So David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house, and wash your feet.’ Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house’, David said to Uriah, ‘You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?’ Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; 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? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.’ Then David said to Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.’ As Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant warriors. The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was killed as well…When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.
“The shoe is on the other foot now!”
The last Daily Devotion I wrote had David fleeing for his life from the murderous rage of King Saul. In contrast, David’s murderous actions against Uriah are cold, calculated, planned. In modern legal terms, it would be described as ‘with intent’ and ‘a significant degree of premeditation’. How the wheel turns!
“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” (John Dalberg)
As an absolute monarch, David had absolute power, which he abused for the purpose of his own sexual gratification. The text cleverly juxtaposes David and Uriah. David is the Divinely anointed king over Israel, scheming to have Uriah killed. Uriah is a foreigner, a Hittite, a soldier, whose sense of military honour and high standards shine out. A spanner is thrown into the works of David’s scheming!
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” (Jean-Baptiste Karr)
The abuse of power continues to be rife today. Barely does a week go by without more appalling revelations of sexual misconduct… in politics, in sport, in entertainment, in the church…
“There, but for the grace of God go I.” (John Bradford)
While we may be thankful that we have not been subject to such extremes of human behaviour, many of us will have been affected by bullying (at school, in the workplace or even at church), or felt stifled by domineering family members; we may even admit moments when we have behaved poorly towards others.
“He can twist her round his little finger!”
In reflecting on abuse of power, we should not omit to consider the abuse of the position of weakness, echoed in this last proverb. Many of us, individually or as a church, will have sometimes felt used.
Sometimes, in our church, we use the following prayer of confession.
O God, You have searched us out and known us, and all that we are is open to You. We confess that we have sinned: we have used our power to dominate and our weakness to manipulate; we have evaded responsibility and failed to confront evil; we have denied dignity to ourselves and to each other and have fallen into despair. We turn to You O God; we renounce evil; we claim Your love; we choose to be made whole. Amen.