"Then David said to the messenger, ‘Say to Joab, Let not this thing disturb you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack upon the city and over-throw it.'"
II Samuel 11: 25
"A Calloused Heart"
Callous: Emotionally hardened.
"Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside itself; it only requires opportunity."
Has there ever been a time in my life when my callous actions brought cruelty and pain to another person?
How did it make me feel when I hurt someone else?
Has there been a time when someone's cruelty hurt me?
How did I feel?
"A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves."
"Can spirit from the tomb, or fiend from hell, more hateful, more malignant be than man -- than villainous man?"
The Bible is filled with some very shocking stories and painful passages. We have encountered many since we began our study on all the women in the Bible beginning with the book of Genesis. The incidents that are right near the top of my personal list are the stories of the Levite's concubine and Jepthah's daughter. You may well have your own list.
However, as we continue our study about David, Bathsheba and Uriah the words of David to a messenger sent by Joab, his army general, are some of the coldest and most callous ever spoken.
After Joab's messenger informed David of the conditions on the battlefield, including the fact that Uriah the Hittite had been slaughtered (although this isn't the way the messenger reported the crime), David informed this war reporter to go back and tell Joab not to be "displeased," or as other Biblical translations state, "don't be disturbed about this situation." In everyday language we might say to someone, "Don't let it get to you. Don't let this event get under your skin."
But David didn't stop there. The Bible records that David wrote off the slaughter of Uriah as just another incidental act of war. "For the sword devoureth one as well as another." Just so we get a clear picture of what David's calloused statement meant, the Hebrew enlightens us as to the extreme heartlessness of these words for the word "devoureth" means to "burn up and consume, to completely eat." Think of a lion devouring its prey. Or a hot fire consuming everything in its path. This was the intent of David's words. "It's just war, Joab. And the sword consumes everything and everybody that gets in its way."
More calloused and cruel words could hardly ever have been spoken, especially when we remember how willing Uriah was to put his life on the line for David as well as Joab and his fellow soldiers.
What appreciation did Uriah get for this sacrifice? Absolutely none! David's heartless response conveyed the opinion that Uriah was in the wrong place at the wrong time and so when the devouring sword struck, too bad.
It is important for us to look at this story verse by verse, because when we do, it becomes so much easier to recognize the heinous behavior David displayed and the reason God responded to such a breach of trust by one He had elevated to lead the Israelites.
I'm certain the tender-hearted David, who played a harp to calm the tempestuous spirit that filled the life of King Saul, could never have imagined that he could become a callous-hearted man who would pass off the murder of a valiant soldier as nothing but the random act of a devouring sword. However, we find this was exactly what David did. A callous-hearted David, walked away with seemingly no thought as to the pain caused by his vicious act.
Now, I have to interject a point here about callouses. I'm very familiar with what happens when something becomes calloused. One of the daily consequences I live with since the car accident that nearly killed Jim and me, is that my left foot, which was crushed beyond repair, reshaped into a mass of solid bone from my left ankle down to the toes on my left foot. In other words, what was once multiple bones that helped my (Left) foot move and flex is now a solid mass of calcified bone. The result is that on the bottom of my foot, where there should be soft padding to absorb the weight of my body as I walk, there are chunks of bone that take an impact every time I take a step. And over all those bony prominences, callouses develop. The skin hardens as a way to protect the bone from injury.
Sometimes the emotional part of our hearts are just like the bones in my foot which develop callouses over them. If your heart has been injured emotionally by repeated pain and hurt, a callous can develop. Perhaps this happened to David. But there's a big danger when a callous hardens our hearts.
What I have found is that if I leave unattended the hardened skin on my feet and large calluses form on the bottom of them, after awhile I can't even walk for the callous, instead of protecting my foot, becomes a huge source of irritation and makes it impossible for me to even walk without excruciating pain.
What is the solution? I have a wonderful doctor who specializes in foot care. With gentle hands, she cleans off the old dead skin and medicates the irritated areas on my foot where the callouses have caused inflammation. When I allow her to skillfully take her knife, and "carve" on my feet, the result is that the hardened callous that impedes my movement is removed.
The same work is performed on our emotionally calloused hearts by a heavenly Father whose skill at taking what is hard and turning it into something new and soft is truly miraculous. In one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture there is this promise from our gracious Father whose skill as a physician for healing what is hurt is shared with us by the prophet Ezekiel, "I'll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I'll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that's God-willed not self-willed" (Ezekiel 36: 26, The Message Bible). Or as the New International Version of the Bible states, "I'll give you a heart of flesh." Tender, soft, and new. Not calloused anymore. This is a promise that's filled with Good News for all of us with "callouses," whether they are in our hearts or on our feet.
"Tender God, touch us.
Be touched by us;
make us lovers of humanity,
compassionate friends of all creation.
Gracious God, hear us into speech;
speak us into acting;
and through us, recreate the world."
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.