Last words are impregnated with meaning and value. As you read 2 Samuel 23, each word sags with a lifetime of illustrative lessons. Verse three stands out where David says, “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, Ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3). David’s honest self-evaluation lifts this truth out of the dross of his life’s failures.
Nearly every chapter at the beginning of 2 Samuel has some form of a public statement from David. It is interesting to note how he emphasized mourning Saul, Abner, and Ishbosheth and even how he made a public spectacle of the transportation of the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. He immediately executed the reward-seekers who reported on Saul’s death and Ishbosheth’s mutinous murder, yet, as far as Joab is concerned, he is only served a tongue lashing. Why were the sons of Zeruiah so hard for David?
To answer the question, one must consider allegiance. Study the origin of the word “allegiance” and it adds value to its meaning. You may have heard a character in a story say, “My Liege! My King!” Allegiance simply means “to increase supremacy or importance; magnify beyond all others.” In order for one to rule over men correctly, they must rule with justice. Justice, an esteemed virtue among nations, has been personified by the blindfolded, fair maiden holding a scale and sword. Justice is no respecter of persons but weighs the actions against the code with a readiness to respond with discretion. However, since man is corrupt, many have peaked from behind the blindfold or have unjust weights or have forgotten their sword.
The Bible says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare” (Proverbs 29:25), and sadly, even David was ensnared from time to time. David’s allegiance was strained. Joab was family. Joab had been a fellow during David’s fugitive years. Joab was too valuable. Yet, one of the final instructions David gave to Solomon before the responsibility of ruling was passed to him, was to show no mercy to Joab. David recognized the error of his ways in 2 Samuel 23:3. The only way to rule with perfect justice is to rule with a fear of God.
David’s system of justice was inconsistent based on the variables. As much as we love David, he represents our deficiencies. A King is coming who will one day rule with a rod of iron. Justice will be his pedigree. For now, you lead people in some fashion. “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” Make sure your allegiance magnifies God and not men. As John the Baptist exclaimed, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).