”

We don’t know if the people of Jabesh-Gilead turned to David. The writer doesn’t tell us. But this was a bold and winsome attempt by David to expand his kingdom. These people were clearly loyal to Saul and Saul was an enemy of David.

Even so, David sends them a message that honors their loyalty to Saul and again he honors Saul, his enemy. David blesses them and makes a promise to them without expectation.

This is another example of how God seeks to grow His kingdom. It begins small, but it grows. And it grows not by hostile takeover. It grows through humble, gracious appeal. It spreads through good news.

David refuses to take the kingdom by force. He’s waiting on God. He’s trusting God to clear the path when God is ready. The only effort David makes is this kind of effort – loving his enemies and blessing those who curse him.

This is a lesson for us in evangelism. Jesus taught his disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. God is already king over heaven and earth, but everyone does not recognize that kingship. Just as one tribe recognized David as king, the only people on earth who currently honor God as king are His people – Christians.

But that number continues to grow – in every nation, among every tribe – people of every language and culture are hearing the good news and responding to it. God’s kingdom has always grown by winning converts from among his enemies. That’s who we were, and our job is to keep making disciples – praying and working for more people to recognize the kingship of our God, on earth as it is in heaven. In Horn Lake, as it is in heaven… In Desoto county, as it is in heaven…

And just like David with the people of Jabesh-Gilead, we are not responsible for how people respond to the Gospel. We just keep loving and praying and waiting on God. BUT!

8 But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, 9 and he made him king over Gilead and the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel.

10 Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. 11 And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

This son of Saul has not been mentioned until now. We have no idea why, as a grown man, he was not fighting beside his father on Mount Gilboa. It’s a little suspect and it will become obvious who had the real power as the story moves on – it was Abner.

Abner uses the last living son of Saul to gain power over the remaining tribes. And it is important to see this for what it is. Abner is in open rebellion against God. Abner had witnessed many times the promise of God to establish a new kingdom with David. He heard it from Saul’s own mouth – David will be king. But Abner chose to reject the plans of God.

And what Abner teaches us is this: until Jesus returns, there will always be opposition to the kingdom of God. The world and the devil will not go down without a fight.

Jesus faced constant resistance and mounting pressure during His ministry. He was tempted by the devil, harassed by demons, hated by the religious leaders, condemned by his own people – because He was the embodiment of God’s kingdom walking in the kingdom of the world.

There’s a powerful scene in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when the great lion, Aslan, walks slowly to meet the Witch – knowing he is about to be killed. The monsters surround him mocking and sneering at him. The beat him, bind his paws, shave his mane, and drag him onto the stone table. Lucy looks at her sister in tears and asks, “Why doesn’t he fight back?”

We could ask the same thing of King Jesus as we read the story of the cross. With a single word, Jesus could have crushed his enemies and forced every knee to bow. But that’s not how God wanted to establish His kingdom.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The Apostle Paul helps us understand that we are now a part of the war Jesus initiated – not a physical battle, but a spiritual battle.

Ephesians 6:12 – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

The battle for the kingdom is a spiritual battle. The people we think of as enemies are not the problem. Sin and death are the problems. Our job is to stand our ground and trust our King.

But the most pressing question is this one: if David is Jesus in this story, who are we? Perhaps we are the people of Jabesh-Gilead. We have heard the good news and the free offer of blessing by a gracious king.

But first, we need to recognize the tendency of our hearts to respond more like Abner. We will try to take what we want by force – God’s will or not, we don’t care. I know what I need better than God does. I know what’s best for me. I’m not going to talk to God and ask what He wants me to do. I’m not going to submit to His authority. I’m going to do it my way.

That’s the impulse of sin. It looks like open rebellion against the kingship of God. In the moment, it feels like freedom. But in reality, it is foolishness and death and bondage.

This is the battle going on inside all of us. Will we submit to the will of God, or will we give in to the rebellion? Our hearts will always try to convince us that rebellion is freedom, but rebellion is always death.

Listen to the words of Psalm 1, which is probably my favorite Psalm:

1 Blessed is the man

    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree

    planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

    and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers.

4 The wicked are not so,

    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

This is a clear metaphor. Righteous people are like a tree. What’s a tree? It’s a big thing stuck in the ground. Unless someone else digs up a tree and moves it, it will be stuck right where it was planted until it dies. But the tree is alive and strong, and circumstances have little effect on the tree.

The wicked are like chaff. Chaff is the husk of the seed, the part we don’t eat. It’s worthless and the wind blows it away. Think of it like a tumbleweed. Unlike a tree, tumbleweeds aren’t stuck to the ground. They move freely wherever the wind takes them.

So, this is the question of the Psalm: would you rather be a tree, stuck in one place but alive? Or would you rather be a tumbleweed, having an appearance of freedom – but dead?

Here’s the best part of the metaphor. Trees are alive, but they have absolutely no power to control their life or their future. They need sunlight and water and soil. None of it they can provide for themselves.

And this is true for us – we have no power to create the circumstances of spiritual life and growth. We have no power to move ourselves into the blessing of God’s kingdom. Jesus is the source of our life – the living water. Revelation says that one day even the sun will disappear because King Jesus will be our light. So, what is our job for now? It is to stand our ground and sink our roots deeply into the waters of life.