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Joab Speaks Truth to Power

The concept of “speak truth to power” is the idea of boldly telling the truth to those in positions of authority. This is an important idea. It embodies the notion that individuals have a responsibility to challenge and question those in power, advocating for justice, accountability, and transparency. Speaking truth to power is often seen as an essential component of democracy, enabling the pursuit of positive change and holding leaders accountable for their actions.

We find an example of this in Scripture in 2 Samuel 19 where king David, shamefully, mourns over the loss of his son who had rebelled against him, to the embarrassment of the nation. Joab calls him out. “Then Joab came into the house of the king and said, ‘Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, in that you love your enemies and hate your friends…for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well.” (2 Samuel 19:5-6).

Joab spoke truth to power. And the king listened.

It made me wonder if we have those around us, and if we ourselves are willing, to speak boldly the truth to those in positions of authority when they need to hear it. Many leaders create a culture where dissenting voices are not allowed. Rather, they surround themselves with “yes men” and “yes women” who will simply do what they are told and never point out those things that appear wrong.

This can be a problem in churches too. Are there elders, or is there a pastor, who does not invite honest and hard truth about their ministry to be spoken to them? Churches need people willing to, in a respectful and appropriate manner, “speak truth to power.”

This should be true in our homes as well. Is there open and honest communication between spouses, and children with their parents? Or have we created homes where any questioning of decisions is not allowed. To question authority is not to resist authority. Our homes should be places safe enough for questions to be raised about the behaviors and expectations of those who lead.

But for me the personal application I’m thinking about is whether or not I am someone that is approachable and humble enough to receive the type of sharp criticism that I sometimes need. There are small areas in life where the Lord has given me “power” or responsibility. Can those whom I oversee safely object to my plans or behavior? If not, something is wrong. And I’m likely to make far more mistakes in life than I otherwise would.

To David’s credit, he heard Joab and responded immediately. As a result, he united the nation and restored his reputation as king. Would I respond so willingly and readily if someone spoke like that to me?

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