2 SAMUEL 14:21-33
21Then the king said to Joab, “Very well, I grant this; go, bring back the young man Absalom.” 22Joab prostrated himself with his face to the ground and did obeisance, and blessed the king; and Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.” 23So Joab set off, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24The king said, “Let him go to his own house; he is not to come into my presence.” So Absalom went to his own house, and did not come into the king’s presence.
25Now in all Israel there was no one to be praised so much for his beauty as Absalom; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26When he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight. 27There were born to Absalom three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar; she was a beautiful woman.
28So Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without coming into the king’s presence. 29Then Absalom sent for Joab to send him to the king; but Joab would not come to him. He sent a second time, but Joab would not come. 30Then he said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31Then Joab rose and went to Absalom at his house, and said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?” 32Absalom answered Joab, “Look, I sent word to you: Come here, that I may send you to the king with the question, ‘Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.’ Now let me go into the king’s presence; if there is guilt in me, let him kill me!” 33Then Joab went to the king and told him; and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and prostrated himself with his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom.
Treachery will beget treachery. Joab has a kindred spirit in Absalom. Both men will do whatever they can to get whatever they want, even if the means to what they want is immoral. Besides violent behavior to intimidate others, both men know the less violent art of affectation to ingratiate themselves to King David to get his approval. Prostrating themselves before David, doing "obeisance," and such are all a show for them. No genuine respect or regard or service lies behind the face-to-the-ground gesture. A complete charade. A grown-up make-believe game.
These are slippery guys. Machiavelli would have been proud of these two. And in their worldly world, these tactics do prove effective. Outsmarting others, manipulating and intimidating others, gaining others' confidence through insincere gestures -- all these -- can be highly effective in the "real" world.
But sooner or later Machiavellian actions catch up. It's hard to fool people all the time and forever. It becomes a matter of time when the manipulative ways are shown to be what they are. Even if manipulative ways are not exposed, these ways themselves have a way of corroding a person's soul. And corrosion of a soul is a terrible thing.
A corroded or corrupted soul ruins relationships and destroys the good that has been built. Worst of all, such corruption of heart can be eternally damaging. That's why the Apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:1-3, "Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good."
Likewise, Jesus says to the Pharisees, in Matthew 15:7-11:
7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’[Isa. 29:13]”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
We might not think much of "going through the motions" or empty gestures or perhaps even manipulative actions, but all these do have a cumulative effect on the kind of person one becomes. We might not become a Joab or an Absalom, but a healthy fear of insincerity and false action will nevertheless do us much good.
Let's pray: Father God, we pray for purity of heart and purity of action. Save us from the manipulative ways of Joab or Absalom. We pray for sincere acts from sincere hearts. Even though it might be challenging, help us to walk in love, righteousness, and mercy. In Jesus' name, amen.