The temptation we all face is to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good but don’t advance the will of God in our lives. We’ll never grow past character flaws and personality weaknesses if we don’t have people speaking truth into our lives. Proverbs 15:31 says, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” There’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “A friend is one who warns you.” As uncomfortable as they may make us at times, thank God for people like that.
Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 18:14-16
“Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him. Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel.
You have heard it said, “With friends like that, who need enemies?” That was Joab, the ruthless general of King David’s army, a loyal associate and a relative. But did I mention he was ruthless?
Joab served David well in the king’s rise to power. He was with him from the beginning, had slept many a night in cold, dank caves when David was on the lam from Saul and had fought fiercely in battle to protect David’s very life. Though he was a general, in reality, his was a “loyal lieutenant.” He was an effective chief of staff that carried out the commands of the king that the king himself would not have the stomach to do.
Which meant at times, Joab disobeyed public orders to ensure the personal well-being of the king and the kingdom were advanced. That is what he did in this chapter when he disobeyed a direct order from King David and killed the king’s rebellious son, Absalom. Why did Joab do that? The Quest Study Bible sums it up this way,
As David’s general, Joab was to safeguard the interests of the kingdom. David, motivated by a father’s love for his son, was more concerned about Absalom. Joab saw Absalom as a dangerous rebel who would continue to threaten the kingdom as long as he lived. David saw Absalom as a reckless young man who had made a foolish mistake. David hoped his son would change as he grew and matured. Joab’s single-minded determination to preserve David’s throne led him to disobey a direct order.
Was Joab a righteous man? Will we see him in heaven some day? I don’t know—that one is above my pay grade. But I do know that at times we all need “friends” that will help us do the right thing—as uncomfortable as that is. We all need people who will speak hard truth into our lives, who will be willing to risk difficult conversations to tell us we have spinach in our teeth.
The temptation we all face is to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good but don’t help us to become righteous. We’ll never grow past character flaws and personality weaknesses if we don’t have people speaking truth into our lives. Proverbs 15:31 says, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” There’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “A friend is one who warns you.” As uncomfortable as that is, thank God for people like that.
You don’t just need a lot of friendly people in your life, although having friendly people around is a good thing. What you most need are godly people who’ll come alongside you and call out God’s best in you. Proverbs 27:17 says of these kinds of friendships, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
You and I need friends like that —friends who are unconditionally loving yet absolutely committed to growth in our character through loving honesty. I like how the Good News Bible translates Proverbs 27:5-6, “Better to correct someone openly than to let him think you don’t care for him at all. Friends mean well, even when they hurt you. But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder—watch out!”
That’s not a declaration of open season for brutal honesty, but it does speak of the vital connection between the health of our whole being and the difficult conversations needed to get us there—and God’s gift of true friendships that makes it possible.