I'm in chapter 11 of 1 Chronicles today and finding more nuggets of gold amongst the genealogies and history lessons! While many of the facts of David's ascent to the throne are familiar from having recently read 1 and 2 Samuel, I found the stories of David's "Mighty Fighting Men" very interesting. You see, while King Saul was pursuing David and David was hiding in caves and on the run for his life, he was surrounded by a band of heroes. Fighting men of apparent reknown, these men were apparently somewhat notorious in their heroic exploits. Verses 16-19 tell about one particular adventure when they stole into the enemy camp to retrieve water from their adversaries' well in order to bring it back for David to drink because he had said he longed for water from that well! Sounds a little brazen, doesn't it?
Various members of the group are identified as fighting off 300 men, killing a lion in a pit, killing an Egyptian seven-and-a-half feet tall with his own spear, and verse 19 concludes "such were the exploits of the three mighty men." The Bible states that in addition to the three mighty men, there were thirty chiefs among this group - essentially the inner circle of David's rapidly growing army. We might liken this group to our Green Berets or Navy Seals. They were a band of brothers who fought together, lived together and protected one another. They depended on each other for their very lives.
Interestingly, and I suspect seldom noticed or studied, the chronicler also provides a list of these mighty men, David's inner circle of friends. The men to whom he owed his very life. And near the end of the list a familiar name appears: Uriah the Hittite.
Back in 2 Samuel, chapter 11, we learn that "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the entire Israelite Army." Instead of joining his men on the battlefield, David stayed home to enjoy the safety and luxury of his palace. We are told that "he got up from his bed one evening and walked around the roof of his palace." Why do you suppose he couldn't sleep? Perhaps the guilt of abandoning his place with his men was nagging at him. While pacing on the roof, he saw a woman bathing. The following verses tell us, "The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her." Notice that he found out who she was first - he knew before he ever sent messengers to bring her to him that she was the wife of one of his trusted comrades-in-arms!
You probably know the rest of the story. Bathsheba becomes pregnant, so David summons Uriah and tries to provide the opportunity for Uriah to be thought the father. But Uriah is so honorable, that he refuses to spend a night in the comfort of his home, in the arms of his wife, while his brothers remain encamped on the battlefield. So David devises a plan to ensure that Uriah is killed in battle - he is sent to the frontlines and the rest of the army retreats and leaves him unprotected. And eventually the son born of David's unfaithfulness dies.
Imagine all the sorrow that arose from that one small decision to remain in his palace. How often do we find ourselves in sin because we allow ourselves to be somewhere we simply had no business being? How many tragedies begin with a single, seemingly innocent, poor choice? Once we have sinned, what additional sins will we heap on in an effort to conceal our guilt instead of confessing and turning away from sin?
It would be so easy to condemn David. What a wretched man! How could he do something so horrible? How could he betray one so close to him? But I am encouraged that despite all his failures, God's Word tells us he was a man after God's own heart. Despite all our failures, God stands ready, willing, and able to hear our confession and empower us to repent through the work of the Holy Spirit.