“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy.” Winston Churchill observed this personally as he stood at the helm of Great Britain during some of the most turbulent years in their modern history. Another man who understood the casualties of war were more than fallen patriots on the field would be David. Someone else said, “The first casualty of war is the truth,” and you begin to see the unraveling threads of David’s reign in these first few chapters of 2 Samuel. His compass for truth spins a little.
If you value life, you can’t help but feel ill after reading 2 Samuel 1-4. Take a moment, though, and notice some of the inconsistencies which plague David’s leadership. David and his mighty men have been back in Ziklag for only two days when they receive word from an Amalekite, Saul is dead. How ironic for this to be the case since Saul was responsible to eliminate the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15. Once David learns of Saul and Jonathan’s death, he is overwrought with grief. However, when Asahel dies in battle and nineteen of David’s mighty men, you do not see a hint of a tearful song from David. Then in 2 Samuel 3, Joab murders Abner, and David eulogizes his death, “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” (2 Samuel 3:38).
Another interesting inconsistency is the messenger who supposedly finished Saul off on the battlefield and the two men who killed Ishbosheth in bed receive capital punishment immediately, but Joab’s murder of Abner merits only the remark, “These men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness” (2 Samuel 3:39).
David was emotionally charged which moved him to take a stand against God’s enemies but also clouded his judgment in crucial matters close to home. Paul gives us pertinent instruction when he says, “Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them…See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:10–11, 15–18).
We can easily resign control of our lives to any number of powerful influences. In Ephesians, it is wine, but it could easily be emotionalism. There are many things we can admire about David’s life. He was the “man after God’s own heart,” but choosing emotionalism to be your master is never a fruitful choice. Prove what is acceptable. Reprove the works of darkness. Walk circumspectly. Redeem the time. Be filled with the Spirit. He will lead you in the ways of wisdom you desperately need when tragedy strikes.