Blind Ambition

Whitney Capps

Day: 34 | Plan: 1-2 Samuel

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 3

2 Samuel 3:6 (NIV) “During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul.”  

Have you ever watched one of those reality television talent shows and seen a contestant come out to perform who clearly is out of his or her league? Like me do you ever think, “What on earth made her think singing on that stage was a good idea?”

So many people have bought into the lie that we can be anything we want to be. With enough hard work and confidence, we can create any reality we imagine for ourselves.

Selfish ambition clouds our perception of reality and can be the beginning of a life marked by persistent manipulations and countless disappointments. Abner was this kind of man.

2 Samuel 3 reveals the selfish ambition that will be Abner’s downfall. Abner wants to make himself strong, so he sleeps with Saul’s concubine. To sleep with the concubine of a dead king was to assert oneself as the new leader.

Abner wanted to be all that he could be. He certainly didn’t lack confidence or vision. His desire was to make his own name great despite knowing that the Lord had appointed David the next king of Israel. (2 Samuel 3:10)

Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son, confronts Abner for this offense. While Abner doesn’t deny sleeping with the concubine, his lack of denial is confirmation of his sin. 

Driven by desire and confidence, Abner hides his real motives and refuses to admit the truth when caught. Instead, acting offended, Abner switches his loyalty to David.

Emboldened by his newfound authority, Abner goes to David with a plot to try and worm his way into David’s inner circle. While David treats him warmly and graciously, he has not been duped. Because of his loyalty to Jonathan, David cares for all Saul’s household including Abner – we see this further chronicled in 2 Samuel.

Abner’s actions towards David don’t accomplish what Abner so desperately desired.

It would be easy to read this passage and think Abner is just transitioning his loyalty from Saul to David. Any one of his actions alone may not indict Abner. But collectively, this passage paints a picture of Abner as a man plagued by selfish ambition that would ultimately be his downfall. Yes, “Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul” (2 Samuel 3:6).

2 Samuel 3 proves that it is impossible to be anything one wants to be. Even when we think we are in control, God is working His plan above all. Despite Abner’s manipulation of David, God cannot be manipulated.

There is much for us to learn from Abner about ambition and hustle. All the hustle in the world can’t get us further than the hand of God can take us. Abner and David give us two competing pictures of how selfish ambition is never enough to change God’s predetermined purpose for each person.

Selfish ambition promises what we cannot deliver but depends on us to do it anyway. Godly ambition promises what we cannot deliver but trusts God to do it in spite of us.

Selfish ambition manipulates others for personal gain. Godly ambition doesn’t worry about others’ motivations or manipulations, instead is focused on the glory of God.

Like David we can be gracious because God will do what is right.

Godly ambition rests in God’s sovereignty. David was able to be gracious with Abner because he knew the Lord was in control of David’s future.

Ambition in and of itself isn’t wrong. But our motives will tell us if we are manipulating a plan or trusting God’s purpose.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, am I like Abner, trying to scheme and manipulate for position? I don’t want to manipulate a plan. I want to trust Your purpose. Help me have a heart like David that trusts You to accomplish Your purpose in my life. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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