Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.
2 Samuel 10:12 | English Standard Version | Other Versions | Context
Joab was a nephew of King David, and a very outstanding man and leader. In military and political matters, he was often an important voice of counsel for David. As a general, he was extremely decorated in his battles and was hugely important to David. He was very charismatic and always had the right things to say to lift his troops up. As with a lot of talented people, the higher they rise, the more talented they are, the lesser they depend on God – and Joab is probably a prime example of this. However, let us just focus on his good today. In 2 Samuel 10:11-12, he gave a stirring speech that was perhaps a perfect example on ‘How to Raise Troop Morale 101’. If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him. In today’s study, we will pay special attention to ‘may the Lord do what seems good to him’ and explore how the concept of risk fits within the lifestyle of Christianity.
Be of good courage – The enemy numbers were great, and traditionally, whether in ancient times or in modern times, quantity is still a very crucial thing in warfare. According to human logic, 1o elite soldiers may be able to defeat a weaker enemy unit of 100 troops. They may even be able to defeat 1000 soldiers. Maybe even 10,000. But pit 100,000 against them? Or a million? Or more? Our logic tells us that they should flee, or they are bound to perish. The Israelites may not have faced a million, but they were surrounded by the Syrians and the Ammonites, and Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear [2 Sam 10:9]. Be of good courage, Joab said – not only to encourage himself and his brother Abishai, but also all his officers and soldiers, of whom certainly there must have been a number who were genuinely intimidated by the sheer quantity of the enemies, and the dangerous position they were in, being sandwiched between two armies.
let us be courageous for our people and for the cities of our God – In all wars it is similar, no? I live in a small country, and all males are required to go through two years of military training. For what? To protect our people. To protect our city. If the Syrians and the Ammonites get pass Joab’s troops, they would have straight access to the people of Israel, and many would be killed or taken captive. Their cities would be plundered and destroyed, and even worse, cities that were meant for the worship of God would become hotspots for pagan practices. Try imagining your church becoming a place of pagan worship. You wouldn’t want that, would you? Fight well then. It’s a war we don’t want to lose.
As abled and talented a general and military man as Joab was, he was outnumbered, he was surrounded, and he was clearly in a pinch. I don’t know the exact circumstances of the situation that Joab was in, as we don’t exactly have a playback button to watch a movie of that exact scene in the Bible – but perhaps he could have escaped. If he had commanded his troops to escape, nobody would blame him – after all, it’s against human logic to go up against a force so much larger especially at a bad position. If they tried to escape, surely many of his soldiers would have been unable to, and killed. But if they try taking their enemies head on, they run the risk of being exterminated.
Joab took that risk. We all prefer security. If we don’t have to, we don’t want to take risks. We come up with numerous back up plans everyday because we don’t want to put ourselves in a position in which we are liable to great losses. Sometimes, if we don’t take the risk, we may lose more. Sometimes, we don’t seem to have a choice.
may the Lord do what seems good to him – As in all risks, it means that Joab did not know what would happen. Human logic meant that the Israelites would definitely lose, but the Israelites had God – and God meant hope. I refer you to a more commonly known story.
“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” [Esther 4:16]
In Queen Esther’s case, by human logic, she will almost certainly die if she goes to the king without permission. This was King Xerxes, who was so ruthless in his dealing with his first queen, Queen Vashti. You do not expect the King to show mercy to his harem. Knowing that, Esther hesitated. I’m sure Joab hesitated too. When taking a risk venture, or making a risky decision, I’m sure you will hesitate too. But ultimately, Esther turned to God (by fasting and praying) and took the risk. While she turned to God, she did not demand that God will deliver her. God is not our slave. We don’t tell God what to do. Instead, she took a step of faith, that even if she was not shown mercy by the King, God will still be glorified. If I perish, I perish.
Similarly, Joab did not pretend that they would certainly obtain victory. He simply said, may the Lord do what seems good to him. I’m sure he had a certain degree of faith in God, that God will grant them victory, but it wasn’t a guarantee. God didn’t send an angel down to tell them what to do. God didn’t send a prophet over to tell them that they would gain victory for sure. In the time of Daniel, during the reign of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel’s three friends were threatened to worship his gods or be thrown into the furnace. This was what they said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” [Dan 3:17-18]
There is a similarity between these three cases. Firstly, they all knew that the God they serve can save us from the disaster that they are about to be plunged into because of their decision. Secondly, they also knew that God doesn’t necessarily have to save them from the disaster. Thirdly, even if they are not saved, their faith remains, and it is fine because God will still be honored. This, perhaps, is the very notion of risk in the context of Christianity.
There were many examples of risk takers in the Bible. Those who sought the Lord in their risks were always rewarded – even if they were not immediately granted deliverance. Those who didn’t seek the Lord in their decisions often walked down the path of sin. Ultimately, Joab depended on his own righteousness and sought to justify himself in his actions instead of turning to God. He made decisions without seeking the Lord, and hence it was not surprising that many of his decisions were not pleasing to God.
In life we make decisions everyday, and we take risks on a regular basis. By risks I don’t mean anything that is sinful or displeasing to God – but an honest decision in which the future is uncertain. From the examples of Joab, Esther and the three companions of Daniel, let us learn to first seek God and his will. Upon doing that, take the risk with a step of faith. Let your faith not be rooted in God’s deliverance, for while God certainly is able to, he does not have to deliver you. Instead, let your faith be rooted in God’s almightiness, and believe that even if your risk goes wrong and you end up in a mess, God will somehow, clear up the mess for you. Your business may collapse and you may lose everything, but even so, if you are right with God, God will be right with you.
May the Lord do what seems good to him.