18 The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle.19 He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. 20 Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?”
“It is,” he answered.
21 Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.
22 Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?”
23 But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.
24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. 25 Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.
26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”
27 Joab answered, “As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued pursuing them until morning.”
28 So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the troops came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.
29 All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, continued through the morning hours and came to Mahanaim.
30 Then Joab stopped pursuing Abner and assembled the whole army. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. 31 But David’s men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner. 32 They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.
Madness!! If we read between the lines in this story we can see a people who should be friends, people who should be united under one head. Instead of unity they are fighting and playing petty politics. Abner clearly knows Joab and does not want to kill his brother (Asahel) but is forced to defend himself. The killing would have continued if Abner did not call a halt to the madness… “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness?”
This story seems so far from the reality that we live in today that I find it difficult to relate to. But the human heart is a funny thing, when we believe that we are fighting for a cause or for God we can sometimes do the most ungodly things.
Abner’s words at the end remind me of what happened to Jesus in the garden as he was being arrested. Peter pulls out his sword and chops off the guard’s ear. Jesus turns to Peter and tells him to put away his sword saying… if you live by the sword you will die by the sword. Jesus then demonstrates a profound truth about the kingdom of God. He takes Peter’s violence and turns it into peace. He heals the ear and allows himself to be arrested without a fight.
My prayer for you and myself is that we will learn to turn brokenness into wholeness, anger into peace and discord into unity. Because when we gratify the “cravings of our flesh”… we make the choice to remain captive even though Christ has set us free. So take a moment… draw closer to God and allow His kingdom to reign through you today.