Politics is a messy business. Publisher Ernest Benn once quipped, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” That is as true today as it was in ancient Israel.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:14
As we continue to examine David’s rise to power, we see that it will not be smooth or unambiguous. Instead, David’s claim to the throne was fraught with the kind of intrigues, jealousies, and revenge common to a world tainted by sin.
We are reminded that God can use imperfect people and messy situations to accomplish His will. There was war between the house of Saul and David (v. 6). Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth had a claim to the throne and was supported by Abner, the general of Saul’s army. However, there was not a high level of trust between them. Ish-Bosheth accused Abner of sleeping with his father’s concubine (v. 7). This act was not just immoral, but a claim to Saul’s throne. We don’t know if this accusation was true, but Abner was deeply offended. Because of this conflict, Abner decided to abandon Ish-Bosheth and make peace with David (vv. 9–11). This story of rivalry, sexual immorality, and political intrigue ultimately led to peace between Saul’s army and David.
This passage also reminds us that the means we use are as important as the ends. When the opportunity to make peace with the northern tribes presented itself, David made the most of it. He waited for God’s timing and desired peace without bloodshed (vv. 19–21). David’s general, Joab, did not agree. He wanted revenge for the death of his brother Asahel (v. 30). Though both Joab and David wanted to unite the nation, Joab used immoral means to this end.
God can use imperfect people and messy situations to accomplish His will. That is not an excuse, though, to justify immoral actions. God cares not just about our goals but also how we accomplish them.