Scripture Focus: 2 Samuel 18.14
Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree.
Reflection: Dealing with Joab
By John Tillman
Wednesday we repeated a reflection from 2017 about Joab’s one act of mercy in his entire life.
Joab stuck out his neck for Absalom, but when the young man betrayed David, Joab, the man who showed mercy to Absalom, mercilessly slaughtered him as he hung helpless in the tree.
Joab then berated David as he wept, “O my son Absalom!…If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son!” Joab gets David up from his grief and out to do the necessary hand shaking to keep his army together.
When I was a younger man, I admired Joab. I thought Joab saved David. I was wrong.
I saw Joab as a realist—a practical, get-stuff-done kind of guy. He was the one who would do the hard things that David “wimped out” on. I used to think that every moral leader needed a slightly-less-moral “helper” such as Joab. How wrong-headed this thinking is. Joab’s kind of loyalty is a twisted form of “honor” that cripples accountability, truth, and justice.
It is only later in life, after seeing Joab-like men destroying the reputation of Christ on behalf of institutions and individuals, that I recognize him for the danger that he is. As I look more clearly at Joab I see that he didn’t reverence God. He reverenced David.
Behind many leaders are worshipful hatchet-men like Joab. Ministries have been ruined from behind the scenes because of the machinations of a “Joab.” Joab enforces loyalty. Joab deletes evidence. Joab fires troublemakers. Joab threatens witnesses.
One of David’s greatest failings as a leader might be failing to deal with Joab. If you are a leader, you may attract a Joab. Beware.
Beware of Joab in the midst of your church, buddying up to your senior leadership and talking about “honor.” Be careful. Joab may seem loyal, but he is loyal only to earthly power structures which keep him in power.
Joab is loyal to a king (usually to a man, a pastor, but sometimes an institution, like a ministry or church) rather than to God.
Joab is more concerned about protecting the king than about truth or justice.
Joab is more concerned about the king’s (or the ministry’s) reputation than his (or its) righteousness.
Joab is concerned about vengeance on enemies rather than justice for victims.
Joab is marked by practical, not spiritual thinking.
It is important that we do not admire Joab.
It is important that we disarm and disavow him.
But it is more important that we do not become him.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. — Psalm 65.3
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
2 Samuel 16 (Listen – 4:03)
2 Corinthians 9 (Listen – 2:26)
This Weekend’s Readings
2 Samuel 17 (Listen – 5:00), 2 Corinthians 10 (Listen – 2:45)
2 Samuel 18 (Listen – 6:16), 2 Corinthians 11 (Listen – 4:46)
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Read more about Bringing Back the Banished
Contrast David’s grudging approval for Absalom’s return with Paul’s joyful acceptance of those involved in a conflict within the Corinthian church.
Read more about The Undeserved Banquet of the Gospel
We, the undeserving, motley, scandalous louts that we are, find ourselves with our feet under Christ’s table. Christ invites all to the banquet.