In II Samuel 19, King David is mourning the death of his rebellious son, Absalom, while his victorious army comes “by stealth” back into the city because of his grief. In :5-7 David’s general, Joab spoke a spoke difficult truth to David which may have saved his kingdom:
Joab told David that these people had saved his life, but that David was acting as if he would rather that they had all died, and Absalom lived instead! In :7 he admonished him: “Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the LORD, if you do not go out, surely not a man will pass the night with you, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.”
It was a bold statement by Joab, but one which needed to be made. Like Nathan the prophet earlier, he spoke truth to power. And to David’s credit, he listened. Verse 8 and following describes how David took Joab’s words to heart, and won back the hearts of his people.
David exhibits for us in this passage the humility needed to receive criticism and take corrective action. It is not that common a trait, unfortunately. The tendency of our proud human nature is to reject criticism and stick to our stubborn path. But we do so to our own harm.
There is time to “stick to your guns” and do what you know God is leading you to do. But we should also have an openness to listen to someone who sees that we are making a bad mistake and need to correct it. Blessedly, David had the wisdom and humility to listen to Joab, and then act — and he saved his kingdom as a result. May God give each of us the humility and grace to listen to loving criticism, and respond in a way which will benefit ourselves and others.