2 Samuel 2:18 – And there were three sons of Zeruiah there, Joab, and Abishai, and Asahel: and Asahel was as light of foot as a wild roe.
2 Samuel 2:19 – And Asahel pursued after Abner; and in going he turned not to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner.
Hello readers, new blog today, and on Asahel. Asahel was one of the three famous brothers in the Bible, who were the sons of a man called Zeruiah… and these three consisted of the infamous Joab, Abishai and Asahel himself. These guys had a big influence, impact and contribution to David’s life and army… they were a key part of David’s story. They bob up through David’s life, but Asahel is probably the least mentioned of the three. He is listed as one of David’s mighty men so we can learn from him… but the only account we really get of him is in 2 Samuel 2… and it doesn’t seem that great. In this story, there was a fight between Joab’s army and Abner’s army. Joab was fighting for David, being the captain of David’s army… and Abner was captain of Saul’s army, who, after Saul died, decided to keep with Saul’s side instead of following David as God’s anointed king over all of Israel, and he installed Saul’s son Ishbosheth as king after Saul’s death.
Asahel enters into the story after Joab and Abner’s armies had met on opposite sides of a pool. They were eyeing each other off and had a discussion. It turned into a bad situation, no longer was it about doing what was right, fighting the Lord’s battle, or about God’s will, it was about who was better than who. All these guys facing off, and as guys do, they love to compete with each other to see who’s the best as they all pursue their own glory. So they decided to have some sport… Abner and Joab got their young men to fight each other for their entertainment, to see who was the best fighter while everyone else watched on. And what happened was that this turned into a full blown fight, and in the battle Abner’s army were losing, and so they ran.
It was a wrong thing Joab and Abner did, making the young men “play” as the Bible says and they all ended up killing each other, and it was a great waste of life, of potential, of the future of young men in their ranks. What army are you in? If you are in the wrong army, your life could similarly be wasted… even if you do have great attributes and skills as the people in these armies did. And the theme of this blog is related to young men, because young men can be easily wasted, and waste their lives, waste their youth, waste all the potential and strength and qualities God has given them. So many “play” their whole lives, they never get into real battles in life. Things like sports today occupy most young men, and while there’s nothing wrong with it in and of itself (in fact I love watching and playing sport!), it is just playing, and in sport we all match our strengths and skills in a very real way, but in a made up theatre. Ultimately sports are just an invented thing and revolve around self glory, it’s not a real fight, like fighting in a war is different to fighting on the sporting field. When you were young you may have “play schooled” or “play church” or whatever, but playing is not the same as the actual thing. So it’s real men, with real abilities, but using them in “playing”. David when he fought Golaith said “is there not a cause”? We need to see what causes we are fighting, it’s good to have a cause, but we want it to be God’s cause, an actual cause, rather than investing our lives in made up causes like sports competitions. Young men, like Asahel, are physically gifted, but they invest their entire youth in sports, or whatever, it doesn’t just have to be sport at all, but they end up wasting their lives… and ultimately it all counts for nought. It’s a shame to see such fire, such potential, so fully and wholly dedicated to something that will waste away. Vanity, vanity, vanity… nobody remembers sporting achievements, they come and go, and when you win, you’re immediately thinking of the next. So it’s important to keep perspective, but you see so many young guys and all their strength, and energy, and ability is devoted to things so meaningless in the context of what matters and what lasts.
We read in the Old Testament that the children of Israel did not go into the promised land, and in fact wandered in the wilderness, until all the mighty men of war had wasted out from among them. That’s incredible. How many mighty men have wasted out… in Proverbs the strange woman… many strong men have been slain by her. The best of us can go down… Asahel was an incredibly talented, mighty man, but in this story we see a bad ending, and it’s worth looking at his life… because he so eagerly and enthusiastically ran to his doom. The Bible says remember thy Creator in thy youth. In the Old Testament they sacrificed the firstlings of their flock… you were meant to bring your best to God, and the youth of your life is the best of your life, and it is wise to give it, and sacrifice it to God. But in Malachi we see that they were bringing the worst of their flock, their sick sheep, to sacrifice to God. So often we give God the absolute dregs, the afterthoughts, the things we could do without anyway. Youth is so fleeting, so fragile, so tender… Jesus said that he who saves his life shall lose it, and whosoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake would save it. This is a strong Biblical principle, losing to God is winning but it doesn’t seem so to our ungodly, unregenerate minds. You can spend your youth and strength pursuing your own selfish ambitions, your own glory, but all you’ll end up doing is wasting your life. God doesn’t want you to waste, he doesn’t want you to spend time, but redeem it. And you can only redeem time, and have a life that counts by dedicating it to the Lord, that way your strength, your qualities, what God had given you will count. Because after all, what you have is what God gave you, so you can use it to glorify him or not… it’s your choice. The Bible says cast thy bread upon many waters… and you will find it after many days. Whereas the strange woman says “bread eaten in secret is pleasant”. Give to God and you’ll get it back forever, but keep it and you’ll lose it. Consider this… Matthew 13:12 – For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
Back to the story, and we see that Joab didn’t value his soldiers lives, and he didn’t know it’d cost him his brother. Often we don’t see down the track of how our sin, how our wrong way will turn out, and who else it might affect. And he would end up blaming Abner and murdering Abner because of it, but in truth, Abner didn’t really do wrong here, he killed Asahel in the battle, it was him or Asahel. Joab made it Abner’s fault, which was really his own. This whole battle was predicated on self glory, it started about seeing who was the best fighter, and Asahel had that same mindset of glory which cost him his life. Remember Herod in Acts, he made a great oration, and the people shouted, and he took the glory and immediately God smote him with worms and he died. Your life will be eaten out similarly seeking your own glory… your own life, ministry, service, works will be eaten out if it’s about self glory. A ministry that doesn’t glorify God is eaten out from the inside, it rots away, it can’t abide. And no, you or I won’t ever really admit or want to see that it really is all just about us, but really it is most of the time… pride is a great stumbling block to man. If Job needed it dealt with, a righteous man, then we probably do too. It is sad that Joab didn’t really value the lives of his young men. And neither did Abner. Asahel lost his life in a battle that started and arose from his older brother being an idiot. Joab should’ve valued his soldiers more, after all they weren’t his lives to spend… this is another reason why Joab wasn’t a mighty man. He used his men, but he didn’t love them. He had no qualms about murdering Uriah at David’s behest. He used the men to advance himself and his interests. They were just pawns to use as he saw fit for his own best. In fact he cared more for his fields that he lost which were burnt by Absalom, then for Uriah, a faithful soldier in David’s army who was a better man than he was.
So the battle broke out… and Abner did a runner because he and his army started losing the fight, and as you do, he ran to fight another day. But Asahel chased him. Asahel was the quickest in David’s army, and it was admirable the way Asahel was so single minded on pursuing Abner. But the reason he lost out was because he was seeking personal glory. What a feather in his cap it would’ve been to capture Abner or kill Abner. It would’ve put an end to the war, such was the importance of Abner to Saul’s side. And perhaps Asahel knew that and what he was doing was smart, or right on some level… that’s what muddies things up, when we try doing what’s right, the wrong way. When our glory and our rationalizing gets mixed with God’s glory and God’s way. The Bible says to lean not unto our own understanding… and in all our ways acknowledge him, and he will direct our paths. Well Asahel’s paths lead to his own demise.
We will lose the battle when it becomes about our glory… Asahel used the gift of God… speed… to try and get a name for himself. He got blinded… he was no match for Abner in battle… what was he even going to do when he caught up with him. He wasn’t equipped to deal with Abner, who was a mighty soldier. He just ended up wasting his talents, and in fact his talents became his undoing. We must surrender the strengths God has given us to God… otherwise the enemy can use those same things which we are so strong at, against us. His speed was his undoing, he wouldn’t have got into a position to be killed if he wasn’t so fast. People might want to serve God, but they do so their own way, and God doesn’t honor it, and God says in his word… that his ways are not our ways. That’s why we must be in God’s word and the Holy Spirit leading us in accordance to it… and that way… Proverbs 16:3 – Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. God’s gifts are always for the glorification of God… when Jesus Christ arose, the Bible says he gave gifts to men… and all Christians have gifts… and these gifts are for the furtherance of the gospel, for building faith in Jesus Christ, for the glory of God… they are for the spread and furtherance of the gospel. So many men today have great qualities that they use for their own glory rather than for God. Or they try doing what may be right, the wrong way. They may do a lot of things right, but the things that are wrong are what undoes them. The man of God in 1 Kings 13 did a lot right, until he did a bit wrong, and it ended up costing him his life. Asahel and him…. they ended up squandering their great potential for the service of God. Premature deaths, a premature end to what could’ve been a much greater impact for God. Asahel got killed by Abner, because Abner was a smart soldier and he used Asahel’s speed against him. And he thrust him through with the back of his spear. The army who was also following arrived at his body, and the whole thing stopped… they couldn’t believe it. Such talent, such potential, ended in seconds. 1 Corinthians 10:12 – Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.
The problem wasn’t Asahel’s enthusiasm, or singleness of mind. But often we can do many things right, but the one fundamental thing that’s wrong is what costs us. You can be faithful, moral, enthusiastic… but serving a God who doesn’t exist… an idol. All those qualities thus count for nothing. The devil is always in the detail… David had a good idea to bring the ark back to Israel when he was king… which was a good thing to do… but it all became unhinged because the way he brought it back was wrong according to God’s word. We must do things God’s way, according to his word. Ultimately the same is true of salvation, unless you come to God through Jesus Christ, no other way will get it done… because Jesus is the way. Asahel had many good qualities that were used for good… he was a mighty man in David’s army, he didn’t turn to the right or the left, but kept right after Abner. But as the Bible says of the unbelieving Jews… they had zeal… but zeal without knowledge. Which is useless. The prophets of Baal had zeal for Baal… but ultimately it was Baal… a god that doesn’t exist. Doesn’t matter how zealous they were for him. Imagine if they had that same zeal for the true Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, could’ve been such a different story.
Proverbs 19:2 – Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good; and he that hasteth with his feet sinneth. Asahel is the living picture of that verse of Proverbs. He was quick, but he was also stupid. He was hasty, he made quick decisions, and wrong decisions. He didn’t take counsel, he didn’t consider WHO he was chasing, or how it was going to turn out… all he did was pretty much instinctual. Outrunning his army was a silly move, they were winning as a team, yet he was off on this solo mission for self glory. He had no support, no backup, noone could save him, because he had outrun them. Proverbs 11:14 – Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety. He had left the entire army behind, he was out on his own… and maybe he was full of pride, and look at me, I’m ahead of everyone else. It’s not enough to be quick, we’ve got to be wise, and know how to use what God has given us. It’s not enough to know Bible, we must know how to apply it, and obey it. When Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall, God said he had been weighed in the balances and found wanting. In Proverbs we see that a false balance is an abomination to God. It is the Holy Spirit who brings the balance to our life, without him, without that reality of having being born again and God living inside you by his Spirit, you won’t have that balance to make it through life’s decisions, trials and tribulation.
There is a difference between knowledge, understanding and wisdom. We can know stuff, but without being able to apply it to our life, knowledge is useless. How to apply it? You need to be born again, you need to be in and abiding in Jesus Christ by faith. What is faith? Hearing God’s word… and believing it, obeying it. You can know of God, of hell, but wisdom is fearing God and doing something about it. The man of God in 1 Kings 13… he KNEW God’s word… but he didn’t obey it… obedience is what cost him, not not knowing what God had said. Unless we turn that knowledge of the Bible into personal salvation and a holy walk before him, it’s useless head knowledge. The Pharisees had great zeal, but they were wrong. The prophets of Baal had zeal, they leapt on the alter, they cut themselves… but they were serving the wrong God. And speed isn’t everything, because in life often God’s timing isn’t our own. Abraham tried speeding God’s promise to him by going into Hagar because his own wife, Sarah, was barren. But all he achieved was wreck and ruin… and meanwhile God’s promises came right upon time. Paul had a thorn in the flesh, and he prayed to God about it, and God said to him in 2 Corinthians 12:9 – And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Sometimes it’s better when we aren’t so able, when we aren’t so strong and mighty, because that might lead us to trust ourselves, but the victory comes from God. Because the victory that overcomes the world is our faith… not our abilities.
Asahel is a picture of a young man with potential, with ability, with a future… who lost it… because instead of surrendering his abilities to God, he used them for himself. There are so many young men out there who could be used of God, who could stand for God as Daniel did, who could purpose in their hearts as Daniel did, but who instead invest in the vanity of this life. A life lost to God is a life found. 1 Peter 4:19 – Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. He is faithful with what we commit to him. It is always a good investment to invest our lives, our decisions, our future in the hands of God. Look at Lot. He invested his life in the well watered plains of Sodoom. What Lot “saw” was a thriving business for himself, companionship for his family in Sodom, a school to go to for his kids, a social circle for himself and his wife, leadership opportunities in Sodom, it was all there … but he lost his business, he lost his prosperity, his family became integrated in the wickedness of Sodom. Everything he thought he was gaining, he lost. Because his life was a life dedicated to himself, not to God’s will for his life. In saving his life, or so he thought, he lost everything. He thought he made a good decision… but he didn’t. Sacrifice is a big principle in the Bible, it is only when we practically die to ourselves, that we are risen with newness of life with Christ. Samson was a young man with tremendous potential, but it was only in his death that he won his greatest victory. Practically, it is only when we die to ourselves and are risen in newness of life in Christ Jesus, that we start to lead lives that count and have the power of God upon it.
Asahel’s story also teaches us that the enemy has power. Abner was a good fighter. He knew he could easily kill Asahel… although apparently Asahel didn’t know that. He repeatedly warned Asahel to stop following him. And you better be wise in the battles you pick. Jesus said to not cast your pearls before swine lest they rend you. William Jennings Bryant was completely outfoxed by the cunning of Clarence Darrow in the famous Scopes monkey trial. It is so easy to get ripped apart when we are outside God’s word, outside God’s will, when we run the race and war without weapons, without defenses… like prescribed in Ephesians 6. Abner killed Asahel with the back end of his spear in this story, meaning in all likelihood, he just stopped and waited for Asahel to catch up and basically let Asahel run himself onto the spear. Abner knew warfare, he knew how to use his weapon, Asahel’s greatest weapon, his speed, however… was completely misused, misguided and used against him. We have enemies in this life, in this world, worth reckoning, who are going to take God’s power by God’s grace to overcome through faith… by obeying God’s word and sticking to truth.
The title of this blog is “As Light Of Foot As A Wild Roe”… and that’s what Asahel was characterized by, his great physical attribute. Some of the other guys in the Bible are characterized by faith, or by devotion, or by prayer, or by obedience to God’s word… but this man was characterized and remembered by his speed… he must’ve been incredibly fast… a wild roe is a deer, and they can really motor. Its important to not only see that we should use our abilities for God’s glory rather than our own, but the manner in which this happened was Asahel was doing a lot of good in this story, but the bit that was bad was the bit that got him. It appears he was just young and stupid, he had raw talent, but he didn’t have wisdom, he ran on instinct and pursuit of glory. Joab his leader didn’t help his cause, because Joab fired up his soldiers to be about being the best, rather than emphasizing that the battle was the Lord’s. There is a guy in the Bible at the other end of the spectrum… Jacob. He couldn’t run like Asahel could, but it was better to be a limping Jacob than a dead speed demon like Asahel. How we get through this life isn’t about speed, about rapidly advancing oneself, about succeeding, about material gains, about a name for ourselves, about fame and glory, about getting all the experiences and adventure and pleasure… it’s about as Jacob experienced, meeting God face to face and your life being persevered. That’s what matters. Asahel’s wasn’t in this story… because he got killed, but Jacob, halting on his staff… was running a better race. The Bible does list Asahel as a mighty man in David’s army, and he was, but we know the Bible is written for our warning, and our admonition, for our learning. Mephibosheth was also another guy to learn from… he in fact was lame, a cripple, yet he was carried to king David, and fed at king David’s table. Jesus said it is better to enter life, the kingdom of God, heaven… maimed, or halt, or with one eye, than to have a fully functioning, uninjured, whole body that is cast into hellfire forever. It’s not a sin to be fast as Asahel was, and he was a mighty man in David’s army, but we should learn from this story and as the Bible says, make this story our wisdom, in knowing it, and knowing how to learn from it in a way that relates to our individual lives.