A story in 2 Samuel really caught my attention. Abner, the commander of Saul’s armies was faithful to Saul’s family even after Saul’s death. But they insulted him and he defected to David’s side planning to bring his troops with him. This would have saved many Israeli lives, brought peace to the kingdom and immediately established David as king over all of Israel. (Judah had already recognized him as king once Saul was killed in battle against the Philistines.)
But the commander of David’s army, Joab, wanted to kill Abner to avenge his brother who Abner had killed in battle. Without David knowing it Joab deceived Abner and killed him before peace could be established. Upon hearing of this, David says this interesting thing:
And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!” (2 Samuel 3:39)
Can you hear the frustration of David? I am king but I am still powerless against evil. These sons of my sister, Zeruiah, (yes, they were family) are out of control and do whatever they want. I am powerless.
Of course David was not truly powerless. He could have done many things even executed Joab for murder. But this was his nephew, his sister’s son and she had already lost another son in battle. Love restrained David from taking action. Instead, he committed it to the Lord – “May the Lord repay.”
This passage caught my attention on two levels.
1. David is an OT picture of the Lord Jesus. Sometimes it seems like God is not in control in the world. Though He is the anointed king he seems impotent to stop evil. Many atheists point to evil as their “proof” God does not exist because surely a good and powerful God would not stand idly by and allow all this injustice and pain.
David could have taken action. David desired to take action. But love restrained him. He appeared weak, impotent and to the family of Abner he appeared uncaring. The sin, the pain, the loss grieved David but loved restrained him from doing anything at the moment.
Jesus too, right now, is restrained by his love. Why does he not judge evil and take action to stop it? The time is not right. The times and the seasons are in the Father’s hand. When the time is right, when all things are fulfilled, then God will judge the nations and judge the people. Until then, do not think that his appearance of powerlessness is weakness. He is restrained by Love. We are in the season of God’s favor but no season lasts forever. The Lord will arise and bring all injustice under his feet.
We must be careful too that we don’t take advantage of God’s restraining love thinking that He is distant and unconcerned so we can live carelessly because it doesn’t matter. “Jesus loves me and has to forgive me – after all, that’s his job. So it doesn’t really matter if I live for myself, ignore His commands. I have done it before and nothing happened. Love covers a multitude of sins so I guess I can keep stacking up the heap of sins so God has more reason to love me.”
Joab did eventually pay for his crimes. Fortunately our sins are under the grace of God but we dare not “trample” that grace.
2 Peter 3:9-10
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come …