Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart [was inclined] toward Absalom.
2 Samuel 14:1
After Absalom murdered his half-brother, he fled the country. His father, King David, longed to go out to Absalom (13:39), but he did not. Joab perceives the king’s heart and decides that Absalom needed to come home. So Joab convinces a wise woman to come to King David and present a fiction like the one that the prophet Nathan had presented, designed to evoke a response from David. So the woman presents the fiction and David offers her the protection that she ostensibly sought, but when she persists, David sees through things and realizes that Joab is behind the whole thing. The king gives Joab what he asks for — Absalom is brought back to Jerusalem — but the king does not see Absalom. Eventually, Absalom goes so far as to set a part of Joab’s field on fire to get his attention and get an audience with David. Absalom says something that, were David a man inclined more toward justice and less toward mercy, would have been the end of Absalom: Now therefore, let me see the king’s face, and if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death (14:32). There was, in fact, iniquity in Absalom and he should have been put to death. But he was not.
Joab’s non-battlefield judgment was poor. I have already read of his murder of another general during peace talks in retribution for a killing that happened in war time. I continued reading and saw that Absalom stages a coup some years after being brought back to Jerusalem. Joab saw that David’s heart wanted something and Joab thought that David’s heart was good. What Joab did not stop to consider is whether or not David’s mind had a reason for leaving Absalom in his self-imposed exile. There is nothing in the text that says that David said or even implied that Absalom could not come back. Perhaps David, who knew a thing or two about living in a state of non-repentance, wanted to give God time to work on his son’s heart. Perhaps David just wanted to give Absalom some time and space to sort things out. Whatever the reason, David had not gone and gotten his son, despite longing to see him, and Joab missed the mark entirely.
David, for his part, allowed himself to be swayed by Joab’s charade. David saw through the smokescreen and yet still gave Joab what he was after. It is interesting that the text tells me that David did what Joab asked, not what David thought wise or prudent or even that David sought God’s counsel and acted accordingly. David gave Joab what he wanted. There may be people in my life who are able to sway me to do things that I know are imprudent or outright wrong — there have been in times past. It seems that Joab is such a person in the life of David.
Absalom, far from appreciating the mercy involved in his situation, flaunts it and demands to see the king or be put to death for any iniquity in himself. Absalom had plenty of iniquity within him and plenty of reason why he should have been put to death.
In Joab, I see for too much of myself with God. I understand a portion of God’s heart, but I do not know His mind. So I pray and ask Him to do things that may have terribly ramifications. As Paul writes, I do not know how to pray as I ought. So, like Peter, I keep talking despite not knowing what to say. Israel would probably have been better served if Joab had left Absalom in his self-imposed exile. My prayer life would be better if I could come to God knowing that I do not know how to pray as I ought and if I would rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede and speak the words I cannot speak.
In David, I see something of myself. I have been, in times past, unduly influenced by people that I cared about and with whom I had been through much. I am still wont to be thus influenced, I think, but the number of people who are close enough to me and have endured as much beside me is few.
In Absalom, I see a tendency that is sadly common to all people. I see a lack of appreciation of the mercy shown us and a blindness to our own transgressions.
Father, I do not know how to pray as I ought — if Paul didn’t, then I most certainly do not — and so ask that Your Spirit would help my weakness and intercede with groanings too deep for words. I know that the tendency exists in me both to allow myself to be influenced — especially when the direction of that influence agrees with my desires — and to take for granted the mercy shown me. Please work in me so that I am influenced by You and by counsel that comes from You through trustworthy friends. Please give me eyes that see just how much Your mercy has extended to me and how far down Your grace has to descend to reach me.