Blessed… There is Mold Inside!

“How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs. They look beautiful on the outside. But inside they are full of dead bones and all kinds of filth. In the same way, you look righteous to people. But inside you are full of pretense and rebellion” (Matthew 23:27-28, Common English Bible).

They had a beautiful home. When you drove up outside you saw a well-manicured lawn. Someone had taken the time to clean out the gutters. Someone in that house didn’t believe in the saying, “I don’t do windows.” The driveway to didn’t have a spot of oil on. The brick looked like it had been pressure washed within the last week. On top of that, was the paint. When I was in the Navy we all said, only half joking, that you began painting at one end of the ship. When you reached the other end, it was time to start over again. It looked like this homeowner had been in that Navy and now treated his house like we kept the ship.

Every time I went to these folks home, it looked good. When you went inside it looked a great deal like the outside. Everything had a place and everything was in its place. The floors were swept or vacuumed. The furniture was dusted. It was immaculate. It didn’t matter if they knew I was coming or if I just showed up unannounced, This house looked good, inside and out.

One day the homeowner called me. “Pastor, can you swing by the house this afternoon?” I told him I would and within a couple of hours I was there. He was outside when I drove up. We exchanged pleasantries and then he invited me in.

Imagine my shock when I walked in the door and all I could see were the wall studs and pieces of broken sheetrock on the floor. I asked him what was going on. He responded by taking me on a tour of the house and pointing out the black mold in just about every room in the house.

We went back outside and sat down in his lawn chairs. I started to think about the number of times I had been in his home. It always was spotless. It always looked so good. But, while we were sitting there talking in his spotless home, there was something eerie growing inside the walls. The outside looked. Inside the walls, not so much. Even that day, Things on the outside looked really good but inside the house, not so much.

In today’s lesson, Jesus was telling the Pharisees and legal experts they were a lot like that house. They looked good on the outside but they were pretty filthy on the inside. They looked righteous but their hearts were anything but.

The same thing can apply to you and me. We can go to church. We can read our Bibles. We can look like we know and do all the right things. But inside, are our hearts pure? Do we live the part like we look the part?

How do you live the part?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving<
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… The Outside of the Pot

 “How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and plate, but inside they are full of violence and pleasure seeking. 26 Blind Pharisee! First, clean the inside of the cup so that the outside of the cup will be clean too” (Matthew 23:25-26, Common English Bible).

I have mentioned before that I was very involved in Scouting when I was a kid. A kid in Scouting usually means a camping kid. I learned, sometimes the hard way, how to cook on an open fire, with a Dutch oven, or a reflector oven. I learned you can control the temperature in a Dutch oven with remarkable accuracy based on a number of coals placed under and on top of the oven. I learned how to do some pretty amazing things. I can cook bacon and eggs in a paper bag, boil water in a paper cup and I can make a full meal including bread and dessert with either a Dutch oven or a reflector oven.

Cooking was always the good duty roster spot. Gathering the firewood was a spot most of us didn’t mind too much. The one everybody ran from was having to do the dishes after the meal. I never liked doing the dishes at home, even with a dishwasher. I certainly didn’t want to wash dishes in a bucket with water hauled in and heated on an open fire.

The problem really wasn’t the inside of the dishes. That usually cleaned up fairly easily. The problem was the outside of the pots and pans. If you look at the picture above, you can see the black built up on the pot. It comes from the open fire. It is usually much worse with pine than with a hardwood. Having done much of my camping in the piney woods of East Texas, pine was a quite common fire material to use. And, as you can see from the picture, it would leave the pots and pans black.

That might not have been much of a problem except someone usually had the bright idea that the pots and pans needed to look new on the outside. It wasn’t going to happen. No matter how much scrubbing you did, there would be black that just wouldn’t come off. There were tricks that made things easier. There were ways to get much of the black off, but all of it? No way!

Sometimes it seemed like my patrol leader or some adult who was in camp with us would insist that the black is taken off. It sometimes seemed as though that adult was far more interested in the outside of the pot than with the inside where the food would actually touch.

It is just this Jesus is talking about in our lesson. What difference does it make if the outside of a cup or plate is clean if the eating surface has food stuck to it if that cup or plate is unclean on the inside?

For a people who were obsessed with being “clean,” these Pharisees and legal experts certainly fell short in Jesus’ when it came to cleaning up after dinner. What Jesus is actually doing is using the dishes as a metaphor for them and even for us.

We can look good. You can dress in the finest clothes. You can get your clothes tailor made. You can wear a $300 pair of shoes and a $500 suit. You may look really good. You may even impress some people with how good you look. But, if you are a rotten person, if you forget to live out the justice, peace, and faith we talked about yesterday, all the first class clothes in the world will not change you from a rotten person into a righteous person. For that, there is a need for a heart transplant, not from a doctor but from the Great Physician.

Do your insides match your outsides?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Oops, You Forgot!

“How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You give to God a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, but you forget about the more important matters of the Law: justice, peace, and faith. You ought to give a tenth but without forgetting about those more important matters. You blind guides! You filter out an ant but swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:23-24, Common English Bible).

In reading this lesson it would seem that mint, dill, and cumin was pretty important, something to be valued during Jesus’ day. After all, if you are going to tithe something (remember the word tithe means tenth), it would probably be something important to you.

For many of us, our time and/or our money is among the most important commodities in our possession. For some of us, our time is more valuable. For others, our money is more valuable. If we tithe either or both we are giving something that is important to us. It is something that makes a difference in my life. I remember when I when my boys were in athletics or band, Cindy and me, as parents were expected to work the concession stand at various school events either the sports program or the band would use as a fund raising project. I was always far more willing to give of my money than to give of my time.

But all that is beside Jesus’ point. He is saying to the Pharisees and legal experts, “You give your tithes (in their case produce) but you forget the thing that is really important. You forget peace, justice, and faith.” If you have no faith in your life, you can do a reverse tithe, give 90 percent and keep ten to live on and it doesn’t matter at all.

Yes, our talents and our treasures are important. Our time is important and we do need to good stewards of these and other resources God gives to us. At the same time, we also have to work for peace and justice while living out our faith.

The things that really matter us are the things we find important. If we find justice important, we will find time for it. If we find peace important, we will find ways to speak the truth about peace, in love. If faith is important we seek ways of living out our faith in the community and the world, including living it out by being part of a faithful worshipping community.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t even do as well as the Pharisees and legal experts. We don’t tithe and we don’t work for justice, peace, and faith.

All this really wasn’t new to the Jews of Jesus’ day and we shouldn’t think it new either. I am reminded of a verse of scripture from the Prophet Micah. “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, Common English Bible).

I see parallels in Micah’s words and Jesus’ words. To do justice, well that one is pretty obvious.  Embrace faithful love, if we are doing that peace will automatically be a byproduct. And to walk humbly with your God? Well, that is being faithful.

No, it wasn’t then and it isn’t now something new to learn. We should know already. The real question for us is, will we work for justice, peace, and faith?

How do you work for justice, peace, and faith?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… How Terrible It Will Be…

“How terrible it will be for you blind guides who say, ‘If people swear by the temple, it’s nothing. But if people swear by the gold in the temple, they are obligated to do what they swore.’ You foolish and blind people! Which is greater, the gold or the temple that makes the gold holy? You say, ‘If people swear by the altar, it’s nothing. But if they swear by the gift on the altar, they are obligated to do what they swore.’  You blind people! Which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift holy? Therefore, those who swear by the altar swear by it and by everything that’s on it. Those who swear by the temple swear by it and by everything that’s part of it. Those who swear by heaven swear by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it (Matthew 23:16-22, Common English Bible).

I’m not sure exactly why but as I read today’s lesson my mind went back more than 25 years. I was just beginning in ministry. Perhaps it was when I went to licensing school (a short school the United Methodist Church requires of new pastors who are not yet ordained nor have completed seminary) or at Course of Study School (a five year abbreviated summer seminary program for second career pastors, I completed three of the five years) or it could have been somewhere else, I remember hearing someone say, “Never, ever place empty offering plates on the altar table.” I don’t remember who said it nor do I remember the reasons they gave for not doing so.

Shortly after that, I tried really hard to make sure the offering plates were never left on the altar table in empty. At some point on the journey, I got frustrated with the idea. It seemed like every time I would take the plates off the altar someone else would move them back. It was a never-ending, frustrating battle of futility.

I remember one-day thinking and asking myself the question, “Am I being a Pharisee about this? What possible difference does it make if anything is in the offering plates or not? What is in the plates doesn’t even matter except that those represent the gifts of the people to God and the work of God.”

Jesus reminds us in today’s lesson that it isn’t the offering plates. It isn’t even the offering itself. I don’t event think it is so much the altar table. As I read this lesson what seemed to jump off the screen at me was the last sentence of the lesson. “Those who swear by heaven swear by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.”

It is not the gift, though our gifts should be offerings from the heart out of thanksgiving to God for all God does for us. It isn’t the vessel that holds the offerings. It isn’t the table where the offerings rest. Each does have a place of significance but what is really important is that which makes each element holy, the one who sits on the throne. God makes our places of worship and all that is in them holy. All the other things are items we place there. God brings the holiness that is part of our places of worship. An empty offering plate isn’t holy, but neither is a full one. What makes the offering holy is God’s blessing.

How does God bless you by what you place in an offering plate or on an altar?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… How Could They Not?

“How terrible it will be for you legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You shut people out of the kingdom of heaven. You don’t enter yourselves, and you won’t allow those who want to enter to do so. “How terrible it will be for you, legal experts and Pharisees! Hypocrites! You travel over sea and land to make one convert. But when they’ve been converted, they become twice the child of hell you are (Matthew 23:13-15, Common English Bible).

I sometimes have a really hard time understanding the Pharisees. In today’s lesson, Jesus says the Pharisees and legal experts keep people from reaching the kingdom of heaven. My question is a quick one-word question, WHY?

Perhaps the reason is that they have no interest in the kingdom of heaven for themselves. I am still, however, not sure why. Why would a religious person not have a desire for entering the kingdom of heaven? I can understand why an atheist or an agnostic might refuse to go there. For them, it is something unrealistic. It is something that does not exist or at least they question its existence. But here, we are not talking about an atheist or agnostic. We are talking about the most religious people in Biblical Israel and they have no interest apparently in eternity with God. That is too bad.

What I find most troubling is the idea of blocking the kingdom from others around them. If I am not interested it is one thing for me to make my declaration. It is another thing altogether to prevent others from moving forward.

Jesus talks about the lengths the Pharisees and legal experts would go to reach a convert. That is admirable. What is less than admirable is, apparently through their teaching or perhaps their lack thereof, these converts became worse than the Pharisees and the legal experts.

I am not sure this is what Jesus meant in this passage but it is the place I am going to choose to go. It has always bothered me when we go to great lengths to reach people in the name of Jesus Christ and then once a profession of faith is made, we leave them to fend for themselves. Does our lack of follow through leave these people, these converts to the faith worse off than they were before we arrived on the scene?

It is up to us to demonstrate through our actions and not just our words the importance of being a part of a worshipping community, to join together with other believers in corporate Bible study and corporate prayer and to be part of small groups, be it Sunday school or some other group for both education and accountability. I believe that when we don’t demonstrate such activity and when we do not lead and encourage such activity we are falling short of our responsibilities of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. That is our call.

How do you lead others to a full life of being a disciple of Christ?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Blessed… Do As They Say…

 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and his disciples, “The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others. They make extra-wide prayer bands for their arms and long tassels for their clothes. They love to sit in places of honor at banquets and in the synagogues. They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as ‘Rabbi.’ “But you shouldn’t be called Rabbibecause you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. Don’t be called teacherbecause Christ is your one teacher. But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up (Matthew 23:1-12, Common English Bible).

“It’s not what you say, it’s what you do.” Words along these lines are as popular today as ever. Just two chapters ago we read the “Parable of the Two Sons.” The father told one son to go work in the field. He said no and went to work anyway. The father told the second son to go work in the field. He said yes, but never went. When Jesus finished he asked his listeners who did the will of the father. The response was the first son. In other words, it is not about what you say, it is about what you do. It is what we often think. Don’t worry about what others say, worry about what they do.

Yet words are important. What we day is important. As one who essentially talks for a living, the words I say are of importance. What I say is important, at least I hope it is. My words are what I do. Yet I realize that my life has to live in parallel with what I say. My actions must live in concert with my words.

In today’s lesson Jesus is speaking to this as well. He looks and sees what the Pharisees and legal experts do in tension with what they say. Jesus tells his listeners that what the Pharisees say is correct. What they do, however, is a different story. They don’t do the very things they are telling those around them in society they should do. In essence, Jesus says he agrees with what the Pharisees and legal experts say but they do not live out the words they say.

Today we often know the Bible. We, each in our own way, interpret what Scripture says. Yet we don’t live the words we profess. This is the warning Jesus gave us in this lesson.

All too often we are worried about the letter of what Scripture says to the point we fail to love. That, is what Jesus says, more than once, the thing that is most important. When we fail to love, we make it about what we say more than what we do.

How do you live the faith as opposed to talk the faith?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thanksgiving.
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

 

Average Joes… An Honorable Patriot

HonorablePatriotIn the spring, when kings go off to war, David sent Joab, along with his servants and all the Israelites, and they destroyed the Ammonites, attacking the city of Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening, David got up from his couch and was pacing back and forth on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone and inquired about the woman. The report came back: “Isn’t this Eliam’s daughter Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers to get her. When she came to him, he had sex with her. (Now she had been purifying herself after her monthly period.) Then she returned home.The woman conceived and sent word to David. “I’m pregnant,” she said. Then David sent a message to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked about the welfare of Joab and the army and how the battle was going. Then David told Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. However, Uriah slept at the palace entrance with all his master’s servants. He didn’t go down to his own house. David was told, “Uriah didn’t go down to his own house,” so David asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just returned from a journey? Why didn’t you go home?” “The chest and Israel and Judah are all living in tents,” Uriah told David. “And my master Joab and my master’s troops are camping in the open field. How could I go home and eat, drink, and have sex with my wife? I swear on your very life, I will not do that!”  Then David told Uriah, “Stay here one more day. Tomorrow I’ll send you back.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day. The next day  David called for him, and he ate and drank, and David got him drunk. In the evening Uriah went out to sleep in the same place, alongside his master’s servants, but he did not go down to his own home. The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. He wrote in the letter, “Place Uriah at the front of the fiercest battle, and then pull back from him so that he will be struck down and die.” So as Joab was attacking the city, he put Uriah in the place where he knew there were strong warriors. When the city’s soldiers came out and attacked Joab, some of the people from David’s army fell. Uriah the Hittite was also killed. Joab sent a complete report of the battle to David. “When you have finished reporting all the news of the battle to the king,” Joab instructed the messenger, “if the king gets angry and asks you, ‘Why did you go so close to the city to fight? didn’t you know they would shoot from the wall? Who killed Jerubbaal’s son Abimelech? didn’t a woman throw an upper millstone on top of him from the wall so that he died in Thebez? Why did you go so close to the wall?’ then say: ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead too.’” So the messenger set off, and when he arrived he reported to David everything Joab sent him to say. “The men overpowered us,” the messenger told David. “They came out against us in the open field, but we fought against them[f] up to the entrance of the city gate.  Archers shot down on your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants died. And your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead too” (2 Samuel 11:1-24, Common English Bible).

 

I am Uriah. I was a soldier for David, King of Israel. But, I am not a Hebrew. I was born to Hittite parents. The Hittites were Canaanites. We were a people known for our military prowess but four generations ago our army rested on its reputation alone. Many, like my great, great grandfather were committed to fulfilling their destiny as Hittite soldiers. Many other soldiers in our army neglected their training and even came and went from the army at their own pleasure, making them completely unprepared for war. Our king did nothing to discourage this. As a result, when our enemies attacked we were woefully unprepared and the Hittite nation fell to the Assyrians. With this fall, my great, great grandfather had to support his family. Being a soldier was all he knew. He came to Israel as a mercenary, working as a hired soldier in the Israelite army and hoping for an opportunity to be part of the restoration of the Hittite empire one day.
That was not to be. By the time of my grandfather, he knew we would never go back to the Hittite nation. For all his life he and his family worshiped Yahweh. Since it was clear that we would never go back to Hitti again, and Israel was now home, he and his family adopted the Hebrew religion. We have been worshipping as Jews ever since.

Though I, like my father and grandfather before me still are known to the Hebrews as Hittites. We have been very much part of Hebrew life since my great, great grandfather came to Israel. And, when we became Israelites, when I was born I was given the name Uriah which means “Light of Yahweh.”

It was always known in our family that I would become a soldier. It is what comes from being of Hittite ancestry. Even the king assumed I would become a soldier in his army. Everyone knew that we Hittites were great and dedicated soldiers. And, in my day, young men almost always followed in their father’s footsteps. So, it was expected that I, like my father before me and his father before him would become a soldier. It was my destiny and I accepted it.

When I was twenty years old, as was expected of me, I joined Israel’s army. I trained hard. I worked hard and I fought hard. My efforts helped me to climb the ranks rapidly and it wasn’t long before I became an officer and a leader in the king’s army. I was one of the king’s mighty men or champions. I was proud to bring such honor home for my family. My father and grandfather couldn’t have been more pleased, not only with such recognition but for the honor brought to our family.

One other thing that came to me for my efforts was that Eliam went to my father asking if Bathsheba might become my wife. She was beautiful and I was thrilled. As was done in those days, my father and Eliam had their discussion. I was not a part. They came to an agreement. The arrangements were made. Though she was young, much younger than I, Bathsheba became my wife. We were married just as winter set in. A few months later, it was spring time. It was time to go to war. Military duty called so, reluctantly, I left Bathsheba behind to go to battle.

I was surprised when we readied to march from the city that the king was not present. King David had never missed going to battle before. His heroics on the field of war were legendary. Every soldier in the Israelite had not only heard about David’s heroics, they knew them and could tell them as a story around the campfire at the drop of a hat. Joab, general of David’s armies rode where normally we would have seen King David.

We moved into enemy territory ready for battle. We knew raiding parties had invaded Israel for months. Everyone in the army accepted that we had to go to battle and push these enemies back to stop the continuing raids into our lands.

When the battle started, it was fierce, but we held our own and start to push the enemy back some distance, but things went back and forth. It happens in battle.

We had been in the field a few weeks when the general called for me to report to him immediately. I wasn’t a happy soldier. My men were in heated action. I did not want to leave them. I grumbled, probably too loudly. It’s a good thing the general didn’t hear me. I wasn’t happy about it, but I am a soldier. I follow orders. I reported to the general.
“I prepared this written report,” Joab said. “Travel back to Israel and report directly to the king. Give him my written report. If he wants, you will follow with an oral report. Then you will answer any questions King David might have. Understood?”

“I understand, my general,” I replied. “But, I don’t think I should leave my men during battle. We have young boys here for messenger duty. With all due respect, General shouldn’t one of them go report to the king?”

“Uriah, I don’t question orders from the king. I would suggest you shouldn’t question his orders either. Doing so could be hazardous to your health.”

“Yes, sir. I understand.” With that, the general started briefing me for my report.
After the briefing, I started making my way to Jerusalem. I grumbled the whole time. No one could hear me other than my horse and he wasn’t telling. I also knew Joab was right. When I got back to Jerusalem, I needed to make my report, answer his questions and start back as quickly as possible.

I was, however, a bit concerned the king had asked for me. Had something happened to my father or grandfather? What about Bathsheba? Was Bathsheba OK? Were they all OK? Why else would the king want me? I stood before him a few times following battle, but we weren’t friends. We hadn’t spoken. There had to be a reason. Now I upset about leaving my men and worried for my family. Combining that with the idea kings ALWAYS go to war and David didn’t go, it was all more than a little bit weird. But, as the general reminded me, I am a soldier in the Kings’ army. I follow orders.

When I reached Jerusalem I passed through the city gates and onto the King’s palace. I rode passed my house and thought of Bathsheba. It was tempting to stop and spend a minute with my wife before seeing the king. I know I could have gotten away with it. I doubt he would have known. I knew that while tempting, I would never fall into the temptation. It was nice to think about but I was a soldier and it was war time. My place was in the field with my men. I would do what was expected of me and then I would get back to the war and my men.

A minute or two later I was at the palace, prepared to give my report to the king. I was admitted and lead to a room where the king receives most of his followers.

When I entered, I quickly made my way to the throne, bowed before the king. I was prepared to give my report at his pleasure. I rose and stood before him, waiting.
I expected he would want to hear what I had to say. I thought that was why I was there. “We’ll take care of that tomorrow,” the King said. “I will read the written report tonight. I know it has been a long day for you. It has also been some time since you last saw your wife. Go and spend the evening with her. We will talk tomorrow.”

I was floored. I replied, “As you wish, my king,” and left the room.

When the door closed behind me I started shaking my head. From what the general had told me, I thought the King was in a hurry and wanted this report faster than I could get there. Now he says, go home, see your wife, spend the night with her and come back and see me. Does that sound strange to anyone but me?

It was really tempting to do what the King said. I could be at my house in less than five minutes. No one would have thought less of me for it. After all, the king had instructed me to do so. As I thought about all this, I walked out of the palace, mindlessly in the direction of my house. I stopped. I turned around and went back to the palace. “I can’t go home and eat, drink and be merry with my wife while my men are in battle, sleeping in tents and eating what a cook calls food. It would dishonor my men. I can’t do that. Until the day the army is home, I can’t go home.

I knewI could get a place to stay in the servant’s quarters. I was shown to a small bed. After dropping off a few things I followed the king’s servants to dinner.

As I ate, eating in the palace, even with the servants, is so much better food than eating in the field. I digress. As I ate I first started to notice quiet whispers around me. I saw fingers pointed in my direction. Again, weird. I finished dinner and approached a small group of people who were whispering and pointing. I got close enough to hear.

“Can you believe he is here when only a few weeks ago his wife was in the palace with the king?” a woman in the group said.

A man replied back, “I sure hope he doesn’t find out I am the one who got her and brought her to the king. He looks pretty tough to me.”

“You don’t need to worry. Uriah understands following the king’s edicts. You did nothing wrong.”

“I hope so, I replied. He is big. I am not. He works in the fields all day, every day. He knows battle stuff. He knows hand to hand combat.”

I stood there listening but was spotted by the group. It wasn’t long before they were heading in different directions. Something was up. I had to find out what.

I made my way back to the room I would be sharing with 15 of my closest friends I didn’t know before today. I went to my bed. It was smaller than I was used to and there was no Bathsheba, but it was more comfortable than the field. Nothing felt better at that moment. I fell in. I laid there for a few minutes considering the events of the day.
I thought about the order for me to return to Jerusalem. I thought about my brief audience with the King. I thought about him telling me to go spend the night with my wife. I thought about the finger-pointing and whispers. I thought about Bathsheba. Bathsheba in the palace? I thought about… and I was asleep.

I rose the next morning and went to the kitchen to find breakfast. I wanted to see the king and get back to my men. The king might have been able to stay home but I could not. I would not. I needed to get back.

A messenger came into the kitchen looking for me. The king wanted to see me. I got down the rest of my meal and followed the messenger. “Did you have a nice evening with your wife?” the messenger asked. I didn’t answer. He wasn’t my superior. Then he said, “You should tell me. The king wants to know and told me to ask.

Perhaps I was accountable to this messenger. “I haven’t seen my wife,” I told him. “I didn’t go home. My men and my comrades are in the heat of battle, how can I go home and spend a night with my wife. It would go against my code of honor.”

When we arrived at the same room as yesterday the messenger said I should wait. I paced the floor until he came back. He said, “The king will see you now.”

I stepped into the room. King David bid me come forward. I did, bowing when I was directly in front of him. “Get up, get up.” The King said. “I understand you stayed in servant’s quarters last night and did not go home. I told you to go home to your wife.”
“You did my king,” I said. “The Ark of God and the troops of Israel and Judah are living in tents. My master Joab and the troops are camping in the open field. How could I go home and eat, drink, and sleep with my wife? I swear, I will not do that!”

“That is very honorable of you. I know you desire to get back but stay one more day. I have a message to prepare for Joab you will deliver. Please, come have dinner with me tonight and then I will send you back with the message in the morning.”

“Yes sir, my King,” I said. “Would you like me to make my report now?

“No,” the King replied. I have read the written report you brought from Joab. That will suffice. You are dismissed. Go and enjoy a day in the city.”

I left. I didn’t understand why I was here. Any messenger could make this trip. I thought he wanted me to give an accurate accounting of the battle. I was wrong.

Leaving the palace I knew I was not going, home. I was afraid I might be tempted. I was proud of my honor, my conduct. I feared I wasn’t strong enough. I had to stay away.

As walked through the city a peddler stopped me. I tried to walk away. He blocked me. Then he was unsure what to do. “You are a Hittite, yes?”

“Yes, I am,” but I have lived in Israel all my life. I am as much a Jew as you.”

“Perhaps,” he said. “Are you the Hittite known as Uriah?”

“I am he.”

Then everything changed with the peddler. He was no longer interested in selling. He wanted to get away. His was petrified and tried to move away.

I stopped him. “No worries. I won’t hurt you. Why do you ask these questions?”

“I can’t say, sir. It’s not my place. If I make the wrong people angry. It would be difficult for me,” he said.

“Come on, out with it,” I replied, getting angry. “As an officer in the King’s army, I will throw you into prison. Answer!”

“Please sir, I fear others more than you. I was at the palace a few weeks ago their talk of the king and your wife. Please, let me go. I won’t survive prison.”

“Go on,” I told the peddler. Throwing him in prison won’t do any good. I thought about his words. The king and my wife? My suspicions were growing. If my thoughts were true… Didn’t she know I could have her stoned? But, what if the King forced himself on her? That wouldn’t be her fault.

More investigation was needed, more than I could complete now. You can’t go accusing the king and your wife of adultery without proof. But, if true, I swore I would lead every Hittite out of Israel’s army to go fight with the enemies of David, King of Israel.

When evening came I was again in the palace with the king having a meal together. It was the best I’ve ever eaten. He also served wine, lots of wine and other spirits. At the end of it all, I was staggering. The king told me again to go home and spend the night with my wife. As I promised before, I didn’t go. I made my way back to my bed in the servant’s quarters.

Early the next morning, I was called again to the presence of the king. He gave me sealed messages to give to the general, battle plans he told me. Then he dismissed me to return to Joab and the army.

I went back to the kitchen for a quick meal, got my horse and left. When I rode by I saw Bathsheba standing outside. I blew her a kiss and left the city.

I arrived back in camp and immediately found the general. “Sir, orders from the king.” Joab took the messages from me and saw the seals intact.

Joab sat in a chair and opened the package from the king, read it, then pointed in one direction. “Uriah, the heaviest fighting is in that direction. Take your men and move to the front. Reinforcements will be behind you.”

“Yes, sir!” I replied.

“Make it so. You are dismissed,” the general said.

I left to get my men. We gathered our weapons and moved forward to where fighting had been heaviest. Two more units came up behind me with three more following them. We entered the fray. Suddenly I looked around and all the other units had vanished. It was me and my men. We were outnumbered. We stood no chance. It was a massacre. Not one man was left standing. Not even me.

Commentary

There are people in the world who do the right thing, even when it’s hard, even when it’s costly. Uriah was one of those people. For centuries people of faith have held Uriah up as one who did the right thing despite the wrongs that went on around him. David, at best, had inappropriate relations with the wife of one of his soldiers. He tried to cover up the deed. “Uriah, go spend the night with your wife.” He wined him and dined him and encouraged him again to spend the night with his wife. It has been said that Uriah had more honor drunk than David did sober. When both plans A and B failed David went on to plan C. In an effort to cover up his own sin, David signed Uriah’s death warrant. Not only was he responsible for the death of Uriah, he was also responsible for the deaths of the men surrounding Uriah.

In the end, this story is about why bad things happen to good people. Uriah was a good guy. He did things the right way, but his honor and his ethics didn’t protect him from the intentional will of someone determined to keep their sin secret at any cost. In this case, that person was a king who had the resources and abilities to make it happen.

Uriah paid a high price. Sometimes, in various situations, bad things happen to good people. They can even happen to people like us.