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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Joab: What a tangled web we weave (part 3)

David, still unrepentant, sent Uriah back to the frontline, along with a sealed letter to Joab. Upon reading the king’s letter, Joab was surprised by its message. In it, David ordered that Uriah be positioned at the forefront of the battle, where the fighting was heaviest—then Joab was to pull away the troops so that Uriah would be struck down and die. This is one of David's drkest hours and darkest deeds. The important lesson here, is that even though David is praised for being "a man after God's own heart," he is till a mortal man. But, he will pay...

Joab immediately realized that David had used Uriah—a loyal friend and servant—to unwittingly deliver his own death warrant!

Joab was faced with a life-or-death decision: Do the right thing and risk suffering the consequences for preventing a murder—or play it safe and allow an innocent man to die.

Joab played it safe.

In Ezekiel 22, God denounces the corrupt ways of the “prophets,” “priests” and “princes”—the religious and government leaders—of America, Britain and all the other modern nations descended from ancient Israel. Notice: “The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: Yes, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully” (vs. 29).

In the very next verse, God says, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it: But I found none.”

God continues to look for people who are willing to stand in  the gap...to do the right thing, regardless of potential consequences. Leaders of true character and values are scarce! Sadly, like so many who wield power and authority in today’s world, Joab failed to “stand in the gap.”

Playing Politics

Today, there are leaders who roam the halls of government and big business using “office politics,” “spin doctoring” and situational ethics to get what they want. Such men and women are not above using flattery, bribes, extortion, deceit or any other kind of political manipulation to achieve their agendas. They live and work by a personal code of ethics: “The ends justify the means.”

God’s principle of serving those under you (Matt. 20:25-27) and esteeming others better than yourself (Phil. 2:3) are foreign concepts to such people—as they were to Joab.

Known for his outstanding speaking skills, U.S. president Ronald Reagan was called “the Great Communicator.” Similarly, Joab could have easily been called “the Great Manipulator,” due to being a master at political manipulation. Absalom, Joab’s cousin, must have learned from his worldly example, as he used strong-arm tactics to bully Joab into doing his will (II Sam. 14:28-33).

Stubborn Disobedience

Craving power, Absalom launched a military rebellion against his father, causing David to abandon Jerusalem and flee for his life. Joab played a pivotal role as the commander of David’s forces, eventually leading to Absalom’s defeat.

But despite all that Absalom had done, David could not bring himself to harm his son. The king gave his soldiers strict orders that Absalom should not be killed. Yet when a man reported that Absalom had been found alive, caught in a tree, Joab ordered Absalom’s execution (II Sam. 18:1-33).

Joab disobeyed his king, the one God placed to be the head of His people. In God’s eyes, rebellion and stubborn disobedience is just as evil as witchcraft (I Sam. 15:22-23)!

Callous and Heartless

Joab rebuked David for publicly mourning over Absalom, and, in one sense, he was correct in doing so. Public mourning over the death of a rebellious and murderous son would have set the wrong example for Israel. (When Israel wandered the wilderness generations earlier, God commanded Aaron not to publicly mourn over the deaths of his rebellious sons Nadab and Abihu – Lev. 10:1-7.) It might have also sent a mixed message, potentially causing the Israelites to feel guilty for supporting their king.

However, Joab was wrong in the way he rebuked David. He did not empathize with the great pain and grief his uncle suffered. Nor did Joab appreciate a father’s unconditional love for his child.

David was a type for Jesus Christ—the One who, as the Word, said, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?…and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” (Ezek. 18:23), and who also said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kill the prophets, and stone them that are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Luke 13:34).

Joab may have given good counsel, but he did so in a callous, heartless manner.

Again, the way of Joab was a mixture of good and evil, reflected by the ways of our modern world. For instance, there are people who sacrifice their time and money to help feed the poor and needy. Though such may have good intentions, they are acting on their own, without God’s divine guidance and direction. In the end, their good intentions amount to treating the effects, not the cause—applying band-aids to cancer. Only the arrival of the kingdom of God will solve all of man’s problems, the causes of which are spiritual in nature.

Ultimately, the fruit of their works is not borne from the tree of life, but from the wrong tree—the way of self-knowledge and earthly wisdom (Jms. 3:11-18).

[more tomorrow...]

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