Last week we got a glimpse of Dancing King David who brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, which would also become known as the City of David. King David might have been “a man after God’s own heart,” but he also had his dark side which we read about today. David’s army was at war, but his is the first time that David had not led his army into battle. He leaves the war to his commanding general, Joab.
With the troops away, King David apparently has too much time on his hands, not to mention a sense of power and entitlement. He spies Bathsheba and sends messengers to bring her to him. The bible says he sleeps with her. Commentaries and other theologians say THEY committed adultery. That kind of language minimizes what actually happened. David used his power; he raped Bathsheba; she ends up pregnant. It goes from bad to much, much worse.
Massive cover-up unfolds. David calls Uriah from the battlefield, expecting that Uriah will go and sleep with Bathsheba in order to conceal David’s guilt. Because of Uriah’s faithfulness to the vows of celibacy he had taken as a soldier in combat, and his pledge of loyalty to God, King David, and his fellow soldiers, he became a problem for the King. Uriah would not even visit his wife until the war was over. He was a man of honor, clearly more honorable than the King.
Frustrated by Uriah’s public display of such personal integrity, David devised another plan to eliminate Uriah. “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest battle, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” David gives the message to Uriah who unknowingly hand-delivers his own execution.
Uriah’s behavior exposed a character flaw of the King. David viewed people as dispensable with a disregard for the welfare of those he he had a sacred duty and responsibility to protect. Uriah, close friend and military officer of the king, ended up a pawn in David’s elaborate cover-up. Perhaps this is why his story and his integrity is generally overlooked. I imagine you all have heard more sermons about David & Bathsheba than you have about Uriah. But the way Uriah lived his life and the integrity that led to his death offers a glimpse into how faithful people might pattern their lives.
Rev. Ronald Peters – President of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. “All deaths are not equal in their social or eternal merit. Somebody who died in a drug deal gone bad trying to make a profit from the misery of others is not the same as someone who died from a firebomb in Afghanistan trying to help make life better for someone else. All deaths are not the same. Since we’re all going to die anyway, doesn’t it make sense to die for something rather than to die for nothing? As Martin Luther King, Jr., was frequently quoted as saying, “The person who has not found something worth dying for has nothing for which to live.” Either we stand for something or we fall for anything.”
Uriah took his faith in God and his allegiance to the King and his fellow citizens seriously. His life reflected an integrity and transparency of faith. How we live this one life that we have been gifted has significance beyond our earthly existence. We will all die one day. Some lives cut too short; some lives end due to the disregard of others; some lives span decades. But how do we want our lives to be remembered? What qualities or characteristics would be said of you? Who did you stand up for?
Moses never made it to the Promised Land; but he led God’s people through the wilderness. How many abolitionists and underground railway workers died before the emancipation proclamation, but saved countless lives due to their faithfulness to risk their own lives? President Abraham Lincoln did not live long enough to help transition this country beyond the original sin of slavery, but how long would it have taken to end slavery if Lincoln had never been elected President?
Mohandas Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated in their quest for equality and justice through non-violent resistance to unjust laws, but continued to inspire people beyond their death. The people who risked their lives to smuggle Jewish children out of Nazi dominated countries; or protect Jewish lives in their own homes. Edie Windsor didn’t get to celebrate the SCOTUS ruling on Marriage Equality last month with her partner Thea Spyer, who died in 2009, but Edie’s challenge to the Supreme Court regarding the Defense of Marriage Act in 2012 helped pave the way for the 14th Amendment signaling Love Wins.
All of these names, and countless others, represent and demonstrate the enormous power and compassion of God at work in their lives because of their integrity and their faith. No matter how limited and hopeless the situation may sometimes appear, you and I, through the integrity of our faith in God as revealed in Jesus, are also able to make a powerful contribution toward improving the quality of life for someone.
There will ALWAYS be those with power and greed and prejudice and disregard for others who end up throwing innocent lives under the bus. We are aware of the complexities we all carry as human beings and acknowledge the capability we have to hurt one another by our actions or by our complicit nature. Because of this knowledge to wound one another we place our lives before God inviting God to give us courage, humility, love and grace to risk our lives on behalf of one another. May the span of our lives reflect the grace of God’s love.
2 Samuel 11
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful.
David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.
When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.”
Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”