×
A devotional bible commentary
in partnership with
Join Us!
Join Us!

Today’s Reading

Devotional

EVEN AFTER THE DEATH OF King Saul, David did not immediately become king of Israel. At first David is anointed king over Judah (2 Sam. 2:1–7), and only Judah: even Benjamin, which remained with Judah following the division between “Israel” and “Judah” after the death of Solomon, at this point was allied with the other tribes (2 Sam. 2:9).

Abner, the commander of what was left of Saul’s army, installed Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s surviving son, as king of Israel (2 Sam. 2:8–9). Skirmishes multiplied between David’s troops and those of Ish-Bosheth. Many battles in those days brought the opposing troops together in a fierce clash, followed by a running fight: one side ran away, and the other chased it. In one such clash, one of the three sons of Zeruiah—Asahel, from David’s forces—is killed by Abner (2 Sam. 2:17–23). The killing was “clean,” i.e., within the rules of warfare and not a murder. Nevertheless, this death precipitates some of the most important actions in 2 Samuel 3.

Bringing the different parts of the country together into united allegiance under David was a messy and sometimes ignoble business—a reminder that God sometimes uses the folly and evil of people to bring about his good purposes. Abner sleeps with one of Saul’s former concubines (2 Sam. 3:6–7). This was not only a breach of moral law, but in the symbolism of the time Abner was claiming the right of royalty for himself. It was a major insult and reproach to Ish-Bosheth. Thus Abner’s reasons for taking the eleven tribes over to David seem to have less to do with integrity and a desire to recognize God’s calling than out of frustration with Ish-Bosheth and some lust for power himself. Then Abner is murdered by Joab and his men (2 Sam. 3:22–27), Joab being one of Asahel’s brothers. But this really is murder, and a defiance of David’s safe-conduct.

How David handles this crisis reflects both his great strengths and one of his greatest weaknesses—strengths and weaknesses that will show up again. Politically, David is very astute. He distances himself utterly from Joab’s action, and insists that Joab and other leaders become part of the official mourning party of the slain Abner. “All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them” (2 Sam. 3:36). On the other hand, David does not bring Joab to account, fobbing off his responsibility by protesting that “these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me” (2 Sam. 3:39). In other words, he shirked his responsibility—as he would do later with his son Amnon (2 Sam. 13), the consequences of which triggered Absalom’s revolt and almost cost David his throne. It is never God’s way to abdicate biblically mandated responsibility.

2 Samuel 3

Abner Joins David

3:1 There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.

And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron.

While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul. Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. And Ish-bosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father's concubine?” Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog's head of Judah? To this day I keep showing steadfast love to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have not given you into the hand of David. And yet you charge me today with a fault concerning a woman. God do so to Abner and more also, if I do not accomplish for David what the LORD has sworn to him, 10 to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 And Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.

12 And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf,1 saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring over all Israel to you.” 13 And he said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you; that is, you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul's daughter, when you come to see my face.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul's son, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, for whom I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” 15 And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16 But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.

17 And Abner conferred with the elders of Israel, saying, “For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. 18 Now then bring it about, for the LORD has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’” 19 Abner also spoke to Benjamin. And then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin thought good to do.

20 When Abner came with twenty men to David at Hebron, David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. 21 And Abner said to David, “I will arise and go and will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

22 Just then the servants of David arrived with Joab from a raid, bringing much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David at Hebron, for he had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, “Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he has let him go, and he has gone in peace.” 24 Then Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Behold, Abner came to you. Why is it that you have sent him away, so that he is gone? 25 You know that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you and to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.”

Joab Murders Abner

26 When Joab came out from David's presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. 27 And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. 28 Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the LORD for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father's house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” 30 So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon.

David Mourns Abner

31 Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and mourn before Abner.” And King David followed the bier. 32 They buried Abner at Hebron. And the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33 And the king lamented for Abner, saying,

  “Should Abner die as a fool dies?
34   Your hands were not bound;
    your feet were not fettered;
  as one falls before the wicked
    you have fallen.”

And all the people wept again over him. 35 Then all the people came to persuade David to eat bread while it was yet day. But David swore, saying, “God do so to me and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!” 36 And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people. 37 So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king's will to put to death Abner the son of Ner. 38 And the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39 And I was gentle today, though anointed king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are more severe than I. The LORD repay the evildoer according to his wickedness!”

Footnotes

[1] 3:12 Or where he was; Septuagint at Hebron

(ESV)

1 Corinthians 14

Prophecy and Tongues

14:1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Now, brothers,1 if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider2 say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign3 not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Orderly Worship

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

Footnotes

[1] 14:6 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 20, 26, 39
[2] 14:16 Or of him that is without gifts
[3] 14:22 Greek lacks a sign

(ESV)

Ezekiel 12

Judah's Captivity Symbolized

12:1 The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house. As for you, son of man, prepare for yourself an exile's baggage, and go into exile by day in their sight. You shall go like an exile from your place to another place in their sight. Perhaps they will understand, though1 they are a rebellious house. You shall bring out your baggage by day in their sight, as baggage for exile, and you shall go out yourself at evening in their sight, as those do who must go into exile. In their sight dig through the wall, and bring your baggage out through it. In their sight you shall lift the baggage upon your shoulder and carry it out at dusk. You shall cover your face that you may not see the land, for I have made you a sign for the house of Israel.”

And I did as I was commanded. I brought out my baggage by day, as baggage for exile, and in the evening I dug through the wall with my own hands. I brought out my baggage at dusk, carrying it on my shoulder in their sight.

In the morning the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, has not the house of Israel, the rebellious house, said to you, ‘What are you doing?’ 10 Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: This oracle concerns2 the prince in Jerusalem and all the house of Israel who are in it.’3 11 Say, ‘I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them. They shall go into exile, into captivity.’ 12 And the prince who is among them shall lift his baggage upon his shoulder at dusk, and shall go out. They shall dig through the wall to bring him out through it. He shall cover his face, that he may not see the land with his eyes. 13 And I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare. And I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, yet he shall not see it, and he shall die there. 14 And I will scatter toward every wind all who are around him, his helpers and all his troops, and I will unsheathe the sword after them. 15 And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I disperse them among the nations and scatter them among the countries. 16 But I will let a few of them escape from the sword, from famine and pestilence, that they may declare all their abominations among the nations where they go, and may know that I am the LORD.”

17 And the word of the LORD came to me: 18 “Son of man, eat your bread with quaking, and drink water with trembling and with anxiety. 19 And say to the people of the land, Thus says the Lord GOD concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the land of Israel: They shall eat their bread with anxiety, and drink water in dismay. In this way her land will be stripped of all it contains, on account of the violence of all those who dwell in it. 20 And the inhabited cities shall be laid waste, and the land shall become a desolation; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

21 And the word of the LORD came to me: 22 “Son of man, what is this proverb that you4 have about the land of Israel, saying, ‘The days grow long, and every vision comes to nothing’? 23 Tell them therefore, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: I will put an end to this proverb, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel.’ But say to them, The days are near, and the fulfillment5 of every vision. 24 For there shall be no more any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. 25 For I am the LORD; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord GOD.”

26 And the word of the LORD came to me: 27 “Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, ‘The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’ 28 Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord GOD.”

Footnotes

[1] 12:3 Or will see that
[2] 12:10 Or This burden is
[3] 12:10 Hebrew in the midst of them
[4] 12:22 The Hebrew for you is plural
[5] 12:23 Hebrew word

(ESV)

Psalm 51

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51:1   Have mercy on me,1 O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
  according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
  For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
  Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
  so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
  Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10   Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right2 spirit within me.
11   Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12   Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13   Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14   Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15   O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16   For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17   The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18   Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19   then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Footnotes

[1] 51:1 Or Be gracious to me
[2] 51:10 Or steadfast

(ESV)