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Abner and the Discerning Journey

Following the holiday season, people need many things. Practically, two that come to mind immediately are money and more sleep. 

But beyond the practicalities there is so much more that we need!

In the infamous work Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, we are reassured, 

“You are human and fallible.”

Throughout the holidays and the Christmas season, we all pool together to try our greatest to appear strong and neatly pulled together when there are things within that just are not so. 

Another quote to be aware of is derived from Robert Louis Stevenson as he emphatically penned,

“Alas! In the clothes of the greatest potentate, what is there but a man?”

Saying this, some other things required for a successful transition into a new year are extra: Grace, love, and perhaps… Discernment?

Discernment is spoken of often within leadership seminars, Ted Talks, and churches but practically, it may be reasonable to ask questions such as, “What does it look like?”

A lot of people know what discernment is. Nonetheless, many people do not realize that acquiring discernment practically is much messier than the cookie cutter methods preached on. 

If you would like a Biblical example, stick with me as I discuss the tantalizing story and character of Abner.

Some incorrectly misdiagnose Abner’s story as if he was some kind of villain at times, but this would be a poor review of him. The story of Abner shows a man who was living role to role and shows realistic progression as a man navigates an ever-changing situation, much like ours today.

In 1st Samuel and early 2nd Samuel, the reader will see that Abner is a skilled warrior and passionate commander of king Saul’s army. He could also be described as loyal and patient; although, not a fool for loyalty’s sake. 

Abner was an important character in the life of Saul and David. In fact, he played a mediating role between Saul and David following David’s slaying of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:55-58; 1 Samuel 20:25). 

Later, in this large narrative, Saul (Although he loved David like a son) pursued David in order to kill him. King Saul realized that David was to be ordained as king by God over him and in a maniacal rage, attempted to kill David to maintain his authority. 

In this turn of events, Abner, Saul’s military commander, was caught on the wrong side of things. This essentially created an internal conflict within Abner. Abner was loyal to Saul, his king, but soon realizes that God has called David to rule.

The question became of who to serve: God or man?

Here now, as much as then, we should carry the Apostle Paul’s sentiment when he prods in the book of Galatians, 

“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (1:10).

Abner’s story shows the messy overlap and process behind resolving conflicts of interest. 

In this challenging time, Abner continued to do what he felt called to do- Serve Saul faithfully. He in fact served Saul until his death and even after, instead of submitting to David, he served Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son.

Meanwhile in this time, there was a gradual but sure transition of power in Israel from Ish-Bosheth to David.

Abner’s shortcomings were great, much like many of the “fathers of the faith” that we esteem, including David. Abner was a mighty warrior and during this illegitimate reign of Ish-Bosheth, no doubt Abner was the one with true power. 

Despite this power, he humbled himself due to an infuriating accusation from Ish-Bosheth. It was from this accusation that Abner’s calling was affirmed. He knew what he must do. 

In 2 Samuel 3:9-12, he pledged loyalty and all of his might to David and was sold on God’s appointing of David. Abner then faithfully served David and because of him, Israel was further united, and Abner served as an instrument of God himself. 

Discernment does not always come immediately or swiftly. It is God-given and strengthened by training in righteousness. 

Discernment is God-given in the Scriptures and application is where we are showing the fruits of God’s glorious work in our lives.

The Bible teaches that good discernment comes in an appropriate amount of time. 

The apostles have much to say about it. 

John the Beloved wrote to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1). 

In Hebrews, it is taught that mature discernment of good and evil comes by training and experience, particularly in the Scriptures mind you (Hebrews 4:12; 5:14).

Paul reaffirms that by the renewing of our mind, we may prove what the will of God is (Romans 12:2; Philippians 1:9-10). 

To paint Abner as a villain although God was working in his life to show him the appropriate decision, which he ultimately obeyed and did great things because of, would be hypocritical. 

God was patient with the great man Abner, just as much as He is with all Christians! We lived lawless lives before we accepted His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:9). Despite our evil nature, God is faithful and just. His will, will be done. 

The great warrior Abner teaches us of God’s patience. Abner teaches us about human nature. He teaches us what true, Biblical discernment looks like and how to achieve the winning side- God’s side. 

Abner’s character was consistent while alongside it, God’s mercy and will was mighty! This is a formula for an amazing story of God. 

Continuing on, it is also worth noting how Abner’s story ends. 

Tragically, the reader will find as the story progresses and in a fit of rage, another general of David’s named Joab, murders Abner because a past situation where Abner had killed Joab’s brother in combat (2 Samuel 3:30). 

Now you may ask why I would end this lesson with this addition?

The truth is that without it, the story is not complete and we would not see the beauty of Abner’s wise discernment!

In Abner’s death, king David was grieved, and Joab was cursed by David. Abner’s journey of discernment left himself known as a man who made great decisions. 

David’s lament has it recorded that Abner was “a prince and a great man” (2 Samuel 3:38). 

As a Christian, we are known as “heirs of God” and “joint-heirs with Christ,” made into “great men (And women)” because of Christ’s imputed righteousness (Romans 8:16-17). 

We are known by our greatest discernment- When we discern Christ as Lord of our lives! Now we rely on His discernment and like Abner can rest knowing that in Christ, we are royalty and great like Him.

God bless!

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