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It was the ultimate act of betrayal.

Uriah the Hittite was a loyal warrior in King David’s army.

But one spring, when kings of the Old Testament normally went to battle, David stayed behind. From his rooftop, he saw the beautiful Bathsheba bathing and conspired to bring her to his house — and had an affair with her.

David obviously wanted to keep this a secret, but then Bathsheba sent word to him that she was pregnant. So he hatched another plot, calling Uriah back from battle and telling him to go home for a reprieve.

Nothing went as planned.

Dedicated Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with his servants.

When questioned about this, Uriah told how his commander Joab and the other men were sleeping in an open field.

So how could he enjoy food and drink and time with his wife?

David tried again to line up a rematch with Bathsheba and Uriah by inviting the warrior to his house and getting him drunk, thinking he’d surely go home to his wife.

But Uriah didn’t.

In an act of desperation, David sent Uriah back to the battle with a letter to Joab. David instructed Joab to send Uriah to the forefront of the hardest fighting and then draw back so he would be killed by the enemy.

It was calculated evil and an order that Joab followed.

What strikes me about this is that Uriah unknowingly carried his own death warrant back to Joab.

It’s a terrible and astonishing betrayal.

Could Uriah have accidentally or intentionally read that letter before the battle — and then brokenheartedly gone to his death? Had he heard rumors of David and Bathsheba and resigned himself to die in the fight?

I’m guessing not. Throughout history, kings were known to have sealed letters with a special wax seal.

Joab would have known if that seal was broken and judging by his previous demonstrations of loyalty, faithful Uriah probably wouldn’t have opened it anyway.

So how could he have known the leader he’d followed so faithfully would do this to him?

Joab followed David’s orders and sent Uriah to a place near a city where he knew the enemy had valiant men. The enemy came out and fought and Uriah died.

But not only Uriah.

The Scriptures say other servants of David died, too. So more than one person would pay the price for David’s sin.

Figuring David would stage an angry scene and ask why the men had fought so close to the city, Joab even instructed a messenger on how to respond—simply by saying Uriah had died.

The messenger told David how the enemy gained an advantage and came out against them in a field, but that their army drove them to the entrance of the city gate where archers shot arrows at them from a wall.

“Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also,” the messenger said.

In what could have been an Academy Award-winning performance, David instructed the messenger to tell Joab this: “Don’t let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.”

To an outsider, it would have looked like a valiant, poignant moment, but it was a farce.

David would pay for what amounted to premeditated murder.

Nathan the prophet confronted the king about his sin. David realized his transgression and sought forgiveness, but he and his family would suffer.

David’s first son with Bathsheba would die. And David and his family would know violence and bloodshed in the years to come. Perhaps considering his own indiscretion, David didn’t do much when his son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar.

But Tamar’s revengeful brother, Absalom, later killed Amnon. Absalom also conspired against David and — for a while — took the throne, before Joab killed Absalom.

It was a royal mess that could have been avoided if David — who already had plenty of wives — hadn’t had an affair and later murdered a brave and faithful soldier.

In the end, David betrayed not only Uriah, but his family and his people — and most of all — God.

How could David, who loved God so much and wrote lovely songs of praise known as the Psalms, have done such terrible things? His story is a powerful message — warning us to guard against temptation. It’s also one of forgiveness. God forgave David and blessed him throughout his life.

My question today is this — Have you been betrayed? If so, I am very sorry for the deep pain you’ve experienced. My prayer is that you look to God for healing and hope.

And please know that our loving Savior Jesus understands betrayal.

Travel with me now from the pages of the Old Testament to the Gospels.

Stop for a moment in a garden called Gethsemane. There, you’ll find Jesus with his disciples when a group of armed soldiers approaches.

Then — in the ultimate act of betrayal — one of Christ’s disciples named Judas Iscariot kisses our Lord, signaling to the mob that this man is Jesus.

With a kiss?

Really?

The sign of friendship and love?

How could Judas betray Christ — the one he’d seen perform miracles? The one who’d taught and loved him?

And the one who’d washed his feet at what we now know as The Last Supper?

Christ’s other disciples flee the garden leaving Jesus with the group of soldiers. When later confronted, Peter lies three times, saying he hadn’t been a follower of Christ.

Jesus is arrested. He is beaten, horribly whipped, mocked and hung on a hard Roman cross to die a brutal, excruciatingly painful death.

And even then, Christ asks our Heavenly Father to forgive those who were killing him “for they know not what they do.”

Filled with remorse, Judas takes his own life, but a repentant Peter later finds the forgiveness of our merciful Savior.

And God uses the man, who’d once lied about being with Jesus, to spread the greatest truth ever when Peter gives a spirit-inspired sermon on the day of Pentecost — and about 3,000 people are saved.

If you’ve every betrayed someone, I pray you seek forgiveness from God and that person. If you’ve been betrayed, I pray you will ask God to help you forgive that individual.

Forgiveness is the key to moving ahead in life. We don’t know why people betray God and each other, but our Lord can help us get — and stay — on the right path in life.

I wonder about Uriah’s last moments. Was he killed instantly? Or did he have a few seconds to think about the wife and king he’d never see again on this earth. I pray his last minutes had a peaceful tone.

And as hard as it might have been, I’ll bet Uriah would have forgiven David and Bathsheba had he known what transpired.

Today, I’d like to think the three of them are together enjoying eternity with a forgiving God and our loving and fiercely loyal Savior Lord Jesus.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.

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