King David is under attack from Sheba, a worthless man. He has sent the new commander of the arm, Amasa to muster the soldiers of Judah but Amasa is delayed in returning. We are not sure why Amasa takes so long. It is possible that despite his loyalty and willingness, he isn’t an affective commander. It’s also possible that as a younger, inexperience leader he doesn’t carry the same clout as Joab and Abishai yet.
David sends Abishai out with the standing army. He is very clear about he priority. There is a real danger from Sheba. David says that Sheba could pose more of a danger than Absalom had. He instructs his officers to pursue and overtake Amasa quickly before he finds a fortified city where he can hold up. Time is of the essence. Here is a reminder of the deadly nature of sin. It is dangerous. John Owen’s saying is worth repeating: “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”
Abishai and his brother Joab have a different priority. Amasa’s promotion to commander in chief was at the expense of Joab’s demotion and Joab hasn’t taken it well. Joab has little time for rivals to his powerbase. Earlier in 2 Samuel he had assassinated another rival, Abner. Now he acts to remove Amasa. He tricks him by greeting him as a friend and stabs him with a sword held in his left hand.
Joab’s attitude contrasts sharply with Mephibosheth and Barzillai found in chapter 19. Mephibosheth is content to give up his property rights and simply enjoy being in the king’s presence. Barzillai merely wishes to serve and accompany the king but is ready to encourage younger people to step up into his role.
Here is the danger for us. We can confuse God’s agenda with ours. We can confuse our priorities with his mission. The risk is that I look to my role in church life for my identity rather than to Christ alone.
Here are some questions to ask ourselves:
Do I take delight in simply enjoying his presence, his love and care, or do I need position and status?
Am I willing to encourage and support others as they step forward to serve and to lead or do I need to be prominent and central?
Do I think of what I do in the church as ‘my ministry’ and ‘my gift’?
Do I become defensive when people have ideas and plans that touch on my area of expertise and responsibility?
Again, we can be very deceptive with ourselves. We may think that we are vacating a ministry or role for others but if we can only be present and involved when we are in charge or in control then our stepping back may be less a case of vacating and supporting and more a case of abdicating.
We need to be ready to serve in whatever capacity and sometimes the way we serve is by encouraging and supporting others, sharing in their joy as they experience fruitfulness. I suspect that if we are going to do this then we need to start as we mean to go on. It’s no use thinking that one day we will hand the batten on when we are 60 or 70, rather, we should be looking to encourage others in ministry in our 20s, 30s and 40s.
The remedy for this temptation is perhaps best found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians with the reminder that we are called and equipped by God’s grace not because of our brilliance.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[b] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[c] might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him[d] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The remedy also comes when we remember that we are gifts to the church. It is not so much that we have been given gifts for our own enjoyment but rather that God has given us to his church for its benefit and his glory.
 1 Corinthians 1:26-31.