September 7, 2016
We’ve all been warned about “playing the fool,” and one of the Bible’s most famous examples of an apparent lack of common sense is an Old Testament character named Abner who died “as a fool dieth” according to King David. Abner foolishly took a fatal misstep, so our service this Wednesday is on “using wisdom” as our parents warned us, or in the words of Jesus, “wisdom is justified of her children” (Luke 7:35). In other words,
“CS stands for Common Sense,” Bessie McLoon
“Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Eugene Peterson, The Message
“Time tells all stories true,” Allison Phinney, Jr., The Christian Science Sentinel
“Wisdom is known by its fruits. Look at the results to see if you made the right decision.” Colleen Moore’s paraphrase from reading the wise words above!
Abner made some foolish decisions, and here are some Bible notes to help you understand his story:
2 Samuel 3:7-8 “To sleep with a member of the royal harem was to claim the throne. Hence, Ishbaal’s question is tantamount to an accusation of treason. A dog’s head, used only here in the Bible, this expression is obviously reproachful, but its origin is unknown, although comparison to a dog or a dead dog is a frequent form of self-depreciation. Abner does not deny Ishbaal’s accusation but is contemptuous. Although the power is his, he has been loyal to Ishbaal.” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 449)
Hebron is one of the seven cities of refuge in Joshua 20:7.
“The towns of asylum provided the right of asylum for someone who committed involuntary manslaughter until the case was adjudicated. . . .The right of asylum helped to limit the social damage of unrestrained blood vengeance or feuding, especially important in a tribal context. . . .The avenger of blood was the deceased’s nearest relative. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 348)
There were dozens of sermons online about Abner playing the fool, and there is a correlated story in Miscellaneous Writings about a New England worker who was played a fool. Mrs. Eddy’s anecdote is included at the end of the readings, but in summary, a practical joker at her brother’s mill had asked a new hire to “tend the regulator” by unnecessarily pouring a bucket of water every ten minutes on the regulator which controlled the machinery. Mrs. Eddy commented,
“Some people try to tend folks, as if they should steer the regulator of mankind. God makes us pay for tending the action that He adjusts.” (“Fallibility of Human Concepts,” Mis. p. 353)
So, not only did Abner foolishly start a game with enemies which resulted in a brawl, killing Joab’s brother; then foolishly stepped outside of the sanctuary city with Joab; but he also foolishly tried to meddle with arranging David’s kingdom when God already had everything under control! There is certainly wisdom in unity, but this story warns us that it should be directed by God (as David was patiently learning) instead of outlined by man (Abner’s foolish mistake).
In this same article, Mrs. Eddy lists six attitudes which many have found wise to follow in their lives:
“A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God.” (Mis. p. 354)
Have you noticed the symbolism of David becoming king over a unified Israel at age 30? Was David the first “lion and the lamb,” because he symbolized the lion of the southern tribe of Judah, and lovingly shepherded the northern tribes to unite and become one flock? Did you spot the symbolism of the two witnesses, the Christ from Judah; and the Comforter from the northern tribes of Israel (such as the tribes of Benjamin and Gad, and Joseph’s tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh)?