5 Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines, 6 by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.”
2 Samuel 19:5-6
After Absalom’s defeat and death at the hands of Joab, David receives the news of God’s deliverance from two messengers — a Cushite and Ahimaaz the son of Zadok the priest. Ahimaaz is the one who left later, but arrives first and brings news only of the defeat of Absalom’s forces. The Cushite arrives second and tells David that Absalom is dead. David hears the news of his son’s death and responds as a father who has lost a son: he is grief-stricken. Joab hears about it and rebukes David, expecting him to respond as a king who has heard that his enemy has been put down and that the kingdom can be at peace again.
Something that I found curious in reading this is that David asked Ahimaaz directly about Absalom’s well being and Ahimaaz deflected the question — The king said, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” And Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant, and your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what [it was].” (18:29). This is curious to me, because Joab told Ahimaaz in no uncertain terms that Absalom was dead — But Joab said to him, “You are not the man to carry news this day, but you shall carry news another day; however, you shall carry no news today because the king’s son is dead.” (18:20). There is in this an element of what I perceive to be Joab’s complete inability to understand people. Rather than send someone who perceives that David is both a king and a father, Joab wants to send someone who sees only the king. If the Cushite kingdom was anything like many of the ancient kingdoms for which there are records, then their kings may very well have been ready and willing to kill any upstart son who thought to take the throne from his father. Many kings in history have had just such an attitude. That was not David’s heart. David was not a good father, if the behavior of his children is taken as a litmus. But he loved his children. Ahimaaz appears to have been aware of this and wanted to let David celebrate the victory of his soldiers before having to mourn the death of his son. The Cushite had no such comprehension of the king — whether due to cultural differences or distance from the king (Ahimaaz was the son of the high priest and saw David in moments when he did not have to be a king or general) or some other factor, the understanding was not there.
Joab was right to rebuke David for mourning openly for his son in the sight of those who had just won victory on his behalf. These are the same people who had told David before the battle that he was worth ten thousand of them (18:3). The people had valued David greatly and he should have reciprocated. Instead, he appeared to place a higher value on their enemy than on those who had secured victory and returned the kingdom to David’s rule.
How to apply this?
First, the right person for the right job. Joab thought that Ahimaaz was the wrong person for carrying the news of the victory, when it appears that he would have more deftly handled the situation and allowed the victors to celebrate and the king to mourn all in their proper time.
Second, love rightly. Jesus says that anyone who loves parents or child more than they love Him is not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37). I need to love the right people and in the right proportion. David was right to love his son, but not to prefer his son over those who had put their lives on the line to protect David and the rest of his family and his kingdom.
Father in Heaven, thank You for this reminder that love is right and proper and has its right and proper application and proportion. Too often, I am told that love is not wrong and You tell me that it can be if it is for the wrong thing or person or in the wrong proportion. Please teach me the right way to love, that I might be worthy of You.