Abner, the Secretary of War for the beheaded King Saul, had mounted an offensive against David at Hebron (2 Samuel 2:12f). Poolside rough-housing had sparked a bloody battle between Abner’s and David’s mighty men. Getting the worst of it, Abner and his boys retreated.
David’s nephew Asahel, who was known for his speed (“as swift-footed as the gazelles” 2:18), spied Abner running in the distance. “A golden opportunity,” he thought. “If I can make a decapitation strike by running down and killing Abner, the whole body of resistance against David will go limp. It will make me a legend. Just as the women have sung, ‘David slew Goliath,’ now they’ll sing, ‘Asahel slew Abner!'”
Soon, the wing-footed Asahel (probably around age 20) caught up with the older, thicker, barrel-chested, battle-tested man-of-war Abner (probably around age 40). This was like a World War II North African scene of a swift jeep with a mounted swivel machine gun closing on on a lumbering German tank. Asahel was taking a great risk. In the mighty man pecking order, he was no match for the champion Abner. “But Asahel didn’t turn to the right or left” (2:19).
The kid was relentless — intoxicated with his own abilities and with the opportunity for fame. He felt bullet proof and invincible! Abner heard heavy breathing and shouted: “Turn aside, why should I strike you to the ground” (22)? Asahel ran on.
Wily, Battle Tested Abner made quick work of Asahel. Running full throttle, Abner somehow came to a full stop! He planted his spear, impaling Asahel. Maybe Abner spied a tree near the path, and just when Asahel was bearing down on him, he jammed his spear-head into the trunk, leaving the sprinting Asahel to collide. “Abner struck him in the belly with the butt end of the spear, so that the spear came out of his back. And he fell there and died on the spot. And it came about that all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died stood still” (2:23)
Passersby were stunned and staggered that such a promising youth was no more.
Any lessons here for young people?
1. Beware of a Fast & Furious pace of life. You think: “I can handle it! I’ve got quick wits and reflexes. I know what I’m doing. I’m street smart. I’ve proven myself capable of taking care of myself!” But beware of a zeal without knowledge. Matthew Henry wrote: “See how we are often betrayed by the accomplishments we are proud of. Asahel’s swiftness, which he presumed so much upon, did him no kindness, but hastened his fate.”
This has countless applications from car driving, to text messaging, to beverage drinking, to romance rushing, to decision-making, to risk taking, and beyond! Speed kills.
2. Beware of the Nearness of death. Matthew Henry: “How often death comes upon us by ways that we least suspect. Who would fear the hand of a fleeing enemy, or the butt end of a spear?” You may feel right now that you’ve got the world by the tail. You’re cruising along about to make a name for yourself. But in a heartbeat, you could be wallowing in your blood, gasping out your last breath!
The headline read just this morning in the local newspaper: “Teenager, 17, Killed in I-96 crash at US 131 Near Grand Rapids” Running around West Michigan, there are spears stuck in trees all over the place! “The Pontiac Grand Am was slammed by an eastbound semi-truck.”
Stand still and just stare for a moment at Asahel wallowing, and ask yourself, “Am I ready for that?”
Right now, with all the speed you’ve still got, run to Christ, like a red-handed criminal would run to a City of Refuge (Numbers 35:11). Young, strong, and swift as you now are, you can’t boast of tomorrow. You’ve got to be ready today! Run to Christ now. Speed not only kills, it saves. Christ can make you really bulletproof and really invincible. Get going!
Here’s a sermon on the theme: