I studied II Samuel 20 for my weekly quiet time this week. Here are two lessons I got out of it:
1. David replaced Joab with Amasa for the job of commander of the king’s army. The reason was probably that Joab had killed David’s son, Absalom. In II Samuel 20, Joab murders Amasa, his very own cousin. Joab acts friendly to Amasa, pretends that he’s about to kiss him, then rams him with a sword. And he rams him only once, leaving Amasa to die slowly and painfully as he rolled around in his own blood. Somebody stands by Amasa to tell others not to be alarmed but to follow Joab. But people are alarmed by Amasa’s corpse, so the person guarding it covers it up and move it out of sight.
A Benjaminite named Sheba is leading a revolt against King David, and he flees to Abel-Bethmacha, an city way up north in Israel. As Joab and his forces try to tear down the city wall, a wise woman from inside of the city requests to speak with Joab. When Joab grants her an audience, she tells him that she’s peaceful. She then reminds Joab of Abel-Bethmacha’s reputation for wisdom, and asks him why he wants to kill a bunch of innocent people. Joab replies that his intention is neither to swallow up nor to destroy, but he’s only after Sheba. And so the woman has Sheba’s head thrown over the city wall, and Joab and his forces go home.
Joab had just dehumanized Amasa on account of his resentment and jealousy, to the point that he murdered his own cousin in a cruel manner. He didn’t want to deal with his victim’s corpse, so he ordered someone else to handle it while he went about his way. He was on a roll of kill, kill, kill, such that he was prepared to destroy an entire city to capture Sheba. But it took a wise lady to remind him of his own humanity and the humanity of the people he was about to destroy.
Sometimes, we need God to stop us in our tracks, to hold a mirror to our faces so that we become convicted and try to be better people. I’m not going to murder anyone, but, like Joab, I tend to dehumanize people: liberals, evangelical Christians, beautiful women. But when I read a news story about a man who went into a Unitarian-Universalist church to shoot the liberals he believed were ruining the country, or one about a young man with resentment against Christians opening fire against evangelicals, or one about a man who shot women in a health club because of his own sexual frustrations, that convicts me of my own dehumanization of people. It reminds me that even those I dehumanize have their likes and dislikes, people who care for them, their hopes, pains, and fears.
I don’t think God caused those events to convict me of sin, but my experience is similar to Joab’s: I dehumanize others, I plough forward with my dehumanization in the name of “standing for truth” or “my enemies dehumanize people too,” and I’m stopped in my tracks with the realization of my own humanity and that of others. And I get stopped in my tracks in other areas as well.
2. In one of the sermons that I heard today, the preacher said that David experienced a lot of pain and turbulence, but he found refuge in God and looked for God’s hand in the midst of his afflictions. That was an important message for me today, since I was in a brooding, “I hate my life” mood. My life often isn’t what I want or like, but I believe that God’s hand is in it, in some way, shape, and form.