Jacob, Deborah and Barak, David, Nehemiah, and Paul are all recorded in Scripture as leaving behind an assessment of the lives and service of others. Jacob has left an assessment of his family (Gen 49); Deborah and Barak of the behaviour of the tribes during the battle with Jabin and Sisera (Judg 5); Nehemiah of the work of the wall builders (Neh 3), and Paul of other saints who were known to him (Rom 16). Towards the end of his reign David also left such a record, listing those who had been his "mighty men", those who had been faithful to him even when he was a fugitive. They had put their trust in him when Saul was on the throne and served him well in days of adversity. Much in that list demands our attention. We are surprised at some of the omissions and also at some of the inclusions. The inclusion of Asahel teaches us an interesting lesson.
Asahel was the son of Zeruiah, Davids sister, and he had two brothers, Abishai and Joab. These three men were all servants of David and we are not, therefore, taken aback to see the name of Asahel on the list. It is significant, however, that the name of Joab, the brother of Asahel, is not recorded, even although he gained much more prominence than his brother. He was the captain of Davids armies and won many famous victories for the king. He proved himself to be a general of great ability. He was, nevertheless, a man who loved himself first, and it is doubtful if he ever had a deep love for David. Read his history and you will see that the sword was his answer to every problem. Abner (2 Sam 3.27), Absalom, whom he slew in defiance of David (2 Sam 18.14-15), and Amasa (2 Sam 20.9-10) all fell before him. He did what was necessary to bring himself to a place of prominence and he ensured that his place was never challenged. His later conduct proved how right David was in excluding him from a place with his "mighty men". He appeared to be so prominent and successful, but received no mention in this illustrious list. His works, although outwardly outstanding, did not merit reward because his motive was wrong.
It is also worthy of note that Asahel died a relatively young man. He was strong, "as light of foot as a wild roe" (2 Sam 2.18), and amongst the valiant men of Davids army (1 Chr 11.26). Little is recorded of what he did. David appointed him as captain over the fourth division of the army (1 Chr 27.7) but it is unlikely that he lived long enough to take up that post. The fact that Zebediah, his son, is mentioned in this connection as "his son after him" makes it likely that when he came of age he filled the post intended for his father. Asahel was slain by Abner (2 Sam 2.18-24) during the troubled times which followed the death of Saul, after David became king of Judah. He never lived to see David on the throne of a united Israel, nor did he live through Davids great days of victory. Could one, cut off apparently before his great potential was realised, have accomplished anything of note for David? But for the record left by David he might have been written off as one over whose life could be written, "What might have been".
It is encouraging to see that over the long years of his reign David did not forget Asahel or his faithfulness. Joab lived throughout those years and is excluded from the list; Asahel was cut off in younger life and was included. Short years of service do not mean that reward will be lost, nor do lengthened days alone guarantee that our lives have been of greater value. The vital point at issue is not how long we serve, but how we serve in the days given to us.
Let us take heart and live so that our lives are worthy of reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ, knowing that He is assessing every day of service. His reward will not be dependent on how long or how prominent was our service. It will be based on our faithfulness and devotion to Him in the time when we are privileged to serve Him.