Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, “Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, by loving those who hate you and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.” – 2 Samuel 19:5-6
David had just heard that his son Absalom, who rebelled against his father, was killed by David’s servants. If you remember the story, Absalom had very long hair and was riding under a low hanging tree and his hair got caught up in the branches and left him hanging in midair; not a very defensible position when it comes to battle but it is what it is. I suspect not the way a warrior wants to go out in battle but that is his story.
David had told his men not to harm Absalom but it did not work out that way. David was not the best parent and I believe that he was hoping for some kind of reconciliation with his son. When he gets the news about Absalom, David is deeply grieved and mourns with weeping and great sorrow (2 Samuel 19:1-4). In fact, David grieves so overtly that he embarrasses his servants and men because they were inclined to celebrate the victory the Lord had given David and their king is reacting badly to the victory. These servants, his warriors risked their lives to protect David and his family and now David seems to be very upset.
This is where Joab comes to David and makes this accusation – “you are loving those who hate you and hating those who love you”. Joab is upset with David and even makes the accusation that it would have been better for all of them to die instead of his son. It seems to get through to David because he pulls himself together and goes out to the people to thank them for their sacrifice and service on his behalf. But this provides an interesting insight into the idea of loving and hating people.
Clearly David did not hate Joab or his servants. He cared about them and had made many sacrifices for them. The idea of loving and hating really talks about valuing and choosing. Joab captures the idea very well in that David seems to value his son, even though his son became an active enemy of David. David was acting in a manner that showed how much he still valued his son but it communicated to Joab that he and the rest of David’s men did not matter at all – hence the comment that it would be better they had all died instead of Absalom.
We see the same things in Romans 9:10-13 where God speaks of hating Esau and loving Jacob:
And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” Just as it was written, “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated.” –
You need to notice some key ideas in here – God’s love, and his hate (so to speak) is NOT a reflection of emotional antagonism as much as it is a matter of choice. God loved Jacob by choosing him according to His purpose. His “hatred” of Esau was simply that God did not choose Him to the blessing of being one of “founding fathers of Israel”.
Of course that seems unfair to us and that is exactly what Paul addresses in the very next verses. God has the sovereign right to choose whomever He wants for His purpose. He is not obligated at all to cater to our demands of what we think is fair or just since our perception of life is extremely limited. God had a purpose of what He was going to do and He chose or loved Jacob over Esau when it came to His purpose in Christ. Since God has made up His mind before the twins were even born He was not violating anything in terms of His own will and purpose. How that works out in the scuffle of human brokenness, deception and manipulation may look confusing to us but that shows that the wisdom and foolishness of God will always trump the floundering logic of our finite minds (1 Corinthians 2:20-29).
The basic concept of loving and hating is not grounded in our emotional response to people – it is more consistent to think of loving and hating as a matter of choice and purpose. If I am a coach picking kids for a baseball team I have to make choices to pick some kids and not pick other kids. I can’t put everyone on my team – in this sense, according to our purpose as coaches to create good, equitable teams that can be competitive and having fun too – we lovesome kids by choosing them for our team and, to use the language of the text, we hate or do not choose other kids for our team. That does not mean these choices do not have emotion in them as we see with David. But our experience is not the final authority of the will and purpose of God. Certainly it can be confusing to figure out God’s purpose and how it works itself out in the confusion of human brokenness but that simply shows how brilliant God is to put his fingerprints on the ebb and flow of the human condition. In spite of our brokenness, scheming, manipulating plans (Jacob and his mom – e.g. Genesis 25:27-34), God ultimately works out His perfect purpose and will. It looks messy and hard to understand at times but God is not like us who flounder and worry and have anxiety attacks because we are desperate to “work things out for our good” because God is working out everything in our life for His glory.
Application– this blog or article may all sound a little ambiguous to this point and somewhat removed from your own daily routine but let me challenge you on this. Every day we can choose to love God or hate God by what we choose to do or not do.
When we obey God we are choosing to love Him. When we disobey God then we choose to hate Him. Even if our sin is unintentional we have chosen to act in a way that “hates” God because we choose something that is not according to His will. We can repent, confess our sin and this is choosing to agree with God about our sin and change our ways so they conform to His expectations of righteousness and holiness; this is an act of loving God. This “hating and loving” is not just external. We can have an attitude that is “hateful” towards God when we carry around with us an unforgiving spirit. I am reminded from the Lord’s Prayer that God will forgive us as we forgive our debtors. God takes our choices to love and hate Him pretty seriously and because we are His children He will discipline or confront us on behavior that is hateful towards Him or His family.
May you find comfort and joy in loving God (and not hating Him) in your daily walk with Him.
In His grace,