May, 2013

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A Faithful, Fallen Hero

Monday, May 27th, 2013

Uriah*

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day set aside to commemorate those who died in military service to the nation. It reminds me of some of the heroes of the Bible, who gave their lives in service to the Lord and His people. Uriah the Hittite was one such stalwart soldier – a man whose priorities were well-ordered in singular devotion to the Lord and His people Israel. That is what makes his sacrifice all the more poignant: this loyal man of God fell in battle as the result of the treachery of his commander-in-chief, King David. Thankfully, this did not diminish his service in the Almighty’s eyes, for the Scriptures repeatedly memorialize Uriah’s name.

A Few Good Men

Though of Gentile origin, Uriah allied Himself with the true and living God of Israel. He turned away from the idolatrous Hittite nation of his birth, and took up arms on behalf of his adopted country. His martial prowess and illustrious military career are evidenced by his inclusion in the role call of “David’s Mighty Men,” where he is conspicuously mentioned last so as to highlight his name (2 Sam. 23:39.) This distinction was tantamount to belonging to one of the elite modern “special ops” units like Seal Team Six[1], Delta Force[2], the British SAS[3], or the Israeli Sayeret Matkal[4]. These courageous men were the cream of the ancient Israelite military.

Duty And Honor

The Bible tells us little of his actual exploits in combat, but what makes Uriah so admirable is his conduct away from the battlefield. Through personal negligence David first lusted for Uriah’s wife, then committed adultery with her while her devoted spouse was on the frontlines. This adulterous liaison resulted in a pregnancy that threatened to expose the king’s infidelity.

To cover up his sin, David first brought Uriah home on special leave from the campaigning army, ostensibly to offer an eye-witness account of the progress of the siege of the Ammonite capital Rabbah. Secretly the erring ruler hoped that his officer would have normal relations with his wife. Thereafter, it would be presumed that the child in her womb was her husband’s progeny. This scheme was thwarted, however, by Uriah’s constancy. Rather than enjoy the comforts of home and family, he kept in mind the times: the nation was at war and he could not behave domestically as if there were already peace. Since the armed forces and the symbol of the Lord’s throne, the Ark of the Covenant, were on foreign soil waging war, Uriah determined to live as a loyal soldier. Even when the king got him drunk, he comported himself as an upright and faithful warrior; instead of heading to his own bed, he slept with the royal servants. Still trying to hide his sin, David added to it the crime of blood-guiltiness by arranging the murder by proxy of the loyal Uriah. On the king’s secret orders, this brave man was set up by General Joab; he died in the most vulnerable spot on the battlefield, faithfully fighting when those around him withdrew.

Telling It Like It Is

The famed preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon powerfully described David’s treachery in these words: “…of course, his death was a cowardly murder, planned and devised by the very man who ought to have been his protector.”[5] Elsewhere he said:

…he [Uriah] had been with David when he was outlawed by Saul, he had accompanied his leader in his wanderings, he had shared his perils and privations, so it was a shameful return on the part of the king when he stole away the wife of his faithful follower who was at that very time fighting against the king’s enemies. Searching through the whole of Scripture, or at least through the Old Testament, I do not know where we have the record of a worse sin committed by one who yet was a true child of God. So David had good reason to pray to the Lord, ‘Wash me,’ for he was indeed black with a special and peculiar blackness.[6]

In His great grace, the Lord eventually exposed David’s sin and forgave and cleansed him after he confessed and repented of his wickedness (read Ps. 32 & Ps. 51.) He was disciplined and would reap certain consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. But his crimes were forgiven and he was restored to fellowship with God.

Lessons From A Fallen Warrior

Despite his tragic death, Uriah continued to be memorialized by the Lord. In summarizing the son of Jesse’s reign, 1 Kings 15:5 notes: “…David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” Both 2 Samuel 23:39 and 1 Chronicles 11:41 list him among the celebrated “Mighty Men.” Moreover, he gets “honorable mention” in the royal genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Mt. 1:6.)

A few points to remember and emulate from the life of this great hero:

 

  1. Just as Uriah refused to behave as if it was peacetime while the war raged, even so Christians must remember that they also are in a spiritual conflict (Eph. 6:10-20.) They must put on their spiritual battle armor of righteousness, faith, prayer, and the Word of God. Romans 13:11-12 spells out the believers’ duty: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”
  2. Uriah was devoted to the Lord (2 Sam. 11:11.) Proverbs 25:19 laments: “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint,” but this intrepid soldier was faithful unto death. This is an age of undependability, with people regularly breaking vows both large and small. Believers ought to strive to be people of their word, living by the principle that their yes means yes. At the local church level, fidelity may be expressed by using one’s gift to edify and serve others. It may also be demonstrated by faithful prayer for one’s fellow-saints and attendance at the meetings of the local assembly.

*Image: Bernardino Luini, “The Death of Uriah the Hittite”; found here: http://www.artchive.com/web_gallery/reproductions//226501-227000/226525/size1.jpg Accessed on 5/27/13.

[4] For background on this unit, see: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2001/12/israeli-counterterrorism-200112  Accessed on 5/27/13.

[5] C. H. Spurgeon, “Soul murder – Who is guilty?” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. XII. Originally preached on September 30, 1866. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1866), p. 541.

[6] C. H. Spurgeon, “The Wordless Book,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. LVII. Originally preached on January 11, 1866. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1911), p. 566.

Moving on up

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

IMG_0355

In the kindness of our God, we recently moved into a more spacious house. Though the experience had its annoying and stressful elements, one positive overwhelmingly stands out: the many friends that the Lord used to move us out of our former home and into our new domicile. From far and near many people performed a variety of laborious tasks without complaint and without any hope of recompense on this earth (happily, the Lord will handle the remuneration at a later date, Mat. 10:40-42.) Other Christian brothers and sisters could not attend, but supported us in prayer – a contribution to the safety and efficiency of these proceedings that cannot be undervalued. Watching our numerous friends joyfully work together reminded me of the everyday functioning of the Church, which the New Testament describes as “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:12.) Moving from one house to another is an excellent illustration of what believers are doing in this life as we await the coming of the Lord Jesus.

Body Life

“The Church as a body” metaphor effectively conveys the interdependence of Christians upon Christ their life-source as well as their close connection with fellow members of the body. According to Ephesians 4:15 Christ is the head: He provides life and direction for the body. The next verse captures the thought of this symbolism: “From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (v. 16.) The Head empowers every part of the body for growth. As part of this organic development He uses the different parts of the body to serve itself through mutual service. As the various gifts operate they build the body up until it grows into a new man in Christ (v. 13.)

Self-Service In A Thousand Acts Of Kindness

Returning to our move, some body members displayed their gift of hospitality by providing us with food. Others demonstrated “giving” by sharing funds with us. Others administrated by directing the loading and unloading of the trucks. Still others cleaned, babysat, loaded/unloaded boxes, and carried extremely heavy objects. In total, all of the work was done through the agency of many individual parts harmoniously working together to complete the task. Not one of these members gets complete glory for this move – that honor belongs to the Head, who directs the parts. Nonetheless, each member will receive a full reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor. 4:5.)

Onwards Towards Our Final Move

   As believers travel to their promised abodes in the Father’s house, it is comforting to know that the Lord ministers to each of them through the Body of Christ  (Jn. 14:1-3.) Peter was told that he would fall, but his fall would not be irrevocable, and in the its aftermath he would exercise a pastoral ministry of succor to many suffering saints (Lk. 22:31-32; also read 1 Peter to see his shepherding of the scattered Christians.) Whatever changes we face here, our fellow-saints are there to help. By the Lord’s mercy, it will be so until our final move to glory