Lesson Eight | Devotion #5: Abner
John Carter | Director of Finance & HR

Abner’s Civil War of the Heart

You may not have ever heard of the man named Abner. His name in current culture means very little if anything. If you have been in church for some time, you probably got a short introduction to who he is in the Bible. He is often overlooked because of the two dynamic kings of Israel that existed during his command, King Saul and King David. Abner is an interesting character; you can read a lot about his story in 2 Samuel.

To give you a brief overview of Abner here are a few facts:

  • He was Saul’s chosen Commander in Chief.
  • He was Saul’s cousin.
  • His name means “Father of Light” or “Enlightened.”
  • He was general for all of Saul’s rule and remained in that position for seven years after Saul’s death.
  • He fought against David and remained loyal to Saul.
  • He was murdered by David’s commander Joab.

If I were to describe his character, I would say that he was a loyal man. He was ambitious, had a strong sense of duty, and he was no doubt strong, dynamic, and able to lead. The description King David gave in 2 Samuel 3:38 described him as “a prince and a great man.” David wept bitterly at the death of Abner, so did all the people of Israel. You begin to see how Abner is a world changer.

Abner did not always find himself fighting on the right side of God so to speak, but he was no doubt a man that changed the world. Early in life, he was fighting with God’s anointed king (King Saul), but after Saul had continued to disobey God and lost his favor with God, Abner chose to remain loyal to a man rather than remain loyal to God. Even after Saul’s death, Abner chose to fight against the will of God. I think 2 Samuel 3:6 says it all when it comes to the decision Abner made,

“While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul.”

I tried to place myself in the shoes of Abner, having fought for and built a kingdom under Saul’s name, I can only imagine how hard it would be just to give it up. Taking into consideration the character of Abner, there was no doubt a sense of pride and ego built up in Abner’s heart over the years. He had helped make Israel a fierce nation. This pride can be seen in his response to Saul’s son in 2 Samuel 3:8,

“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.’”

So what is the practical application in studying about this man Abner? You might be saying, “so what?” “How does this matter to me?” As I put myself in Abner’s shoes, the question that keeps coming to my mind is, “Would I have done anything differently? Would I have been willing to give up the kingdom I had built and humbled myself to God’s will and way? Then I make it real personal, what kingdom am I holding on to right now? Is there something I know goes against the will of God? Is there something I do not want to give up because I spent so much of my time and energy building it up?”

Those are real heart questions to deal with and not always easy to identify. Can I encourage you to take some time and pray that God shows you these areas to which we so often cling? The story of Abner does not end with him always fighting against David to the bitter end. The cool part about the story of Abner is we get to see this reconciliation between David and Abner in 2 Samuel 3:21,

“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.”

If peace is what you are after, find what it is in your life that fights against the will of God and learn to humble yourself. I am sure it was not easy for a mighty man like Abner, who had fought for so long, to say, “you may reign over all that your heart desires.”  That included David reigning over Abner. Let us figure out how we can say to God, “You can reign over all that your heart desires in my life.”

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