1 Chronicles 11:6—David said, “Whoever is the first to kill a Jebusite will become chief commander.” Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, so he became the chief.
Words definitely matter. So do our actions. On the surface, it appears that King David made a pretty smart decision. He needed to defeat the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem who had a successful history of repelling would-be conquerors. In fact, they told David, “You will never get in here” (vs. 5). David needed a general to lead Israel’s army so he issued the challenge in our verse for meditation. The king got what he wanted. Zeruiah’s three sons, Joab, Abishai and Asahel were all warriors and Joab seized the opportunity afforded by David’s challenge, and killed the first Jebusite.
David’s words, “first to kill,” would come back to haunt him. Joab was much more than a strong commander, he was a killing machine. When the king tried to reconcile Judah’s army with Israel’s army by giving the command to Abner, Joab stuck a knife in his stomach and killed him in retaliation for Abner killing his brother Asahel in battle. When David committed adultery and needed Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite to be eliminated, Joab supported David’s treachery by ensuring Uriah was killed in battle. When David’s son Absalom revolted and tried to take his throne, Joab violated the king’s specific instructions not to harm Absalom by thrusting three spears in his heart. Finally, without authorization, Joab stabbed Israel’s commander Amasa in the stomach. Henry & Richard Blackaby wrote in Spiritual Leadership, “People who are unable to admit their errors are not qualified to be leaders.” Joab repeatedly justified his penchant to kill first; consequently his life ended tragically.
How might Judah and Israel’s history have changed if David instead of selecting a leader on his willingness to kill gone to God instead and prayerfully asked for His counsel? How might his reign have changed if instead of a cut-throat leader he selected an honorable, God-fearing man? Courage without discretion is a recipe for recklessness. Certainly Joab was brave and did some exemplary things as a leader. But he could not restrain his anger nor govern his cruel impulses.
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf noted, “Leadership is character and competence. If you can only have one, opt for character.” Macho words and crowd-pleasing heroics may make for good action footage, but if a leader’s character is seriously flawed in the end there will only be heartbreak and death. I suspect David on his deathbed wished he had done some things much differently. It may be the same for us if we fail to consult the Lord.
©2012 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)