There is a moment in the life of King David when the troops of the king have to put down a rebellion lead by David’s own son, Absalom. It’s a terrible episode where a son rises up against his father and seeks to take everything from him, including his life.
In the fighting, Absalom is killed and David experiences the grief of a father for the loss of his son. David is beside himself with grief, and he seems unable to stop weeping for his son. As word of David’s actions filter throughout the entire army, there is no celebration of their victory. Men who have risked their lives for their king enter the city ashamed, and their posture is of an army who has failed their king rather than won him a victory.
At this point, Joab, commander to the king, comes to David and gives him this counsel. “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”
These are wise words. The question of how David will respond remains. Will he shoot the messenger, will he ignore the counsel or will he listen and do what is right?
It’s the choice we all must make when we receive counsel. Joab was not always a godly man, and certainly some of his actions would have put him at odds with the king. Given this, it would have been understandable had David chosen to ignore his counsel. David could have always played the position card, and as king he need not listen to someone below him. Yet that was not the course David chose. He humbled himself and understood the wisdom of this advice, even though it may have come from someone who often displayed a lack of wisdom in his own actions.
We are told, ‘the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him.’
David encouraged his troops. As painful as it would be been to get up, he put his own interests aside, recognised good advice when he got it, and did what is right.
Wise people follow the counsel of others. It doesn’t mean that they accept everything that comes their way, but they are open to advice, even from the most unlikely of sources. When you receive counsel, especially from an unlikely source, how will you respond? Will you ignore it, will you shoot the messenger, or will you be open?