These two statements of David were separated by forty years. The first paved the way for Joab to become his general commander. The second was spoken to Solomon, advising him to kill Joab.
What in the world had happened? Why was David now encouraging his son to get rid of the man who had successfully led his armies for so many years?
There are, perhaps, a number of reasons, but I think these two are key. First, and concerning Solomon himself, David was obviously trying to save him a ton of grief. He knew that if Joab stayed on the scene, Solomon would suffer hugely. The man was dangerous and bad.
But how had it come to this? How had David chosen such a man?
Part of the answer surely lies in a very early decision of David, just as he was setting up his government. He had done many good things, but here he made a serious leadership mistake. Every leader has blind spots and David was no exception. I think he blew it in his method of delegating responsibilities and authority.
The setting was Jerusalem, before it was ever the City of David. The Jebusite inhabitants had taunted David, saying that even their blind and lame men could ward off his attack. Perhaps distracted by the sting of pride, the young king hurled a challenge to his men: “Whoever is the first to take him will be my chief and captain!"
And Joab, his very own cousin, did just that. He gathered a group of fighters and proved himself one of the best warriors in the land.
So began one of David’s nightmares.
He had found a great fighter but a vicious man. Joab had a strong personal agenda and would ruthlessly and deceitfully assassinate anyone who got in his way. First to fall was Abner, stabbed in the stomach when he expected a peaceful conversation. Then came Absalom, David’s own son, butchered as he hung from the tree by his hair, against the wishes of the emotionally distraught king. Finally it was Amasa, also reconciled to David, whom Joab gutted after tricking him with a fallen dagger.
No wonder dying David wanted him out of Solomon’s life.
How sad that David did not remember the words God had spoken through Samuel when he himself was selected for the position of king: “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."
When seeking leaders, he had focused on the outside skill, not the heart inside.
It is even sadder when we don’t learn the lesson. How often churches have split and pain has flooded a congregation because someone was chosen for leadership simply because they had talent. They could sing, they could speak, they could write . . .
but they were not good.
Faithfulness is more important in ministry than talent. The problem is, faithfulness, by definition, requires a certain amount of time to be proven.
And we are often in too much of a hurry.
Dear Father, help me realize that you do not need my talent unless it comes with a faithful heart. And as I deal with others and serve your flock, give me discernment to know who is loyal and true to you. Amen.