The Duty of Unity

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Sunday am 23 October 2016 – Justus Swart

2 Sam. 2:4-11; 1 Sam. 26:25; 2 Sam. 2:12-23; Deut. 6:4

God does not want us to despise our humanity. Our humanity is not a curse. Our humanity is a blessing and it is fact that way that God has made us. Even with our frailty and brokenness we are given the ultimate joy of bringing glory to God by living according to His will. We can throw off all the fears that we have of making mistakes and focus our heart solely on Jesus Christ.

This morning’s message comes to us as Bizweni Church. It is not to be grasped as individuals but for our church community. We have a context, a history and we have a future and God wants to speak to us about all of these things.

Tip 15: Unity is our Duty: (2 Sam. 2:4-11). After a lengthy period of being on the run, David was finally anointed king over Judah but the challenges did not stop. Even though Saul was dead the challenges never ended for David. As much as David was sad about the death of Saul, he knew that his time had come to be king over Israel. But at that same time, Abner appointed Ish-Bosheth over Israel. We must note the difference between the appointments of these two kings. Firstly David was anointed king and he was chosen by God and the prophet Samuel to lead Israel. Ish-Bosheth was elected according to democratic rule by Abner. There are two different kingships here. When you come into the kingdom of God that system falls away; it does not survive in the kingdom. One is appointed by God and the other by men. One is legitimate and the other is illegitimate, but both had made their claim to leadership. The biggest mistake that David could have made would have been to assume that because he was king everybody was going to unite behind him. He still had to prove himself and had to face more obstacles in proving himself. When we read these passages we see Israel struggling their way through the transition from old to new. Even though the old was dead and buried, those who were loyal to the old season refused to see the new thing that God was doing. They went after Ish-Bosheth. God ended that season but the people were slow to see what God was doing.

Transitions are always going to be uncomfortable and in most cases the new will always be required to prove itself. You cannot assume that everyone is on the same page just because a mantle has shifted spiritually. You must still come into the new season saying, “I must prove myself the as the anointed one”. David does that with great finesse. We must remember that Saul was also appointed king by God but he went a different way. The anointing on the two was the same but Saul’s chief failure was that he resisted the changing season in Israel. When God said, “I have rejected you as king,” he should have given up the crown. Yet he carried on being king, he stayed long past his due date and he never appointed the one who would follow in his rule. Then Saul said to David, “May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph” (1 Sam. 26:25). The words are nice but his whole life said the opposite. Saul knew that David was the rightful successor but he resisted the change. He saw the Lord with David and became fearful and jealous and wanted to kill him. This left Israel in a shambles because there was no clear direction from him. That is how Abner saw an opportunity.

For us, it means that unity is our collective duty. As a church we have a duty, and it is not a preference, not an opinion, to figure this out together. We have a duty to make sure that we are on the same page going forward. If we just assume that everybody is on board, we will end up a year or two down the line with a confused community. Things are changing. The new season we have been hearing about for so long, is finally here! Unity does not just fall into place as we move forward. We have to strive for it. We actually have to go through the hard work of trying to understand one another while respecting one another. Seasons come and seasons go but each one is important in the eyes of God. No one is better than the other. Unity is very hard work! The changing seasons can often polarise the differences so it is very important that we commit ourselves to this task.

Tip 16: Beware of in-fighting: We have to be vigilant that division does not creep into the community, and does not creep into the church the way it did with Abner and Ish-Bosheth (2 Sam. 2:12-16). That place name means: the field of daggers because no one walked away from the field alive. Israel was being destroyed from within. Israel could not have two kings. As a result Israel was divided against itself and there was civil war. Infighting is the most devious of things because it will raise you to the ground before you even think there is an enemy. Each side believes that they are fighting for the integrity of their organisation meanwhile the very thing that is suffering is the group organisation itself. So the people are the ones that suffer when this happen. David should have avoided this battle; but David was human and he was not perfect. Perhaps his pride got a little bit in the way. Pride ruled that day for both David and for Abner. Twelve men from each side went to fight and neither of them had any survivors. The number twelve represents a very specific idea in the Bible. It refers to governmental order. What they had was two governmental orders, the new and the old; when they fought each other no one survived. Old season versus new season leaves no one alive! When the old order and the new order decide to fight one another, who can win? Neither of them was superior to the other. The new was not better than the old; it was simply necessary for Israel at the time. One day the new season also will become old. These are necessary progressive steps. 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?” (2 Sam.2:26). The fighting only perpetuates further bitterness. So as we look at the transition in our own church, in our own life where we are at the moment; we have to beware that infighting does not lure us into failure because when we see two sides in one organisation we are already on the wrong track because God is One! Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Deut. 6:4). We have to reflect that truth. We are called to be alert because it is easy to fall into egotism and pride and thinking ideas are more important than people and we end up on the wrong track. The purpose of change is not destruction. Even if certain things have to be left behind, it does not mean destruction, it means building; it means progress from one level to the next.

Tip. 17: Respect experience: In 2 Sam. 2:18-23 we can see excitement, ability and agility in Asahel. He was very confident and had the energy to chase after Abner, a very experienced military leader. Abner warned him to stop but Asahel would not listen. He was caught up in tunnel vision. Any transition is made up of two parts. The energetic wave of new ideas and abilities, and on the other side you have the proven and stable form of experience. Asahel was one of the chief commanders in David’s group, famous for being swift. He was confident in himself but probably a little bit arrogant as well. This is so typical of the kind of new movement that generally springs up in the church and crashes and burns. They always ignore experience and they end up ruined by their own speed. The speed with which the younger generation moves has many advantages but in many ways it lacks the wisdom that comes from experience. Abner was not afraid to fight Asahel. The detail here is important; the spear coming out of someone back shows us the speed was his own downfall. There is a Biblical principle that we cannot afford to ignore: experience will always triumph over ability. Experience needs to guide ability because one without the other ends up redundant. So experience must always guide ability. Going forward in any transition it is important for us to find the balance between what we consider to be new and what we consider to be old. The duty of unity starts with us respecting the experience of what has come before us. Moving forward without that respect invalidates the movement itself because it does not want to build on what came before and that is what God is all about. There will always be conflict if we cannot respect what has come before us. So for us as Bizweni Church we are required to commit ourselves to a duty, one that is not going to be solved today or next week. It is a continual commitment to one another because with only that do we move forward.