April 2015 Posts

David’s Mighty Men: Uriah, the Overlooked Warrior

When David gives his tribute to his mighty men in 2 Samuel 23, many of these warriors are expounded on and their accomplishments listed. Not so with the last few. And the very last mighty man listed, by name only, is Uriah. Uriah’s name is mentioned in the historical biblical text more than most of the mighty men, though most of those mentions are simply as the husband of Bathsheba.

We see the character of Uriah on display in 2 Samuel 11. He is a warrior engaged in battle with his band of brothers, while King David stayed at home in the convenience of his palace. While Uriah is living in the fields of battle and fighting the enemy daily, King David takes a stroll out on his palace balcony one evening and sees Uriah’s wife bathing on her roof below the palace. He calls for her and sleeps with her. Weeks later he finds out she’s pregnant. It can’t be Uriah’s baby because he has been out to war the whole time.

So David sends for Uriah to come home from the battle under the guise of getting a report from the frontlines. After their brief update of the war, David tells Uriah to spend the night before going back to the battle. He says Uriah should enjoy the break from the war and go home, eat, drink and get a good night’s sleep in his own bed – with Bathsheba, his wife. David assumed that a man like Uriah would jump at the chance to spend the night in comfort and be able to spend a romantic night with his wife he hadn’t seen for many weeks.

But Uriah’s response catches David off guard: “‘The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, 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? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing’” (2 Samuel 11:11, NASB). So in response to Uriah’s profound integrity, David ups his game of deception.

David tells Uriah to stay another day and gets him drunk that evening, thinking maybe the drink would dull his sense of duty and rightness, like many men. But to his dismay, Uriah once again spends the night just outside with David’s servants. Instead of being amazed and respectful of Uriah’s integrity, David sends him back to the frontlines with a note for General Joab. The note essentially tells Joab to put Uriah in a position where he would be killed in battle. So Joab, also a mighty man but of less character than Uriah, does just that, and Uriah is killed in the next battle.

After Bathsheba finishes mourning for the loss of her warrior husband, Uriah, David takes her for one of his several wives. Uriah is gone and forgotten. But not by God.

In 1 Kings 15:5 we see this tribute to David: “David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (NASB). God saw David’s treatment of Uriah, having an affair with his wife and then killing Uriah to cover up his affair as the one black mark on David’s life.

Uriah may be overlooked and forgotten by mankind. He has never been a big name in the Bible. He is almost never looked at as a hero or man of valor. But God made it clear that his warrior integrity will be memorialized. Even in the face of every major temptation to the contrary put forth by David, in God’s estimation, Uriah was a determined man of nobility, character, integrity, purity of heart and unwavering principle.

If you have ever felt like nobody knows or cares about what you have faced with integrity, just remember, even though you and your character may be overlooked and undervalued by those around you, God sees and remembers – for eternity.

David’s Mighty Men: Benaiah and His SEAL Team Six

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is one short sentence that paints a powerful image:

He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day. – 2 Samuel 23:20 (NASB)

Take a brief pause after each phrase as you read it to get the full picture: “He also went down…and killed a lion…in the middle of a pit…on a snowy day.”

With each phrase, the seemingly impossible gets even more impossible. This man deliberately jumped down into a pit with a lion that had accidentally fallen in. To slay a lion in hand-to-paw combat is a remote rarity in itself. But to slay a lion in a pit, where there is no retreat, no place to hide and no escape, it was hand to paw to the death for either man or beast. And to top things off it was a damp, snowy day. It was cold outside and it was hard for the man to get good footing in that pit, unlike the lion that had claws it could use. The lion had every advantage, but it lost.

These are some of King David’s last written words, and he was not speaking of himself. He was speaking of one of his 37 mighty men, Benaiah. This young warrior was a brute force to be reckoned with for sure, and David chose this single-sentence story to describe what a force Benaiah really was.

As we study the Scriptures, we find other things out about this man Benaiah and some of his accomplishments. For instance, we first run into Benaiah in 2 Samuel 8:18: “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites…” (NASB). The Cherethites and Pelethites were from the warrior clans of the fierce Philistines.

Long before being made king, David had attracted these warriors from his days of fleeing and living in Philistia. These were not part of his mighty men, his band of brothers. They were a force unto themselves and served as David’s bodyguards, the ones closest to him in battle. Sometimes they were sent on secret missions to deal with an enemy. As we see their function throughout David’s life, they were very similar to the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six. And David put this young warrior, Benaiah, over them. Benaiah was the captain of this elite-fighting cadre.

Benaiah, son of Jehoida, served with King David until David died. Notice who King David calls when, at the end of his life, one of his sons, who is not the chosen son, threatens to take over his kingdom: “Then King David said, ‘Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.’ And they came into the king’s presence” (1 Kings 1:32, NASB). In fact, Benaiah is key all throughout the beginning of King Solomon’s inauguration, establishment as king in the face of much opposition and in his early years as king.

But why did Benaiah do all this? As I have studied his life in Scripture, it is obvious that he could do mighty feats in battle. But beyond the fact that he could do these mighty deeds, he chose to do them out of principle, integrity, loyalty and commitment.

He believed David, and later Solomon, David’s son, had been chosen by God to function as king over God’s nation, Israel. He went into battle for God and God’s chosen ones, to defend and protect God’s chosen nation of Israel. And he never wavered. He used what God had given him: power and raw strength to serve God, His chosen kings and His chosen nation. He never used his power for himself, but always for God and His chosen ones. He was a mighty man, captain of his “SEAL Team Six” and later captain over all the army of Solomon.

It is Benaiah who King Solomon personally sends to deal with those who would threaten his kingdom from within Israel. Benaiah even goes and deals with King David’s long time general, Joab, another of his mighty men, who had gone rogue:

Now the news came to Joab, for Joab had followed Adonijah, although he had not followed Absalom. And Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar. It was told King Solomon that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord, and behold, he is beside the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, ‘Go, fall upon him….’ Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and fell upon him and put him to death, and he was buried at his own house in the wilderness. The king appointed Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in his place, and the king appointed Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar. – 1 Kings 2:28-29, 34-35 (NASB)

Joab was the most feared man in Israel for many decades. But his pride and immoral actions caught up with him in the moral and upright Benaiah. When faced with the prospect of having to face Benaiah alone, he cowered and hid in the temple. He knew he didn’t have a chance when going face to face with Benaiah. No more than a lion would, in the middle of a pit, on a snowy day.

David’s Mighty Men: The Other Band of Brothers

The famous mini-series Band of Brothers is a dramatic and powerful depiction of Easy Company, the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, where the U.S. Army engaged in the retaking of Western Europe from entrenched German forces during WW2. These men became a band of brothers as they fought and died next to each other in order to achieve their mission. They had a great leader, but the key ingredient in this regiment was they had a bond that created a relational synergy that was unstoppable. It was an all-for-one, and one-for-all troop of men.

But long before Easy Company there was another famous band of brothers that will forever resonate in my heart and mind. This other band of brothers was David and his 37 mighty men. Near the end of King David’s life he records an amazing tribute, by name, to each of these 37 mighty men in 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

David has long been recognized as an amazing man, though not perfect by any stretch. He was loyal to God, never forsaking Him or following after other gods – a true rarity. He was a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, personally and as the leader of his army. He was a brilliant strategist both of his army and of Israel, the nation God entrusted to his leadership.

Besides those strengths, David has repeatedly been used as an example of a leader. His leadership capabilities are clear. He was strong, decisive, willing to make the hard calls, fearless in the face of adversity and had a heart that beat faithfully after His God. The list could go on and on. I have often heard David described as a strong, Lone Ranger kind of leader, but nothing could be further from reality. As mentioned above, at the end of his life he basically says, “I couldn’t have done any of it without these men – men who were also strong, capable, loyal and faithful, men who gave up their own ambitions and desires to be part of my team, men who stood by me in thick and thin. We were a band of brothers that made it possible for my leadership to be effective.”

These were “warrior” men who repeatedly put their lives on the line for David, and the purposes God had for David and the nation of Israel. These were men who had each other’s backs, no matter what the cost. These men were not only loyal to David, but to each other – to the greatest extent. Except for one occasion, you will never see any of these men do anything against one of his brothers. The one exception is when King David has Uriah set up to be killed by the enemy so David could take Uriah’s wife Bathsheba as his own wife. This is the only black spot on this troop of comrades, and it can be said that this one betrayal of his brothers was the beginning of the end for David’s effectiveness as King over Israel.

Other than this instance, what you see in the Scriptures is a team of men who would die for David and each other, and David would die for them. Do you have people in your life that would be willing to die for you? And an even bigger question: are there people in your life you would be willing to die for?

Are you a leader that has bought into the Lone Ranger idea of leadership, that “it’s lonely at the top”? God never designed us to live life alone, whether leader or not. Lone Ranger leadership is a ploy of Satan to separate us from our band of brothers so we can be picked off easier. God’s people and God’s kind of leaders, like King David, have their mighty men, their band of brothers, so to speak. This is the kind of leadership that is unforgettable and powerful. This kind of leadership will leave an indelible mark on all who come near it.