“How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?” (2 Samuel 4:11)
Today we take up the story in 2 Samuel 4. Last time we learned that Christ’s kingdom does not advance through the cunning of human schemes (2 Samuel 3). Today we discover that Christ’s kingdom does not advance through acts of violence (2 Samuel 4). There are three scenes in this story: Panic, Violence, and Judgment.
Scene 1: Panic
When Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed (2 Samuel 4:1).
Abner had made Ish-bosheth king, and without Abner, Ish-bosheth knew that he could not remain in power for long. So when he heard the news that Abner had died, his courage failed.
Notice what happens when a leader’s courage fails: “All Israel was dismayed.” (2 Samuel 4:1)
The first calling of a leader is to exercise faith in God. So when the early church was looking for a leader, the first person they appointed was Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5).
Times of crisis will come to your family, your friends, your business, your ministry and when they do, the people who look to you for leadership need to know that you are trusting in God.
If they can see that you are looking to the Lord, they will be lifted. But if your courage fails, they will be dismayed.
Why did Ish-bosheth’s courage fail?
He had put his trust in Abner. Abner had made him king and Ish-bosheth had always relied on Abner.
Is there a person in your life of whom you might be tempted to say, “I could not survive without him or her”? God will give you friends, colleagues, and loved ones to whom you look for wisdom, counsel, help, and comfort. These people are gifts of God to you. Don’t make an idol of God’s gift. Rejoice in the gifts, and trust the Giver!
Ish-bosheth made an idol of Abner, and when his idol fell, Ish-bosheth’s courage failed him and all Israel was dismayed.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:8-9)
At this point in the story, two men by the names of Baanah and Rechab take center stage in the story. Baanah and Rechab were “captains of raiding bands” (2 Samuel 4:2). So they had prominent positions in Ish-bosheth’s army. With the death of Abner, it may be that these two were the next in line. And as the house of Saul became weaker and weaker, these men realized that they had a problem – they were on the wrong side.
What will happen to us when we fall into the hands of David, whose rule we have resisted and whose reign we have opposed? They knew that they were going down, so they decided to do something that, they thought, would put them in good standing with David.
Scene 2: Violence
The sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ish-bosheth as he was taking his noonday rest. And they came into the midst of the house as if to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach (2 Samuel 4:5).
Here we have the record of yet another cold-blooded murder. Last weekend the police recorded the 500th murder to be committed in Chicago this year. The Bible certainly speaks to the painful reality of our city and our world today.
Baanah and Rechab were trusted men in Ish-bosheth’s army. They walked into the house of the king, as if they were going to pick up supplies. They walked into Ish-bosheth’s bedroom and killed him while he was lying on his bed. Then they took the head of Ish-bosheth to present, as a trophy, to David.
Scene 3: Judgment
They said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life.” (2 Samuel 4:8)
These are ruthless men who work on the principles “Might is right,” and “The end justifies the means.” It is natural for us to assume others see the world the same way we do. These men assume David is like them – that he will rejoice in what they have done and reward them greatly. After all, have they not opened the way for David to inherit the kingdom?
Baanah and Rechab assume that David only cares about success. But what they find, to their shock, is that this king cares about righteousness. In a world that often only cares about “what will work,” Christ calls us to care about what is right. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote powerfully during the time of Hitler’s Third Reich, about the idolatry of success: “When a successful figure becomes especially prominent and conspicuous, the majority give way to the idolization of success…. They become blind to right and wrong… They have eyes only for the deed, for the successful result. The moral… faculty is blunted. It is dazzled by the brilliance of the successful man and by the longing in some way to share in his success.”  Then he says this: “The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard…”
The case they present
“The LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.” (2 Samuel 4:8)
Notice how Baanah and Rechab abuse the name of God. They associate God with their crime. That is called “taking the name of God in vain.” In the third commandment, God says that he will not hold the one who does this guiltless.
The story of Baanah and Rechab speaks powerfully to us when we see men perpetrating acts of violence in the name of God, fully believing that they will be rewarded in heaven for what they have done.
The god of Baanah and Rechab is a god who approves whatever they do. But how do we know what God approves? How do we know what God wants in a world where everyone claims that God is on their side?
By assuming that God approves whatever they do, Baanah and Rechab are putting themselves in the place of God. Their god is made in their own image. He is a distant echo of their own voice. This is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and certainly not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
How could you know if God wills something different from what you do? Or directs something different from what you desire? There is only one way in which you could know, and that is if God himself has spoken.
God has spoken, and what is more these men knew what he had said. They had the Ten Commandments so they knew that God had said, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). They also knew that God had said, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). But they ignored what God had said, and followed the impulses of their own hearts, assuming that whatever they thought best was the will of God!
God Has Spoken
God has spoken. He has made himself known. He spoke to Moses, and through the prophets, and supremely he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. All our imaginings about who God is and what he is like are judged by his word, just as Baanah and Rechab’s imaginations about David were blown away when they heard the king speak.
What a shock the Day of Judgment will be for men of violence who, having convinced themselves that what they do is pleasing to God, and that he will reward them greatly, find, to their horror, that the living God has nothing but contempt for violence and brutality.
Scene 3: Judgment
1. He is God’s King
“As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity…” (2 Samuel 4:9).
These words were the story of David’s life. David uses these same words at the beginning of his reign and at the end of his life (1 Kings 1:29). God lives! And as I look back over my life I can see that though I have faced one adversity after another, God has been faithful to me, and he has brought me through them all. He has redeemed my life out of every adversity.
If God be for us, who can be against us? If God has exalted Jesus, his anointed king, to the highest place, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, then at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow!
2. He is the King of Grace
“When one told me, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news.” (2 Samuel 4:10)
The reference here is to an event, recorded in 2 Samuel 1, when an enemy falsely claimed that he had killed Saul. He assumed, of course, that David would rejoice at the death of Saul. But he found out, to his own cost, that David grieved over the death of the man who had hated him so intensely. From the beginning David points us to the King of grace.
If Baanah and Rechab had realized that David was a king of grace, they would not have done what they did. The story of Baanah and Rechab is a record of the kind of thing that some men may do when they do not know the King of grace.
3. He is the King of Righteousness
“How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?” (2 Samuel 4:11).
Last time we saw that David failed to bring justice when a brutal murder was committed. But here we see his commitment to establish a kingdom where righteousness reigns. Remember, David was the king. The Scriptures tell us that the sword, that is the administration of justice, is committed by God to the governing authorities (Romans 13:1-4).
David speaks and acts here as the one to whom God had entrusted the administering of justice. He deals with Baanah and Rechab in a way that shows publicly his utter contempt for what they have done. Acts of violence have no place, whatsoever, in this kingdom.
Don’t miss the obvious: God hates murder. To take a life that was given by God is to show utter contempt for God himself. And God has appointed a day when he will judge every act of violence.
God’s anointed king is the King of grace, but he is also the King of righteousness, who will deal with the wicked in perfect justice. David’s commitment to establishing a righteous kingdom is repeated often in the psalms: “I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all the evildoers from the city of the LORD” (Psalm 101:8).
If David had not done that, his kingdom would soon be taken over by the violence and vendettas of men like Baanah and Rechab. If God did not bring justice, Christ’s kingdom would soon be marred by violence, as much as the world in which we live today.
But God has said that nothing unclean will ever enter his kingdom (Revelation 21:27). Thank God for that, but as soon as you see that God’s anointed king is the King of justice, you feel your need of the King of grace.
How then does Christ’s kingdom come?
Christ will establish his kingdom as his people reach out with grace. After all that had happened – the hotheaded force of Joab, the political maneuvering of Abner, the brutal violence of Baanah and Rechab – we come back to this: It is God who gives the kingdom to David, and this kingdom moves forward as the king sends out his messengers of grace!
Christ’s kingdom will not come through human schemes or human force: “Not by might or by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). Christ’s kingdom advances as the Holy Spirit inclines the hearts of men and women to freely and gladly embrace the rule of Christ.
That happens when people hear the message of grace. And this message of grace has been entrusted to us.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, p. 76-78, Touchstone, 1995.
© Colin S. Smith
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