The Best of Intentions? (II Samuel 4:1-12)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 4:1–4:12
Crying for a King
The Best of Intentions?
II Samuel 4:1-12
July 7th, 2013
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
I. It Is They that Bear Witness
Let me begin this morning by reading to you two verses from the Gospel of John. In responding to the Jewish leaders about why they did not arrest Jesus as orders, we read…
The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46)
And two chapters earlier, this man who spoke as no other man had ever spoken, said this to the same religious leaders who wanted to arrest him…
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me…” (John 5:39)
This morning, if you’ll grab a Bible, let’s return to our study of II Samuel, and as we do, let’s carefully consider how our passage bears witness to Jesus Christ.
II. The Passage: “How Much More When Wicked Men” (4:1-12)
If you have a favorite show on television, then you know how, very often, the creators will start with a recap of what has taken place in the previous episodes. Well, we need to do the same thing this morning as we return to II Samuel.
Saul, the first king of Israel is dead. God's next king, David, has been anointed as king over his own tribe, the tribe of Judah. But the general of Saul's army, a masterful power-broker named Abner, was not ready to give up his position just yet. So instead of acknowledging David as king over all of Israel, Abner set up one of Saul's surviving sons as the new king in his father's place. But this son, Ish-bosheth, began to resent Abner's power and influence, and so a bitter Abner went to throw his support behind David as the new king. But the general of David's army, a man named Joab, had a personal score to settle with Abner, and he killed Abner in cold blood, much to David's displeasure.
So that it is where we pick up the story in chapter 4. Listen to what the writer tells us here about what is happening in the rest of Israel in the wake of Abner's death. The chapter is only twelve verses, so let's just read the whole thing. Verse 1...
When Ish-bosheth, Saul's son, heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed.  Now Saul's son had two men who were captains of raiding bands; the name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab, sons of Rimmon a man of Benjamin from Beeroth (for Beeroth also is counted part of Benjamin;  the Beerothites fled to Gittaim and have been sojourners there to this day).
Now at this point there is a sort of parenthetical statement related to the rightful heirs of Saul's house. Before the writer goes on to tell us about what happened to Ish-bosheth, he wants to let us know that there is one more possible heir to Saul's throne, but listen to what we learn about this other son. Verse 4...
Jonathan, the son of Saul, had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled, and as she fled in her haste, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.  Now [resuming the original story] the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ish-bosheth as he was taking his noonday rest.  And they came into the midst of the house as if to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.  When they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedroom, they struck him and put him to death and beheaded him. They took his head and went by the way of the Arabah all night,  and brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David at Hebron. And they said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.”  But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity,  when one told me, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news.  How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?”  And David commanded his young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hanged them beside the pool at Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.
So the murder and intrigue continues! Now, if we think about this chapter in light of the whole book of Samuel (that's I and II Samuel), then I think we can say the main purpose of this story is simply to describe how Ish-bosheth was removed from being a rival to David, and how David was completely innocent in the death of this rival.
But I think there are some basic concepts, some basic themes, some principles that are worth pointing out this morning. And part of why they are worth pointing out is the fact that these ideas speak directly to us concerning the subject of motives or intentions. Look back at the words of Rechab and Baanah in verse 8:
“Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.”
Clearly, these two men have presented themselves as having the best of intentions. Whether they believe this themselves is unclear. But think about what we are reminded of in this passage regarding the subject of motives or intentions.
First, sometimes God-centered talk is meant to mask me-centered motives.
Notice that David's response to these men assumes they have told him more about the details of their mission, but the writer records only what they say in verse 8.
And very clearly in verse 8, Baanah and Rechab want to present themselves as the Lord's instruments, as instruments of God's vengeance, as servants who are carrying out the will of God...in God's way and on God's day.
But the writer also gives us plenty of clues that these men are utlimately motivated by impure motives, by selfish intentions. What are those clues? The cowardice: two times we are told that these warriors were brave enough to kill a sleeping man, napping on his bad. The arrogance: these men presume to stand before the king and present themselves as God's vessels. The greed: clearly these men, upon hearing about the death of Abner, are trying to position themselves in David's favor by giving him what they think he desires.
There is no real honor or integrity here. There is no genuine courage or humility.
If we're honest with ourselves, this hits closer to home than any of us would like. One writer puts it like this:
Baanahs and Rechabs are still extant; some are in our churches. Their methodology is unchanged: use theology to cover sin and folly. For them theology is not truth that lures us to worship God but technique that enables us to justify ourselves. (Dale Ralph Davis)
We can be harsh and then use something about God's truth as a cover for our severity. We can be indifferent and then use something about God's holiness as a cover for our separation from a needy sinner. We can rationalize and use something about God's grace as a cover for our impurity. Whether we are telling this something to someone else or to ourselves, when we speak about God, about His word and His will, we desperately need to check our hearts.
But there's something else we see in this chapter. We see that...
Second, God's righteous king will also serve as Judge, even judging motives.
David is presented to us as a man after God's own heart, a man chosen by God to be the next king precisely because of his faith and righteousness and integrity. Therefore, David will not tolerate these murdering opportunists. As the king, he will judge them.
But just as this was true, it also will be true. God's king is coming to judge. This is what the Apostle Paul told his listeners in the city of Athens:
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
Jesus Christ, the Son of David, is coming as both King and Judge. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul also touches on this same theme. He writes...
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (I Corinthians 4:5)
In his second letter to this same church, Paul reminds them...
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (II Corinthians 5:10)
Remember, in both of those passages, Paul is speaking to Christians. Our motives will be exposed by the King of Kings. Therefore, we cannot be satisfied with simply focusing on doing and saying the right things. We need to look at our hearts. We need to ask God to change our hearts through His Spirit; that we would do God's will out of desire to do God's will. That we would glorify God because we are seeking His glory, not our own.
But there's another aspect presented here related to this idea of judgment. We see here...
Third, a life dominated by me-centered motives will end in severe judgment.
David's judgment against these killers is just. But David also makes a statement. These men are not only executed, but their hands and feet are cut off, and their bodies are put on display by the town watering hole. Why do this to their hands and feet? Well, when Proverbs 6 describes “six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him” it includes “hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, [and] feet that make haste to run to evil”. (Proverbs 6:16-18)
I believe David's judgment was not only meant to cast shame upon these men, but also upon their wicked acts. As we talked about in the last chapter, David went to great lengths to separate himself from men like this, and from the schemes that were supposedly done for his benefit.
But in the same way, when Jesus, the Son of David, returns to judge, there will be severe consequences for those whose lives are dominated by selfish intentions. Now wait a minute. Am I saying that God will judge Christians and punish them for their sins? Didn't Jesus die to take that punishment? Yes, Jesus did die in our place, and for those who trust in Him, we will not be punished for our sins.
But let me clarify what I'm saying with two ideas: 1) in the same context where we are told that Jesus will “disclose the purposes of the heart”, we are told that there is the possibility that in that judgment, a person “will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (I Corinthians 3:15) So when we fail to consider our motives, we are also failing to consider the serious consequences we may face one day.
But 2) we also know that not everyone who confesses faith in Christ truly does have faith in Christ. This story of Baanah and Rechab clearly points us forward to the words of Jesus in Matthew 7...
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [did we not kill in your name...did we not carry out God's vengeance in your name...] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
New life in Jesus should be dominated by the reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Is that always the case? No. But the Spirit is also evident in our struggle, in our constant battle of repentance and reformation, in our struggling to always follow Christ.
But those who say one thing, and yet live differently, who are insensitive to God's Spirit, who are content with me-centered motives (greed, pride, indifference)...such hypocrites will one day be exposed. No matter the length of their Christian resume, they will be exposed.
III. David and the Good News of Deliverance
There is a very clear reminder in this passage, a sobering reminder, that we have to be careful when we claim to act in God's name. We have to be careful that what we do in God's name is truly done according to God's will, and for God's glory, not our own.
But if we simply finished with that, we would be missing something wonderful from this passage. Look again with me at verse 9. Look at how David responds to the claims of Rechab and Baanah. Listen to the very first words out of his mouth: “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity...” (v. 9)
Do you understand why David begins his response like this? Notice how he finishes his response: …when one told me, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news.  How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?”
You see, like that Amalekite from II Samuel 1, these brothers showed up thinking they had “good news” for David. But it was “good news” of men accomplishing their own will, in their own way and on their own day. David knew better. He knew that what mattered was God accomplishing His own will. That doesn’t mean God cannot and does not use people to do this, but…it is in His own way and on His own day.
David learned this lesson out in the desert, on the run for all those years. He saw time and time again how it was God who redeemed his life out of every adversity. David didn’t need a Rechab or a Baanah to be his redeemer. He had a Redeemer, and David’s Redeemer did not accomplish true redemption in the way these men were claiming. David could smell a fake from a mile away.
You see, David understand that the genuine “good news” of God’s redemption was God coming in His way, on His day, to deliver His servants. We’ve already seen how this passage has pointed us to Jesus Christ as King and Judge. But here we also need to be reminded, that Christ, as God in human flesh, is our Redeemer as well.
If we are to be judged for our motives, as well as our actions, all of us desperately need a Redeemer. We need grace for out motives. The Cross of Jesus was God’s way, on God’s day. He delivers us from every adversity through that cross. Grace doesn’t take away this sobriety to consider our motives, but it changes the motivation to consider our motives, and seek to have God’s heart in all things. That is truly “good news”.