"Gray hair is crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city."
In 2 Samuel 19 and 20 there is a fascinating story that relates to this proverb. In chapter nineteen king David, who had been forced into exile by his son Absalom, returns to Jerusalem after Joab had defeated David's enemies. Upon his return David is met by those who helped him in his exile and also by those who were opposed to him as he left Jerusalem. Through all of this David displayed great kindness to his friends and also great mercy to his enemies.
Then near the end of this chapter all of the men of Israel came to the king and said, "Why have our brothers the men of Judah stolen away and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all of David's men with him?" It appears that the men of Israel felt a bit slighted by their brothers in Judah for escorting the king home without them.
To this the men of Judah responded, "Because the king is our close relative. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king's expense? Or has he given us any gift?" With this response Judah and Israel began to argue among eaeach other. And as the argument escalated we are told that the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.
Then we are told, "There happened to be there a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjaminite. I love how that verse says that he happened to be there as if it was almost by accident. It seems that whenever there is this much tension in a situation there almost always tends to be a man like this present.
We are told that Sheba blew a trumpet and said to the people, "We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!" As a result, the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba.
Let me just say that these types of scenarios are played out everyday. Often times they are played out in individuals, families and small groups and even in churches. This is a picture of a whole nation being caught up in a conflict fueled by emotion and anger. And in this scenario it only took one man to light the fire. As you read this story you can easily find yourself wishing that Judah had been more understanding or that Israel would have not felt as though they had been slighted. Likewise, I often find that in my life there are things that I look back upon and wish I had not reacted as I did or that I would have repented faster so as to avoid a great big issue.
Eventually David sent Joab, his military commander out to find and kill Sheba so that the problem did not get worse. And this brings us to the main point that I would like to address. We are told that Joab came to Abel of Beth-maacah where Sheba was and they began to besieged it. The city had a wall, so it was a fortified city of some sort, and so Joab built a ramp up the wall and began to batter it to throw it down.
I can imagine the fear in the city as the kings army came against it. How would this city be saved from such a thing? No man came forward from in the city to offer a solution: neither young or old. No official of the city seemed to know what to do. Their doom seemed assured. But then an old lady came forward and went upon the wall and called out to be heard. I suppose the men attacking could have ignored her voice but they listened. And so, she asked to talk to Joab. They got their commander and he came. You see, there is even wisdom here in this part. The general could have said that an old woman is of no consideration to him. He could have said that they had come this far so why stop now? He could have said that they would make a spectacle out of the city for harboring such men. But Joab came, listened and entertained her words.
She says some pretty interesting things. She says, "They used to say in former times, 'Let them but ask for counsel at Abel,' and so they settled a matter. I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel,. Why will you swallow up the heritage of the Lord?" Do you remembered how it was said of Sheba that, 'There happened to be there a worthless man'? Notice that it does not say that of this woman. A wise person in a desperate situation is no accident. A wise person such as her is not born out of a moment of desperation but out of a heart devoted to God day in and day out. Her wisdom may have not been heard in days past but on this day she is heard because she had it and no one else did. You almost get the picture that she was the last of a generation of wisdom in this town of which it was once said, "Let them but ask for counsel at Abel, and so the matter is settled." No, wisdom had departed from this town some time ago and now this generation harbored a traitor and he would see this whole town die protecting him.
Joab listened to this woman and said that if they would give up this one man Sheba that they would leave in peace. The woman told Joab that it would be done and so it was. That day the city listened to this old lady and they were saved. We do not know what her name was but what we do know is that she saved this town from sorrow and destruction.
In doing this this lady fulfilled perfectly Proverbs 16:31-32, "Gray hair is crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city." This woman did not come to the city with a sword, spear or a javelin. She did not grab a horn like Sheba in his foolishness. She did not come with anger, arrogance and pride; but with humility and wisdom. And in so doing she saved a city and even restored a whole kingdom. And yet, we do not even know her name.
So I wonder if this city repented and once again became a place where matters could be settled using wisdom? Oh that our families could become places where matters can be settled. Oh that our churches could become places where matters could be settled. Our nation has forsaken its former glory and blazed a new trail away from the Lord. We have broken off from the Lord's anointed and have supposed that He will not follow.
But just a David gave the order to Joab to pursue and overtake that wicked man so too will the Lord one day give His Son the order to return to judge all men. Will He find us faithful or will we be among the wicked?