Prayer is not for wimps : Part 1

‘How are the mighty fallen’ exclaimed the sweet psalmist of Israel when God forsaken King Saul and his wise son Jonathan died in battle. ‘How are the mighty fallen’ lamented David sorrowfully. 2 Sam 1:19-27

In the bible there is an impressive list of mighty men that fell or stumbled one way or another, David not being the least of them…..Remember Bathsheba!. But I would like to bring up the story of one mighty man in particular whose fall was so subtle and unnecessary it goes to show that the enemy we fight is indeed not flesh and blood but as cunning and as crafty as a lethal hidden serpent.

Let me introduce to you Abner, the captain of the host of King Saul’s army. Abner was described by David as a valiant man, outstanding warrior in Israel, no one was like him (1 Sam 26:15). Abner was destined for greatness in the elite forces of the Kings of Israel but he never quite made it because the enemy set him up to fall. The story goes like this:

Sometime after King Saul died Abner set his son Isbosheth as the new king over Israel. Round about this time David had gone up to Hebron and the house of Judah had set him king over them. There were two kings over Gods people. Joab was the captain of the hosts of King David’s army and Abner was the captain over King Isbosheth’s army. The battle lines were drawn at Gibeon between both Kings and Abner’s army fled before Joab’s army. This is where Abner’s destiny gets destroyed long before it happened in the physical. Abner gets pursued by Asahel.

Being a valiant man of war he knew he could take on Asahel his pursuer (one of David’s elite soldiers – 2 Sam 23:24, and also brother to Joab). He warned Asahel twice to turn back before killing him in a single battle manoeuvre. Abner then called for a truce from Joab and the battle ended that day by agreement between the two. Joab however was very bitter about the death of his brother Asahel but Abner did not perceive this matter. (Read 2 Sam 2:12-32) From then on Abner was a marked man. Had he not killed Asahel (whom he had no choice but to kill as he was being pursued stubbornly by Asahel even though there were weaker targets that Asahel could have pursued), Abner would not have been in that tricky position.

The enemy had set him up (note the words ‘set him up’) to be a marked man singled out for revenge and he did not know it. Only prayer could have revealed what was hidden in the heart of Joab. Sword, spear or valour could not have helped Abner for what was to come. For to cut a long story short Abner decided to defect to King David’s side due to a bust up between King Isbosheth and himself and then the enemy’s plot for his life unravelled. (Read below 2 Sam 3: 6-21)

And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul.

And Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah: and Ishbosheth said to Abner, Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father’s concubine?Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ishbosheth, and said, Am I a dog’s head, which against Judah do shew kindness this day unto the house of Saul thy father, to his brethren, and to his friends, and have not delivered thee into the hand of David, that thou chargest me to day with a fault concerning this woman?

 So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the Lord hath sworn to David, even so I do to him;

To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba.

 And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.

And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.

And he said, Well; I will make a league with thee: but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul’s daughter, when thou comest to see my face.

And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines.

And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.

And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returnedAnd Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you:

 Now then do it: for the Lord hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies.

And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin.

So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast.

And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a league with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.

See next how mighty Abner is killed (2 Sam 3: 22-27):

 And, behold, the servants of David and Joab came from pursuing a troop, and brought in a great spoil with them: but Abner was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was gone in peace.

When Joab and all the host that was with him were come, they told Joab, saying, Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he hath sent him away, and he is gone in peace.

Then Joab came to the king, and said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone?

Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest.

And when Joab was come out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, which brought him again from the well of Sirah: but David knew it not.

And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.

Do you see how the point of smiting is similar between Asahel and Abner – pure revenge!. Joab and Asahel knew they were no match for Abner, moreover it seems clear to me that David would most likely have placed Abner over the host to replace Joab but he was robbed of this opportunity simply because he acted in self-defence from his stubborn fellow warrior Asahel. How are the mighty fallen! If only Abner was a man of prayer in addition to his might he may have seen what was coming and avoided this evil trap set up for him by the enemy egged on by Asahel.

David heard the bad news and cursed Joab (2 Sam 3: 28-30)

 And afterward when David heard it, he said, I and my kingdom are guiltless before the Lord for ever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner:

Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father’s house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread.

So Joab, and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.

And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier.

David knew it could easily have been him for he was a seasoned warrior himself and knew how these things could play out. His lament for Abner was moving: read this: 2 Sam 3: 31-39:

And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier.

And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.

And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?

Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the people wept again over him.

And when all the people came to cause David to eat meat while it was yet day, David sware, saying, So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread, or ought else, till the sun be down.

And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people. For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner.

 And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?

And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness.

The saddest thing about this story is that Abner never stood a chance despite all his valour and prowess. He was earmarked to be taken out by the enemy via a strategy he was probably not too familiar with. Unforgiveness, what I earlier on called a lethal hidden serpent!!!. Sword, he understood, blood, he understood, battle he understood, spear he understood, unseen spirit of unforgiveness….not too sure. It got him in the end. The Lords prayer talks about the need for forgiveness. Simple as it sounds, un-forgiveness floored a mighty man like Abner. Prayer could have turned this story around.

It’s not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit saith the Lord.   How are the mighty fallen?.

Mighty reader PRAY!!!!! Take heed he who thinks he is standing lest he falls. Abner fell but not for lack of courage or might but for lack of spiritual strategy that only prayer can bring.

ABNER WAS UNQUESTIONABLY NOT A WIMP YET HE FELL as we see King David lamenting for him. LET US TAKE HEED!!!!!!

Watch out! for Part 2 of ‘Prayer is not for wimps’!. This will show you how a similar man of valour, an elite soldier, depended not on his military training might but overcame the enemy through spiritual strategy in the place of prayer.

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