"The Father of Solomon, by Uriah's Wife"#89-10
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on November 7, 2021
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2021 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: 2 Samuel 12:13
Years ago, I visited a church. Inside the church building, in the back, hanging on the wall was a wooden cross that had been splattered in paint. Apparently, someone thought highly enough of it to consider it art and hang it up on the back wall. But to me, it just looked like vandalism.
I noticed that there is a placard on the wall next to the cross. I read it, and it turns out it was vandalism. Years ago, someone had broken into the church sanctuary and vandalized it. They had carried in cans of paint, dumped it out on the carpet, threw it on the altar and the pulpit, splattered it on the walls.
Some of the things the church was able to clean; many other things they simply had to throw out. But this paint splattered cross they left as is. Considering what the cross meant for them, it seemed appropriate not to hide what had happened, but to soberly display it as a sign of embracing this sinful world as it is, even including the people who had vandalized their church.
After I read the story on the placard, I saw the cross in a different light. The story didn't change the character of the crime, but it did change the outcome. Like those people at that church, I also am a follower of Jesus, the Messiah, who was crucified on a cross, whose resurrection changes the outcome.
I'm a part of a Christian church in my neighborhood. And at this church, we are getting to know Jesus more deeply and helping others know Him, too. One of the best ways you can get to know a person more deeply is by getting to know their family, their history. And that's why followers of Jesus read and listen to the Old Testament. We want to get to know Jesus more deeply by getting to know His family, the people of Israel.
The Bible is full of stories about Jesus' family members. You probably recognize some of their names. There's Abraham. He's considered the father of the family, the human father. According to one search, Abraham's name appears in the Bible 250 times. And then there's Moses. Moses's name appears 852 times.
But then there's King David. David's name appears in the Bible 1,141 times. It's no surprise, because for 1,000 years in Israel, he was the king everyone was talking about. He was a war hero, a political leader. He united the country. He was a musician and a poet, the celebrated author of Israel's most loved songs and prayers.
And Israel's promised Messiah, the King of all kings, the one who had changed the outcome for everyone, God said would be born in the family tree of David. David is a celebrity, and that's what makes his story so shocking.
By modern standards, David's celebrity should have been canceled long ago. In our time, we want our celebrities and our heroes to be essentially flawless, to be righteous, according to our chosen set of values. And how we treat our celebrities says a lot about how we see ourselves. If they fail us, if they betray us, if they embarrass us, we throw them out and look for the next one. And something like that should have happened to David by modern standards. But Jesus' family doesn't have heroes and celebrities like the world does.
We have family members whose victories we love to celebrate, whose moral failings we mourn and condemn, but we don't hide them. We don't throw them out. We embrace them as people who are just like us, deeply flawed, vandalized, sinful people embraced and loved by God in Jesus. Like a paint-splattered cross in a vandalized church—soberly displaying it doesn't change the character of the sin, but it does change the outcome. And that's what the family did for David.
Now, maybe you're saying, "Hold on. What did David do?" Oh, well, you got to hear the story. Maybe you heard part of it. Maybe you're familiar with the general outline, but you've got to hear the story. And so, I invite you to slow down with me and hear it in detail in these excerpts from the 2 Samuel:11-12.
It happened after the Lord, the God of Israel, had made David king. David's on the throne. His approval ratings are off the charts and everything's going well. And then it happened. In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, the commander of the army, and his servants with him, and all Israel. They fought against the Ammonites. And David stayed at home in Jerusalem.
It happened late one afternoon, David got up from his couch and he was walking around on the roof of the palace. And from the roof, he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very good looking. And David sent and inquired about her. And someone said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite?" And David sent messengers. And he took her. And she came to him, and he lay with her. Then she returned to her house and the woman conceived. And she sent word to David and told him, "I am pregnant."
So, David sent this word to Joab, the commander in the field, "Send to me Uriah, the Hittite." So, Joab sent Uriah to David and Uriah came to him. And David asked him how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. And he said to him, "You go down to your house and wash your feet." So, Uriah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with the servants of his Lord. And he did not go down to his house.
And they told David, "Uriah did not go down to his house." So, David said to Uriah, "You have come from a journey. Why didn't you go down to your house?" And Uriah said to him, "The Ark of the Lord and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents. And my Lord, Joab, and the servants of my Lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go down to my house and eat and drink and sleep with my wife? As you live and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing."
And David said to Uriah, "You stay here today and tomorrow I'll send you back." So, Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David called Uriah, and Uriah ate with him in his presence, and he drank with him, and David got him drunk. Later that evening, Uriah went out to lie down on his mat with the servants of his Lord, and he did not go down to his house.
In the morning, David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it to him by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, "Set Uriah, the Hittite, in the frontline of the fiercest fighting. Then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die." Now, Joab was attacking the city and he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew the fiercest defenders were. And the people of the city came out and fought. And some of the servants of David fell dead. And Uriah, the Hittite, also died.
Joab sent a messenger to David. The messenger came to David and reported all the news of the battle and of Uriah, the Hittite. And David said to the servant, "This is what you will say to Joab, "Do not let this be evil in your eyes because the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it."
Now, when Uriah's wife heard that her husband was dead. She mourned for him. And after the time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her into his house, and she became his wife and she bore him a son. But this thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord.
And the Lord sent Nathan the prophet. And Nathan said to David, "There were two men living in a certain city. One was rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many sheep and cattle. The poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He raised it and it grew with him and his children. It would eat from his food and drink from his cup and sleep in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. And there came a traveler to the rich man. But the rich man was not willing to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the lamb that belonged to the poor man. And he prepared it for the one who had come to him."
And David's anger burned against the man. He said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who did this thing deserves to die. And he should pay for the lamb four times over because he did this, because he had no pity." And Nathan said to David, "You are the man. And this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, 'I anointed you king over Israel. I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you everything you have. And if this were too small, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the Word of the Lord and do what is evil in His eyes? You struck down Uriah, the Hittite, with the sword and you took his wife as yours. And now because of this, the sword will never depart from your house because you despised Me and you took Uriah's wife to be your wife.'"
And David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord has also taken away your sin, and you will not die. Nonetheless, because by this deed you have so scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you will die." And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he became sick. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused and he would not eat with them.
On the seventh day, the child died. And David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothing and went to the house of the Lord to worship. Then he returned to his own house. And at his request, they served him food and he ate. And his servant said to him, "Why are you acting like this? While the child was still living you fasted and you wept. But now that the child is dead, you get up and you eat." And he said, "While the child was still living, I fasted and wept because I thought, who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live, but now he is dead. Why should I fast? I cannot bring him back again. I will go to him, but he will not return to me."
Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba. And he went to her and he lay with her. And she bore him a son. And they named him Solomon. And the Lord loved him. And because the Lord loved him, He sent word by the prophet, Nathan. And He called his name Jedidiah, which means "loved by the Lord."
Recently, I attended a men's retreat, and a man there shared some of his story. I'll call him Dave. And he gave me permission to share this. Dave stood up in front of 50 of his brothers in Christ. He said, "Like many of you, I had goals, dreams, and plans. Many of which I got to live out. I married a special lady, and we had a beautiful family and a home, and we traveled with our children. I was blessed to be active in many church and community organizations. And with all these good things in my life, there was always a darkness.
For years, I lived in a cycle of addiction with unimaginable shame and self-hatred and thoughts of suicide. And then I did something," he said, "that threw my marriage vows out the window, not just once, but multiple times. Today, I have lost my marriage and my reputation. My children no longer speak to me."
Dave told us this all soberly, not to justify himself, but to surrender himself to his crucified God. Dave never excused his actions. He accepted the consequences. He admits that he has no earthly hope of reconciling with his family. And yet, like our brother, David, the disgraced king, with no bargaining power with no, "At least, I'm-not-as-bad-as-so-and-so," comparisons, with no righteousness of his own, David still trusts. And you, whatever you have done, you can trust in Jesus. You are loved by the Lord.
There's an ancient biography of Jesus of Nazareth. It's called the Gospel according to Matthew. Matthew, the author of the book, is another disgraced son of Israel, but that's another story. What's important is how Matthew began his biography. It starts like this, "The book of the genealogy of Jesus, Messiah, Son of David." Look at that, just 10 words into the New Testament and we're already hearing about David.
In the genealogy, Matthew mentions just two details about David's life. He says that he was the king, and he says, "David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah." Matthew included this disgrace for us, for you, so that you would know, you also are loved by the Lord, because from the cross splattered in the blood of God, King Jesus embraces you, even the parts you want to hide.
After the men's retreat, I was talking with Dave, the guy who shared his story, which at the time I thought was probably making a lot of the guys uncomfortable, because it's rare that someone's so honest. Dave told me that 12 guys came up to him afterward and said how grateful they were and how much they could relate to what he shared.
And it reminded me that two things will always be true: first, everyone has been vandalized by sin, their sin and others. And second, Jesus won't throw out anyone who comes to Him. Jesus' forgiveness doesn't change the character of sin. Sin is still sin. And even forgiven sin carries varying degrees of consequences in this life. And some things won't be repaired in this life, but Jesus still promises to change the final outcome.
And so, I, as my friend Dave says, I am now learning to accept this sinful world as it is, and not as I would have it be. And I turned myself to find someone I can help. And I look to the cross and I wait for Jesus.
Would you pray with me? Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.
Reflections for November 7, 2021
Title: The Father of Solomon, by Uriah's Wife
Mike Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. For FREE online resources, archived audio, our mobile app, and more, go to lutheranhour.org. Now, back to our Speaker, Dr. Michael Zeigler.
Michael Zeigler: Today I'm visiting again with Dr. Tim Saleska. Dr. Saleska is a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, one of my professors, in fact. He teaches people about God and life with God as He's revealed Himself through Jesus and through the Old Testament. Dr. Saleska, welcome back.
Tim Saleska: Thank you.
Michael Zeigler: Okay. So perhaps the greatest scandal of Samuel's story is the fall of King David. David's sin is so shocking that I learned that some commentators even feel compelled to try to explain it away, say things like, "Uriah must have divorced Bathsheba before going off to war." Why might it be so tempting for us to excuse David's flaws and focus on his virtues instead?
Tim Saleska: Well, I do think it's because in our sinful hearts, we're a Law-oriented people and don't understand grace. So we're attracted by good works. We do that because it suggests that there might be hope for us, that we're not that bad of people, that God kind of looks at those things. So that's why it's very common to draw moral lessons and maybe do that
Michael Zeigler: We love to tell the story of David and Goliath, and we will tell the whole thing. Then when we say, "Oh, and he committed adultery and murder." But that's not how the narrator does it.
Tim Saleska: No.
Michael Zeigler: He drags this thing out.
Tim Saleska: We have to resist that easy us versus them untruth that is so prevalent still today, and maybe on the surface seems to be the case in Samuel. But when you kind of go a little deeper into the text and contemplate, you will see that things are not quite so simple.
Michael Zeigler: That seems like one of the main themes of the Old Testament is how we fall short. They really show us. They go out of their way sometimes in the most painful and humiliating way to show us what's inside of everyone's heart. Why do they do it like that?
Tim Saleska: It keeps us humble, and it keeps us mindful. And it serves as a correction or a bridle on becoming too judgmental. When you see it in the pages of a book like Samuel, we have to actually read it and think about our own lives, and our own way of judging, our own way of discerning. I think that is the kinds of things that you want to encourage readers to do when you read Samuel, and always be reading it in light of our own lives and our own relationship with God and other people. How we look at the world. Again, God looks at things and sees things, not in the way that we like to look at them, and that's to our shame.
Michael Zeigler: So, we have this phrase, our Old Testament "heroes of the faith." Is that completely wrong? Should we just ditch that phrase?
Tim Saleska: That's a good question. I have always resisted the label actually, because it's simplistic. And it actually does mislead because notice it focuses on their works. I just want you to think about how we do the same thing. Who do we honor? We honor the people of stature. Even in the church, we do that. We tend to focus on what people have done for the church, and they get the praise. But that's focusing on human accomplishments, not God's work. The real heroes of the faith are the widow with her last mite, or the one who had faith enough just to touch Jesus' garment. It was by pure grace that David was selected. He was the least of the brothers. It was by pure grace that David was forgiven for his sins, pronounced by Nathan. Remember, the prophet preached to him forgiveness.
Michael Zeigler: Yeah. He should have died. He should have died for his crimes.
Tim Saleska: It was pure grace. Should have died, yeah.
Michael Zeigler: Maybe if we want to maintain the heroes of the faith, we would emphasize of the faith part as trust in God. And that's what makes them a hero. Then there's this other phrase that's repeated about David, and I'd like to talk about this. How is it, then, that he is a "man after God's own heart"? So it can't be his godly character or his works. What do you think that phrase means that's used in the New Testament?
Tim Saleska: I think that the Scriptures simply mean that he had a trust, even maybe a childlike Trust, in his Lord. And he was, by God's grace, able to stay in that trust.
Michael Zeigler: So, a man after God's own heart, not his flawless character, but his, as you said, Simple, childlike trust in the Lord, even at the very bitter, bitter end, when this closing chapter, 2 Samuel 24, and David's in trouble again.
Tim Saleska: I know, he is. Unbelievable.
Michael Zeigler: But he just throws himself on the Lord's mercy. No excuses, no quibbling. Just, "I just throw myself on You."
Tim Saleska: Yeah.
Michael Zeigler: How then does this help us understand what the whole of Scripture is trying to do for us and to us as listeners and readers?
Tim Saleska: So, I think it reminds us of the preciousness of God's grace. Like I said, we have a tendency to be Law-oriented people. That's what we are by nature. When we like to be able to manufacture our own gods and be our own gods.
Michael Zeigler: Justify ourselves.
Tim Saleska: Justify ourselves. Defend ourselves, focus on the wrong things. And we have to then seriously contemplate the mystery of God's grace and the depth of it. Again, we tend to reduce the Gospel to this cognitive proposition: Jesus died and rose for you. As if that's all that the Gospel is, but it's this unfathomable mystery of God's continued forgiveness to us who are terrible sinners and His sustenance in the midst of deep darkness that we see someone like David in so much of his life.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"For All the Saints" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)