One of my favorite scripture passages is Micah 6:8, which states:
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your
It’s a terse, rhetorical question in response to other rhetorical questions the prophet Micah has presented to the nation Israel, exposing their outward religious appearance and condemning their inward sinfulness. (Just like Micah could do to us now if he roamed the earth.) It is a reminder to believers to tread carefully, to focus on good rather than evil (and vengeance); to be just, to love mercy, and walk humbly beside God. This advice surely goes a long way toward securing peace between God, and us and between us our fellow man.
Yet it does not negate a time and place for justice to be disbursed, when it is warranted, which we will see today in 1 Kings. Later, we will also see how the love a person has for the father can result in peace between these two people being passed down to the son.
So, let’s get started!
In 1 Kings, verses 5 and 6 we hear the aged and dying King David continuing his advice and instruction to his son Solomon, who is succeeding him to the throne. David tells him, “Moreover you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in [Shalom-peacetime], and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair go down the grave in Shalom.”
Sounds like a disgusting event and pretty strong words from David. But are they justified?
To fully understand what’s going on here, let’s first get a little background. If you remember from my September 12 post, which you can access at: http://brokenheartsredeemed.blogspot.com/2016/09/do-you-want-peace-be-shrewd-and-stay.html, you might remember the issue between Joab and Abner, where Joab lures Abner outside the city of refuge gates on a pretense of wanting to make peace with him and then slays him. Joab killed Abner to avenge the killing (in self defense) of Joab’s relative. While David grieved over and never avenged Joab’s premeditated murder of Abner, he was unable to bring Joab to justice, which some commentators think is due to Joab’s popularity with David’s army.
Amasa, who Joab also murdered, was David’s nephew, whom David had forgiven for siding with his conniving cousin Absalom (David’s son) in Absalom’s attempted and failed coup. Later, in Joab’s absence, David makes Amasa Commander-in-Chief of his armies. In a show of pretense of Shalom and saluting Amasa, (and probably a fit of jealousy and envy), Joab stabs and kills Amasa. There is nothing self-defensive about these acts. It is yet again another premeditated murder.
These murders are horrible. Both were premeditated. Both were carried out under the guises of peace. Both threatened to undermine the peace David had struggled and fought to win. Both broke David’s heart. And his heart may also have been grieved by the possibility that many believed David had ordered Joab to carry out these two murders, in retribution for these two men having once stood against David.
Bible commentaries give graphic pictures of what happened and what Joab looked like—and reveled in—following the murders. In the process of stabbing Amasa, the blood spurted onto Joab, onto his feet and sandals, across his clothing and weaponry. He probably re-sheathed his bloodied sword or knife without first cleaning it. Then he marched in front of the army, proudly displaying what he’d done, what a great man of war and leader he was. This is not a man who didn’t have time to clean up after battle before moving on with the troops. This is a man proud of his stains. The vision is sickening. And David instructs Solomon to do what his God-given wisdom tells him to do, and not allow Joab to live out his old age in a peaceful manner. In essence, David is telling Solomon to make Joab’s life miserable until the end, which will most likely come through an executed death sentence.
And that’s exactly what we find in verses 26-33. Joab has defected and fled to the tabernacle to grab and hang onto the altar. Perhaps he thinks he’ll find some protection there. But it is not to be. Why? Because Joab is a rebel and a murderer. Solomon hears about it and sends a guy named Benaiah to the tabernacle to tell Joab to come out from the tabernacle. Joab refuses, telling Benny that, no, he’s going to die right where he’s planted himself. Benny has to go back and tell King Solomon what Joab said, and Solomon essentially says, “Fine, let him have it his way, as long as the guilt from the innocent blood Joab shed can be removed from the house of David and placed firmly on the head of Joab, and upon his descendent. Forever.” Solomon also tells Benny to take care of Joab’s burial. So he runs back over to the tabernacle, slays Joab, and buries him in his own house in the wilderness. And Benny is appointed commander over Solomon’s army.
Wow. What a gruesome story. A sad ending for a once great warrior and leader. But what does it say for us?
First, Joab did not walk humbly. He walked with arrogance, pride, and anger. A heart geared toward vengeance. While his justice and mercy scales may have sported justice, they were definitely light, if not empty, of mercy. He would have done well to have paid attention to his king’s merciful heart; his forgiving heart. His heart after God. Joab’s actions rocked the stability of the nation’s Shalom David had labored so hard for. His actions caused others to think poorly of David, to think he initiated retribution on two people he had truly forgiven. It must have weighed heavily on his heart all of those years. Yet, while it may have taken years to bring Joab to justice, it finally came in the end.
Now let’s jump forward in First Kings to chapter 5, where we find Solomon busy about the business of temple building. He’s getting building materials from Hiram, the king of Tyre. In verse 12 we read: “so the LORD gave Solomon wisdom, as He promised him; and there was Shalom between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a treaty together.”
A treaty of peace. But just how did that happen? It seemed to occur without much fanfare or struggle. In order to know why, we can look back at verse 1 in the same chapter. “Now Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, because he heard that they had anointed him king in place of his father, for Hiram had always loved David.”
For Hiram had always loved David. So Solomon enjoys peace with a neighboring king due to the relationship his father had developed and enjoyed with that king. Solomon reaped the benefits of what David labored for. Big benefits. How wonderful it is when a parent sets the stage for his child to enjoy peace.
Questions to Ponder
1. In the first story, about Joab, David, and Solomon, you have a cold-blooded murderer, a man who desires that justice be served but who can’t render it himself, and a son who renders it for him so that the family, and kingdom, can enjoy peace. Did it have to be done? I suspect that it had not been, Joab would have always been a problem for Solomon; and the army’s loyalty may have been divided. Would it not been enough to just confine Joab for the rest of his life? Probably not, because alive he may have been able to exert influences that threatened Solomon’s rule. People in prison have inside and outside connections that can cause issues for their enemies.
And, Joab was clearly guilty of being vengeful and bloodthirsty. He couldn’t have found safety in a city of refuge because his crimes were premeditated. Instead, he thinks he can take refuge in the tabernacle, near God. But that didn’t save him, either.
I think I need to interject a definition of terms in here, though, since I can hear people saying, “But the commandment says, ‘Though shall not kill.’” Actually, the Hebrew word is correctly defined “murder” not “kill”. It means you should not carry out a premeditated murder. Killing in self-defense or by accident was why cities of refuge were built and maintained.
No matter where you stand on capital punishment, it is worth thinking about: Is it necessary for the perpetrator to receive the death sentence so the surviving family can have the peace they deserve? Maybe “peace” is what these families mean when they say they want “closure.” Whose side do you need to stand on in such a case? And does it really depend upon the circumstances? Have we tilted the scales so far the other direction that we are now guilty of providing more peace to the perpetrator than to the victim or aggrieved?
2. In our second story, Solomon enjoys Shalom with another king due to the loving relationship his father had with that king. And the same is true today. It’s a fact of life that the kids whose parents have established deep personal and loving relationships with their own friends, who may rise to prominence and influence in their older years, have a step-up on life and are more successful. It’s the relationships that their parents have fostered that allow these kids to enjoy opportunities above and beyond what other children experience. They enjoy more academic, business, personal, and financial success. They enjoy more Shalom in life. I’ve seen that happen in my own life, my children’s lives, and others.
And the same can be said of any family that develops close relationships. When a friend loves the parent (who is also their friend), they usually also give benefit to, and love, the friend’s child. But it takes time and an investment in others over years for that kind of benefit to be realized.
So the question here is: Are you developing relationships now that can be passed down to your children? Are you sewing peace that can be held in trust for your children and grandchildren? What kind of story are you writing for them?
Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter. Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!
When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer
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