We crave peace: a laid-back weekend, a nap, the end of the day, a holiday, a break from mental anxiety, retirement, less crime, the end of a war … . Scripture speaks often of peace. We think of Christ as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and Paul speaks of the peace “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7, CSB).
As we move through the end of 1 Samuel into the beginning of 2 Samuel, we see little peace, and we may think to ourselves, “If God is a God of peace, why would He include such violent stories in His book?” Even if we don’t voice our concerns as forcefully, we may succumb to the temptation of thinking that this part of the Bible contains little if any important truths for our own lives. But such a conclusion would be wrong. There’s much we can learn about peace. Let’s look first at what happens in the overall story, and second at what these contents reveal to us about God.
As 1 Samuel ends, a great battle forms between Israel and Philistia. The Philistine chieftains head north to meet Saul and his army. Just before the war begins, the scene shifts to David as he returns to his camp in Ziklag. He discovers that the Amalekites had kidnapped the family members of him and his men and plundered their goods. David and his men quickly find and kill the Amalekites. They take back their family members and goods and then plunder the Amalekite camp.
First Samuel concludes with an ignominious defeat of Israel. Saul and Jonathan both die. David hears about the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and writes a lament: “How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19). At the Lord’s direction, David enters Judah, where he is anointed king.
Meanwhile, Saul’s former general, Abner, and the northern tribes recognize Saul’s last remaining son, Ish-bosheth, as king. A civil war then ensues, which eventually leads Abner and Ish-bosheth to surrender. After Abner and Ish-bosheth are murdered, all Israel recognizes David as king. Within two years, David goes from being an outlawed commander of 600 men to being the king of Israel. What can we learn from this turn of events?
The main point of these chapters is that God is in total control of David’s rise to power. In the first scene, God clearly directs David to the Amalekite camp and preserves all of his and his men’s family members. David obliterates the Amalekites without 200 of his men, but he shares the plunder with them because he knew that God was the One who gave him victory.
Later, instead of celebrating the death of the man who had sought to kill him for years, David writes a lament and executes the man who claimed to have killed Saul, “the Lord’s anointed” (2 Samuel 1:14). David later executes those who murdered Ish-bosheth. He curses Joab for murdering Abner and forces Joab to lament publicly for Abner’s death. These are ways he distanced himself from a violent power grab. God made David king.
What does this mean for us? We long for peace, but we live in a violent, fallen world. The way to ultimate peace will not come from our own power, skill, or wisdom. It won’t come through political leaders. It won’t even come through our good works. It will come when the Prince of Peace returns. In the meantime, we must ask ourselves what are we really trusting in? What dominates our thoughts and plans? If it’s man-centered, then we’ve adopted Saul’s way.
Only His Son can lead us home.