2 Samuel 19:5-6 Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead.
It isn’t easy for us to get our heads around all the political and inter-personal intrigues that are going on throughout this chapter. One reason why we find the life-history and the psalms of King David so helpful and comforting is that he is, at the same time, both an inspiration to us because of his courage, talent, and overtly God-centred philosophy of life, and someone with whom we can readily identify because of his weaknesses that get him into all sorts of hot water!
Absalom, the son he loved (and spoilt!), had rebelled, won over the people by treachery, and had himself proclaimed as king, usurping his father’s throne. Joab, David’s loyal Commander-in-Chief, had gained victory for his master in the ensuing battle, in which he had killed Absalom (18:9-17). David’s very public and prolonged expression of grief over Absalom’s death obviously produced strong feelings of hurt, humiliation and rejection in the ranks of his loyal army, so Joab felt constrained to confront David about this and the serious impact his behaviour would have on his future as a respected King. In a typically human ‘shoot-the-messenger’ response, David vowed to demote Joab (13), while at the same time acting on his advice, and his kingship over all Israel was restored.
Nevertheless, the seeds of discontent and disharmony were being firmly sown among the twelve tribes during all this manipulating, and they would come to full maturity under David’s grandson, Rehoboam, causing an ongoing major rift between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. All this demonstrates how important it is that God’s people continually work hard at what the Apostle Paul urged the Church at Ephesus to do: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:2-6).
We can see how many of his ‘ingredients’ for unity were missing among all those involved in the Absalom controversy, and how easily we can let a lack of humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and love spoil our fellowship.
– Bruce Christian