Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Opposed and Oppressed

Today's passage: II Samuel 20
     I'm not going to deny it.  I have put off writing about this chapter.  I seriously have been stuck.  It is excessively violent.  I'm not sure movies I've watched are as violent as what I'm reading here.  I shudder, I cringe, I wish I could just skip this chapter completely.  And I could.  I don't think anyone pays that close attention that they would notice I decided not to post what I learned here.  But I know, and I feel like when I don't write about a passage, maybe I am saying God couldn't teach me anything through it.  And He always teaches me something.
    For instance, the man mentioned in the first verse of the chapter, Sheba, a Benjamite, which would have meant he was a relative of Saul absolutely denounces David's leadership.  He encourages the rest of his tribe to do the same.  The Bible calls him a "man of Belial".  Now, God commanded Israel very particularly how to handle children of Belial.  And I'm not certain if Sheba was deemed this because he was rebelling against God's anointed, King David, or if he was involved in occultist behavior to be labeled a son of Satan.  In either case, Deuteronomy 13:12-18 gives specific charge as to how to handle these types of people.  The Israelites were to make certain that people accused of this behavior were authentic (unlike the Salem witch trials of old) and if so, they were to slay them with the sword, destroy all their livestock and belongings, make a bonfire with any of their possessions in the midst of the village and see to it that any trace of them was consumed.  Does this seem a little extreme?  For someone who has never dealt with Satanic power, it may.  I have heard on more than one occasion that when Satan has a foothold in someone's home, especially someone who had been dealing with him directly, every item they possessed was a portal to allow his demonic powers to have reign.  God always knows what He is doing.  If He said to destroy everything that person had dealings with, I think I would obey that command, because God created Satan, and He knows what He is capable of.  This also makes me wonder about Saul's whole family.  He had trouble with evil spirits, he visited the witch at En-dor, it makes me wonder if the Benjamites had a history with the occult. If they did, it could explain Saul's constant struggle with those powers. If he couldn't be free of them, it could mean that he still had something in his possession, something that was a doorway for those dark, evil, oppressions he had been experiencing.  I've heard a lot about this kind of stuff lately.  Satan has no power over us, but don't think he can't mess with us a little bit.  He certainly can.  His power is real, and though not more powerful than God, he has dominion over this world, and therefore, can manipulate the things of this earth by his choosing.  If the Benjamites were often involved in these types of activities, it might be why David commmanded his generals to go after Sheba.  He concludes that "Now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom".

     So David dispenses his men to go after this son of Belial.  In the midst of this is a vengeful Joab.  Amasa is the one David chooses to lead up this expedition against Sheba.  I'm guessing his relationship with Joab has never been the same since Absalom's death.  David choosing Amasa , who aided Absalom, was an even greater insult to his former general.  Joab never forgets an enemy.  He had not forgotten that Amasa chose to work with those against the king.  He would not allow this to stand.  David may have forgiven Amasa, but Joab certainly would not.  And in true Joab style, he kills Amasa.  But this is not just a soldier against soldier killing.  This is a vengeful, make the enemy suffer type of death.  I would rather not describe it.  The Bible does a fine job on its own.  Let's just say Amasa's death is so horrific that others going by can not help but stare in disbelief.  His body actually becomes a distraction to the rest of the regiment pursuing Sheba.  Someone was finally wise enough to move and cover this distraction.
     Joab takes charge of the campaign and comes to the city that is harboring Sheba.  The inhabitants do not want war, especially not with Joab.  His name has become a name to be feared. The passage says "a wise woman out of the the city" confers with Joab about why he wants to destroy their fine city.  Joab assures her that is not his desire, but they will accomplish their mission and that is to fetch Sheba.  The woman determines that the city will handle Sheba.  Again, another description of his demise by the citizens of the city.  The objective was achieved.
     There is really no excuse for Joab's behavior towards Amasa.  He viewed him as a threat and an enemy.  I think it was more that he viewed him as a rival as the king's adviser.  Joab may think that eliminating other counselors or generals will heal the relationship with David.  But he is wrong.  That can only heal with the miracle of forgiveness.  I'm not saying it would be a miracle for David to forgive.  I'm saying that forgiveness is a miracle in itself when it can mend a broken relationship between a king who has lost his rebellious son, and the general who has taken the rebellious son's life and who has continuously disobeyed his king.  I don't see how this relationship can be mended.  But forgiveness is powerful when we choose to use it. Do I think Joab deserves forgiveness?  From a human perspective, no.  He has been given many, many chances.  But so have I.  I don't deserve any of the forgiveness I have been granted either.  May I ever be mindful of God's great forgiveness to me every day.

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