Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!” All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner. (2 Samuel 3:35-37 NIV)
The drive for revenge is a troublesome thing. If there was one man who knew about the drive for revenge, it was Joab.
The divided Kingdom of Israel seemed to be on the brink of reunification. The influential Abner who was the power behind the throne in Israel, so when the puppet king makes the grievous mistake of accusing the puppet-master, he essentially severs his ties with the legitimising force. Not only that, but to all intents and purposes Abner is in prime position to bring all the tribes together under the rule of David, a rule he himself acknowledges is something not just talked about by the elders in the tribes, but something God had ordained even from Saul’s reign.
David could have been suspicious and reluctant to accept the proposal of the rival army leader. Instead, he pursues the opportunity for the Kingdom to be reconciled. Joab, however, can only see the need for revenge. At the risk of the reunification, putting aside any national concern or of that beyond himself, he seeks retribution for the death of his brother.
David’s reaction on discovering what his army general has done is extraordinary. A full state funeral for the man that had set up a rule to oppose him. An ode in tribute to the general. And a curse and rebuke to the person who had brought this about. Once again, David has not responded in a manner that seizes an opportunity to show his power. David responds out of the sense of injustice enacted by his own man. David continues to be focused on righteousness however it pans out for those around him.
This display is noted by the people. It is something for which he is commended and thus exonerated of any charge of being involved in Abner’s death.
What would the pursuit of righteousness mean for relationships we have at the moment? Would we be willing to forgive opposition if it could lead to unity? Would we rebuke the vengeful acts of a friend?
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden