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Monday, June 27, 2011

Joab: What a tangled web we weave... (Part 1)

We are back to the life of King David to look at another character, Joab. Joab was well-supplied with natural talents; gifts, skill and training. He had everything, yet his life came to a brutal and sudden end—why?

First up , who was Joab?

Joab was a nephew of King David. He and his brothers, Abishai and Asahel, served as military officers during their uncle’s rule. Joab grew up in God’s “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) of ancient Israel. From his youth, he was taught God’s commandments, statutes and judgments, and he grew up learning the traditions, customs and practices that were being taught and upheld by the ministry, the Levitical priesthood.

Joab developed into a very skillful leader. As a leader at Jerusalem, he often gave counsel to the king. For example, he had correctly warned David not to number Israel, as he understood that nothing good would come from it (I Chron. 21:1-3). In effect what he said was that by numbering how many men were available to be used as troops, King David’s actions told God that he was placing his trust in men rather than in the One who truly enabled Israel to defeat its enemies.

Joab was also an excellent field leader. After he had led a successful assault on the fortress of Mount Zion, he was promoted to the position of commanding general of David’s army (II Sam. 8:16; 20:23; I Chron. 11:6; 18:15; 27:34). Joab went on to mount additional successful campaigns against the armies of Syria, Ammon and Edom. So, in a sense, he managed the military arm of the Work of God.

When the Ammonites rebelled against Israel’s dominion (II Sam. 10:1-9), Joab led a humiliating defeat against them. The surviving rebels regrouped at Rabbah, Ammon’s capital city. Joab’s military leadership and tactics proved to King David, who was a skilled warrior in his own right, that he was responsible enough to besiege Rabbah and end the war. Delegating such an important task allowed the king to concentrate on other areas of his reign.

Under Joab’s command, the Israelite troops captured a heavily guarded fortress that protected the city’s precious water supply. This brought Rabbah one step closer to capture. But instead of leading the final attack himself, Joab shrewdly advised David to take over: “Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it: lest I take the city, and it be called after my name” (II Sam. 12:28).

Joab came to be known for his political cunning, which he used to reconcile David with his wayward son, Absalom (14:1-24).

Yes, Joab had been blessed with natural talents, gifts, training and ability. Yet, despite all these wonderful attributes, his life came to a brutal and tragic end.


Despite all his talents, abilities, training and even knowledge of God’s laws, Joab lacked one crucial component: God’s Spirit. Without the power of God,
  • converting his mind,
  • guiding his thoughts, and
  • enabling him to build holy, righteous character,
Joab chose to rely upon himself. This sounds a lot like the initial moves made by Moses.

The great skills, gifts and responsibilities he possessed convinced him that he was smart enough to direct his own life. Joab did not understand that “the heart, the natural mind, is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9)—or that “the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps” (10:23)—or that “there is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). Joab was doing “just fine” in his own eyes. He saw no need for turning to God for help and guidance.

The life of Joab is a classic study in the way of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (see Genesis).Like the fruit of that tree, his decisions and conduct were a mixture of right and wrong, a blend of good and evil. And isn't this how we get ourselves all twisted up?

We do the right thing for the wrong reason; or justify doing what we know is the wrong thing for a justifiable (if not right) reason. We leave God out of the equation and judge based on what we see or on our oiwn instncts, or even what we hope the outcome will be. And curiously, that perceived outcome is almost always in our own best interest...

Joab may have made certain correct decisions and had good intentions from time to time, but his pride, envy and selfish ambition, all the spiritual poisons, elevated him in his own mind. They led him to rely upon himself, and caused him to produce the wrong kinds of fruit. Ultimately, this led to his downfall.

Let’s take a closer look at Joab’s life, and see where he went wrong.

[more tomorrow...]

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