Success. The word conjures up many thoughts. We can debate what the nature of success is or how one achieves success or even the benefits of being successful. But for the Christian, the question must be, “How does God define success?” This question may also generate a good deal of debate based upon how well or how much someone does something. But the simplest answer to the question can be found in one word – faithfulness. The word faithful can be broken down to mean “full of faith.” We are faithful when we live in faith and live by faith. But that is more difficult to do than we might think. We can be faithful to our family, our jobs, our friends, and certainly to God. In fact, our passage this week (2 Samuel 11) talks a great deal about faithfulness – toward man and toward God. But to truly be faithful, we must consider that our service and love for God is expressed by our service and love toward others (Mark 12:30-31; 1 John 4:20-21).
2 Samuel 11 involves three warriors – David, Joab, and Uriah. Although each of these men had different responsibilities (David as king, Joab as commander, Uriah as soldier), each generally served his leader faithfully. However, the great lesson for us today is that like David, our faithfulness will be severely tested at times. The question is how will we respond? Hopefully, like David, we will find ourselves turning back to God through repentance – for truly that is the only way we can be found faithful in the end.
But before we get to David, let us begin by reviewing how Uriah and Joab were faithful.
Uriah: Faithful in Duty
Everything we know about Uriah shows him to be faithful to his duty. Offered the chance to be with his wife, he did not leave because of a sense of duty. The Bible paints a very positive picture of Uriah; we do not know any of his faults. (We do know he did get drunk, but only because the king made him – v. 13.) We also know that Uriah was more than just an ordinary soldier – he was one of David’s trusted warriors. 2 Samuel 23.39 shows that Uriah was one of David’s mighty men. So, Uriah was faithful to his king and to his duty. And that faithfulness is what ultimately got him killed. Consider four ways that Uriah was faithful.
- Uriah slept at the king’s door instead of his bed. (2 Sam. 11:9-11)
- Uriah slept with the king’s servants, but not in his own bed (2 Sam. 11:12-13)
- Uriah delivered a letter (his death sentence) to his commander (2 Sam. 11.14-15)
- Uriah fought on the frontlines as commanded (2 Sam. 11.16-17)
Uriah was faithful in his duty. And that duty included being faithful to his commander.
Joab: Faithful in Command
Joab was a faithful commander of the Israelite army, but he was not always faithful to David (he killed Abner out of revenge for having killed his brother (see 2 Samuel 3.26-30). Joab was a nephew of David (1 Chronicles 2:16) and he was also another of the mighty men of David (2 Sam. 23.18-19).
- Joab was faithful to send Uriah home. (2 Sam. 11:6)
- Joab was faithful to send Uriah to die. (2 Sam. 11:16-21)
- Joab was faithful in command, but to his own end (He tried to gain favor with Absalom to maintain his power after David was no longer king. See 2 Samuel 14.)
Joab, like Uriah, was faithful in most ways to their human leader. but with David we have a more complete story.
David: Faithful in the End
The depiction of David until this story is of a young man who is faithful to both man and God. He is a mighty warrior and has become a mighty king. But, like all of us, he is not perfect. The story of David and Bathsheba provides a great example of Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12, and the promise of verse 13. David did not have those verses to consult, but he did know the mercies of God for those who fail and repent. Thankfully, this same story provides us with a model of repentance as well. We may fall in the middle, but we can still be faithful in the end.
- David’s lack of fidelity led to a plan of deceit. (2 Sam 11:1-6)
- David’s lack of integrity led to additional sin. (2 Sam. 11:12-13, 15)
- David’s dedication to God led him to repent. (2 Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51)
This last point is so crucial for us. Many people start strong, but are they faithful to the end? David started strong and fell hard in the middle, but because he repented he serves as a model for us today. We can learn a great deal from David’s story. It is being faithful at the end that counts. Jesus told a parable about seed that fell on four types of soil (Matthew 13). Three of the seeds began to show some life, but only one truly took root. That is only one type of soil was “faithful” and because of that it bore much fruit. It is not enough to start well, it is finishing well that matters.
In recent months, we have seen many high-profile leaders fall for various reasons. The governor of Missouri resigned, as did the President of the SBC Executive Committee, some professors at SBC seminaries, and other leaders have been forced to leave office due to a variety of issues related to sin. The truth is that being in a position of leadership makes any sin magnified and spreads through the public more quickly. And the public, including Christians, are often not as willing to forgive as God is. Of course, only God knows the sincerity of the heart when someone repents. But let us not be deceived into thinking these high-profile leaders are the only ones capable, or culpable, of sin. You and I sin daily, but thankfully, our sin is not broadcast on television or the internet. Likewise, the people in our story today were guilty of sin, but only David’s sin was fully revealed.
The Bible does not reveal any of Uriah’s faults, but Paul wrote that each of us sins, so Uriah had them. The Bible does share a few of Joab’s faults, but it does not have any record of him repenting. We definitely know some of David’s faults, but more importantly, we know that despite his failures, he desired God, who called David “a man after my heart.” David’s life should be an encouragement to us because, although he failed in many ways, he was found to be faithful in the end.
We have seen each of these three individuals as faithful through a certain perspective. While, people may disagree on what makes a person or church faithful, Hebrews 11:6 says we cannot please God without faith. Thus, as I mentioned at the beginning, our success is somewhat tied to our faithfulness to God. That is, if acting on faith pleases God, we must consider being faithful important in God’s definition of success. Each of us, despite our flaws and our sins, can be found faithful in the end when we seek forgiveness from the One in whom we place our trust. We can be certain of this truth because Jesus has always been faithful – from beginning to end.
The JOURNEY letter for today is: O – OBSERVE.
A part of being faithful is to follow the expectations of others. Uriah did this. Joab did this. And, ultimately, David did this. We must do the same, but ultimately our being faithful is to follow the expectations of Jesus. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28.19-20), Jesus said that making disciples includes not only teaching others about what He said, but to “observe” everything He commanded. The promise then, for those who do, is to hear the phrase we should all desire to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21). As I often comment though, to hear well done, means we had to do.
Being faithful requires us doing something. Last week, that doing included being kind (not just nice) to others. This week, we must consider that our faithfulness begins when we realize how unclean we are. Like David, in his prayer of repentance (Psalm 51), we must confess our sins and ask God to cleanse us and make us new. When we do, we are then equipped to begin observing everything else He has for us to do. And, as we observe, we will find ourselves moving closer to hearing that we have done well and been a faithful servant.
NEXT STEP(S): LIVE
Many people find the demands of Jesus too difficult. And, let’s face it, it is impossible to live up to the standards He demands. But that is why He came to die. He died so that we might live. He doesn’t want us to just be alive physically, He wants us to live our lives with purpose. It is not for us to look at what He demands and just give up; rather, we are to strive towards obedience (see Paul in Philippians 3.12-14), knowing that He has made the path possible for us. This week, choose to live faithfully. Begin by confessing whatever needs to be confessed, and then choose to live according to the standards placed before you (by yourself, your spouse, your boss, by God, whomever). This idea may sound easy, but actually living faithfully in all those roles may make this next week the hardest week of the year.