Mercy and Justice


And the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders about Absalom.

So the army went out into the field against Israel, and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. And the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the loss there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword.

And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. And a certain man saw it and told Joab, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king’s son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake protect the young man Absalom.’ On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him. II Samuel 18:5-15 ESV

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. Psalm 130:1-4 ESV


Mark had been kicking his soccer ball around in the house, when he kicked it a little wild and the ball went right through a window! Mark’s parents had a rule that he couldn’t throw or kick balls in the house, and he had broken that rule. When they saw the broken window, they were very angry with Mark. But Mark was sorry for what he had done, and he told his mom and dad how sorry he was. They stopped being angry with him and forgave him. But they still disciplined him by making him work to pay for the broken window. Mark’s parents had mercy on him by loving him and forgiving him for what he had done wrong, but they also showed justice by making him pay for what he did.

David and Joab had two different ideas about how to treat Absalom in battle. David loved his son and wanted only mercy for him. Even though Absalom was trying to steal David’s kingdom and wanted to kill his own father, David didn’t want his son to be killed. He told all the troops to spare Absalom’s life. On the other hand, Joab only wanted justice. Absalom had rebelled against his king and set up an army against him, and for that he deserved to die. Joab didn’t listen to what David said, but instead he made sure Absalom got justice. He knew that as long as Absalom lived he would be a danger to David and to David’s kingdom, so he killed Absalom.

It can sometimes be hard to show mercy and justice at the same time, but both mercy and justice are very important. Only God shows perfect mercy and justice. If God gave us what we deserved for our sins, we would be in serious trouble! We deserve to be separated from God forever in hell because of the way we’ve rebelled against him. But God shows us incredible mercy by forgiving our sins and not punishing us the way we deserve. At the same time God also shows perfect justice. He sent Jesus to take the punishment for all the sins of the world on himself. Jesus took our sins to the cross and paid for them there, and so the cross is the place that perfect love met perfect justice. At the cross we see God’s judgment on sin and evil, but at the same time we see God’s merciful love for all people.


Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for you great mercy for forgiving our sins for Jesus’ sake. In His Name, Amen.