A Familiar Story
Most of us are familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba. David stays home rather than going to war. The resulting boredom leads him to the roof of his palace where he sees a woman bathing on her rooftop. David requests that his servants bring her to the palace where he sleeps with her. This single encounter results in her getting pregnant and now David has a real problem. His simple solution to the problem is to recall her husband from battle, encourage him to go and sleep with his wife, with the desired result that everyone thinks the child is Uriah’s, the husband, and Bathsheba’s. Uriah upsets the plan when he refuses to go home and sleep with his wife. A desperate David has Uriah killed and then quickly marries Bathsheba.
The most positive character in this story is Uriah. Why does he refuse to go home and sleep with his wife? It is not his loyalty to the king which causes him to refuse. David gives him a direct order which he does not obey.
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.2 Samuel 11:8,9 (NIV)
When David hears that Uriah did not go to his house he brings Uriah in to question him. Uriah explains that as long as his fellow soldiers are living in tents on the battlefield he will not go home. David assumes that if he can reduce Uriah’s commitment by making him drunk that his plan will still work. He was wrong. Even drunk Uriah will not go home. Instead, He determines to sleep on a mat with David’s servants at the entry to the palace.
Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, 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!”2 Samuel 11:11 (NIV)
Uriah’s character is so unshakable that David is confident that he can send Uriah’s death sentence to Joab by Uriah’s hand. If Uriah had opened the sealed orders there is no telling what might have happened. Unfortunately for Uriah, David’s assessment of his character is correct. David’s orders to have Uriah killed get to Joab unopened. Uriah dies in battle, Israel loses a true hero, and David is free to marry Bathsheba.
What About Us?
I have never been in the military or even been part of a competitive athletic team. However, I do belong to a church community and I am part of a family. When I read about Uriah I wonder how my life would be different if my commitment to my values and these communities was as strong as his.
I think there are several things that would be different. The first would be a change in perspective. A commitment to community results in giving consideration to what is best for the community before giving consideration to what is best for me. My commitment to community becomes a higher priority than my commitment to my comfort.
This means that their circumstances I consider to be my circumstances. For Uriah this meant that he could not sleep in his house while his brothers in arms are sleeping on the ground in tents. I have experienced what it is like to eat the simple food of Masai living in the bush. I experienced it for one meal. This was a special meal because I was a guest and they were sharing their best. After leaving the bush and returning to the nearby town it was far too easy to forget about the people living in the bush. If I had truly become a part of that community forgetting would not have been so easy.
The final thing I see in this story is a complete submission to the mission of the community regardless of the cost. While Uriah did not go home to sleep he submitted to his king and carried orders back to his general. When his general said to attack the enemy at their point of strength he did as he was told and died. A desire for self-preservation probably motivated his fight, but did not lead to flight. My lack of commitment shows when my community is called to engage the enemy and I choose to flee.
Sovereign Lord, I pray that you would lead me into deeper community with people who have a clear mission from you. I pray that the presence of a clear mission would strengthen my commitment to you, my community and the mission. In Jesus Name, Amen.