FROM VICTORY TO INDIGNITY
Father, I commit this day to you. As I read your Word today, inspire me to do your will with new vision and confidence.
Read 2 SAMUEL 11
David and Bathsheba
11 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents,[a] and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.
18 Joab sent David a full account of the battle. 19 He instructed the messenger: “When you have finished giving the king this account of the battle, 20 the king’s anger may flare up, and he may ask you, ‘Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know they would shoot arrows from the wall? 21 Who killed Abimelek son of Jerub-Besheth[b]? Didn’t a woman drop an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you get so close to the wall?’ If he asks you this, then say to him, ‘Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.’”
22 The messenger set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and came out against us in the open, but we drove them back to the entrance of the city gate. 24 Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king’s men died. Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.”
25 David told the messenger, “Say this to Joab: ‘Don’t let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.’ Say this to encourage Joab.”
26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reflect‘O loving wisdom of our God / When all was sin and shame / a second Adam to the fight and to the rescue came.’ Praise God for our rescue.
Just because you can do a thing doesn’t mean you should. David’s growth in power means there is no one to challenge his actions. His control allows him to take whatever he likes, to scheme and to conclude with a shrug: ‘forget it, it’s not a problem’ (v 25). There are too many similar stories of abuse of power by Christian leaders, bringing ignominy on Christ’s church, trashing their own reputations, and more importantly ruining the lives of victims. The ramifications are huge; one commentator drew a comparison between the consequences of David’s sin and that of Adam and Eve’s.** This is atrocious behavior for anyone, but for God’s anointed king, the one intended to be the guardian of the people’s rights and justice, it is catastrophic. He tumbles rapidly from all-conquering hero (chapter 10) to the curse of chapter 12 (vs 10,11).
The sole contrast to David is faithful Uriah the Hittite, who refuses to bend to David’s tempting offers. Like the centurion applauded by Jesus for his faith (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10), this outsider stands as a rebuke to creeping complacency. The Lord is not happy with David. But as with Jonah and Peter and Thomas and with us, although there are inevitable and sad consequences of sin, God continues to work even with displeasing people.
In what ways are you like David and in what ways like Uriah?
Holy Spirit, plant the words of Scripture deep in my heart. Help me to think and feel and do what is right as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.
*‘Praise to the Holiest in the Height’, John Henry Newman 1865
**Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel (John Knox Press, 1990), 272.
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