David and Uriah (2 Samuel 11:5-27)
Twenty-five years ago, hotel personnel noticed that a stairwell door lock had been taped in the open position. Three police officers responded to find five unauthorized individuals inside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Burglars had broken in to readjust some of the bugging equipment installed in an earlier break-in in May. Documents of the Democratic National Committee had been photographed in the first break-in.
No one really seemed able to explain just what these burglars expected to gain from their crime. Whatever it was, if there had been an honest confession of all that was done and what they were attempting to do, it may have been taken as a minor crime of political intrigue with minimal impact. It was the attempt to cover up the crime which led to massive repercussions. Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, was forced to resign amid talk of impeachment. A number of his closest associates were indicted, convicted, and sentenced to prison terms.
Throughout history, many attempts have been made to cover up incompetence, immorality, and even crimes. In the Bible, cover-ups appear very early. Adam and Eve sought to cover their nakedness and to hide from God, not realizing their efforts betrayed their sin and guilt. Our lesson from 2 Samuel 11 is one of the great cover-up attempts of all time, and like so many, it too fails miserably.
Our previous lesson attempted to explain David's sin with Bathsheba in a way that placed the guilt squarely upon David, and not upon Bathsheba. This was all of David's doing, not due to temptation or seduction on Bathsheba's part, but because of arrogance, lust, and greed on David's part. David had no desire for Bathsheba to become his wife, or even to carry on an adulterous affair with her. He sought one night's pleasure, and she went home. That was that, or so it seemed. But then David received word from Bathsheba that this one night resulted in Bathsheba's pregnancy. Our text takes up here with the account of David's desperate attempt to cover up his sin with Bathsheba. As we all know, it did not work, and it only made matters worse.
The story of David and Uriah reminds me of the story of the “Sorcerer's Apprentice.” It has been awhile, but as I remember the plot (probably the Walt Disney version), the sorcerer goes away, leaving his apprentice behind to do his chores. The apprentice gets the bright idea that the work would be a whole lot easier if he used his master's magical arts so he could sit back and watch other powers at work. The problem was that he didn't know how to stop what he started, and so more and more helpers came on the scene as the apprentice tried to reverse the process.
At this point in time, David's life is very similar. He begins to stack one sin upon another, certain that each one will somehow wipe out visibility of the previous sin. Instead, his sins only multiply. More and more people become aware of his sin, and a cover up becomes impossible. Many lessons can be learned from this tragic episode of David's life, which if heeded, will keep us from duplicating them in our own lives. May the Spirit of God open our ears and our hearts to listen and learn from David's attempt to cover up his sin with Bathsheba.
In our first lesson, we devoted our attention to the first four verses of chapter 11, which depict David's sin of adultery with Bathsheba. I sought to demonstrate that this sin was all of David's doing. The author points his accusing finger at David, not Bathsheba. It was not Bathsheba's indiscretion in bathing herself (as I understand this story), for she was simply obeying the ritual of purification outlined in the law. It was David who, by means of his lofty elevation and view, looked inappropriately at Bathsheba, violating her privacy. I endeavored to demonstrate that David's sin with Bathsheba was the result of a sequence of wrong decisions and attitudes on David's part. In one sense, being on the path he was, his destination (of adultery, or something like it) was to be expected. His sins of omission finally blossomed and came into full bloom.
One of the tragic aspects of our story is that the sequence of sin in David's life does not end with his adulterous union with Bathsheba. It leads to a deceptive plot to make her husband Uriah appear to be the father of David's child with Bathsheba and culminates in David's murder of Uriah and his marriage to Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. As we take up where we left off in our last lesson, a few more bits of background information are vital to our understanding of this text.
(1) It seems likely that David and Uriah are hardly strangers, but that they know each other, to some degree at least. Uriah is listed among the mighty warriors of David (2 Samuel 23:39; 1 Chronicles 11:41). Some of the “mighty men” came to David early, while he was in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1-2), and we suspect that among them were Joab, Abishai, and Asahel, the three brothers who were mighty men (see 2 Samuel 23:18, 24; 1 Chronicles 11:26).39 Others joined David at Ziklag (1 Chronicles 12:1ff.), and still other great warriors joined with David at Hebron (1 Chronicles 12:38-40).40 We do not know when and where Uriah joined with David, but since his military career ends in 2 Samuel 12, his military feats must have been done earlier. It seems very unlikely that David and Uriah are strangers; rather, it would seem these two men know each other from fighting together, and perhaps even from fleeing Saul together.
(2) It seems unlikely that Uriah is ignorant of what David has done and of what he is trying to accomplish by calling him home to Jerusalem. Rumors must have been circulating around Jerusalem about David and Bathsheba, and could easily have reached the Israelite army which had besieged Rabbah. Uriah not only refuses to go to his house and sleep with his wife, he sleeps at the doorway of the king's house, in the midst of his servants. He has many witnesses to testify that any child borne by his wife during this time is not his child. It is clear that Uriah understands exactly what David wants him to do (to have sex with his wife), and that he refuses, even when the king virtually orders him to do so. One finds this difficult to explain if Uriah is ignorant of what happened between David and Bathsheba. At least Uriah knows what David is trying to get him to do on this stay in Jerusalem. The implications of all this we will explore later.
(3) Bathsheba is not said to have any part in David's scheme to deceive Uriah or to bring about his death, much less any knowledge of what David is doing. When she informs David that she is pregnant, David takes decisive action, but nowhere are we told that Bathsheba has a part in his schemes. Verse 26 makes it sound as though she learns of Uriah's death after the fact, through normal channels. After all, would David really want his new wife to know he murdered her husband? David acts without Bathsheba's help.
A Problem Pregnancy
It looks as though Bathsheba never enters David's mind after their encounter described in verses 1-4. It certainly does not seem that David wants to continue the relationship, to carry on an affair, or to marry her. David simply puts this sinful event out of his mind, until a messenger is sent by Bathsheba informing the king that his night of passion has produced a child. Bathsheba informs David that she is pregnant, not that she is afraid she might be. This means that she has missed at least one period and probably another. All in all, several weeks or more have passed. It will not be long before her pregnancy will become obvious to anyone who looks at her. This is David's sin and his responsibility, and so she informs him.
Plan A: Enable Uriah To Do What Comes Naturally
David's plan is simple and, at least in his mind, foolproof. In short, David will entice Uriah to think and to act as he himself has done. David does not wish to endure the adversities of the war with Rabbah, and so he goes to Jerusalem, to his home, and to his bed. He does not wish to deny himself, so he takes the wife of another man and sleeps with her. David will give Uriah the same opportunity, except that it will be his own wife he will sleep with. After Uriah has sexual relations with Bathsheba, all will conclude that he is the father of the child which has been conceived by David's sinful act. Only one thing is wrong with David's plan: he assumes Uriah is as spiritually apathetic as he, and that he will act to indulge himself, rather than act like a soldier at war.
David sends word to Joab, ordering him to send Uriah home to Jerusalem. I take it from the context that Uriah is sent to Jerusalem on the pretext that he is needed to report directly to David on the state of the war. I doubt David wants Uriah to know he has ordered Joab to send him. I am certain David does not want Uriah to know the real purpose of his journey to Jerusalem. David is orchestrating this homecoming to appear as though it serves one purpose, while it actually serves David's purpose of concealing his own sin. Even at this level, the order for Uriah to return home has a bad odor. You may remember that when David's father wanted to know how the battle with the Philistines was going (three of his sons were involved), he sent David, the youngest son, as an errand boy to take some supplies and return with word about the war (1 Samuel 17:17-19). One does not need to send a military hero as a messenger (nor is it good practice).
I should also add that Joab is already being drawn into the conspiracy. Joab obeys David's command to send Uriah, and my guess is that Joab knows something is up. He may even have heard about David's liaison with Bathsheba. When he sends Uriah to Jerusalem, he has to give him some mission, some task to perform. Joab and Uriah may have sensed that this was no “mission impossible” (as you would give a mighty warrior), but that is a “mission incredible.” In any case, the web of deceit and deception is already being woven, and more people are being drawn into the conspiracy.
When Uriah arrives in Jerusalem, he reports to David, who acts out the charade he has planned. He asks Uriah about the “welfare of Joab and the people,” and the “state of the war.” It troubles me that David needs such a report at all. If he were with his men in the field, this would not be necessary. But even worse, David does not really care about Joab, the people, or the war. David's one preoccupation is to cover up his sin, to get Uriah home and to bed with his wife, and thus to get David off the hook. How sad to read of David's hypocrisy. The king who had compassion on the crippled son of Jonathan now lacks compassion for the whole army, and specifically for Bathsheba and her husband Uriah.
David goes through all the right motions with Uriah. He listens to his reports, and then he gives him the night off, some time to go to his house and “wash his feet.” David is not worried about this soldier's personal hygiene; he is worried about his own reputation. When one entered his house, he usually took off his shoes and washed his feet, in preparation for eating and for going to bed. David very delicately encourages this man to go home and go to bed with his wife. Uriah knows it; our author knows it; and we know it.
Uriah leaves David's presence. Now David adds a further touch. He sends a “present from the king” after, or with, Uriah. How we would love to know just what that “gift” was. Was it a night for two at the Jerusalem Hilton? Was it dinner and dancing at a romantic restaurant? I think we can safely say this: (1) We are not told what the present was. (2) We are not supposed to know, or it would not add to the story for us to know what it was. (3) Whatever it was, it was very carefully planned to facilitate David's scheme of getting Uriah to bed with his wife, as quickly as possible.
Uriah has to understand what the king is suggesting. Who wouldn't want to go home and enjoy his wife after some time of separation, thanks to the war with the Ammonites? Instead, we are told that Uriah never leaves the king's house. He sleeps in the doorway of the king's house, in the presence of a number of the king's servants. I am inclined to understand that at least some of these servants, if not all of them, are the king's bodyguards (compare 1 Kings 14:27-28). Uriah is a soldier. He has been called to his king's presence, away from the battle. But as a faithful servant of the king, he will not enjoy a night alone with his wife; instead, he will join with those who guard the king's life. This is the way he can serve his king in Jerusalem, and so this is what he chooses to do rather than to go home. The irony is overwhelming. The king's faithful soldier spends the night guarding the life of the king, the king who has taken his own wife in the night, and who will soon take his life as well.
Plan B: Be Clearer and More Emphatic With Uriah
David has his spies watching Uriah as though he is the enemy. They know what David wants; he wants Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife. If they do not know all of the details of what David has done with Bathsheba (which is hard to believe) and what he intends to accomplish by Uriah's visit, they certainly know something out of the ordinary is taking place. One way or the other, David is making these servant-spies co-conspirators with him.
The servant-spies come to David in the morning with an amazing report: “He didn't do it. He didn't even go home!” David then seeks to gently rebuke Uriah. The hypocrisy of David's actions and words are hard to accept. He plays the role of a benevolent master. Uriah, his servant, has “come home from a journey” (verse 10). Is this not the time for him to concern himself with his needs and desires? Is this not the time to concern himself with his wife's needs? How insensitive of Uriah not to go home to be with his wife and to sleep with her. “Shame on you, Uriah!” Uriah has a lot of explaining to do, or so it seems to David.
And explain he does; Uriah's words to his commander-in-chief are as stinging a rebuke as David receives from Nathan in the next chapter. Uriah clearly understands that what David once encouraged him to do (i.e. go to be with his wife) he is now strongly urging -- even commanding -- him to do. Uriah humbly but steadfastly refuses to do this:
Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, 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? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing” (2 Samuel 11:11).
Uriah first points out to David that his terminology is inaccurate. David speaks of Uriah returning from a journey (verse 10). The truth is that Uriah has been called from the field of battle. He is not a traveling salesman, home from a road trip; he is a soldier, away from his post. In heart and soul, Uriah is still with his fellow-soldiers. He really wants to be back in the field of battle, and not in Jerusalem. He will return as soon as David releases him (see verse 12). Until that time, he will think and act like the soldier he is. As much as possible, he will live the way his fellow-soldiers are living on the field of battle. There, surrounding the city of Rabbah, are the Israelite soldiers, led by Joab. They, along with the ark of the Lord, are camping in tents in the open field. Uriah cannot, Uriah will not, live in luxury while they live sacrificially. He will not sleep with his wife until they can all sleep with their wives.
With all due respect, Uriah declines -- indeed Uriah refuses -- to do that which would be conduct unbefitting a soldier, let alone a war hero. I think it is important to see that there is no specific command here which Uriah refuses to disobey. To my knowledge, there is no specific law in the Law of Moses which forbids a soldier to have sex with his wife during times of war. (Had this been true in the earlier days of Israel's history, there would not have been another generation of Israelites, since Israel was almost constantly at war with one of their neighbors.) This is the conviction of Uriah as a soldier, and he will not violate his conscience, even when commanded to do so by the king.
To fully grasp the impact of Uriah's words, let us turn back a few pages in Samuel's writings to recall David's own words, spoken to Ahimelech the priest, as they relate to this encounter with Uriah:
1 Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest; and Ahimelech came trembling to meet David and said to him, “Why are you alone and no one with you?” 2 David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has commissioned me with a matter and has said to me, 'Let no one know anything about the matter on which I am sending you and with which I have commissioned you; and I have directed the young men to a certain place.' 3 “Now therefore, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever can be found.” 4 The priest answered David and said, “There is no ordinary bread on hand, but there is consecrated bread; if only the young men have kept themselves from women.” 5 David answered the priest and said to him, “Surely women have been kept from us as previously when I set out and the vessels of the young men were holy, though it was an ordinary journey; how much more then today will their vessels be holy?” (1 Samuel 21:1-5).
You may remember that when David first fled from Saul he went to Ahimelech the priest and asked for some provisions and a sword. The priest had nothing but the sacred bread, which he would allow David and his men to eat, if they had only “kept themselves from women” (verse 4). The priest assumes they may have conducted themselves otherwise. David's answer, and especially the tone of it, is very pertinent to our text. He confidently assured the priest that he and his men had kept themselves from women, almost incensed that the priest would think otherwise. And the reason David gives is that he and his men are on a mission for the king. The inference is that this is a military (or at least official) mission.
Now here is a most amazing thing. David, years earlier, was adamant about the fact that those on a mission for the king should keep themselves from sexual intercourse. Now, years later, David is amazed that a man on a mission for the king is willing to abstain from sexual intercourse with his wife. Worse yet, David sets out to convince -- even to compel -- Uriah to go to do so, even though it will cause him to violate his conscience. This is not “causing a weaker brother to stumble;” this is cutting off a stronger brother's legs at the knee. Uriah is an example of the commitment expected of every soldier, and of David in particular -- at least the David of the past. Uriah is now acting like the David we knew from earlier days. Uriah is the “David” that David should be.
Uriah's words should have shocked David into a realization of the depth of his sin. The author uses these words in an ironically pivotal way. Uriah has just told David that he will not go to his own house, that he will not eat and drink and sleep with his wife.41 He has put this matter emphatically: “By your life, and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing” (verse 11). In the very next verses, David compels Uriah to “eat and drink” with him, with the hope that he will lie with his wife. And when Uriah swears by the life of the king that he will not do so, the king ends up taking Uriah's life. How ironic! How tragic!
Plan C: Get Uriah to Do Drunk What He Will Not Do Sober
David is getting desperate. David has not even entertained the possibility that Uriah will refuse his offer. Uriah speaks with such conviction, David knows that he will never violate his duty as a soldier with all of his mental faculties. David lands upon one last modification to his original plan -- get Uriah drunk and then into bed with his wife. After all, don't people do things when they are drunk that they will not do when sober? This will surely bring about David's intended outcome.
It must be with great apprehension that Uriah joins David for dinner this last night in Jerusalem. David begins to eat and to drink, and he will not take no for an answer when he offers food and drink to Uriah. Eventually, it works, for David makes sure that Uriah has enough alcohol in his system to make him drunk. And in this condition, David sends Uriah home to “sleep it off,” in his own bed, of course. Even drunk, Uriah will not violate his conscience!42 Once again, Uriah spends the night at the doorway of David's house, along with his servants. He does not go to his own house, and thus he does not sleep with his wife. David is in trouble.
Plan C: In Desperation, David Has Uriah Put To Death
David has set out on a course of action that backfires. He intends to put Uriah in a position that will make it appear that he is the father of Bathsheba's child. But Uriah's conduct has publicly exhibited his loyalty to his duties as a soldier, making it more than evident that he cannot possibly be the father of this child. It is worse for David now than it had been when he summoned Uriah to Jerusalem. David concludes -- wrongly -- that his only course of action now is to have Uriah killed in action. I don't know that David actually thinks he can deceive the people of Jerusalem as to whose child Bathsheba's baby is. How can he when everyone knows Uriah has never been with his wife to get her pregnant? It seems now as though David is simply trying to legitimize his sin. By making Uriah a casualty of war, he makes Bathsheba a widow. He can now marry this woman and raise the child as his own, which of course it is.
It must be an agonizing night for David, seeing that even drunk Uriah is a better man than he. And so in the morning, David acts. He writes a letter to Joab, which will serve as Uriah's death warrant. In this letter David clearly orders Joab to murder Uriah for him. He even tells him how to do so in a way that might conceal the truth of the matter. In so doing, David will honor Uriah as a war hero, and magnanimously take on the duty of being a husband to Uriah's wife, also taking care of the child she is soon to bear. Joab is to put Uriah on the front lines of battle, at the fiercest place of battle, no surprise for a man of his military skills and courage. Joab is to attack and then retreat in such a way as to make Uriah an easy target for the Ammonites, thus assuring his death. There is no mistaking David's orders to Uriah: he wants Uriah killed in a way which makes it look like a simple casualty of war. Joab complies completely with David's orders, and Uriah is eliminated, no longer an obstacle to David's plans. In giving this order to Joab, David makes him a part of this conspiracy, making him share the guilt for the spilled blood of Uriah. David's sin continues to encompass more and more people, leading to greater and greater sin.
How strange it is to see David, the mighty man of valor, (1 Samuel 16:18) dealing with Uriah, another mighty man of valor, like the enemy. Here is Uriah, a man who will give his life for his king, and David, a man who is now willing to take Uriah's life to cover his sin. We all know that it doesn’t work. How strange it is to see David making Joab his partner in crime, especially after what Joab has done to Abner:
26 When Joab came out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah; but David did not know it. 27 So when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the middle of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the belly so that he died on account of the blood of Asahel his brother. 28 Afterward when David heard it, he said, “I and my kingdom are innocent before the LORD forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 “May it fall on the head of Joab and on all his father's house; and may there not fail from the house of Joab one who has a discharge, or who is a leper, or who takes hold of a distaff, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks bread.” 30 So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon (2 Samuel 3:26-30).
David condemned Joab and put him under a curse because he shed the innocent blood of Abner. Now, this same David (well, not really the same David) now uses Joab to kill Uriah and get him out of his way. David's enemy (Joab) has become his friend, or at least his ally. David's enemies (the Ammonites) have become his allies (they fire the fatal shots which kill Uriah). And David's faithful servant Uriah has been put to death as though he were the enemy. Not only is Uriah put to death, but a number of other Israelite warriors die with him. They have to be sacrificed to conceal the murder of Uriah. Uriah's death has to be viewed as one of a group of men, rather than merely one man. Without a doubt, this is the moral and spiritual low-water mark of David's life.
Joab Handles a P.R. Problem
These eight verses, devoted to the way in which Uriah's death is reported, are double the length of the account of David's sin with Bathsheba. They virtually equal the length of the account of David's dealings with Uriah. These verses begin with Joab's careful instructions to the messenger, who is to bring the news of Uriah's death to David. They conclude with the messenger's actual report and David's response to it. Why does the author devote so much time and space to the way in which Uriah's death is reported to David? Let us see if we can find the answer to this question as we look more closely at these verses.
Mission accomplished: Uriah is dead. Joab has carried out David's instructions to the letter. Now Joab must send word to David, in a way that does not completely disclose this conspiracy. Joab calls for a messenger to go to David. He gives very exacting instructions to him. He is first to give a full and complete report of the events of the war, including the ill-fated attack on the city, and the slaughter of Uriah and those with him. Why is how the messenger reports this incident so important?
The answer is quite simple, as is evident by Joab's own concerns. The entire mission is a fiasco. The Israelites have besieged the city of Rabbah. This means they surround the city, giving the people no way in or out of the city. All the Israelites have to do is wait them out and starve them out. There is no need for any attack. The mission is a suicide mission from the outset, and it does not take a genius to see it for what it is. Joab has to assemble a group of mighty men, like Uriah, and including Uriah, to wage an attack on the city. This attack is not at the enemy's weakest point, as we would expect, but at the strongest point. This attack provokes a counter-attack by the Ammonites against Uriah and those with him. When the Israelite army draws back from their own men, they leave them defenseless, and the obvious result is a slaughter. How can one possibly report this fiasco in a way that doesn’t make Joab look like a fool (at best), or a murderer (at worst)?
This the reason for Joab's careful instructions to the messenger. He is to report the attack on the city of Rabbah to David, and then tell of the Israelite losses which result. Joab knows that David will react (perhaps hypocritically) to the report of the attack and the resulting losses. It is at this point, Joab instructs the messenger, that he is to inform David of the death of Uriah. This will certainly end any protest or criticism on David's part.
And so in verses 22-25 we are given an account of the messenger's arrival, of his report to David, and of David's response. I must point out that the messenger does not do as he is told, at least the way I read the account. The messenger goes to David and tells the king how the Ammonites prevailed against them as they left the city and pursued the Israelites into the open field. The Israelites then pursued the Ammonites, pushing them back toward the city as far as the city gate. It was here that Uriah and those with him were fighting. It was here that they were within range of the archers, who shot at them and killed a number of servants. And quickly the servant adds, “and your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead” (verse 14).
Now why does this messenger not wait for David to respond in anger, as Joab instructed? Why does he inform David that Uriah has been killed, before he even utters a word of criticism or protest? I believe the messenger gives the report in this way because he understands what is really going on here. I think he may know about David and Bathsheba, and perhaps even of her pregnancy. He certainly knows that Uriah was summoned to Jerusalem. I think he also figures out that David wants to get rid of Uriah, and that Joab has accomplished this by this miserable excuse for an offensive against the enemy. I think the messenger figures out that if David knows Uriah has been killed, he will not raise any objections to this needless slaughter. And so, rather than wait for David to hypocritically rant and rave about the stupidity of such a move, he just goes on and tells him first, so that he will not receive any reaction from David.
And the servant is absolutely right, as the verse 25 indicates:
Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab, 'Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another; make your battle against the city stronger and overthrow it'; and so encourage him” (2 Samuel 11:25).
These words of David are the frosting on the cake. They seem gracious and understanding, even sympathetic. In effect, David is saying, “Well, don't worry about it. After all, you win a few, and you lose a few. That's the way it goes.” Uriah, a great warrior and a man of godly character, has just died, and David does not express one word of grief, one expression of sorrow, not one word of tribute. Uriah dies, and David is unmoved. Contrast his response to the death of Uriah with his responses to the deaths of Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:11-27), and even of Abner (2 Samuel 3:28-39). This is not the David of a few chapters earlier. This is a hardened, callused David, callused by his own sin.
Our text has many applications and implications for today. Let me suggest a few as I conclude this lesson.
First, “Can a Christian fall?” Yes. Some folks in the Bible may cause us to question whether they really ever came to faith in God, folks like Balaam or Samson or Saul. But we have no such questions regarding David. He is not only a believer, he is a model believer. In the Bible, David sets the standard because he is a man after God's heart. Nevertheless, this man David, in spite of his trust in God, in spite of his marvelous times of worship and his beautiful psalms, falls deeply into sin. If David can fall, so can we, which is precisely what Paul warns us about:
11 Now these things happened to them as an example were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
Second, “How far can a Christian fall?” This far. David not only commits the sin of adultery, he commits murder. I think it is safe to say that there is no sin of which the Christian is not capable in the flesh. I have heard people say, “I don't know how a person who _______ could have ever been a Christian.” There are times -- like this time for David -- when others will hardly know we are saved by the testimony of our actions.
Third, “How fast can a Christian fall?” This fast. It is amazing how quickly David falls into the sins depicted in this one chapter. Apart from God's sustaining grace, we can fall very far, very quickly. Let us be reminded of this fact from David's tragic experience.
Fourth, sin snowballs. Sin is not stagnant; it is not static. Sin grows. Look at the progression of sin in our text. David's sin starts when he ceases to act like a soldier and becomes a late sleeper. David's sin grows from adultery to murder. His sin begins very privately, but as the story progresses, more and more people become aware of it, and worse yet, more and more people become participants in it. His sin first acted out by his taking another man's wife, and then taking her husband's life, and along with his life, the lives of a number of men who must die with him to make his death credible. David's sin blossoms so that it transforms a true and loyal friend (Uriah) to his enemy, and his enemies (the Ammonites, and in some senses, Joab) into his allies.
Fifth, when we seek to conceal our sin, things only get worse. Thus, the best course of action is to confess our sins and to forsake them.
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion (Proverbs 28:13).
How much better it would have been for David simply to have confessed his sin with Bathsheba and found forgiveness then, but he tries to cover up his sin, and it only makes matters worse.
Man has been seeking to cover up his sins ever since the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve thought they could cover their sins by hiding their nakedness, and if not this, by hiding themselves from God. But God lovingly sought them out, not only to rebuke them and to pronounce curses upon them, but to give them the promise of forgiveness. It was God who provided a covering for their sins. The sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is God's provision for covering our sins. Have you experienced it, my friend? If not, why not confess your sin now and receive God's gift of forgiveness in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary?
Sixth, our text makes Uriah a hero and a model, not a chump and not a sucker. There are those who might conclude that Uriah's elevator may not “go to the top floor” (as my neighbor used to say of those she considered less than bright). Is Uriah gullible? Is he ignorant of what David is trying to do? I don't think so. This is what makes his loyalty to David and to God's Law so striking. I think it is safe to say that here Uriah is very much like David in his earlier days, in terms of his response to Saul. As Saul sought to kill David unjustly, because he was jealous of his successes, so also David submitted himself to faithfully serving Saul, his master. He left his safety and future in God's hands, and God did not fail him.
Seventh, Uriah is a reminder to us that God does not always deliver the righteous from the hand of the wicked immediately, or even in this lifetime. Daniel's three friends told the king that their God was able to deliver them. They did not presume that He would, or that He must. And God did deliver them. I think Christians look upon this deliverance as the rule, rather than the exception. But when Uriah faithfully serves his king (David), he loses his life. God is not obliged to “bail us out of trouble” or to keep us from trials and tribulations just because we trust in Him. Sometimes it is the will of God for men to trust fully in Him and to submit to human government, and still to suffer adversity, from which God may not deliver us. Spirituality is no guarantee that we will no longer suffer in this life. In fact, spiritual intimacy with God is often the result of our sufferings (see Matthew 5).
In the Old Testament, as in the New, God sometimes delivers His people from the hands of wicked men, but often He does not. Their “deliverance” comes with the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Uriah, like all of the Old Testament saints of old, died without receiving his full reward, and that is because God wanted him to wait. Uriah, like many of the Old Testament saints, was not delivered from the hands of the wicked. This is pointed out by the author of Hebrews:
13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. . . . 32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect (Hebrews 11:13-16, 32-40).
Uriah should not be criticized or looked down upon for his loyalty and submission to David. He should be highly commended. In fact, a friend suggested a new thought for my consideration: “Suppose that Uriah was added to the list of war heroes because of his loyalty and courage in this battle which cost him his life? It is a possibility to consider. Uriah is one of those Gentile converts whose faith and obedience puts many Israelites to shame. He is among many of those who have trusted and obeyed God who have not received their just rewards in this life, but who will be rewarded in the coming kingdom of God. Too many Christians today want their blessings “now” and are not willing to suffer, waiting for their reward then. Let them think carefully about the example of Uriah for their own lives.
39 We know that while David was at the cave of Adullam, his brothers and all his father’s household, along with others in distress, came to David there, fearing the wrath of Saul (1 Samuel 22:1-2). Joab, Abishai, and Asahel were all the sons of Zeruiah, the sister of David (1 Chronicles 2:16). I infer from this that these three men joined David at the time his family joined him.
42 Uriah’s actions raise some interesting questions about those who get themselves drunk. It seems to me that our text strongly implies that even drunk, a man cannot be forced to violate his convictions, unless of course he wants to do so. I wonder how many people get drunk because they want to do what they do drunk, and they think they can blame alcohol for their own sin? It seems like another version of, “The Devil made me do it.”