Friday, August 12, 2016

Joab for President

King David was Israel’s must illustrious leader; flawed in many ways, but fundamentally a man after God’s own heart. He was an effective king, but also constantly fighting against the consequences of his own mistakes. One recurring source of heartache was the commander of his army: Joab. 

Joab was a positively vicious man: he murdered another commander, Abner, in an act of revenge; he murdered David’s son, Absalom, who hung helpless in a tree after a failed coup, violating a direct order of David; he murdered yet another rival, Amasa, gutting him and leaving him to die in the street when Amasa greeted him with a kiss; and when David was at the end of his life, Joab tried to aid one of David’s other sons, Adonijah, in taking the throne from Solomon. We cannot fault Joab as a military leader, he is a brilliant commander and strategist; but would you really want a man like this at your right hand? Character counts, and the lack of it constantly caused trouble for the kingdom.

How did a man so ruthless and so consumed with self-promotion become the commander of the army of God’s chosen people? The answer is historical, and is found in 1 Chronicles 11:4-7. At the beginning of David’s reign over united Israel (he had already ruled over the southern portion for 7 years), he chose Jerusalem for his capitol and went to conquer it.

1 Chronicles 11:4–7 (KJV 1900)
4 And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, which is Jebus; where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land. 5 And the inhabitants of Jebus said to David, Thou shalt not come hither. Nevertheless David took the castle of Zion, which is the city of David. 6 And David said, Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites first shall be chief and captain. So Joab the son of Zeruiah went first up, and was chief. 7 And David dwelt in the castle; therefore they called it the city of David.

David, looking at the fortress before him, announced that whoever would first go up against the Jebusites would be made commander of the army. Can it really be surprising that David received a ruthless and an arrogant commander, when he chose him by identifying the one who was most ruthless and eager for personal advancement? Likewise, we cannot expect a man of character and discretion, when those traits are not considered in his appointment.

The application is immediately clear. If a church chooses a pastor on the basis of speaking ability alone, they will likely get a pastor who is a speaker alone. If a homeowner hires a contractor on the basis of price alone, cheap work should not be surprising. If a business owner considers only efficiency in hiring an employee, they have no right to be flabbergasted when they uncover a lack of integrity. In the 2016 Presidential Election, I hear many people wondering how we have the candidates we do. How is it possible that most endorsements of Donald Trump are “He isn’t great, but Hillary Clinton must be stopped!” and most endorsements of Hillary Clinton are “She isn’t great, but Donald Trump must be stopped!”? Maybe we should consider the selection process itself and understand that we will produce what we praise. If our primary season is all about finding the most ruthless, self-advancing person so they can defeat another ruthless, self-advancing person, we should not be surprised when we have Joab for our President.