The Shadow of Uriah

By on Apr 6, 2015

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Our staff is reading through the Psalms together. This week, I was assigned Psalm 17, and as usual (as our youth pastor likes to point out), David is telling God what to do.


He starts out with his typical chutzpah: “Hear a just cause, O Lord, give heed to my cry.”


David is confident his cause is just, his lips are truthful, and his way is peaceful (17:1-5). And he’s confident Yahweh knows it. So because his cause is just and Yahweh knows it, he’s confident Yahweh will grant his request.


It’s not terribly surprising that David’s request is that Yahweh will deliver him from his enemies with Yahweh’s sword (17:13). David is, after all, a man of a different age. Save me and kill my enemies—this is what ancient people tended to ask of their gods. Clearly there are still many ancients among us.


Despite my uneasiness toward David’s violent proclivities, I can place it in its proper space in time, and his cry for deliverance resonates deeply with me. I know what it’s like to feel surrounded by enemies. I know what it’s like to know that I am right and they are wrong. I know the desire to take refuge in the shadow of the almighty, but another shadow falls upon this psalm when I read it.


The shadow of Uriah.


Use your imagination and picture it:


David cries out to God with righteous conviction, reminding God of his justice, integrity, and peacefulness. And this prayer rises up to heaven…where God and Uriah sit side by side.


God and Uriah listen to David’s prayer together, glancing at one another from time to time with knowing amusement, chuckling here and there at the sheer absurdity of it all.


David…a man of justice, integrity, and peace!? The pot-marks of healed arrowhead wounds across Uriah’s torso beg otherwise. David is no such thing, and one would presume that, in more honest moments, David knows it (and many of the psalms indicate that he most certainly does).[1]


And yet here he is, making these comically self-righteous claims. Why? Perhaps because the good news of God was simply much better than he could have ever imagined.


Situated where we are—on the other side of Golgotha—we are privy to a view David never quite had. David, at times at least, hoped Yahweh would deliver him because he was a man of justice, integrity, and peace. And across religions, most have believed (or wanted to believe) the universe is tilted in favor of the just. And that certainly would be good news.


But as we approach Good Friday, we are reminded that the news is even better than that. For on Friday, we remember that the universe is not tilted in favor of the just so much as embracing of the unjust; that is, we remember that God desires to embrace the unjust in the arms of love. There are holes in his hands to prove it.


And if the shadow of Uriah falls upon David, the shadow of Jesus falls upon us all.


So if we want to take refuge in the shadow of the almighty, let us first remember: it’s a refuge for sinners. After all, the good news is not that we are good, but that we are loved.

[1] And of course to be fair, it’s probably the case that David is referring to his righteousness in a particular case with a particular opponent and not a blanket righteousness. That said, David has a certain tendency to see himself as “in the right.”