God wasn’t kidding, when he told David that the sword wouldn’t depart from him. God, by the way, never kids, never bluffs, never says something that He doesn’t mean. And for David, the “hits” keep on coming.
When is a victory not such a victory? — You can’t blame David for being crushed with grief. Not only was he probably grieving as only a parent can — “What did I do wrong?” — but he had suffered the grave offense of fending off a coup from a son (“My son wanted me dead?”), and despite orders to the contrary his son had been deliberately executed by Joab (David’s anger at Joab had to have been unimaginable). Nevertheless, the people that fight for you and have won the battle for you, need to see you satisfied with the victory — not grieving it! Thus, David’s grief was setting the table for even more trouble. David did manage to recover enough to come out and congratulate and thank his troops, but he had waited long enough to cause some to harbor some resentment — which later turns into another coup. Leadership has a number of burdens that often go unnoticed by their followers. We would do well to allow them to grieve their losses, suffer their personal pains, and let them give reasonable attention to their families; they and their families are, after all, human, too.
Joab, the loose cannon that won’t go away — David had put up with Joab the loose cannon, ostensibly because he had to politically. By David’s own admission, he felt too weak to control Joab. But Joab’s deliberate disobedience and vicious execution of Absalom was too much for David to bear; he tried to marginalize Joab by promoting Amasa as “general” over his army. In only a chapter later, however, in a surprising turn of events, Joab in what appeared to be a friendly greeting to Amasa assassinates Amasa! The loose cannon continues to wreak murder and mayhem with relative impunity. You begin to understand why David said he felt too weak to deal with Joab. Truthfully, he wasn’t, of course, but the faith-filled David who took down Goliath had begun to rely more on swords and troops than the Lord. Trust in the Lord, leaders, and do the hard but right things.
Covenants last — It had been approximately 450 years since Joshua had mistakenly made a covenant with the Gibeonites not to destroy them. Such a solemn promise might have been easily forgotten by men, but not by God. And when Saul had somehow violated that covenant (we’re not told what the event was), the God who watches and remembers and calls men to account demanded that justice be satisfied. This demand, however, really put David in a difficult situation, since David had made a covenant with Jonathan not to destroy his family. Thankfully, David was able to navigate a course that satisfied both covenants — even if it was somewhat bloody and sad. The point here is that covenants are sacred. “So?” you may ask. Marriages are covenants! And we are in covenant with God and, by extension, with one another. We don’t give up on these things, even if the world deems them to be less important than our personal happiness or prosperity. Work it out.
A tip on how to resolve a conflict — Those who were dissatisfied with David as king after Absalom’s attempted coup appointed a new king over themselves, a certain Sheba. His “reign” didn’t last long after David’s army pursued him to a city named Abel Beth-maacah. As the legitimate kingdom began to cast up a siege ramp against Abel Beth-maacah and began to make some progress in breaking through the wall, a wise woman called to Joab for a little conversation, and we get a chance to see how conflict is often avoided by simply discovering the underlying interests. Once Abel Beth-maacah found out what would satisfy Israel’s army, they happily complied in short order, and a much larger tragedy was averted. “Positions” are different from “interests”. The “positions” were “We’re attacking you,” and “We’re defending ourselves”. “Interests”, on the other hand, were “We want the rival king dead,” and “We don’t really want to fight you.” You’d be amazed how often the discovery of and the addressing of “interests” will either avert fights or solve them.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.