2 Samuel 2:26
Then Abner called to Joab, and said, Shall the sword devour for ever? know you not that it will be bitterness in the latter end?…

Abner was the cousin of King Saul, and commander-in-chief of his army. Even after the death of Saul, Abner's ability and skill enabled him to uphold the failing fortunes of the family. While David reigned in Hebron, a son of Saul was the head of ten revolting tribes beyond Jordan. Abner was an eloquent lecturer on prudence, when recklessness had wrought his own ruin. Like many old men who had been dissipated all their lives, when they can no longer be rakes and libertines, they gravely advise young men to be chaste and sober. It would be well if every headstrong Abner would ask himself, in season to repent and amend, "Knowest thou not it will be bitterness in the latter end?" There is a dreadful condition, in the future, towards which every guilty soul is surely and swiftly drifting — a state of bitterness. It may serve a good purpose to inquire, in what this bitterness consists?

I. One of the ingredients in the cup of bitterness which the wrong-doer will assuredly drink is THE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT IT WAS HIS OWN DOING. "Thou hast destroyed thyself!" will be the taunting cry of the demon. The easy, good-natured world has a nice way of smoothing over such things, and saying, "He is not very steady, poor fellow; but, then, he does not mean any harm." And the same mistaken spirit of charity adds, "He is nobody's enemy but his own!" The Bible teaches a different lesson: "The enemy of God, by wicked works" (Colossians 1:21). Inwardly and outwardly, the impenitent sinner is hostile to God.

II. Another reason why bitterness must be the portion of the transgressor will be, that HE RISKED SO MUCH AND RECEIVED SO LITTLE. The cup of worldly pleasure had a very small flavour of sweetness in it, after all. The most seductive forms of sensual indulgence are always followed by bitterness. Let any one study that terrible picture, sketched from real life, "The Man about Town," in "The Diary of a London Physician," and as he turns with a shudder from the sight, he will discover a new meaning in the prophet's words, "It is an evil thing, and a bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God" (Jeremiah 2:19).

III. Another ingredient of bitterness to the lost will be THE MEMORY OF EVIL-DOINGS. Hell is a place where the condemned will be shut up with themselves. Moreover, there will be a development of character in its inmates — no longer kept under any degree of restraint, by better surroundings — which imagination cannot conceive of. It would be well for them to remember that the devil is daily administering anodynes to keep men stupefied and inactive. Among these narcotics, are —

1. The business and distractions of life.

2. Another anodyne which the devil offers to his unsuspecting victim is the cup of worldly pleasure. If one has swallowed an overdose of laudanum, he must be kept moving about briskly, or he will sink down into the sleep of death. So, too, with those stupefied by Satan's arts, we must give them no peace, until they are fully aroused to a sense of their danger.

(J. A. Norton.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then Abner called to Joab, and said, Shall the sword devour for ever? knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end? how long shall it be then, ere thou bid the people return from following their brethren?

WEB: Then Abner called to Joab, and said, "Shall the sword devour forever? Don't you know that it will be bitterness in the latter end? How long shall it be then, before you ask the people to return from following their brothers?"

A Sweet Beginning But a Bitter End
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