July 28, 2015

David’s heart

2 Samuel 19:1–43, 2 Peter 3:1–13, Psalm 145:1–21

Absalom plotted against his father and tried to overthrow his rule as king. Absalom was killed by Joab who found out that, “the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people, for the people also heard that day, “The king is grieving for his son.” And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Then Joab came to the king and said, “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life and the lives of your sons and your daughters and the lives of your wives and your concubines, because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you. For you have made it clear today that commanders and servants are nothing to you, for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased. Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go, not a man will stay with you this night, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.” (2 Samuel 19:1–7)

Joab was the commander of God’s army and you’d think he knew what he was talking about. However, I’m not convinced that David erred in mourning his son Absalom. He needed to consider his people and assure them of his continued leadership, but Joab’s advice sounds more like politicking than godly counsel. David must have thought so too. . . .

The people of Israel were upset and wondered why the king at not returned after fleeing from Absalom. King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests: “Say to the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house, when the word of all Israel has come to the king? You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’ ” And he swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, “Return, both you and all your servants.” (2 Samuel 19:10–14) Joab lost his position. Was it for killing the king’s son? Or was it for telling David he should not care so much about his son?

David’s heart toward his enemies comes out a few verses later as well. A man called Shimei had earlier cursed him, so Abishai the son of Zeruiah asked if Shimei should be put to death for this. David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?” (2 Samuel 19:21–22)

David’s actions are like Jesus (also usually misunderstood) who said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven . . . .” (Matthew 5:44-45)

The NT reading adds something interesting about the value system of David as compared to Joab. Joab put much stock in the world and its kingdoms, but Peter says, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:11–13)

Did David have eternity in mind? Was he thinking that the kingdom belonged to him and to the Great King that would come after him, regardless of Joab’s worries that he should be pleasing the people? Or did his heart reflect the heart of God, even toward his enemies? Perhaps David’s heart was like the heart of God and he didn’t act foolishly. This is supported by his words: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:8–9)

If I had to choose, I’d rather be like David than be politically correct like Joab. Besides, and I repeat, it is better to err on the side of mercy!

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