When Joab came out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah; but David did not know. So when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the middle of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the belly so that he died on account of the blood of Asahel his brother.
2 Samuel 3:26-27
As I pick up the history this morning, Abner has made peace with David and things are in motion to reunify Israel. But this whole exchange had gone on while Joab was out raiding some place. When Joab gets back, he tells David that Abner was spying; trying to see where David’s weak points are. But I know, as the reader of this account, that Abner truly meant to make peace with David and to reunify the kingdom of Israel. In point of fact, everything I have seen Abner do has been done in integrity. He has never, that I have noted, been false in his dealings or untrue to himself. I also see, as the reader, that Joab was not quite so concerned with whether or not Abner was spying on David or not, but Joab was interested in avenging the death of his brother, Asahel.
I recall that Abner killing Asahel was an unwilling thing. Abner kept trying to dissuade Asahel from pursuing him but Asahel was having none of it and Abner eventually killed Asahel just to put an end to the pursuit (2 Samuel 2:18-23). What is more, Asahel’s death came in a battle. It is not a surprise that people die in battle. It is expected. This, apparently, meant nothing to Joab, who deceived Abner into returning to Hebron and killed him.
In this account, I am presented with two men held in contrast to one another. Joab, who is vengeful and deceitful and dangerously unsubmissive to his king. And Abner, who is an honest and loyal man.
Abner’s life and death serve as a reminder that integrity and uprightness are no guarantors of a long life or wealth. Those things — integrity and uprightness — can only guarantee that I will please God in my doings. It is possible to become blind to the fact that others do not live uprightly or walk in integrity and to forget that I must be cautious.
Jesus warned His disciples to be wise as serpents. Snakes are not interested in biting people, as a general rule. Snakes much prefer to be left alone. But, to accomplish that goal, the snake must be wise about the behavior of other creatures around it. The snake must be aware that larger animals may come trundling by and not be cautious about whether or not they harm others as they go.
Let me live a life like Abner: consistent and loyal and honest and walking in integrity. But let me be mindful, as he was not, that others may not want to live such a life.
Father, thank You for Abner’s character as an example and his death as a warning that I should live upright and not allow myself to lose sight of the fact that others will not. Please strengthen me to live rightly before You and to walk in integrity.