Our conversation has begun the same way for the last two weeks. “Kip, give me some reasons to vote for Donald Trump for president.” My friend picks me up each Wednesday to transport me to the VA in Hampton. We used to talk about a lot of things, especially the Lord and recently politics. So far, we have come up with two reasons to vote for Trump: 1) a vote for Trump is a vote against Hillary Clinton and 2) there are many high profile, vocal and influential public figures who threatened to move outside of the country should Trump win.
The Presidential election process is in full bloom. From our perspective, there is not much choice. Confusion and indecision – along with much misinformation abounds. There is just not much choice. What a mess! About a year ago, most of my friends were filled with a guarded optimism regarding the upcoming election. Now, many are disappointed, even disgruntled. There just doesn’t seem to be any good option.
In a way this reminds me of the situation of the armies of Israel and its commanding general, Joab. During the reign of King David, Joab and his armies had unbridled success. God had given them victories wherever they went. (This is the background to the point I’m making!) 1 Chronicles 18 recites the military conquests of David and his armies. General Joab factors largely in these accomplishments. The kingdom of David has exponentially expanded – he has conquered neighboring kingdoms and all of his rivals. In chapter 19 we are informed that an ally of King David died and was replaced by his son, Hanun. Following the poor advice of his political advisers, Hanun challenge David’s authority and power by highly insulting David’s emissaries. Thus, David dispatched Joab and his army to retaliate and quash the rebellion.
No doubt, Joab saw himself as a winner – confident in his own military prowess and ability. Hanun had other ideas and hired a large force of mercenaries to stand with him against the armies of Israel. So when the battle began, Joab was surprised and overwhelmed by the change of circumstances. He found himself surrounded by the enemy. It seemed he had no good option – no winning strategy.
The Scriptures should not give you the impression that Joab was a faithful follower of the Lord. He seems to be an egotistic opportunist, always looking out for himself. He had murdered two rivals and was quick to take things into his own hands. Now it seems that Joab is in a situation which is beyond him. He is in a hopeless situation. We do know however that Joab has personally witnessed the devotion of David to the Lord. Joab has seen David follow God’s leading and provision. Joab has seen God’s goodness in other hopeless situations. It appears that David has had a positive influence on Joab.
So he dispatched his brother, also an accomplished general, to lead a task force against one faction, while he and the rest of the army would face the other. Here are the words of Joab as he encourages his brother to go into battle: “Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” (1 Chronicles 19:13, ESV)
The advice of Joab is good this time. He emphasizes two things – two vital trues which will help us in any situation.
First, he encourages and exhorts his brother (and us) to exert his energy in accomplishing the task before him. Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God… My paraphrase: Suck it up and do your best to serve the Lord. Apply yourself to the task at hand. Use your energy’s abilities to extend the kingdom of God, both in your life and in the lives of others.
Second, …may the Lord do what seems good to him. Here, Joab is not giving God permission to act. Rather, Joab is acknowledging God’s sovereignty and goodness in his powerful providence. God always does what seems good to him. Joab is recognizing and agreeing with the undeniable fact that God is working in all situations and always does good. This is indeed a hard lesson to learn. We recognize it from hindsight, but forget it quickly when overwhelmed. We need to remember the words of the apostle Paul: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV)
The advice of Joab is good this time. Do as much as you can to serve the Lord and his people. AND Trust in the Lord to bring good out of your circumstances.
Most of us like to think in “either – or” terms. We think that things are either up to us or they are beyond all control. The great wisdom in Joab statement is that he recognizes and acknowledges these two truths to be in play. We are responsible to do the best we can in any given situation. We must strive to serve the Lord and to advance his kingdom with all our might. AND we must rest in God’s providence, trusting him to do what is right.
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” (Proverbs 21:31, ESV)