I Samuel 3 relates how King Ish-bosheth rebuked his general, Abner, for immorality. Abner responded with indignation and anger and promised to deliver the rest of the kingdom of Israel to David. Ish-bosheth was mortified. Verse 11 says: “And he could no longer answer Abner a word, because he was afraid of him.”
Ish-bosheth had a fundamental problem. A leader cannot have subordinates or “staff” that he is afraid of! Of course, the problem here began with how Ish-bosheth was made king. Chapter 2:8 says that when David became king of Judah, Abner had taken Ish-bosheth and made him king over the other tribes. So Ish-bosheth was a puppet. Given his position by a man, he knew he could have it taken away by the same man.
This whole sad episode reminds us not to rely upon man for that which is only appropriate to receive from God. If we are too dependent upon men, we will be subject to all kinds of insecurities and fears — and we will be weak and ineffective in any number of ways — just like Ish-bosheth was.
This may also be a warning about being involved in potential ministries/church starts, or other enterprises, where ONE person is the provider or prime supporter. In these cases, just like Ish-bosheth with Abner, you might be reluctant to rebuke that man’s sin when necessary, for fear of losing your position. Better to be supported by a group — unless you were so committed to the fear of God that you were not afraid to rebuke that man. This would be admirable, but as we see exemplified in Ish-bosheth, it can be very hard to do.
Proverbs 29:25 teaches the principle here: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.”