We cannot waiver about our King Jesus because he calls us to complete loyalty to him.
2 Samuel 20
20 Now a troublemaker named Sheba son of Bikri, a Benjaminite, happened to be there. He sounded the trumpet and shouted,
‘We have no share in David,
no part in Jesse’s son!
Every man to his tent, Israel!’
2 So all the men of Israel deserted David to follow Sheba son of Bikri. But the men of Judah stayed by their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
3 When David returned to his palace in Jerusalem, he took the ten concubines he had left to take care of the palace and put them in a house under guard. He provided for them but had no sexual relations with them. They were kept in confinement till the day of their death, living as widows.
4 Then the king said to Amasa, ‘Summon the men of Judah to come to me within three days, and be here yourself.’ 5 But when Amasa went to summon Judah, he took longer than the time the king had set for him.
6 David said to Abishai, ‘Now Sheba son of Bikri will do us more harm than Absalom did. Take your master’s men and pursue him, or he will find fortified cities and escape from us.’ 7 So Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites and all the mighty warriors went out under the command of Abishai. They marched out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.
8 While they were at the great rock in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Joab was wearing his military tunic, and strapped over it at his waist was a belt with a dagger in its sheath. As he stepped forward, it dropped out of its sheath.
9 Joab said to Amasa, ‘How are you, my brother?’ Then Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 Amasa was not on his guard against the dagger in Joab’s hand, and Joab plunged it into his belly, and his intestines spilled out on the ground. Without being stabbed again, Amasa died. Then Joab and his brother Abishai pursued Sheba son of Bikri.
11 One of Joab’s men stood beside Amasa and said, ‘Whoever favours Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab!’ 12 Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the middle of the road, and the man saw that all the troops came to a halt there. When he realised that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road into a field and threw a garment over him. 13 After Amasa had been removed from the road, everyone went on with Joab to pursue Sheba son of Bikri.
14 Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maakah and through the entire region of the Bikrites, who gathered together and followed him. 15 All the troops with Joab came and besieged Sheba in Abel Beth Maakah. They built a siege ramp up to the city, and it stood against the outer fortifications. While they were battering the wall to bring it down, 16 a wise woman called from the city, ‘Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so that I can speak to him.’ 17 He went towards her, and she asked, ‘Are you Joab?’
‘I am,’ he answered.
She said, ‘Listen to what your servant has to say.’
‘I’m listening,’ he said.
18 She continued, ‘Long ago they used to say, “Get your answer at Abel,” and that settled it. 19 We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord’s inheritance?’
20 ‘Far be it from me!’ Joab replied, ‘Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bikri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I’ll withdraw from the city.’
The woman said to Joab, ‘His head will be thrown to you from the wall.’
22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem.
23 Joab was over Israel’s entire army; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; 24 Adoniram was in charge of forced labour; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; 25 Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 26 and Ira the Jairite was David’s priest.
Reading this chapter is quite a challenge. It all seems so very harsh by today’s standards. Ten women who were victims of assault by Absalom are imprisoned for life. Sheba expresses dissent from the King and is hunted down. Amasa is tardy in his response to David and shows ambiguous loyalty and is slaughtered by Joab. Then, to cap it off, the woman of Abel is deemed very wise when she has Sheba’s severed head brought to the city gate for Joab to collect. It makes us start to wonder if this is supposed to help us to love and serve our Lord Jesus.
A couple of thoughts will help us with this. The first is that the ones killed are failing to show loyalty to the King and are challenging his authority; although we should note that King David did not approve of Joab’s action against Amasa. The second is that the women, albeit through no apparent fault of their own, had been so thoroughly associated with Absalom who had tried to displace the King, they could no longer have a positive, public contribution for the Kingdom. The third is that the wisdom displayed by the woman of Abel was that it is better for one to die than the many.
If we transfer these lines of thought to our relationship with Jesus and his kingdom it becomes less strange but no less disturbing. Jesus has called us to complete loyalty to him. There is no place in his kingdom for those who defy him like Sheba or for those who waver like Amasa. Jesus has called his followers to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.
There are times when people have so compromised their life that while they may be forgiven by God and forgiven and cared for by the people of God, they are not able to serve in outward ways.
The removal of Abishai under the condemnation of the King is the process often resorted to in Christ’s church. One must be removed because of the harm created for the many if they stay. Of course, that does not involve beheading but the painful process of excommunication. A New Testament example is I Corinthians 5:1 – 8.
Head: We need to think carefully about the seriousness of following Jesus Christ our Lord. He calls us to complete loyalty. He tells us to count the cost of such loyalty. We are strengthened in that loyalty by knowing that as we trust in Jesus we have full acceptance and love from our God.
Heart: This loyalty to Jesus requires a great love for him. We have love for him when we remember how much we owe to him for all that he has done for us in his life, death and resurrection. As we waver, we need to stoke the fires with a deeper appreciation of his love and mercy to us.
Hands: For many people in this series of incidents the actions required are horrific. We can shrink back sometimes from a negative word to some who would trouble the people of God. Should we?
Father, I confess to you that I can very easily slip into compromising ways. You have called me to a fierce loyalty to King Jesus because he has shown such perfect love to me. Please give to me the wisdom and grace to love as Jesus has loved me and to be a strong helper and encourager of others to show similar loyalty. In Jesus Name. Amen.
A song to listen to: Living Hope