King David’s foil
Don Quixote had Sancho Panza. Sherlock had Watson. The hare had the tortoise. This literary convention called the ‘foil’ has been around since stories were told. The foil is not necessarily the enemy of the main character but is someone who brings out and exposes parts of that person.
The Bible is full of foil characters. From Cain and Abel to Jacob and Esau to Peter and Paul—these ‘foil’ relationships expose and develop the people in these stories. One of King David’s many foils was Uriah.
The story starts in 2 Samuel 11, with this foreshadowing verse:
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)
In the following verses, David takes Bathsheba to bed after seeing her bathing on the roof. She becomes pregnant so David brings her husband Uriah home to let nature take its course and cover things up.
Uriah refuses to sleep with his wife and sleeps in the doorway of the king’s house, ever the soldier on guard. He declares that as long as the army is sleeping rough, and as long as the Ark of the Covenant is in temporary housing, he can’t go home. David gets him drunk and again tries to get him to go home, and again his plan fails.
Ultimately, in one tragic final stroke, David tells the commander to put Uriah in the worst of the fighting, causing his death.
Indirectly, and without even much interaction, God uses Uriah in the story as David’s foil. In a short series of actions, probably constituting just a few weeks, David is exposed as a broken, hollow man in need of healing.
The story starts with David wandering the rooftops, away from the wars that Israel was fighting. He is on his own, at the height of his royal power, looking over his empire. He feels indestructible.
He sees Bathsheba on the roof, and everything changes.
And the juxtaposition with Uriah makes it worse. David uses unchallenged power to take another man’s wife and force a commander’s hand. David acts out of impulse and lust; Uriah acts out of loyalty and respect. David orchestrates a man’s death out of cowardice; Uriah is the man who died fighting bravely.
Through the course of these events, God brings vivid clarity into David’s life. And then by exposing David through the foil of Uriah, God heals him.
Has God ever sent a foil into your life? Maybe someone who challenges you to bring out your best? Maybe someone who annoys you and grates on your patience? Maybe someone who by sheer contrast gets your attention and shows you where you need a savior?
God’s goal is always to heal, to redeem, and to restore. Because of his love for us, he is faithful to bring foils into our lives. We are blessed when we pay attention.
Presented by Greg Williams
About the presenter:
Word of Life each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life’, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International. Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.
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