TODAY’S READING: 2 Samuel 19–21
The gospel determines who our friends are. Jesus, face set like a flint, was single-eyed on the reason He came to earth. Nothing and no one could deter or distract Him from giving His life for sinners. Given that focus and the fact that we are called to share it, nothing and no one should distract us from giving our lives so that the lost may be saved. It’s in this context we are told to “hate” our families—not in the sense of wanting to destroy them, but in the sense that our true family are those people who share a single-eyed passion for the glory of God among all unreached peoples, so that we can all go home. This missionary truth is illustrated in today’s reading in several ways.
Joab (who could be right even if he was rough) told David that in mourning the death of his son Absalom, he was loving his enemies and hating his friends and was in danger of losing the kingdom (2 Sam. 19:6). David was not allowed to prioritize his own flesh and blood over the good of the kingdom; neither can we. The good of the King and His glory among all nations has a higher priority than what our natural family thinks. This is not a call to dishonor parents and loved ones; rather, it is a call to honor the King and the gospel above all else. David’s friends were literally those who gave themselves to fight and die for the kingdom, not the family who wanted to take the kingdom away. Our friends are those who fight with us for King and gospel. May God grant they be our blood kin.
When David returned to Jerusalem, he met Mephibosheth and asked: “Why did you not go with me” (v. 25)? Mephibosheth then presented the evidence that he did indeed go with David in heart in the only way he knew how: showing by the neglect of his body that he did not rejoice at not being able to go (v. 24). God clearly commanded us to go to all the nations with the gospel message. If we do not go, there should be some material evidence that we wanted to go. Not a lack of showers and shaving, but a self-denial that produced much prayer for the unreached, may funds for missionary support, and many disciples who went in our place. The friends of God show that they are with Him in all His travels and trials, even if they can’t physically be there.
When Sheba rebelled (there was no end to the consequences of David’s sin), it was the Cherethites and Pelethites who stood firmly with David (20:7). These non-Israelites whom David befriended when he was a refugee among the Philistines were more loyal than David’s son or his people. They formed his personal guard, they had his complete trust, and they ed establish Solomon at David’s command (1 Kings 1:38–44). David’s friends and most trusted companions were foreigners, not family. How beautiful is the body of Christ when we work together for God’s glory among the nations! Truly, God’s missionary work is a multinational collaboration, a family more intimately linked by gospel DNA than by skin or blood.
A mother in Israel continued to prove this point when she conspired to throw the rebel Sheba’s head over the city wall. Joab was pursuing this usurper, and Sheba took refuge in her town. This wise woman demonstrated that kingdom aims trumped whatever connection Sheba had to that city. She aligned her city with the king at the cost of “severing” any connection to the rebel. We must do the same. Our allegiance to the king must trump any connection to those who oppose Him. In fact, we must go beyond non-association to actively distancing ourselves from those who deny the King’s goals.
The final illustration is the Gibeonite case (2 Sam. 21:1–14). Essentially, Saul in zeal misrepresented the God of the nations to non-Israelites, and thus, judgment was required. David shockingly selected the children of his former wife Michal, nephews if not adopted sons, and offered them up to die for the greater good: “And after that God heeded the prayer for the land” (21:14). To be clear, I am spiritualizing this; I’m not calling for physical war or the macabre sacrifice of our children. I am bluntly saying that the King of glory and His gospel must determine who our friends are and where our loyalties lie. I am saying that a single-eyed focus on Jesus being glorified in Kuwait among the Najdi Arabs (and among all unreached peoples) will lead us to make friends (and family) of those who share this sacred passion.