Joab and David
I probably don’t even need to mention the elephant in the room that has dominated social media and news media for the past day and a half. A certain individuals emails may or may not have revealed some uncomfortable and angering details that many people across the country have been bringing up (only to be harassed) for quite a while. There’s no need for me to go into detail about all that nonsense — suffice to say there are plenty of people with more money and influence than me that are somewhat irritated. I heard some more detail about the situation this morning, from my dad, who also wisely (like always) pointed out the danger of volatile criticism toward other ordinary people instead of real justice and recompense for criminal behavior.
I recalled the parallels between two individuals from the One-Year reading today who responded to genuine problems and even alleged crimes with a different hand, and the lesson in how they responded. Near the end of 2 Samuel, David has returned to his throne. The jerk who had hurled wrongful curses his way as he left decides that now he should grovel at David’s feet, now that the king has his anointed throne back again. This guy was a big fat mean liar, and one could argue he deserved to be punished for his sinful mouth! The curses he unrighteously laid on David should be met with a sword! At least, that’s what Abishai thought was the most appropriate action.
This guy screwed up big time, and right now was the best moment for immediate, volatile, angry action! But the king has a different solution — time. It was not the time or place to be a vindictive warrior; there would be a necessary moment for dealing with the matter, but now was the time for letting the dust settle. As David so often says to Abishai and his just-as-fiery brother: “What have I to do with you sons of Zeruiah?” They are quick to anger and trigger-happy with doling out their own bloody brand of vengeance, and David has had it up to his ears with the both of them. In time, they too will be dealt with. But not today; today was a day for celebrating a victory and letting all the details and answers rise to the surface.
David lets the man go — for now. The time for the punishment that fits the crime will come for him later, as it will for Joab. Speaking of, what does Joab do when met with a crisis? While hunting down some moron with a horn and a chip on his shoulder who had decided to rebel against David, Joab comes up against the officer David had selected to replace him. Amasa (Joab’s replacement) had been given some direct orders from the king, to speedily deal with Sheba (the doofus with the trumpet and a plan to rebel against David) — and he was not doing so. So, Joab had convinced himself Amasa was either grossly incompetent or actually engaged in criminal conspiracy (sound familiar to a certain someone’s emails?) Or, Joab was worried someone else was getting his spot. Knowing Joab, it was probably a bit of both.
What does Joab do? He does what the sons of Zeruiah do: he takes matters into his own hands and murders an innocent man in cold blood, and in brutal, humiliating fashion. White-hot, unrestrained, vitriolic revenge. In Joab’s tunnel vision there was only what he was feeling in that instant, what he certainly murmured to himself as he read the emails…I mean rode toward Amasa. There was something very fishy and very disconcerting going on here. This guy was not dealing with the situation, and David might be in trouble because of it. When met with the sniveling coward that was Shimei, David responded with the righteous tact and mercy of a king. There would be time for genuine, frustrated concerns later. These weren’t empty concerns for either of these men. Shimei was a problem, Amasa might’ve been a problem, too.
There is a time and a place for passionate argument against corruption, and an expression of exhausted vindication against bad policy and decision making. It may very well turn out that all this nonsense can be traced back to just another loud-mouthed politician trying to assert power and control. That will need to be dealt with.
But not today. Not at the cost of embarrassing innocent people who just wanted to do what they hoped was right, despite being mislead. Not even at the cost of humiliating some control-freaks who bullied everyone else. Especially when you might know them personally! There will come a time when good people, charged with our protection and leadership, will stand up and face off against the forces of corruption. It’ll be a good day. It will bring relief, and a light that diffuses confusion.
Don’t let it be ruined by personal hardness and unrestrained rage. Take a breath, voice your grievances, do all the right things — but don’t go any further, not even in your own murmuring, let alone on social media.
You can either be like Joab, or like David. How will you deal with grievances against you, perceived or real, big or small? How will you deal with crises, especially when they come in the form of people who wronged you? Will you hurt them, or let the God of times and seasons call them to account?
In a world full of trigger-happy, vengeful Joabs, be like David. Be the peacemaker. Be the voice that says “No man will be put to death in Israel.”
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. (Romans 12:19)