This week the Narrative Lectionary points us to 2 Samuel 11-12 and Psalm 51.
It’s a part of King David’s story that is both shocking and disappointing. It’s not shocking for a King to use his power to use people, but we know King David as a ‘man after God’s own heart‘. He is exalted in Scripture in a way that few are. Yet as we read his descent into abhorrently destructive behavior we wonder where the David we know and love went off to?
David – what happened? How do you fall so far? We probably don’t ask those questions very loudly. We know very well the deceptiveness of sin and the lust of the flesh. It is just that we hope that someone of David’s stature can show us how to avoid falling into sin. But he doesn’t.
David is someplace he shouldn’t be. Why isn’t David at war? The text says that it was “the time when kings go out to battle” (2 Samuel 11:1), but David sends Joab and he remained in Jerusalem.
David is watching something he shouldn’t watch. We are human. We know that beauty, as we see it, attracts our hearts, minds, thoughts. Humans aren’t strangers to the allure of sexual attraction. We know we can look away, but do we? David didn’t.
David acts upon his thoughts in a way he shouldn’t have. Sending for Bathsheba is both an act of privilege and power, as well as physical lust. We have no idea from the text that David is interested in Bathsheba as a person. She is merely an object to him.
David attempted to cover his shameful behavior. Uriah is a potable figure in this story as well. He is another person David uses as a means to an end. The shame of this is multiplied by the faithfulness of Uriah to his King.
David descends deeper into sin and shame by having Uriah killed. These were days of brutality and King David, writer of the Psalms, lover of the ways of God, has spiraled into a barbaric act of desperate self-preservation.
Enter Nathan the Prophet. Nathan would play a key role at times of David’s life (and Solomon’s) when he needed to hear the word of the Lord. This is one of those times. Nathan’s parable enraged David, but it was only when he revealed the true meaning of the parable that David began to understand what he has done.
The suffering David brings into the lives of others and himself is immense. The son born to this union becomes ill and dies. Bathsheba has lost husband and son. David is humiliated in the mess he made of his own life and others. His life at this point is a poor reflection on the people of God.
The Narrative Lectionary has us reading Psalm 51-:1-9, but I think 1-17 would be more complete. The utter contempt with which David views his sin, his desire to be cleansed, to express his heartfelt desire to be restored to a walk with the Lord – are all signals to us that David recognized the truth about his own actions.
In preaching this month on being faithful to our Faithful God, I think we should consider that faithful Christians yield and repent to the Lord. Nowadays nothing is a sin. The only sin is to label something a sin! But David sees the way he has let God down by his actions and his heart.
Are we ever broken over our own sins? Do we find ourselves in the death spiral of David … following the flesh, covering up our sins, wounding others to make ourselves look better, abusing our power and privilege to lift up ourselves … I don’t know about you but I’ve been down some of those roads. Let us hear the calling to be broken over our sins, not dismissive of them. Feel the pain of how we displease the God who loves us so much, instead of pretending He doesn’t notice. When is the last time we wept tears of bitterness over our own fallenness?
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. – Psalm 51:17
This episode of David’s life stands out to the Biblical writers. In our less patriarchal times, we are mindful of the pain and loss suffered by Bathsheba. But the Hebrew writers continue to point out Uriah as the one who was hurt. And he did pay a price for his loyalty.
1 Kings 15:5 For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.
Matthew doesn’t let us forget this episode in the genealogy of Jesus when he writes:
Matthew 1:6 David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife…
This was not the last word in David’s life. He wasn’t ever perfect. But he did go on to lead productively and the rule of Jesus was referred to as the ‘Throne of David’ that would have eternal implications. Our worst moments do not define our entire journey either. But they do remind us of the need to be committed to hearing the Lord and maintaining a penitent spirit.
Resource: NATHAN THE PROPHET
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