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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A case for Joab

Biblical scholars or other amateurs (as I am), welcome.
On Tuesday mornings, I have been attending a Beth Moore bible study at our church. It is the study on the life of David. I have enjoyed it very much.
I would have to say that I am a Beth Moore fan. In fact, during this past week's study, she asks the question "who are your heroes?" And I have decided that she is in my list of peeps.
However, for the first time while doing a study of hers (and I have done several--six to be exact), I took something and went a completely different direction than she did in my head. I have occasionally thought "hmmmm. Not sure I agree w/this..." But this time, I thought I can't go there w/her. It's nothing inflammatory or political. I'll get right to it.
We arrived at the point in David's life when Absalom was pursuing David and had already slept with David's concubines and so basically had usurped the throne.
Many of you will have read the famous battle when Joab thrusts three javelins into Absalom's heart. Absalom was hanging in a tree by his hair. Yes, it's true that David had commanded all three of his generals to be gentle with Absalom (which we assume must mean "please don't kill him") II Sam 18:5. So yes, Joab disobeyed orders. Sometimes I picture Joab as the "You can't handle the truth" guy. You know, the one you want as commander of your army, but when justice catches up with him, well, it doesn't look too good on paper. I mean, come on. It was a lose lose situation. If David had left Absalom alive, what would it have been like? We are not privy to this knowledge obviously. But considering Absalom's track record, and David's track record in acknowledging his sons' track records: it's hard to imagine a real pretty picture. Although maybe David was hoping to finally restore the relationship fully. Who knows?

I'm getting ahead of myself. We come to the place in the story when the report of Absalom's death reaches David. And the famous "Oh Absalom, my son, my son" words are still bone chilling, if not agonizingly painful to read with any imagination at all. "If only I had died instead of you..." we also read (II Samuel 18:33). The king had tremendous remorse over Absalom's death. Well, verses 2 and 3 of II Samuel 19 greet us with an almost Vietnam war soldier type of image. The soldiers learn of the king's grief, and basically put their tails between their legs. Read it for yourself! Their shame hit me like a ton of bricks this time: "the victory... was turned into mourning... The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle."
Enters Joab with a kick in the pants speech for the king. II Samuel 19:5-7. Really, you should go back and read it. "You love those who hate you, and hate those who love you." He tells David that it's clear to him now that David would have preferred for Absalom to live and for all of the soldiers to have died. He also tells him that if he doesn't come out to his men now, then they will have all deserted him by morning.
Unfair, you say? Unmerciful? Perhaps... I don't deny it. But can a case be made for the fact that it was needed? The men needed to hear from David that he appreciated them fighting his enemies, and saving his life! They fought to the death for their king, but felt ashamed. And this, my friends, should not be.

In Beth's commentary, she expresses the following sentiment: "The next time I suffer a painful loss, remind me not to call someone like Joab for a sympathetic ear." She then goes on to compare Joab's speech with the speech that Job's friends gave him, leaving him feeling miserable, alone, and perhaps even guilty (I can imagine) Job 8:4, Job11:16. Wow. Can we not say that we are dealing with two COMPLETELY different situations here? Job had NO guilt that we know of, NO history leading up to the testing that he had to undergo (or if he did, the bible doesn't reveal it to us). David was being pursued by Absalom, who though he was his son by blood, was clearly his enemy in this segment of the story, and by the way, wanted to take the king's life, something which even David himself clearly understood! (II Samuel 16:11). David even talks about being pursued by his enemies in a psalm he writes during this time, Psalm 3! And unfortunately, David is reaping what he had sown... whether it was because of his actions with Bathsheba and Uriah, or because he neglected to console Absalom after the Amnon/Tamar incident.

Let me back up even further. The bible tells us that after Tamar is raped by Amnon, after Absalom takes her in, that the king longs to go to Absalom because he is consoled about Amnon's death. Why doesn't he do anything? This remains a mystery. But would you like to guess who devises a way into David's heart to pluck at his emotions, and help him see that he must invite Absalom back home? Joab. He uses the same story like method that Nathan had used to convict David of his sin of adultery and murder several years prior. The method that Joab uses worked. Now, for some reason, my NIV commentary says that there must have been a political reason for Joab doing this. I don't know. I like to believe that Joab, though power hungry at times, was also one of the people who knew David better than perhaps David would like to admit.
Think about how much Joab and David had been through together. First of all, he was David's nephew: one of three sons born to Zeruiah, David's sister. Now, um, I can relate to Zeruiah. I have three sons, with a wild heart or two or three, and I also have a brother named David--of whom anyone acquainted with him would have to say has a heart after God, much like king David of old. But I digress. Joab, David's nephew, had been army commander for David from the beginning of David's kingship. David seems to have gotten very comfortable with Joab heading out and making war for him against many peoples and nations. There is even an instance when Joab says to David "you need to come claim this city yourself, because if you don't, it will be named after me."
One of the stories that gets to my heart the most is the incident with Bathsheba. David involves Joab in the death of Uriah, and in the process, innocent men die (besides Uriah, who of course, was innocent). Joab instructs his servant that if the anger of the king flares up, the servant is to also tell David that Uriah is dead. Do any of you remember David's response to the news? "Say this to Joab: 'Don't let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another... Say this to encourage Joab." Wow. Maybe I'm reading way too much into this. I'm sure I am. But Joab saw first hand how evil the king's heart was in that moment. He was one of the few who saw David at his very worst. In fact, when we look at the other "huge sin" that the bible mentions that David committed at the end of II Samuel--the one where he takes the census--Joab is in the middle of this too!! David sends Joab out to count the troops . But this time, Joab tries to refuse. He tries to talk David out of it II Samuel 24: 3. "May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do sudch a thing?" In I Chronicles 21: 6, we learn that Joab decides on his own to not count all of the troups, because David's request "was repulsive to him." Now let me add my own commentary at this point. If Joab were all bad, is it not true that he would have loved to carry out a wicked command such as this one?
In this strange exploring that I have been doing, perhaps I have romanticized Joab for some odd reason. Maybe it's because I like to play devil's advocate sometimes (although I hate that phrase!) But my heart went out to Joab this time. I found myself wanting him to be a good guy so much! But the end of the story... well, as David's life is approaching its end (much to my chagrin), we learn that another of his sons (Adonijah), gets Joab and two other prominent people on his side, and claims the throne. OK, up to this point, I don't think that there is any reason to believe that Joab is going against David. I think maybe he is just being practical (like, David's going to die soon, this is his son, sure, sounds like a plan to me!). Another reason I don't think that Joab is necessarily going against David is because after Nathan and Bathsheeba talk to David, and after Solomon is safely anointed king, the message is brought to Adonijah and his companions, and the bible says that they are "alarmed." True, the alarm could have been caused by just the practicality of the threat of a different claim to the throne. But is there any reason to believe that Joab was going against David?

On David's death bed, he instructs Solomon to pay back Joab for shedding the innocent blood of Abner, son of Ner, and of Amasa (who I think was Joab's cousin).
This is definitely the point at which I run out excuses for Joab. But because I saw a potential shred of good in him at other points of the story, I explored a little further.
First: Abner. There was a strange incident in II Samuel chapter 2 in which Abner (the former commander of now deceased king Saul, now commander of temporary Israelite king Ish-Bosheth) and Joab (David's army commander) meet up at a certain pool of Gibeon with some of their men. Abner suggests that they let some of their men fight. Joab says OK. Many of their men kill each other. "The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by David's men." --vs. 17. In the next few verses, Asahel (one of Joab's brothers) chases Abner, and essentially forces Abner to kill him out of self-defense. Joab and Abishai (the two brothers still alive), then chase Abner, but Abner talks them into stopping the violence--which I might argue, Abner started.
If I were defending Joab in court at the trial for him killing Abner (which he does in the following chapter), I would say that 1)Abner started the fight and 2) Joab was avenging his brother Asahel. At one point, the NIV note in my bible says that this is not a valid argument, though, since technically they were not at war I think? But you have to consider that all the Israelites had to go by up to that point was the "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" type of law handed down to them by Moses. Joab didn't trust Abner as David did in chapter three. He saw Abner as a threat. Was this authentic? Were his motives wrong or right? Only God knows.

For the Amasa section, fast forward back to where we started, with the death of Absalom. Joab gives David a kick in the pants, and David begins acting like a king again. One of his first actions is to replace Joab with Amasa, which makes me a little sad for Joab. If David was being purely political (trying to win over the Israelites), that one political move sure stinks for Joab! Just like that, he was fired. Could David have been angry with Joab for killing his son, Absalom? Could he have been irritated at the speech Joab gave him concerning his men? Was David justified in this? Or was he simply acting out of annoyance or practicality. In II Samuel 20:4, David tells Amasa to summon the men of Judah b/c his kindgom is being threatened by a traitor named Sheba. For some reason, vs. 5: "...when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him." And there is no more explanation than that. As a result, Abishai and Joab's men are sent out under the command of Abishai (Joab's brother). Amasa comes to meet them (vs. 6) and then Joab kills him... Definitely a crime. I wish he hadn't done that.

I'll say this for David. That he is tremendous hero of mine. How many people do you know are very good looking, a super star writer and singer, a braveheart warrior, and yet dedicate every last bit of that talent to God!? God owned him. He had moments of straying away, but his heart remained unadulterated because of his passion and dedication and love for the Father.
Now, for those of you who know extremely talented people, or artsy people, etc... well, such talents don't come from the scientific or mathematical or logical side of the brain, you know what I'm sayin?. Just think about what the results would have been if David had taken a personality test. I imagine that he was outgoing, but perhaps just a little dramatic and impulsive too. The story of David's mighty men risking their lives to get him a drink of water cracks me up --well, kinda. In II Samuel 23: 15, David says "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water...!" And then, when he has the drink, he won't drink it b/c he recognizes that they risked their lives. OK, now, if I were one of those men, I picture myself in slow motion as he pours the water out (vs. 16) on the ground going "noooooooooooooooooooooooo!" God knows David's heart, and it was probably a really noble kingly thing to do, but my practical side says "dude, drink the water." All this to say, that David was a bit of a drama queen, don't you think? In a good way, of course. ;)
So, back to Joab. He was kinda the Jacopo from Count of Monte Cristo, the Jessep from A Few Good Men (Jack Nicholson): rough around the edges, but I think there was some good in there somewhere. He tended to be there one to do David' dirty work, when it needed to be done. And frankly, that's how I tend to see Absalom's death. But perhaps God doesn't see it that way. I want to be careful with my feelings and thoughts, because I am so incredibly human, and He is so incredibly God.
Unfortunately, things didn't end up so well for Joab at his death. Solomon had him killed. Interestingly, Joab chose to die in the tent of the Lord. Lord, have mercy on his soul. God knows best, thank goodness. Better than Solomon, David, and especially me!

One of my favorite Joab quotes:
"Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him." II Samuel 14: 14. Technically, a woman spoke these words, but look hahhhdahhh (to quote the rafiki from the lion king). Verse 19 last sentence reveals that these were the words of Joab.
I believe that there is truth in that quote. Only God decides a person's ultimate fate. God knew both David and Joab's hearts. He saw everything visible and invisible that went on inside of them.
A strange intrigue about Joab. It was kinda fun digging around in centuries old writings to see the pages come alive. Let me know if you have any such experiences. I'd like to share them with you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A blog emergency

Every once in a while, I have one of those days when I think I can't believe this is happening and I don't want to forget it! Yesterday and today both had such elements, so here's what happened.

First: it was after school. I think it was while Jon David was eating a snack (see, I'm already forgetting details!) Jon David told me that he had made a new friend, whose name was AnnaBelle. This intrigued me for obvious reasons, so I asked him to tell me how he made this new friend. He said that he was swinging on the swing set, and she came and started swinging too. She started to make a singing noise "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa", and Jon David started teasing her by saying things like "do you wanna nuckle sandwich, cause I'm about to make a delivery?" and something else kinda clever that I have already forgotten. He said that she kept on doing it, and he kept on telling her to quit. I said "and then did she quit?" He said no, that she just kept on giving him that smile like she was going to do it again. And he said that he liked that smile. Sweet boy. I feel the need to interject at this point that according to JD, there are several boys in his class that have gotten to where they "like" a girl this year... But he says that he doesn't want to play with them when they chase girls for girl friend reasons.
Later that evening, at dinner, Don asked JD and Luke if they liked to sing (I had told Don that it bothers me that they don't really sing in church). Jon David simply said that when he sings and hears the sound of his own voice, it sounds so good, that it embarrasses him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) So that is why he doesn't sing. Priceless!

This morning, at breakfast, Jon David burst out with "why does a man have to marry a woman?" After asking him a clarification question, he said "why do they have to wait until they get married to have a baby?" I looked at both of my older boys and I said "I'm going to tell you the truth. You don't have to get married to have a baby. Some people chose to do this before they get married. But God doesn't want them to."
Wait for it. And here it is: He then asked me "how does it happen?" I clarified by asking if he meant "How do they have a baby?" "Yes" was the answer.
Well, I said, "I'm not going to explain everything to you because it would probably gross you out." I asked them if they had noticed that boys and girls' bodies are different. After identifying a body part--or two, I just basically said that when a man and woman kiss together (a phrase that JD and Luke sometimes use to refer to kissing), sometimes they do other things too, and that's how the seed gets to be there. He also asked if this was why a friend that he knew got a divorce. At this point, I went to get Don (who had just gotten out of the shower). Keep in mind that we are barely starting the day here! You NEVER know when kids are going to ask tough life questions. Don helped clear up the divorce confusion. Jon David is so smart. I wonder if he suspected that this friend had something happen involving the whole "outside of marriage thing." So Don explained that this was true. That is what happened (an affair--in adult language). Jon David decided that he does not want to get a divorce. Praise God! Oh Lord, protect my boys, give them all three godly spouses. Who knew that before 8:00 A.M., we would have a brief sex talk and explain what an affair was!!!???

This brings me to today at lunch (all these things happened in a matter of 24 hours! I realize I'm being a little dramatic here, but still).
I brought Caleb home from Ladies' class today, and he was hungry. I put his lunch in the microwave, and when I went to retrieve it, he started making blowing noises with his mouth (something that he has picked up on since I do it to cool his food down). He went over to the table, and I helped him into his chair. When I brought the food over, he had his little head bowed, and his hands scrunched up to his forehead, and was mumbling something. I prayed for the food and said amen. "Men" he said. Love being a mom on days like these. This is the good stuff.

And Luke James. Within the past couple of weeks, he has learned to ride a bike w/o training wheels, turned six, and informed me today that he has gone a record 17 days without putting his hands in his pants! (gotta love boys)
Posts on our Spring break trip and his birthday party are still to come!
Here are a few sneak peak pics. More details later.

In other news, this is often what happens to my make-up when I'm trying to get ready for the day:
Sweet sleeping baby:

And here, well, what can we say? There may or may not have been a chocolate cupcake involved:
(This was at Dan and Mel's house over Spring Break. Again: more details to come.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Facebook depression

A guy who goes by Chris J the genius wrote an article recently asking the question Can Facebook cause depression. Laura brought this to my attention over Spring Break. I have been intrigued by it ever since, and decided to go and look at the article myself.
YES would be my immediate answer to the title question. Why would I say yes? First of all, because I have felt depressed during my occasional-if-not-sometimes-more-frequent-than-I-would-like-to-admit-FB usage. And because several people that I know have had some depressed or injured feelings due to FB as well. And the reasons vary! For most, it's the classic why them and not me sensation. And we're talking anywhere from look at their pictures! They are having so much fun, I wish my life was fun like theirs... to "So and So" hung out with HER? Why wasn't I invited?... to "Dude... she has twice as many friends as I have!" and not to exclude "How did she just get 177 comments? I only get 2 or 3 at the most..."
The article speaks mostly to teens. Which I find interesting. We are struggling with what teenagers struggle with. Always have. Think about it. We all still want to be the "it girl." I still wanna look cute, be liked, raise a family, and stay in shape all at the same time! And facebook is certainly not to blame for our insecurities. But it can definitely exacerbate them.
I knew someone in the not-so-distant past who had to hide friends because of feelings of jealousy and inadequacy due to facebook. I myself have taken breaks, or even avoided looking at certain photos for similar reasons. By the way, blogging is very much the same.
The irony is, many of us want to portray the exact same image that causes us so much grief!! It's almost like, without realizing it, we want other people to experience the same jealousy that we experience! Only, we want them to feel that way about US.
I don't know. Maybe sometimes we just want to remember the good times. I imagine that mostly, our motives for posting adorable or insanely fun pics are innocent... still. It's food for thought.
I have a lot of respect for people who are willing to be real. My sis-in-law Mel is a great example of this. Thanks, M!
If only we could finally learn the lesson that our mothers and youth ministers kept trying to implant into our brains when we were 15: it's only what God thinks that matters!! And if only we would spend more time listening to Him and delaying our gratification for immediate approval... Relationship with God requires stillness. I'm not sure that FB was designed to help keep us still.
Having said this, I like facebook. And I probably will still keep trying to post cute pics. :)
I think like most things in life, it can be used for good or bad. The point is: use it, don't abuse it.

Well, that was a nice little sermonette. OK, so now, I'm going to see if I get any comments. Heehee.


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