Much Zeal, Little Mercy


By: carole l. haines

The stories of the Old Testament grab you with suspense, intrigue, failure, loss, redemption, victory and triumph.  So many of these stories, I would love to make into movies; real movies, not over-done, fake stories, with added undertones for drama.  Nothing needs to be added to these stories at all. I am reading through the stories of David, having just finished those of Joshua, Samson, Deborah, etc.
One of the most tragic stories of the Old Testament is the story of Absalom and David.  Absalom is David’s third son.  Absalom had a tremendously beautiful sister named Tamar.  David’s eldest son, Amnon, lusted after Tamar, his step-sister, and raped her; then he cast her aside.  This ruined Tamar’s life and happiness. Their father David, was angry, but did nothing about it.

How tragic, it was as if David took the “boys will be boys” approach to this tragedy.  Absalom never forgot his father’s passivity and took matters into his own hands.  He stayed silent and plotted for two years his revenge against Amnon.  This whole story can be found in 2 Samuel chapters 12-18.

That one choice of David’s, the choice to do nothing, set in motion a wave of tragedy for his entire family, even leading to the death of his son, Absalom, at the hands of an over-zealous Army commander named Joab.  There are so many life-lessons to be learned from this tragic story. I highly recommend reading through all of it, and every story from the Old Testament.
But as the title of this blog entry says, I’d like to end focusing on one particular part of the story.  Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. For Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. And his head caught fast in the oak, so he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him kept going. 10 When a certain man saw it, he told Joab and said, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” 11 Then Joab said to the man who had told him, “Now behold, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? And I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 The man said to Joab, “Even if I should receive a thousand pieces of silver in my hand, I would not put out my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king charged you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Protect for me the young man Absalom!’ 13 Otherwise, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” 14 Then Joab said, “I will not waste time here with you.” So he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. 15 And ten young men who carried Joab’s armor gathered around and struck Absalom and killed him. (2 Samuel 18:9-15 NASB)

David had asked for mercy for his wayward son, but Joab took revenge, against the King’s command.  Do we do this?  Jesus asks us to forgive one another as He has forgiven us, but do we?  Or do we, like Joab, seek revenge?  We are so sneaky about our revenge sometimes.  We manipulate a situation, or we gossip, as if it is a prayer request.  We stop talking to a brother or sister in Christ, harming them by our lack of encouragement.
I admit to you that I have done all these things in the past, and I have been so wrong.  God has brought me to my knees over these subtleties and asked for purity of heart in me.

Is He asking that of you today? God desires much mercy, much grace in us. We can have zeal for the Lord and His Word, but without mercy, without love; we are nothing but noise to God (1 Corinthians 13 NASB) Examine your hearts today and come to a place of agreeing with God about this much-ignored sin in each of us.  Freedom awaits the truly honest heart, as we let God reveal in us those things we need to forgive.

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