astute businessman April 26 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 2Samuel 2:1-3:5; 1Chronicles 3:1-4a; 2Samuel 3:6-4:3; 2 Samuel 4:5-5:5; 1Chronicles 11:1-3

Defusing Power Struggles with Diplomacy

In America we have a political primary season every two years about this time of the year or perhaps earlier, and then we watch the power struggles between the political parties for supremacy. But there are other types of power struggles. We see them in our homes between siblings or between parents and their children, and we see them in our jobs. Diplomacy is the art of handling conflicts or potential conflicts with people with sensitivity and grace. In other words diplomacy is skill and tact in dealing with people (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition, ©.1980, p.398). This may require giving proper honor, exercising restraint and dealing with injustice.

In a competitive spirit, many encourage taking advantage of another person's weakness to capitalize on opportunities. We do this in sports or games, and even in business. We consider it smart but is this always good? What should we do when the previous manager of a company or organization was popular with his co-workers and customers, or the previous parent (in the case of a divorce or death) was well-loved? To take advantage of these situations can backfire on us.

Sometimes it is difficult to be diplomatic and to show honor and restraint. During times of stress or transition we may want to take advantage of someone's downfall or unpopularity. We may despise and speak abusively of that person, and promote our own ideas and methods as being superior. We may even become manipulative. All of this is human nature. In Jewish history David the newly enthroned king of Judah shows us a different, more godly way of handling power struggles and how to defuse them.

In our recent Bible studies we read that King Saul and three of his sons have died in battle. An Amalekite reports his death to David, saying he helped to slay his enemy and brought his crown to David. This is with the intent or pretense of honoring him—he saw an opportunity to be rewarded by David. Instead, he grieves for Saul and kills the Amalekite. In this he shows honor and respect for God's anointed. He does not rejoice over Saul’s death, even though Saul (in his mad jealousy) pursued him constantly to kill him. David loved his father-in-law, the king. He grieves Saul’s death. Is our love greater than our hurt? How can we love our enemies like David? Jesus said we must love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use and abuse us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). Obeying that command is not easy. We need God’s help.

After Saul's death, Abner, the commander of his armies, installs one of Saul's remaining sons on the throne of Israel. Ishbosheth is a weak king, however, and Abner strengthens his position in the realm. Perhaps to shore up his own image, Ishbosheth accuses Abner of sleeping with one of Saul’s wives. Abner is so offended by the attack on his integrity that he tells the new king that he will turn the whole kingdom of Israel over to David. Ishbosheth fears Abner and is thereafter silent.

Abner loses no time in meeting with David and trying to convince the elders of Israel to appoint him as their next king. When Joab, the head of David’s armies, returns from battle and hears about the meeting, he is irate that David let his enemy go; he was probably a spy. To avoid trouble, and to prevent David from forging an alliance with Abner, Joab and his brother Abishai pursue him and kill him. “Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon” (2Samuel 3:30, NIV).

Does David seize this opportunity to attack Ishbosheth and gain the kingdom for himself? Not at all. He holds a public funeral for the great commander of Israel’s forces, and who should lead it but Joab, the one who conspired against Abner! David himself follows the casket to its burial place. By showing genuine grief and honor for Abner, he demonstrates honor for the armies of Israel who had followed him into battle. There is no malice in David’s heart—he had no part in the death of Abner. David even curses his own commander for his wrongful deeds. Putting loyalties aside, we must stand with the righteous and rebuke the wicked, even if they are on our own team or in our own family. This is difficult to do, but it is true godly leadership.

How were David's actions toward Abner received? “All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. So on that day all the people and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner” ( 2Samuel 3:36-37, NIV). How we behave in difficult circumstances tells other people what we are like. Do we treat people with honor or are we manipulative? Do we have the wisdom to show restraint? Can we wait for God to work or do we feel we have to help him?

When Ishbosheth hears Abner has been killed, he loses all confidence to lead. All Israel is alarmed, and some Benjamites kill Ishbosheth. Thinking they might gain favor with David, they cut off his head and bring it to him. Like the Amalekite who tried to deliver “good news” to David about Saul’s death, they are killed for murdering their Israelite king while asleep on his bed. In doing this, David demonstrates to all Israel that he has regard for the family of King Saul, as he promised Prince Jonathan by an oath (1Samuel 20:15-17). David then gives Ishbosheth a proper burial. We, too, need to defend the defenseless and give proper honor to those in power.

David is a man of God and also a good diplomat. When the Israelites observe the king of Judah honoring them as a nation, they ask him to be king over all of Israel and Judah. The nation is united. David's action brings peace and unity by showing honor, respect, and restraint.

Lessons to Live By

How to defuse power struggles

  • Jesus said we must love our enemies and do good to those who despitefully use and abuse us (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27). Obeying that command is not easy. Like David we need God’s help.
  • Putting loyalties aside, we must stand with the righteous and rebuke the wicked, even if they are on our own team or in our own family. This is true godly leadership.
  • Treat people with honor and don’t be manipulative. Have the wisdom to show restraint. Wait for God to honor you and do not feel you have to help him.
  • Defend the defenseless and give proper honor to those in power.
  • Our actions should bring peace, not divisions. Defuse power struggles in a diplomatic fashion with tact. Show proper respect, honor, and restraint.
  • Are you in a power struggle with God? If you will humble yourself and receive his gift of salvation, he will be on your side, not against you. He will give you peace and spiritual life (more...).

Focus Verse

Psalm 37:34 (NIV) “Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”

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A Look Ahead: Now that Israel is a united nation, how do they secure God's favor? Find out how we can Secure God's Favor in our Next Lesson.

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