[O]ne might find it strange that God permitted Uriah to die like this, given that he was innocent. For we have seen the reverence which he manifested in the service of God, and that the ark was so precious to him that he was even conscientious about entering his house to rest or take his ease while the ark of God was in the field. Why, then, did God not help him in time of need? Where were the promises by which God testified that he would never forsake his own (Psa. 37:28); that their blood would be precious to him (Psa. 72:14; Heb. 12:24); that even a hair of their head would not fall, and that they were numbered by him (Matt. 10:30); that he would guide their steps, and that he would cause them to be guided by his angels (Psa. 91:11); and that they would be fortified with a double rampart; that he would be their strength and their shield (Psa. 28:7); that he would hold them dear as the apple of his eye (Deut. 32:10; Psa. 17:8); and everything else that it is possible to say? It seems, therefore, that these promises failed for Uriah; it seems that he was frustrated for having carefully served God.
But from this we can gather the exact opposite: the faithful have no stopping place in this world as their final goal. Otherwise, one would have to conclude that God is an idol or a phantom. When we accept the principle that God is the Judge of the world, and that we must all pass before his bar and render account of our works; when we thoroughly accept this truth, the death of Uriah, as well as that of Abel and the like, will serve to confirm our belief in eternal life. Indeed, there must be a better life than this one, for otherwise we would have to say that God was asleep in the heavens when Uriah was put to death, and when Abel was killed. Hence, we see that this death, instead of horrifying us, is useful to us, because it is like a mirror which represents eternal life before our eyes. Although it could have caused unbelievers who hastily judge the works of God to quit his service, those who use it as an excuse to reject God’s service are motivated by nothing but their own presumption.
Hence, since God permitted Uriah to be killed in such a way, let us recognize that the wages of the good and faithful are not received in this world. And when they are afflicted, everything is turned to their good and is for their salvation, as it says in the eights chapter of Romans. For St Paul gives us there a definite rule which teaches us how to benefit from all the afflictions which God sends us. If we endure (he says) heat and cold and hunger and thirst, or if we must pass under the sword, and if we are put through as many miseries as can possibly be imagined, still it does not keep God from loving us forever, or keep us from being in his good grace. For ‘all things are turned to our good’ (as I said) and redound to the salvation of ‘those who love God’. Hence, when we read these promises, that God never forgets us, that our life will be hidden under the shadow of his wing, that we are dear to him as the apple of his eye, that we will never be stripped of his help, let us recognize that this does not exempt us from having to suffer many terrible things, and finally death when the right moment for us arrives; that is to say, when God wills it. Nevertheless, let us be content to know that even death will be our entrance into a better life, so that this consideration will serve to strengthen our patience and make us even more certain that God will never forget us.
John Calvin, Sermons on 2 Samuel: Chapters 1-13 (trans. Douglas Kelly; Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth Trust, 1992), 507-508
R. Andrew Compton
Mid-America Reformed Seminary