TODAY’S READING: 2 Samuel 16–18
God allowed the kingdom of Israel to be an example as He intended it (as He does with all His dealings with His people). Jehovah would be the God of the nation, the nation would be His holy people, and Jehovah would live among them to bless them, fight for them, and give them victory and honor, all as an invitation to the nations, a living display of how good and blessed it is to serve the King of kings. Energy spent on civil war then is doubly tragic; not only does the family kill its own, it also mars the invitation to the nations. David’s latter reign serves as a warning to the body of Christ today: What happened to him and his family will happen to us and ours if we turn from the glory of God among the nations to self-indulgent living at home. This tragic season in Israel holds several other lessons applicable to missions.
Opposition in missions is often God-appointed. Shimei, a Benjaminite from the house of Saul, had reasons to curse David (2 Sam. 16:5). Shimei might not have been right-hearted, but there was some truth in his criticisms. David was indeed a man of blood and indeed caught in his own evil (vv. 7–8) reaping what he sowed. David took what was not apportioned to him (Bathsheba), murdered a friend (Uriah), and betrayed the Lord. Now, in turn, David got to feel what it was like to be betrayed and hunted by family, to have stolen what was rightfully and lawfully his. The Lord indeed was punishing David for his sins. It is my repeated experience in both leading and following to have reaped everything that I have sowed. Whenever I sowed disloyalty, undermining speech, betraying behavior, or unfaithfulness as relates to friends or leaders, I reaped the same, and just as painfully. The Lord uses critics to show us our own hearts, even if what they say is not fully true, informed, or even fair. There is almost always a germ of truth in what our critics (in their own pain and disappointment) shout at us. The wise leader will humble himself and look for the truth embedded in every oppositional interaction. It takes resolve, but may we all say to those who would shield us from our critics: “Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him” (v. 11).
We can’t do God’s mission in ways that displease Him. Joab was one of the more complex characters in David’s era. On the one hand, he seemed fiercely loyal to David; on the other hand, he “repeatedly [acted] on his own initiative, even against David’s express wishes.” With ruthless violence Joab exterminated any threat to David—any threat—even David’s own son, and with matching zeal Joab removed any threat to himself. Sometimes in our zeal for God’s honor, we defend Him (or attack in His name) in ways that do not please or honor Him. Good missionaries ever remember that God can defend His own name, and we must not pursue His honor in dishonorable ways. Good missionaries have no zeal to defend their own name; they have David’s demeanor, not Joab’s jealousy.
One great sadness to God’s heart is the infighting that destroys missionary union on the field. When Ahithophel gave cunning advice to Absalom about killing his own father, he shrewdly depersonalized his murderous suggestion: “I will strike only the king… When all return except the man you seek, all the people will be at peace” (17:2–3). Ahithophel was not just calmly suggesting regicide, but also patricide. He did not say “your father” or “David”; he just vaguely listed the monarch who allegedly was the hindrance to peace. How often the enemy of unity (which is a prerequisite for mission advance) deceives us by suggesting we depersonalize our interaction with colleagues. Rather than seeing them as brothers or fathers in the fight for faith among the unreached, we turn them into villains, problems, and obstacles whose removal we falsely think will be the solution. How often missionaries have assassinated their own—murder assisted by hiding behind depersonalization, murder we’d dare not enact if we would look them in the eye and treat them as we want to be treated.
One more lesson is that the Lord is fully capable of bringing disaster on the seditious (v. 14). We need not worry about defending God’s name, or our own. When we refuse to fight brothers and fathers, when we let God take care of the “Absaloms,” He disciplines us and then restores in due time. David refused to defend his own honor or to confuse his honor with God’s. For the sake of the Oromo may we do the same.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 388.