Whilst Joab has been settling scores with Amasa, Sheba flees to a city called Abel. Joab pursues him there and lays siege to the city. A wise woman challenges him. She reminds him that the city is part of Israel, part of the Lord’s inheritance. Will Joab seek to destroy the city. He assures her that this is not his intention but he had in fact failed to observe God’s Law in Deuteronomy 20:10. Before you besieged a city, you were meant to offer it peace terms. Joab has been reckless and risked causing great harm to God’s people. His disregard for God’s heritage is comparable with Sheba’s insistence that he had no part in the King’s inheritance.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says that people are dying because they fail to discern the body of Christ at communion. We know from ch 12, that the body refers to the Church. Christians who disregard and fail to discern the church cause great danger and great harm.
How do we discern the body of Christ?
I think we do this when:
- We value the church and honour it as the bride of Christ. This means that we shouldn’t take delight in its failings or pleasure in complaining. We should not be those who stir up discontent. The church is imperfect but it is still Christ’s beloved bride.
- We encourage one another to grow in the Lord and in holiness.
- We prioritise meeting together as God’s people. This really does mean that meeting together is the priority. There is a risk that a mix of busy lifestyles and a liberal attitude to obedience means that committing to gather for prayer, Bible teaching and breaking of bread is treated as optional. Even for committed believers it can become a duty and at times an inconvenience. When we decide we are going to take time off from meeting or when going out for the day instead of going to church is seen as a family treat then some wrong signals are being sent out and something has gone badly wrong. Now, I recognise that for some people work and family pressures make a Sunday morning or evening difficult, others struggle emotionally with crowds. So, I don’t want to be legalistic about saying you must attend a specific meeting but being part of God’s gathered people should take priority.
- We are committed to serving and using the gifts God has given us to encourage others.
- We walk with each other through all the scenes of life. We take joy when others experience good things. We mourn with those who grieve.
- We guard against hierarchies and factions in the church. A church that fails to welcome, include and encourage people because of class or ethnicity is a church where people disregard the body.
- We have a concern for the wider church – it isn’t just about our local congregation. Are we committed to mission (praying, giving, sending)? Have we a concern for the persecuted church? Are we willing to partner with other churches, especially those in different contexts to ours for the sake of the Gospel.
 For these types of reasons we have encouraged some church members to prioritise being part of a small group.