Uriah

(This audio of John Piper's reading is from 2001.)

When he was small his mother told
Him many times the tales of old,
When Hittites ruled the mountains and
The plains, and conquered all the land
From western seas to rivers in
The west. She said they used to win
Their battles by the chivalry
And strength that enemies could see
On bloody fields, and by the creed
Of honor to abstain from greed
And lust. She said once to the boy,
"Uriah, I recall the joy
Your father brought when he'd return
From victory. My heart would burn
Like fire with good news from Haran.
Your father was a mighty man
Of war. . . One time he never came.
You were too young to know. His name
Was read among the valiant dead.
Your uncle El-Eroduth said
He buried him with honor though,
And that your father's mighty bow
Was full-bent to the end. He brought
A note to me and said, ‘You ought
To read this to Uriah when
He's old enough to sit with men
And dream of war.' Your father wrote,
‘Dear son, I leave to you my coat,
My bow, my honor and my name.
I had a dream tonight. God came
And told me that tomorrow I
Must die. He said, "Above the sky
I rule the heavens and the earth;
I bring the tiny child to birth.
No ruler rises but by Me,
None falls but at My own decree.
By My design the sparrow dies,
By My decree the arrow flies."
My son, do not resent God's choice.
There was a glory in his voice
That made me want to rise and go.
There's one thing more that you must know
And love. Uriah, mark this well:
He was the God of Israel.'

Uriah waited for his mother's word.
"Do you believe what you have heard?"
She asked. "Do you?" he said. "I do,
My son, and always have. Now you
And I must leave this place and go
Up to Jerusalem and throw
Ourselves upon the God of grace,
And pray that he would make his face
To shine in tender mercy on
A Hittite widow and her son.
There we will live and spend our days,
And we will learn the Jewish ways,
And we will have a happy life,
And take for you a holy wife.
And you will learn to love and sing,
And serve a good and righteous king."

The years went by. Uriah and
His mother found the promised land
A place of joy. The boy grew strong;
And handsome too. It wasn't long
Before he showed his father's craft:
His sword was swift and every shaft
Shot from his father's bow would score.
He was a mighty man of war.
The very year his mother died
God found for him a holy bride.
Bathsheba was her name, and they
Were much in love. A one year stay
Was given them according to
The law, and then Uriah drew
His lot to fight the Ammonites.
Safe in the shadow of the heights
Of David's palace, there he left
His wife, a dove within the cleft
Of David's care and love: no less
A shield than royal righteousness.
And while Uriah risked his life,
The righteous king lay with his wife;
And she was found to be with child.
And now the noble king, beguiled
By lust, sent for the man of war.
And soon Uriah stood before
The king. "My servant Joab said
You are a fearful man of dread
Against the Ammonites. Well done,
Take your reward: before the sun
Breaks forth now bathe yourself for love;
Go down and nestle with your dove."
Uriah smiled the way a friend
Would smile, and took his leave to spend
The night beside the palace gate.

"Have you not even seen your mate,
Uriah?" David said. "Pray tell
Why do you not go bid her well?"
Uriah looked perplexed, and then
He said, "My lord, you know that when
The Hittites went to war, they made
A solemn vow, and never laid
With wife or concubine until
The deadly battle ceased. And will
The king of Israel accept
Allegiance from a man who slept
At home, while others sleep alone
On fleshless beds made out of stone?
My lord, this would not suit you well:
You are the king of Israel!"

Then David tried to make him drunk,
And failing this, the monarch sunk,
As low as he would ever sink,
As near the final, fatal brink
Of no return as he could be:
The note to Joab read: "Now see
That this Uriah fall before
He comes back to me anymore.
Press him against the city wall
And let the arrows do it all."

And on the morrow it was done.
And Joab sent a man to run
And tell the king. "Be sure to say,
‘Your friend Uriah died today.'
Then tell him that we found this note
Sealed for the king inside his coat."

And so the word arrived that night
And David heard by candlelight.
"A note?" "Yes, Sire, and sealed by his
Own ring, for you, and here it is."
"Well done, young man, now you may go,
I'll call you if you need to know."

He broke the seal and read the note:
"My lord, I leave to her my coat,
My bow, my honor and my name.
I had a dream tonight. God came
And told me that tomorrow I
Must die. He said, ‘Above the sky
I rule the heavens and the earth;
I bring the tiny child to birth.
No ruler rises but by Me,
None falls but at My own decree.
By My design the sparrow dies,
By My decree the arrow flies.'
My Lord, tonight I bow before
The King of kings and I adore
The mercy and the power that sought
Me as a Hittite boy and brought
Me to Jerusalem, and let
Me know the living God, and set
Me in the service of his king,
And taught me by your psalms to sing.
And I embrace the Lord's decree,
For He has granted me to see
That she will bear another child,
And by Him all that's been defiled
By you — and me — will be like snow.
And now farewell, my Lord, I go."

Come, you who know it is too late
To save the victims of your hate.
For in the fire of candle three
Christ purges even treachery.

©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org