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Joab: A Fallen Hero

Scripture: 2 Samuel 5:8, 2 Samuel 10:11-12, 1 Chronicles 21:3
Date: 10/07/2006 
This is on the life of Joab, a fallen hero. Joab was one of the greatest generals in Israel's history. He was a very courageous man with spiritual discernment. But he could be revengeful. We need to learn to rule our spirit and not bear grudges. We can be fallen heroes and need to forgive.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning. I want to thank Michael Harris for that song. I love that song “Jesus Paid it All”. Appreciate that. What a voice. Amen? I was thinking that I had to resist the temptation to covet his voice, but I know he is safe right now. I hope you come this afternoon for that concert 5:45 and get ready for the evangelistic meetings this evening.

Let me tell you what happened that was somewhat the genesis for message this morning. I was flying back from our meetings at Andrews University a couple of weeks ago, and someone had sent me… People send me lots of books and manuscripts, things to read. Someone had found a book, it must have been twenty years old, and it was a book of Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story”. How many of you know what I’m talking about? He’s got this radio program that he tells these incredible stories and you don’t know who the person is until the end of the story and it’s usually the last person in the world you would expect it to be.

I was reading through those trying to glean some amazing facts. Matter of fact I found a few I’ve already used on the radio program. It’s a great book for amazing facts. Well, I was on the plane reading and I was reading this story about this poor boy who was born in poverty in the bay area and he had rickets because he didn’t have enough nutrition and his legs were spindly and deformed and his mother kind of made some homemade brackets to help straighten his legs up and she even developed something that was like a rack at home where she would stretch his legs and his head was oversized and they called him jug head and the kids teased him and called him pencil legs. It goes through this whole story of the hardship that this young man dealt with because of his physical deformities and his malformed bow legs and you’re reading all of this, but the mother persists and he persisted in exercising and trying to overcome it.

You’re thinking, yes! I’m going to hear at the end of the story that he overcame. And when I get to the end of the story it says “and you know him today as O.J. Simpson.” Well, you did what I did. If you had read that twenty years ago you would have though, Yes! But not now because that name that was once famous is now thought of as infamous and I’m not trying to weigh in on the trial or retry right here. I’m just saying that’s the conventional wisdom. You’ve got someone who was a hero and he’s put in the book as a hero, but the book was written before the hero fell.

Our message this morning is dealing with a hero in the Bible named Joab. It’s dealing with fallen heroes. Everybody has heroes, maybe not everybody, but when you’re young it’s more likely. I had some like Davy Crocket and Daniel Boone. My heroes growing up were a little different than the heroes young people have today, but I’ll admit I used to watch Superman. Every kid with an imagination fantasizes a little bit. I wish I could just jump off a building and fly. I wish I had x-ray vision! I wish that I had all of these super powers, super hearing and super strength. I used to watch Superman and revel in each episode.

It was devastating for me when I got the word that George Reeves committed suicide and then I heard that he had a drinking problem and he wasn’t living a moral life. That was devastating for me. It is sort of ironic then the other name that became known as the next Superman Christopher Reeve. Reeve, not Reeves. One was George Reeves, one is Christopher Reeve. Superman in several episodes and kind of became an icon for that spent the last few years of his life paralyzed from the neck down. That’s such a paradox, an irony. And again kids saw their hero apparently fall. Then a few weeks ago we were in the car with our boys and the radio was saying, I thought I couldn’t believe what I was hearing that the Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin had died. I said, “Wait a second!” I thought I couldn’t have heard that right. They said sure enough he had died.

My kids had been watching the Discovery Channel where he did his program and saw all the animals and I mean he’s virtually sticking his head inside alligator’s mouths and he’s playing with venomous serpents and deadly spiders and all of these things and it was so bizarre the way it happened. Our kids and Karen and I have all swum with stingrays. We went to the Cayman Islands where you all swim in stingray city. It was such an unusual thing that one of the most docile of creatures should suddenly erupt and render a deadly blow to the mighty Crocodile Hunter. I’ll tell you it was really quiet around the Batchelor home. I think our boys were going to cry when they heard that. It was hard to believe. I was sad. We went to his zoo in Australia looking for him. Well, we went for the animals too, but it was a tragedy. A lot of kids’ fallen heroes. There’s a story in the Bible of somebody who was a hero and his name is Joab. You know I have thought for years about preaching about Joab because he is such a prominent character in the Bible story especially during the time of David.

Now if you were to think about great generals of history what are some of the generals that would pop into your mind? Maybe Napoleon, Julius Caesar, you think about General Patton, yeah, Douglas McArthur, Alexander the Great would be in there somewhere, don’t you think? But you know if you go back about a thousand years before Caesar one of the greatest generals that ever lived was named Joab. Now I’ll tell you why I think he was one of the greatest generals. First of all, his name is found a hundred and thirty-eight times in the Bible. Are you aware that’s more than the apostle John and John the Baptist put together? I mean he was a prominent character in the Bible. His name means Yahweh is father. Ab in the Bible means father. That’s where you get abba. He was a mighty general.

Have you ever read about David’s mighty men? I mean, first when David was running away from Saul it tells us that there are these three brothers. They’re the nephews of David. David was one of the youngest. He had an older sister named Zeruiah. Zeruiah had three sons and every one of them was an Olympian. Their names were Joab the oldest, Abishai next and Asahel the third. It says that Asahel ran faster than a gazelle. Abishai, if you read in the mighty men chronicles of David, I Chronicles 11:20 “Now Abishai the brother of Joab was chief of another three” of his mighty men. “He had lifted up his spear against three hundred men and killed them.”

That sounds like something Samson did. One man took on three hundred. His brother ran faster than the gazelle. Joab is the oldest. He was basically the most courageous of the three. These three brothers were with David when he was running from Saul and kind of living like Robin Hood in the badlands, and gradually these three attracted more and more mighty men. Then it tells us that eventually David had an army of three hundred and then an army of six hundred. Finally by the time that Saul had killed himself in battle David had a great army probably over a thousand. This was his core. These were the elect group. You read about the mighty men of David. You’ve got Benaiah who killed a nine foot tall Egyptian, took his spear out of his hand, killed him with his own spear, went into a lion’s den on a winter day, killed a lion single handedly. You read about the son of Dodo.

I just remember his father’s name. He was the son of Dodo. Not too many of those in the Bible, right? Killed three hundred men. I mean, the feats of these mighty men, three of them broke through the Philistine garrison just to get David a drink of water. Three of them fought their way through an army to get David a drink of water from the well of Bethlehem. Some of you remember these stories? Now when you think of the exploits of this honor guard, these mighty men of David, Joab is their general so he is like the leader of the best army in the world. by the way, it probably doesn’t hurt to mention at this point there is no record in the Bible that Joab ever lost a battle. That’s a pretty good record. I know of one other general in history, I just read it about a week ago, who never lost a battle. Do you know who it was? Genghis Khan. You know what his secret was? A little amazing fact, when he was on a hill surveying a battle whenever he saw anywhere where his men was doing well and making inroads he would direct all of the other men to the place where they were winning. He just saw that the best strategy is invest your resources where you’re doing well. So he said if they’re not making good headway there, he’d say, don’t fight over there, fight over here. And he would always direct his men to the place where they were successful and a lot of people have used Genghis Khan as a motivational subject. Concentrate on your successes.

One of the reasons that Joab became the general for David, after David became the king in Hebron Jerusalem was not yet occupied by Israel. When Israel had entered the Promised Land they’d conquered all of the different pagan cities, but they hadn’t conquered Jerusalem. Jerusalem was such a well-built fortress that the Jebusites, the Canaanite people who lived there, they used to mock the people of Judah and they’d say, “You’re not going to get in here. The blind people in the city and the lame in the city could repel your army. You’ll never conquer Jerusalem.” So David said, “Look, I want to put the capitol there. Remember David was born in Bethlehem. He grew up right next door to the Jebusites. Bethlehem is right next door to Jerusalem. David issued a decree, in II Samuel 5:8 David said, “Whoever climbs up by way of the water shaft and defeats the Jebusites… he shall be chief and captain.” He will be the general of my mighty men in my new kingdom. Then you read in I Chronicles 11:6 “And Joab the son of Zeruiah,” David’s nephew, he “went up” the water conduit.

Now that’s actually a painting of it there, but they found the water shaft. It’s called Warren’s Shaft. In excavating around ancient Jerusalem they found this shaft that goes from the Spring of Gihon and it meanders through the city a few narrow passages and goes up and evidently the Jebusites used to lower these buckets down to a well. Joab crawled through the crevices in the rock, managed to get into the city, fought his way from the well to the gate and opened the gate so that David’s soldiers could get in. It’s a pretty brave move to do that. So David said, “Look, I gave my word. You’re the general.” And for David’s entire forty year reign Joab was the general. Well, if we stopped the story right here I think all of us would say, “There’s a mighty man!” I mean, he’s a man’s man. This is a good story for the men. I mean here’s a fellow that, he’s the leader of the mightiest soldiers on earth back then. The exploits of David’s mighty men, incredible. Never lost a battle. He’s courageous. He was also a man that had some good spiritual heritage.

Keep in mind he is David’s nephew which means Jesse is Joab’s grandfather. So he is also a son of Jesse when you think about it. He is coming from the good heritage of David. He was a courageous man. One time when he and Abishai… Someday I’ll preach a sermon on his brother Abishai. He was incredible. Abishai was high voltage. Do you remember when David went down to Saul? I’m assuming you know your Bibles. Saul was sleeping and David managed to take his spear and his jug just to prove I could have killed you if I wanted to. Abishai is there saying, “Let me kill him! Let me kill him!” David said no. When Shimea is throwing rocks at David, Abishai says, “Let me cut off his head. Let me kill him!” David says no! Constantly Abishai, I mean, he was after a fight all the time. He’d rather fight than eat. He was the one remember I just said killed three hundred men by himself. One time when David was getting old I thought this was Joab’s brother Abishai. David is getting old. I guess I won’t preach a sermon. I’m doing it now on Abishai later.

The son of Goliath wants to get vengeance on David for killing his father. He was also a big man. Ishi-benob, I think was his name, and he had a new sword. He said, “I’ve got this new iron sword. I think I can take on David.” Because David was a pretty good warrior in his own right, but now David is fifty years old and he’s slowing down. Take my word for it, it happens. And he’s not quite as quick as he used to be and David is fighting defensively just trying to keep alive and Abishai saw that what was happening was this guy was going to kill the king. David still went into battle with his men. Abishai went and took on the giant, killed him, and then told David, “You’re not going into battle anymore. You can watch from the hill because if you die the kingdom is in trouble.” They never let him go into battle after that anymore. Abishai did that, killed Goliath’s son. I mean he was an incredible soldier. This is Abishai’s older brother, Joab is the general.

They were getting ready to fight against the Ammonites. The Ammonites has hired against them the Syrians, and they got into a situation that no general wants to be in where you’re fighting a war on two fronts. Every general knew that Hitler was doomed when he was dumb enough to not only take on Europe, but then to go against Russia on the other side. You can’t win a war on two fronts like that. Napoleon was doing great until he thought, “I think I can also conquer Russia.” Russia will swallow you up. It’s a big country. That’s when he was doomed. Now they’re not only fighting the Ammonites on one side, the Syrians are coming down from the north, and they’ve got a comparatively small army. So Joab says to his brother Abishai, he says, “Look, we’ll divide the forces fifty-fifty. You take on the Syrians. I’ll take on the Ammonites.” And listen to what he said.

It’s a very positive statement. He says if the Syrians, by the way, this is II Samuel 10:11-12, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me. But if the people of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.” He does not let the men hear the obvious third option. What if the Syrians and the Ammonites are too strong for both of us? And so he leaves them with hope. Don’t worry, if it gets too strong we’ll come and help you. Then he sends them into battle with this charge, he tells the men, “Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is” right in His sight. This battle is in God’s hand. We’re going into battle trusting the Lord. He had that attitude. He learned it from David. I’ll tell you what. Boy they whooped them. They beat the Syrians in the north, they beat the Ammonites to the south-southeast and one by one they defeated all of the kingdoms around so that by the end of David’s reign there were no enemies left around Israel. That’s why Solomon had forty years of peace, because there was a general named Joab who never lost a battle.

So he was courageous. He trusted in God. He had spiritual discernment. A little later in David’s life, David was starting to see how they were winning battles on every side. He said, “Boy, people are prospering. We’re conquering other nations. We’ve got a lot of these other nations that have now been enslaved to us. I wonder how many people in the kingdom.” Moses had warned the leaders of Israel in Deuteronomy “Beware lest ye become proud when your numbers increase.” David did a census not just because he was wanting to do it for mathematical reasons. He wanted to know how big his army was. Is my army bigger than any other army? Because his army now was up to a million, and he was starting to trust in numbers. God had blessed him before; when he had six hundred men David was undefeatable. So why is now his trust in numbers? Joab realized that his priorities were getting mixed up. Listen to what Joab said to his uncle when David said, “Let’s go count all the people. Let’s see how big our army is. Let’s count how big our nation is.” It was springing from pride.

Joab said, I Chronicles 21:3, “May the Lord make His people a hundred times more than they are.” But don’t count them is what the implication is. “But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants?” Why will counting them help you? They are your servants whether you count them or not. “Why then does my lord require this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt in Israel?” And you know what? Joab is right. David, two big sins of David that are recorded are he and Bathsheba and when he numbered Israel for his pride. And Joab was disgusted by it. He was right. God was not with them doing that. Matter of fact, he was so disgusted, he sent the soldiers out, Joab and the leaders to go out and count. And it says in I Chronicles 21:6 “But he did not count Levi and Benjamin among them, for the king's word was abominable to Joab.” He was disgusted with what he was being required to do. That also gives us a little insight into Joab that sometimes he didn’t obey exactly like the king told him to obey. The king said, “Count everybody.” He said, “I’m not even counting Benjamin. This is disgusting what we’re doing.” A plague did fall on Israel because of what David did so Joab was right, but things started to change.

You begin to get some other insights into Joab. He was a mighty man, brave man, had spiritual qualities, but he had some weaknesses. One of them was he could be vindictive and vengeful. Let me tell you how it happened. For years David ran from King Saul. Matter of fact, he even had to live with the Philistines. Finally the people of Judah after Saul killed himself in battle they said to David, “You come to Hebron. We’re going to make you king.” Not all of the tribes but Judah and Benjamin said, “We’re going make David king,” so they made him king. For a while there, there was a war that ranged between the servants of David, his soldiers, and the soldiers of Saul that were led by another general. Saul’s general for thirty years had been someone named Abner, another mighty man, good man, good general and he was just following his king’s orders.

Well, the son of Saul Ishbosheth, he was just a wimp. He had no moral fiber. He had no backbone. He was just, had been raised, a brat. The mighty sons of Saul were killed in battle, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, they all died with their father in battle. So the runt of the litter is now king and Abner is disgusted, and he realized that Israel is just, they’re fighting with each other. He says we should all be king under David. David has been anointed king. That’s why Saul was trying to kill him. So Abner comes finally to David, he says, “Let’s make a treaty. I’ll hand over the kingdom to you.” Because how many times have you read in the newspaper about a kingdom changing power even in the world today because there is a military coup? How many military leaders become president because they’re in a position where they control the army and they just tell their soldiers who’ve got to obey on pain of death, “March into the white house, you take over, we’re in charge. That’s that.” A military coup, it’s not that hard to affect. So if you don’t have the general on your side you better be careful. So Abner went to David and he had a meeting. He said, “Look, no sense in our soldiers killing each other off. We’ve got a king doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’ll hand over the kingdom to you.” So they made a treaty there’d be peace. All of Israel would be under David.

Joab was out fighting some battle. He gets back and he says, “I understand that Abner was just here.” David said, “Yeah, we made a treaty.” Well, Abner had killed Joab’s younger brother Asahel. Do you remember I told you one of them ran like a gazelle? In one of the battles between the sons of the soldiers of David and the soldiers of Saul’s army Abner was being chased by Asahel. Asahel thought, “I’m going to bring down the general.” Well, you don’t get to be general by being a wimp and while Abner is running in his armor from Asahel because they’re retreating he’s saying, “You’d better find someone else. Look, if you want to take someone down and take their armor, you’d better take someone else. Don’t come after me because I won’t be able to look at your brother if I have to kill you.” That’s basically what Abner said to Asahel. They’re running having this conversation. He said, “You better turn aside!” He wouldn’t listen. Abner stopped and rammed him with the back of his spear, went in one side and out the other, killed Joab’s brother.

Well, Joab couldn’t forget that so now even though David has made peace with Abner, Joab said, “Look, you may have made peace, but I haven’t made peace.” He didn’t know how to forgive. He was vengeful and vindictive. He told Abner, he says, “Come on back. David wants to talk to you about one more thing.” So Abner comes back peacefully. He’s come with the white flag, truce. Abner is taken aside by Joab. He says, “I want to talk to you,” and while they’re talking he stealthily, treacherously takes his sword, drives it under his fifth rib. The Bible is very graphic about this. Abner dies. David is very, very sorry because he had basically given him political protection. He said, “If you’re willing to create a treaty, I’ll watch over you.” And his nephew kills him. People wondered, “Did David tell Joab to do this?” It was bad on David’s name.

He was so ashamed at this. It says in II Samuel 3:27 “Now when Abner had returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him privately, and there stabbed him in the stomach, so that he died for the blood of Asahel his brother.” Proverbs 16:32 “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Joab might have been general, but a person who has self-control is mightier than Joab. Sometimes we make heroes out of these people because of their deeds of strength, but if they don’t have self-control they shouldn’t be your hero. Proverbs 25:28 “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls.” Joab lost his temper, and he took vengeance. God said, “Vengeance is mine.” Leviticus 19:18 you’ve heard Jesus quote this before, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Here they had made peace, but he couldn’t forget.

Some of us, we’re fallen heroes because we set up examples maybe for our children and others that we just can’t forget or forgive somebody that has hurt us. One way we do it, you may not stab them under the fifth rib, but you keep rehearsing how they’ve done you wrong and how much it hurts you when they’ve offended you or what they’ve done to you. Sometimes you’ve just got to let it go and forget about it. We find that there was a real chink in Joab’s armor here in that he could not forget.

David was ashamed. II Samuel 3:39, David said, even though I am now the king of all Israel “I am now weak today,” even “though I am” anointed “king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah,” his sister’s boys, they “are too harsh for me.” They’re too hardhearted. They don’t know how… see, David knew how to make peace. David knew how to forgive. King Saul is trying to kill David, instead of killing him when he’s got a chance, David takes his jug of water and his spear and he cries after Saul, he says, “Saul, I just want you to know, I could have killed you, but I didn’t.” Instead of having victory over you, I’d rather be reconciled. See David had a heart for relationships. Joab and Abishai they were too hard. The other reason David said that is, “What am I supposed to do? He’s the general. He’s controlling the army. I can’t take it out on him. He’s the chief of police. Who am I going to turn him in to?”

Another weakness that we see as our hero begins to fall is we’re shamed when we see his compliance with evil. Let me tell you the story. I’m not going to go into all the sordid details, but David sins with Bathsheba, a married woman. He tries to get her husband who is one of David’s mighty men, one of the best soldiers in the pack, Uriah the Hittite, stayed with David through thick and thin. Uriah might have been one of those who risked his life to bring David a drink of water, a loyal soldier. David tries to get Uriah to go to his own wife so that they won’t understand how she got pregnant. He doesn’t do it. He says, “No, my lord Joab, he’s in the field.” Matter of fact, I’ve got the verse right here in here. Uriah says to David, “The ark of Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents and my lord Joab” look at how exalted that he was.

They called him “my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields.” How can I go down to my house and fields and rest and relax with my wife when the battle is not won? So do you know what David does? David writes a death warrant for Uriah, seals it, delivers it by his own hand, hands the sealed message to Uriah, says, “Take this to Joab. Tell him it’s top secret.” Uriah brings his own death warrant to Joab. This is what it says. In that morning, this is II Samuel 11:14, “David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him,’” withdraw, take away your protection. You know soldiers go into battle and you say to your comrades, “Cover me!” And Joab said, “Uriah, I want you to take the gate, storm the gate, we’ll cover you with the archers” or whatever, and they didn’t. “So it happened, while Joab besieged the city…” instead of saying, “Wait a second!” looking on the front and back of the letter and saying to Uriah or somebody, “Send a message back to David say, I need an explanation. Uriah is the best man. He’s an honorable man. He’s a godly man. He’s a brave man. Why do you want me to send him on a suicide mission?”

Is there a time when we should question a bad order? Some people because their boss, it might be a he it might be she, doesn’t have good ethics and they ask you to do something that is unethical or inappropriate, but it might risk your job if you don’t do it, and you think, “Oh, well, I’d better just go along. After all, they’re the boss. They’re responsible.” No, if it’s wrong, you ought to stand up. We’ve got some fallen heroes out there because we’re going along with something that we know is not right and not speaking up, not questioning, not challenging. I think that we should be good servants, but not when someone is asking you to disobey God and murdering a good soldier, there’s no good reason for that and you’ve got a right to ask, “Why are you asking this?” but he doesn’t. He blindly obeys. He complies. He becomes an accessory to the murder of a perfectly honest man. It says he put him there at the part of the wall, you know, you don’t charge the wall of a city. They can shoot you right there. Where he knew “valiant men” were, said, “We’ll cover you.” I think Uriah was suspicious. The Bible says, “The men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.” So here we see another weakness in our hero.

Something else that happened and this is confusing because I’m not sure, I might have done the same thing Joab did. Let me tell you this story. Absalom, you’re going to get a lot of Old Testament history just from this one study today. Absalom had a beautiful sister. Absalom was the beautiful son of David, proud but good looking. He had a beautiful sister named Tamar. His half-brother Amnon raped his sister. When David didn’t do anything about it, because he sort of indulged his kids, Absalom said, “Well, if you’re not going to do something, I’m going to do something.” Absalom had his servants kill his brother and then he fled to his grandparents. David had married the daughter of a king in another kingdom. Absalom fled the country. David is now pining over his beautiful son that’s gone because he realized he maybe had a right to do something because I didn’t do anything against Amnon when he raped his sister. He’s missing Absalom. Joab intercedes and he restores Absalom back to the kingdom. Sticks his neck out, gets Absalom to come back, he reconciles David and Absalom.

Goes through quite a bit to do it because he can see that David is pining for Absalom and Absalom wanted to come home. Then that no good, ungrateful, spoiled son, he plots a rebellion against his own father and it seems like it’s working. Absalom gets everybody in the kingdom in Israel to turn on David and all that David just barely makes it out of Jerusalem with his mighty men. David has got Joab and his mighty men from the days when they were Robin Hood and his heroes, his honor guard. They just make it out of Jerusalem in time. Well, eventually the mighty men of David and the soldiers of Abishai and Joab engage in battle Absalom who is now led by the general of Judah, listen carefully, a new general. Absalom doesn’t have Joab so he’s got to pick a new general. He picks one of David’s other relatives named Amasa. In the battle as they’re going out David tells all of the soldiers as they’re preparing to fight against his son and his massive army, I mean they’re outnumbered ten to one, but you don’t want to go to battle against Joab and anybody. David says, “Please.”

He knows they’re going to win. “Deal gently with the young man Absalom for my sake. After all, I’ve been a bad father and maybe I brought him up…” and he’s blaming himself. He says, “If you can take him alive, take him alive. Deal gently with Absalom.” So in the midst of the battle, you know the story, Absalom is fleeing, they all run before David’s mighty men. Those guys knew how to fight. All you need is a few people that can kill three hundred men single handedly and you can take on quite a few, right? And so they’re chasing him through the woods of Ephraim. Absalom is looking over his shoulder riding on his white mule which goes under the bows of, it calls it a terebinth, it’s an oak tree, and he, his head and all of his beautiful hair gets stuck in the crotch of an oak branch and the mule rides out from under him leaving him dangling, stuck in the midst of this tree, probably wounded, knocked unconscious, but still alive. Pretty soon some soldiers come to Joab and they say, “You’ll never believe what I just saw.” They’re kind of doing mop up from the victory.

They say, “I just saw Absalom. He’s still alive. He’s hanging in the midst of a tree.” Well, let’s take it up here. II Samuel 18:5 “the king had commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, ‘Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.’ And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains orders concerning Absalom.” When the young man tells Joab, “I think I’ve found him. He’s still alive in a tree.” Joab says, now I’m in verse 14 of chapter 18, “‘I cannot linger with you.’ And he took three spears in his hand” went to where Absalom was “thrust them through Absalom’s heart, while he was still alive in the midst of the… tree.” He killed Absalom against the clear orders of David. Now you sort of wonder if maybe he did the right thing. I mean, that ungrateful son could have tried to take David’s life again. The bottom line is he disobeyed his king.

Then that night when Joab comes back and David has heard that Absalom is dead, David is walking back and forth in the tower. All of the soldiers coming back from this incredible victory where ten to one they got the victory and instead of David welcoming them back and praising the soldiers and a little victory parade they come stealthily into the city with their tail between their legs because they hear the king wailing for his long son. Joab said he’s had enough. Joab goes in and he marches up to the tower where David is moaning and David is praying that heartbreaking prayer where he said, “O Absalom my son!” He’s wailing, everyone can hear him, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Well, you can understand the broken heart of a father and that’s actually a prophetic utterance that David made, “Would God I had died for thee, my son.” But it’s not real good for soldiers because basically what the soldiers are hearing as they com in the city is, “You sound like you would have liked it better if he won and we’re all dead! He was trying to kill you.” They don’t know how to deal with this. Joab goes marching up and he says, “David, you better get out there and congratulate the men for putting their lives on the line to save your throne, to save your kingdom. If you don’t, you’ll be left alone tonight and it will be the longest night of your life.” He was right. David listened to him. Joab sometimes had some insights. David went up on the tower, he greeted, he congratulated the men as best as he could pull himself together he thanked them for putting their lives on the line. So you’re getting a little more in the complexity of this general’s character, this hero.

But then, I don’t know why David did it, probably because Amasa had been the general unto Absalom he was showing, look, I’m not going to hold the people of Israel who followed Absalom, I’m not going to hold it against you. It’s going to be freedom for everybody. We’re calling peace now. Political prisoners are free. Even though you fought against me, that’s over now, it’s behind us. I’m even going to make Amasa the new general. David knew that Joab at this point had killed his son and disobeyed his orders so he thought I’ve got a right to take him out from being general. Joab didn’t like competition. He liked his position. You’ve heard the expression before “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” You wonder who is the most powerful person in the kingdom at this point. Joab is telling David what to do. He can tell the soldiers what to do. He can take out generals if he wants. David says, “You’re fired. Yeah you can be in the army. I’m picking someone else to be general in your place.” Joab is saying, “Wait a second, you made a promise.

You said whoever took Jerusalem he is general.” By the way, whenever you look at Jerusalem they call it the city of David, who took it? Did David take it or did Joab take it? I just thought I’d get you to think about that. Joab wasn’t going to have anyone else take his position. II Samuel 20, Joab meets Amasa who is to be the new general. By the way, Amasa married Zeruiah’s sister if I have it right. “Then Joab said to Amasa, ‘Are you in health my brother?’ And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. But Amasa did not notice the sword that was in Joab’s” other “hand.” His left hand. “And he struck him with it in the stomach,” and I won’t even read it all because it’s pretty grizzly, but he did the same thing to him that he did to Abner. He said, “There is no other general. I am the general.” He killed this man who they’d made a treaty, they’d declared peace. He was just doing his job as a general and that was innocent blood. He took the blood of war in innocent times. Joab could not forgive. There are some fallen heroes out there because they don’t know how to forgive others. Proverbs 27:6 “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Now before I go into the final episode of this fallen hero, I want to park and talk about heroes for a minute. I remember years ago Peter, Paul & Mary sang a song, I don’t think they wrote it, called “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” kind of a peace, oh, it was a great song for peace activists. Any of you remember that one? It’s a beautiful song. I used to know that song. Someone might say today, “Where have all the heroes gone?” It used to be that you could find men and women of sterling integrity and ethics, courage, morals, that stood even though the heavens fall. Like that statement in the book Education “They were as true to duty as the needle is to the pole.” Your Florence Nightingales, your Daniel Boones, your great people of history that were brave and courageous. You think about Abraham Lincoln and now we find even in high places there’s moral failure among presidents. I’m not picking on any one side of the line. You’ve got your, take your pick, your Richard Nixons, your Bill Clintons, I mean, you’ve got these people who are in these positions.

The kids used to say I want to grow up and be president, a position of honor, but heroes fall. Even in Hollywood there’s somebody and they think, “Aw, isn’t this person great?” and then they come out of the closet and everybody goes, “Oh, that was my hero?” I remember how devastating it was, Rock Hudson, even the very name Rock! Then he came out of the closet. I went ooh. You see him in movies like “Giant” and I’m going back a ways. Some of you know what I’m talking about. This hero, gay? I’m not trying to make a statement about homosexuality. You already know how I feel, but I’m just thinking, where have all the heroes gone? Whether it’s in the business world or whether it’s in Hollywood or whether it’s in politics you’ve got to look long and hard before you find people that you can set up and say, “There’s a woman of integrity. There’s a man of integrity. There’s somebody that I could have as a roll model.” It’s so discouraging when you turn on the news and you find out that your hero is fallen. Have you ever had some heroes fall? People that you looked up to, you revere, you idolize and then you find out they’ve got feet of clay. Some of you it may have been (it shouldn’t be) someone in Hollywood like Superman that you find out they’ve got a drinking problem and they shoot themselves. People are looking for somebody they can believe in. There’s something about us, we know we’re weak so we look around us for somebody that’s strong, somebody that’s solid, someone that is sterling, true, dependable, that you can hold forth as a sample. Some people have fathers that were heroes and they fell. They found out there was something in their life and they devastated the children. It might have been someone in the company where you work, an employee, you thought, “Well, this is a great person!” Then you found out that they were stealing. Heroes that fell.

What do you do when that happens? Might I suggest to you if nothing else learn from the story of Joab and David that humans fail. Say amen. I know it’s not an inspiring thought, but it is true. Psalm 146:3 “Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.” “No king is saved by a multitude of an army; A mighty man is not delivered by (his) great strength.” Psalm 33:16 Now I’m in Amos 2:14, “‘Therefore flight shall perish from the swift, the strong shall not strengthen his power, nor shall the mighty deliver himself; He shall not stand who handles the bow, the swift of foot shall not deliver himself, nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself. The most courageous men of might shall flee naked in that day,’ says the Lord.” Humans fail, people are weak.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be people out there that you could look up to. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” I’m paraphrasing now. In other words, as long as you see a person standing for what’s right, you can follow them. There are things about different people that it’s good to emulate. You and I should live a life that people can look at, but don’t forget this, don’t you look at other people. If you set people up and idolize people, there’s only one person we’re told in the Bible we should idolize and do you know who that is? It’s the Lord. There’s only one Person Who came to this earth, lived as a man among men, Who lived a perfect life, He was the bravest, He was the strongest, He was the most honest, He was the most dependable Friend, He was the best, greatest in every way that you can ever look to and that was Jesus. Jesus was a man’s man. He didn’t just do battle with humans; He did battle with the devil himself. You could never take on the devil. Jesus took on the devil in mortal combat. There’s a general, Michael, you could trust Him. He won’t let you down, but men will let you down. That’s why we used that memory verse again. “Let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches…” We all look for people we can trust.

You ought to do everything by God’s grace to be somebody that others can look at because what do you think the main reason is that people turn away from Christ? Why do people stop going to church? Do they stop believing the Bible? If they do, it’s usually because they stop believing in people that believe in the Bible. Somebody in the church hurt their feelings. They were slighted, they were offended, they were taken advantage of. Some people have heroes in ministry. That always scares me. People say all of these nice things and they shower us with accolades and I’m thinking to myself, if you only knew what I know. We put people up on a pedestal, might have been a leader in the church that fell. People get discouraged, stop going to church. Why? What was the problem? Was it the problem that people fail? No, they’ve done that since Adam, since the fall.

Made in the image of God, Adam fell. They take their eyes off Christ and they put them on man. I just worry sometimes because I think some of us are setting ourselves up for discouragement by putting our trust in the arm of flesh. Now I hope I’m making myself clear. I want to be a hero for you spiritually. I want to be a hero for my boys. I try my best to be a good example. I know there’s areas where we fail, if you’re fathers you know it too. You should live a life that people should look at and say, “Now there’s a Christian.” You know something that is a tragedy that’s still in the headlines, it’s a blistering tragedy, just what happened with those girls in the Amish school. But you know it’s almost a cause for rejoicing when the media are left speechless by the spirituality of the Amish. They shoved the microphones in the face of these people and say, “What do you think of the person that did this?” And they say, “We are praying for the family. We have forgiven him.” The media doesn’t know what to say. I’ll tell you what, those people are my hero. When you can find folks that try to really live out the principals of the gospel, the world needs people they can look at that really try to practice that kind of forgiveness. God wants you to be that kind of person. You should live a life people can look at. But don’t you look at other people because just as soon as you set somebody up on a pedestal something is going to happen and your hero could fall then what will happen to your faith? Put your faith in the Lord, He will never let you down. You might let Him down, but He will never let you down.

Well, we’re not done with Joab. I want to end on a more positive note than that. But I think we’ve all known, you go through history, Julius Caesar stabbed by the senate because they just couldn’t bear with him anymore. Alexander the Great drank himself to death. Napoleon dies of syphilis on an island. I mean you can go through some of these great men of history and they sort of have inglorious endings. You look at anything man makes under a microscope and you will find defects. You look at anything God makes under a microscope, you’ll find more perfection. The closer you look at men, the more flaw you will find. The closer you look at the fabric of Jesus’ life, the more perfection you find. He will never let you down. Study Him. You become like your heroes. Isn’t that true? One of the things that happened, and Hollywood exploits this.

Not only will they put out a movie about Batman, but then they put out all of the Batman paraphernalia and the kids are running around dressed like up like Batman with their capes for months and weeks afterward, right? Because they think, “Batman kills all of the bad guys! I want to fly; I want to be like Batman.” Little kids, they’re looking for heroes. They’ve got great imaginations. It almost seems real to them. They become preoccupied with it so Hollywood exploits that. That’s why it’s so important when our children are young that we set before them Christ as a hero that He should be the center of their life. Even in the Bible there are some heroes. There are some Elishas and some Daniels. There are some where you don’t find any record of their failure, they were human, but great men and women of God that are there.

Well, finally Joab is getting old. David is getting old. They’ve had a great run together. They’re conquering everybody around them, but in his old age David did something that shocked everybody. He had a whole oogle of wives and he had a whole tribe of kids in the palace. He said, “I’m going to make the youngest king in my place.” People were beginning to say, “David is old.” He’s got this girl named Abishag trying to keep him warm because he’s got congestive heart failure and he’s shaking. They said, “David, you’d better give us some guidance about who is supposed to be king because Amnon was the oldest, he’s dead. Then it was Absalom, he’s dead. Who is king?” There may have been a tie between the ages of two of them because some of his wives gave birth at the same time. We don’t know but there was some doubt about who was going to be king.

He shocks everybody by saying, “You know the wife that I took from Uriah, her son, Solomon, the youngest.” That was sort of unheard of, but, keep in mind, David was the youngest in his family, wasn’t he? Moses was the youngest. God sometimes picks the youngest. Jacob was the youngest. That was the spiritual choice. God had told David Solomon was to be king. His name meant peace Shalom. They didn’t like that. They thought who is going to rule? He’s got no war experience. You need someone who has gone into battle. Joab began to second guess David’s choice that God had given him. Adonijah the brother of Absalom said, “Look, I think I should be king. David, he’s getting old. Dad’s not making good choices. I think that he’s just not clear. Solomon is a bookworm writing proverbs and songs.” Joab got swept up in this, and he became involved in the rebellion where Adonijah tried to make himself king.

So one of the last failures that we see is Joab chooses to follow along with the rebellion of Adonijah. Everything looked like it was going great. Adonijah is proclaiming himself king and he has a big party and Joab is there and Abiathar the priest was there. So he had the church and he had the military. He had the church, the state, he said, “I’m a shoe-in.” Everybody is rejoicing they’re saying, “Long live King Adonijah.”

Word came to David what was going on and he’s still pretty smart in his old age. He said bring me, they had two priests. He said, “Bring me Nathan the prophet, bring me Bathsheba, and bring in Zadok the priest.” He said, “You take Solomon. You ride him on my horse. You bring him to the temple. You enthrone him there. You pour the holy oil on. You put the covenant in his hand. You do it the way Moses had said. We’re going to do it God’s way and proclaim him king while I’m still alive.” They did it. The people all came to the temple, they saw what was happening. They said, “Long live the king!” It was an official coronation rather than a coup. Adonijah is in the temple having a party and he gets word. There’s a shout in the city. At first he thinks, “Ah, that must be good news.” They said, “No, they’re shouting because your father has coronated Solomon.” He thought, “Oh, I’m in trouble.”

Well, eventually the last instructions of David to Solomon to punish Joab. He said, “Look, you’re not safe on the throne as long as he’s the general because he has already shown he’s not listening very well. He’s doing his own thing.” “Moreover,” I Kings 2:5, “you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah…” David is talking to Solomon, final instructions. “…you know also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two commanders of the armies of Israel, to Abner the son of Ner and Amasa the son of Jether, whom he killed. And he shed the blood of war in peacetime, and put the blood of war on his belt that was around his waist, and on his sandals that were on his feet. Therefore do according to your wisdom, and do not let his gray hair” (Joab was about sixty years at this time.) “go down to the grave in peace.”

So David finally gives up the ghost and he goes to sleep and he dies. Adonijah tries one more time to take the throne. Matter of fact, he asks if he can have Abishag, David’s hot water heater, his heated blanket, as his wife because they’d never slept together. And he thinks, “If I can position myself so that I’ve got Abishag, she’s like my queen and then if I could get Joab and we could do it again we could overthrow Solomon. He’s young, he’s weak.” Solomon might have been young, but he wasn’t stupid. We don’t know if Joab was going to participate or not, but word came that Solomon was cleaning house, and it says here, I Kings 2:28, “news came to Joab, for Joab had defected to Adonijah, though he had not defected to Absalom. So Joab fled to the tabernacle of the Lord, and took hold of the horns of the altar.” In the tabernacle of the Lord. “And King Solomon was told, ‘Joab has fled to the tabernacle of the Lord; there he is, by the altar.’ Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, ‘Go, strike him down.’ So Benaiah went to the tabernacle of the Lord, and said to him, ‘Thus says the king, “Come out!”’ And he said, ‘No, but I will die here.’” This is an interesting study. He dies clinging to the horns of the altar. He said, “No, I’ll die here.” So Benaiah didn’t want to do it.

They never shed human blood in the sanctuary. It was sanctuary means sanctuary. He’s got sanctuary. It’s like home base. You know if you’re playing hide and seek if you can get to home. he got to the sanctuary, he got a hold of the horns of the altar, he says, “What are we supposed to do?” Benaiah brought back word to Solomon and he said, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” Let me tell you, there’s a verse in the Bible that Solomon knew. I think Solomon had a photographic memory, Exodus 21:14, “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar…” Even if he makes it to the altar for refuge, if he has committed premeditated murder that will not be covered. Solomon knew that, and he said to Benaiah, “Slay him there.” He went reluctantly back to the temple, and Joab was slain in the tabernacle. Now keep in mind, had Solomon built his temple yet? Something came to me last time, this is the last reference in the Bible to Moses’ tabernacle. The last picture of Moses’ tabernacle in the Bible is a picture of someone guilty clinging to the altar for mercy.

Now here is a question and I don’t know the answer. Will we all admit Joab had some good qualities? Brave man, he had some spiritual insight, he fought on the side of God for years. His whole life he was fighting for God’s armies. He had a lot of human weakness. That was obvious. Will he be in heaven? I don’t know. Possibly. Sometimes we still suffer for our sins even though we’re forgiven. The thief on the cross, when Jesus forgave him, did he come down from the cross or did he still die for his sin? Joab was slain clinging to the altar and the altar was a place of sacrifice and almost as though he’s saying, “I’m asking for mercy from Jehovah the last act of my life.” I’d like to think I’m going to see him on the right side of the New Jerusalem. I don’t know that. I can’t prove it, but I think there’s hope there. What do you think? Am I out on a limb? I’m hoping that I see Joab in the kingdom, but how much better his life would have been if he could have been a hero without all of those failures that he gave into. If he could have been forgiving, if he didn’t let the power go to his head, if he could have obeyed the orders that were good and disobeyed the orders that were bad, but he kind of did his own thing.

The central message that I, this was really a Bible study. Did you learn something this morning? I didn’t mean it to be so much a sermon as a study, a character study of someone who is very prominent in the Bible and I hope that we could be edified by this. But if nothing else I’m hoping that you’ll realize that one thing that proves the inspiration of the Bible, it shows the good of God’s people and it is faithful to show their weaknesses. It tells us that you’d better be careful putting people on a pedestal. Do not deify humans. First commandment, only worship the Lord God and Him only shall you serve. We’re to keep our eyes on Jesus. You become like the heroes that you model. We are transformed into the image of the ones that we worship. While you should live a life that people can look at, don’t look at other people. Don’t you do it. People can let you down. Jesus will never let you down. Keep our eyes fixed on Him because He is our vision. Amen? And make Him our hero. How many of you want to have Jesus as your hero? Amen. Why don’t you reach for your hymnal? We’ll sing our closing hymn. I think it’s 547, is that right? Let’s stand together as we sing. I love this song. “Be Thou My Vision”

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond to the message this morning if your heart is inclined. Some of you have had heroes in your life that have fallen. It may have been somebody in your family you looked up to, somebody where you worked, somebody that you revered from history or politics, it may have been someone in a religious capacity that let you down and it wounded you, and you’d like to ask the Lord to heal you from that and to help you really set Jesus up as a hero that will never disappoint you, that will never fall. If you’d like to ask for special prayer for that or for anything that the Holy Spirit has laid on your heart, come forward and we’ll have prayer as we sing verse two.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word; I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord; Thou my great Father, I Thy true son; Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Before we sing the last verse, I’d just like to invite you to repeat that commitment that I’ve held out before you. We’re just told by the world around us all of the time to set up movie stars. Those stars fall, don’t they? It might be some athlete and we find out they’re a drug addict. I’d like to challenge you to just say, “Lord, by Your grace, there’s only one person I should really worship as my hero and it’s going to be Jesus. He’s the one I’m going to look to. He’ll be my vision.” Is that your prayer, friends? Ask God to help us do that. Let’s sing the last verse together.

High King of Heaven, my victory won, May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Loving Lord, there are two central themes in this morning’s message in our study of Joab. We see a man who was a paradox, who had so many great traits, courageous traits, even spiritual traits, and yet so many worldly flaws and weaknesses. I pray, Lord, that You’ll help us to hold fast to that which is good. Some of us have had heroes in our lives that have fallen and we’ve become discouraged and disheartened, inclined to give up and lower the standard because we wonder if there’s anybody we can believe in. We pray, Lord, that You’ll help us know You will never fail. We can set Jesus before us always as our goal, as our model, as our hero. Then, Lord, if the truth be known virtually all of us have been fallen heroes at some time in our life. We have let others down. We are so thankful for the story of Joab that tells us that while we might not be able to reverse the circumstances we can flee to that tabernacle and lay hold to the horns of the altar and ask You for mercy. Lord, we pray that You’ll forgive us for the times when we have failed and help us to be living lives that others can look at, but not fall into the trap of idolizing humans. Thank You, Lord, for these important lessons. Help us to practice them. We ask for Christ’s sake. Amen.

God bless you, friends. You may be seated and I want to remind you, please come for the special concert. You’ll be blessed. 5:45 this afternoon. Stay for the evangelistic meetings. Pick up some flyers and bring a friend. Be praying for Brother Tim as he preaches, and we’ll see you here tonight and tomorrow night as well. God bless you.

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Unwrapping the Pharaohs by John Ashton

Unwrapping the Pharaohs by John Ashton
God's Promises




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