A friend wrote me a letter asking, "Why do good people die needlessly?" As I confidently sat down with pencil in hand about to write a letter in response, I heard music come on over the radio...
"You make all things work together for my good
You make all things work together for my good..."
The DJ chimed in, "There it is--the latest from the Newsboys ! 'Your Love Never Fails'. Are you familiar with the David and Bathsheba story? Isn't it amazing how God can take even the most broken of things and work it together for our good? Let's take a moment and go over the story."
Hmmm, I thought. The David and Bathsheba story. As my mind began to spin thinking about a different perspective, the letter slipped from my hands...
Uriah stood straight and squinted. The early morning sun was bright coming over the high wall of Rabbah. The fresh springtime had brought another round of fighting the enemies of Israel and this time it was the old enemy, the Ammonites. The Israelites had fought courageously the last few days and were besieging the capital. This would be a hard fight, Uriah knew, but he was confident. He had spent years now away from his ancestral home in the land of the Hittites, and really was one no longer. He had given up all for David.
Ahh, David ! It was he who had picked him up that day and instead of killing the "foreigner" offered the opportunity to become something special. David said he could see the spirit in Uriah. Uriah followed, and after proving himself in battle after battle David took him aside one day and asked him,
"Uriah, I am forming a small group of men - about thirty - that I know to be loyal to me who have shown the warrior's skill and more importantly the willingness to give all for our cause. I want you to be one of my mighty men. Will you lead, Uriah?"
Uriah was overwhelmed with emotion. There were thousands of soldiers in David's army, and yet David considered him to be among the select few that was worthy. Uriah humbly responded , "It would be my honor."
From then until the fight with the Ammonites, Uriah had continued on with valor. This fight, though, would not be an easy one, he knew. Rabbah was heavily fortified. Speaking with Benaiah, another of the select thirty, Uriah said, "Ben, we cannot attack by the west wall. Their best soldiers are there and it would be suicidal. We must find a weakness."
As they were speaking, a horse rode up quickly and the rider dismounted. "A message for Uriah from Joab." Joab was the King's general. "What is it?" asked Uriah apprehensively. "The King demands your presence immediately at the palace in Jerusalem." What could this be? thought Uriah. It must be important so Uriah without hesitation mounted and rode.
Upon arriving at the palace, the guards were expecting him and immediately ushered him in to see David. David looked worried and asked, "How has the fighting gone, Uriah? I am concerned and know I can trust your opinion."
"David, my lord, the reports you must have heard are not true. We have had the upper hand, and now must take the city." After discussing it all in more depth, David said, "It is late. I am going to retire and you should go home to your wife." At that, David dismissed him. Uriah stepped into the cool night air. He missed his wife, Bathsheba. She was beautiful in body and soul and Uriah started to go, but abruptly stopped. "No," he thought. "I cannot do such a dishonorable thing. Ben and the others are sleeping on the muddy ground and may begin the attack soon. I cannot take such pleasure while they fight." He lay down amongst the palace guards and slept.
The next day, David was told Uriah did not go home. "Why did you not go home to your wife?! Uriah - stay another night and lets talk more about the upcoming assault on Rabbah." The King opened his table and they feasted and drank while recounting all the old times. "Remember that time when some of the Thirty went and got that water for me when I was so thirsty? They risked everything going into the enemies camp - I will never forget it." said David.
"We would do it again, my lord," said Uriah. As the night wore on, David again retired to his chambers and told Uriah to go home. Uriah was groggy after having a bit too much to drink. He was thinking again of his beautiful wife, Bathsheba, and began to stumble toward his home. Hitting a rock and falling he cut his hand and came to his senses. "What am I doing? Our army is bleeding for David and I am going home to my wife?" He shuffled back to the palace and slept once again with the guards.
Early the next morning, Uriah was abruptly awakened from his stupor by the guards. Brought before King David once again, David said, "Uriah, at last I have come to terms with how I desire the battle for the Ammonite capital to proceed. Here are my personal instructions for Joab's eyes only. It has been sealed and it must not be stolen or opened by any other. Take it immediately to General Joab."
Uriah placed the orders within his tunic next to his heart. "I will die before I allow it to be stolen, my lord."
Uriah rode swiftly to Rabbah and directly to Joab. Bowing before his general, Uriah presented him with the letter. "From our King for your eyes only." Joab instantly tore open the seal and read the instructions. Staring hard down at Uriah, he said, "We must attack immediately. You and Benaiah will lead the charge. It will be against the west wall."
Uriah stood, paused, and said, "Our King David has expressed much confidence in me and I will not let him down."
While organizing the men Benaiah said to Uriah, "It's impossible. There is almost no chance we can succeed. David has always been so wiley. Why would he demand this frontal assault against their strongest position?"
Uriah quickly stopped him. "If David believes we can succeed, then I do as well. Summon your courage, Ben. We will achieve victory today." He knew Ben was right, but he was not going to show weakness - not now. Joab rode up and spoke to the men, inspiring them. Uriah approached Joab and said, "My lord, I know those instructions I carried over those miles were for this and all are forbidden to see them. Will you allow me to carry them, unopened, next to my heart. It will give me the courage to honor David and win this fight here and now."
Joab hesitated, his horse swinging back and forth and then said, "Follow the King's command and do not open. You may carry it."
Uriah place it again under his armor, under his tunic, against the flesh outside his fast beating heart.
"We will carry the wall, sir."
The shofar blew and the men rose. Yelling, as if one, they charged the wall.
The arrows began to rain down but the men did not stop. On they went. As they reached the base of the wall, they extended their ladders and began the climb. It was at this point Joab was to release the reserves for the final push. Uriah and Benaiah were just behind their men.
They looked back to their lines and saw Joab mounted, pacing back and forth. Why was he not sending the reserves? As their men began to fall, Joab raised his arm and directed the men away from the city wall. Confused, doubt beginning to seep into his heart about the true nature of that letter, Uriah looked toward his men fighting along the wall when an arrow came screaming through the air and struck Uriah in the chest near his right shoulder.Falling back onto the ground, eyes wide in shock, he knew the wound was serious. What did David command in that letter? his mind ached to know, suspicion jabbing at his fading senses. Struggling to his knees, with the blood flowing, Uriah couldn't stand it any longer. Reaching with difficulty into his bloody tunic with all the strength he had left, he pulled out the letter. Breaking a command for the first time in his life, he opened it and read,
"Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die."
His soul shattering as if hit by a thousand arrows, Uriah leaned back and the letter slipped from his dying hand and softly fell...
...onto the floor. As I picked up the letter, the disk jockey continued, "Can you imagine how many times that story has been told over the past 3,000 years? How many people have been inspired by the working together for our good..."
As I ease back into my comfortable recliner, suddenly feeling very small, I remembered the words from the book of Romans.
"For who withstandeth his will? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus? Hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?....
I knew God was sovereign, planning with eternity in mind and and my poor eyes struggled to see past my own death. I also new God was not capricious and had a plan that extended beyond this life. How then could my mortal eyes see the immortal? I meekly took the pencil and began to write the words written so, so long ago:
"The Lord responded to Job,
Will the person who finds fault with the Almighty correct him?
Will the person who argues with God answer him?”
Job answered the Lord,
"How can I answer you?