Li’l Abner

In Anatomy of a PsalmSong, I told you about my first encounter with a guy named Barry, who declared that I have the Spirit of David upon me – flattening me with a very unexpected and much appreciated blessing, despite the fact the only interaction he’d had with me was to be part of a congregation I was leading in worship.

Well, I saw Barry again a couple of weeks ago at another iteration of the same retreat weekend where we first met, and he had more to say. This time, he declared that I also have the Spirit of Abner upon me.

‘Wow. Thanks, Barry!’ I replied. ‘Um …Who’s Abner, again?’


King David Playing the Harp, by Gerard van Honthorst

Not exactly the same iconic figure as King David, the deeply flawed, but deeply committed, man after God’s own heart. The musician who soothed Saul. The worship leader who wrote many of the Psalms. That guy.

To be mentioned in the same breath with David was an extreme honor and I’m still not convinced it’s one I deserve, but at least I can see the connection. I love God as fully as I know how, and I’m a worship leader who’s written some songs.

A U.S. postage stamp issued in 1995 which depicts Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae.

A U.S. postage stamp issued in 1995 which depicts Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae.

But Abner? I remembered encountering this name in my reading of the Old Testament, but really couldn’t remember in what context. (I was more aware of the Li’l Abner comic strip of the middle 20th Century than of the biblical character, I confess.)

So I did what all good Christian boys do in such circumstances: I got out my Bible to do some research on who this Abner fellow was. Turns out Abner was an Israelite military commander during the reigns of King Saul and King David, and he even helped introduce the two:


From David Decapitates Goliath, a Brick Testament album

‘As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.’ – 1 Samuel 17:57

OK, so far, so good. What else?

Well, Abner went on to continue faithfully serving Saul until his death at Gilboa. Then, he proclaimed Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth King of Israel, rather than joining David, who was king of only the tribe of Judah at the time. A series of feuds and political alliances followed, but eventually, Abner joined David and helped him gain control over the tribe of Benjamin as well.

Joab stabs Abner in the stomach, in this illustration from the Morgan Bible.

Joab stabs Abner in the stomach, in this illustration from the Morgan Bible.

Unfortunately, we don’t get the chance to see the David-Abner tag team in action, because a rival named Joab tricked Abner into meeting with him, and murdered him in cold blood.

The way I read it, Abner was a bit of an opportunistic schemer who had a lot of potential, but met an ugly and needless end before he really made much of an impact on the world. And according to my good, prophetic friend Barry, I have the spirit of Abner up on me.

Thanks … ?

Barry later elaborated on what he meant when he shared this word with me. He clarified that he wasn’t referring to the sordid ups and downs of Abner’s career – only to the fact that he was a military leader, and a fairly accomplished one. His soldiers trusted and believed in him, and they followed his orders. He had authority, and he wasn’t afraid to use it.

“Rob, you are God’s captain, so don’t be timid. Don’t be hesitant. He has given you authority, so step in it! Stop holding back. Step in it!”

As Barry flattened me once again with another pep talk from Heaven, I got Goosebumps, and my heartbeat quickened.

I also started to laugh.

It was a laugh of joy that comes sometimes when I sense God at work. It was also a laugh of skepticism – the things he was saying felt a little ridiculous from an earthly perspective – and also a laugh that banished that skepticism: ‘Yeah, it is a little ridiculous from an earthly perspective: what’s your point?’

What I thought of when Barry kept repeating, 'Step in it!'

The image that came to mind when Barry kept repeating, ‘Step in it!’

And I’m not going to lie. The laugh was also a Beavis-and-Butthead snicker at the fact he had just said ‘Step in it.’

I felt a bit ashamed about sullying this holy moment in this way, but then it occurred to me that the Beavis-and-Butthead snicker was actually integral to what God wanted to show me.

I am hesitant about speaking with authority.

Not so much with my family, but certainly at work and especially when it comes to spiritual matters. I’m afraid of overstepping my station, of stepping on toes and of ruffling feathers. But most horrifying of all is the fear of being wrong. Saying yes too quickly and then finding out later that my boss, or my pastor, my better judgment or even my God, would have preferred that I say no.

It’s not that I’m afraid people will die, or get hurt, or lose their jobs, or lose their faith. I’m really just afraid that if I do or say something boldly and I’ve made a bad call, I might end up feeling and looking foolish – with egg on my face. (Aren’t you glad I switched metaphors there? Probably not as glad as I am.)

I’m often reluctant to step up or step out, because I’m afraid of stepping in it. And I think that is what God wants to free me from.

Clean rubber boots. Whats the point?

Clean rubber boots. Sort of misses the point, doesn’t it? 

Not because He’ll always make sure I don’t step in it, but because it’s only through practice – through stepping out boldly and ending up with a shoe sole full of steaming cowpie a few (dozen?) times – that He can painstakingly teach me how to step up and step out without stepping in.

If I choose not to step out, my shoes will be clean … but they won’t have taken me anywhere.

OK, God. Message received. From now on, just call me Li’l Abner.

Peace be with you.


About robpetkau

Communications professional by day, amateur musician by night, worship leader (at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Calgary) on weekends and aspiring Bible teacher in my dreams. Grateful husband to the woman who completes me. Doing-the-best-I-can dad to the son and daughter who keep me on my toes. Striving disciple of the GodMan who came, taught and died for me. Thanks for stopping by!
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian Walk, Faith, Fear, God, Old Testament, Politics, Psalms and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Li’l Abner

  1. andysread says:

    I agree, step in it and step on it. It is better to fail with God than never try. No “Well done, good and faithful servant” for staying put. Good word for all of us. It always helps to have a bit of persecution to push us to step out, too!

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