Monday, July 30, 2018

King David 4

2 Samuel 11
July 29, 2018

Just a minute about theology here before we go on with this.
If you spend any amount of time in the Old Testament you notice
a certain type of cause and effect theology.

A person does good things, and God rewards them.
With things like success, victory over an enemy, money, livestock, land.
But if someone does something wrong, God punishes them.
With defeat, poverty, death of a loved one, humiliation, or their own death.
Nothing happened outside of God’s favor or displeasure.
Everything happened for a reason, and that reason was you were good or bad.

To be clear, we don’t believe this is the way things happen now.
Even though we read this in parts of the bible, we have a better understanding of God now.
As you read further in the Hebrew Scriptures, you can see this understanding change.

Most obviously,
In the story of Job we hear how human suffering has nothing to do
with righteousness or unrighteousness.

And of course, we know the story of Jesus  
who was God come to earth and was obviously not evil or sinful
he was God’s beloved and the one who God was well pleased with,
and still died a shameful and painful death and suffered a terrible fate.

Now we do believe that there are some natural consequences to sin.
We do believe that God’s grace, mercy, and love will prevail and
We do believe and that God has created a world and is always working to put an end to evil.

But we don’t believe that suffering is a sign of that person’s sinfulness.
We don’t believe that success and health are a sign of that person doing God’s will.

But this theology is stubborn even in Christian circles.
It’s prevalent in what’s called the prosperity Gospel and some branches of the Evangelical church
and it’s easy to conclusion to come to, it’s an easy formula to believe.
If someone is rich or healthy, they must have pleased God.
And if someone is poor or sick they tend to ask,
“Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?  Why is God mad at me?”

This theology is definitely in play in the story of David.
And we want to honor the story as written,
this was a story of Jesus’s faith and our faith history.
And there are still some very important things we can learn from it.
But we understand now that God works in different ways.
So back to David.
David became king at 30 years old it says.
Then, 20 years pass without much to talk about apparently.
Except a couple of wars and a brief mention
of how David administered justice and equity to all his people.
And God gave victory to David wherever he went.

Until we get to this point. The center of David’s story.
David’s miscalculation, his weakness, his ego, his hubris, David’s sin.
or the point that the author of the story decides is the moment David’s life went of the rails.

The story begin saying that Spring is the time for Kings to go to battle.
Who knew that there was such an appointed time, even if there wasn’t a war.

But instead of going himself, David sent Joab and his troops out. David stayed in Jerusalem.
He was letting other people do his work for him and he was busy doing nothing.
Basically, David was not where he was meant to be.

And then he went up on his roof, and some people even say
that roofs in the city were basically reserved for women, to meet and have conversation,
to do household chores, to hang out laundry,
and to do other private things like take baths.
Again, David was not where he was supposed to be.

And unlike a lot of the other stories of David that we’ve been reading,
this one is crystal clear and doesn’t require a lot of explanation.
While he was on the roof, he saw a woman and wanted her,
and even though he found out that she was married to another man, he demanded her.

Now some people make Bathsheba out to be some sort of seductress,
a loose woman, or that she somehow shares part of the guilt in this situation.
But really.
If the King requests you, what do you do?
Bathsheba was obviously young, because she was married,
but didn’t have any children yet.
And when the person with power that has your future and your family’s future in their hands,
you have very little choice, Bathsheba was taken advantage of.
By today’s standards, the law would say she was sexually assaulted.

And when she got pregnant, because everyone knew her husband
hadn’t been with her because he was away at David’s war,
David put him put in a dangerous place in battle and he was killed.
In essence, David murdered him.
And then David married Bathsheba himself.
Some say David’s sin was adultery, but what is adultery to a man
who has eight wives and as many concubines as he wants?
And some have said that David’s sin was a sin of lust.
But that could have been taken care of with any number of women at his disposal as king.

David’s sin was the abuse of his power.  If he did not have the power that he had,
he would not have been able to do these things.
His sin was the abuse of the power that God had given him.
David’s sin was wanting what he did not have, when he had everything else.
And then using his power to take it, regardless of the others involved.

Now, wait, the reality is lots of Kings and other leaders do this kind of stuff all the time.
Saul tried to have David killed in the same way as David killed Uriah, by putting him in danger.
Certainly  in the life of kings and the powerful,
especially at this time, and almost any time before the 20th century,
this kind of activity was just one of the perks of the position.
The powerful can do all sorts of stuff because who’s gonna stop them?

But this is not just any king. This is David. Our David. This is the chosen one of God.
This is God’s king. The one God made a covenant with.
And this kind of behavior is not acceptable for that King.
God was angry.

Nathan was David’s court prophet. David’s spiritual advisor.
He was the one who told David about the covenant God made with him and his house.
And now Nathan has the uncomfortable job of telling David how God feels.

Knowing that David is s shepherd at heart.
Nathan uses the parable of a sheep and a shepherd to get the point across.

A rich man had many sheep and a poor man had only one.
The rich man needed to make a dinner for guests and he took the
poor man’s one beloved sheep and had the guests eat that.

The injustice of the story makes David mad.
And in David’s response to Nathan’s story, he convicts himself,
 “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 
he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing,
and because he had no pity.”
David and Nathan
Angelica Kaufman, 1797

Like so many of us, David’s moral compass is in the right place when it is pointed at other people
But he’s blind to his own sin, but he doesn’t even recognize himself in this story.

“You are that man! “ 
Nathan has to tell David outright.
And Nathan, shares with David the words of God that came through him.

“I gave you everything 
and I would have given you more.
You could have had 
another wife or girlfriend,
but you had to take someone else’s wife and then kill him.”
He tells David,  “Since you used the sword,
the sword will never leave your house again.”

He goes on to say:
“Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.
Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord,
the child that is born to you shall die.” 

These sins were certainly worse than anything that Saul had done
in that situation, God took away his anointing and chose another.
But God had made a covenant with David that he would not depose him as king,
and he wouldn’t kill him, so David and his position were safe.
But David would, at times, regret that covenant.
Sometimes there are worse fates than death.
Because today’s story is not the end of David’s sorrow.

To David’s credit, he did not kill Nathan, which would have
been the inclination of most kings, to kill the messenger,
and the only other man who knew the truth about him and his new wife.
David merely acknowledge the truth and said, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

The child that was born to Bathsheba was born sick.
David fasted and prayed and pleaded with God.
And on the seventh day after the child was born, the child died.

David’s people were afraid to tell him that the child died,
because they were worried that he might do harm to himself.
But after he learned that the child had died, he sat down and ate.
His people asked him why, and he said:

“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows?
The Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ 23 
But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?
I will go to my son one day, but he will not return to me.”

David is defeated and almost without emotion at this point.
No more political manipulation or calculations.
The joy and exuberance of his youth is now turned to the reality of his middle age.
A life of violence was not without consequences. Death is permanent
Using the privilege of his power and position were not without consequences.
His relationship with God, once seen only as the great gift giver, has been changed.

This story cuts through the myth of the powerful, and shows us the human being.
The narrator puts the royal business aside and shows us David for the
ambiguous, contradictory, driven, selfish, and inept man that he is.
And also for the sensitive, loving, faithful, and repentant man that he is.
He is never just one thing. He is a whole person.

As I said at the beginning of this series, the story of David is the story of humanity.

Who of us can say that given the power, and the opportunity,
 given the lack of restraints and earthly consequences,
If we were the most powerful without any checks and balances
would we not take advantage of the situation and use our power for our own desires?

Even if we would not take someone else’s spouse,
aren’t there other ways that we might be tempted to exploit our power?
Have we not done that at one time or another,
in our job, in our positions, in our community, in our families?

And haven’t we, as a human race, taken advantage of our privileges?
Given everything in this world, we insist on taking more.
We have more than enough, and we still leave some without
and feel it’s our right and privilege. We do it without thought.

If we can’t see ourselves in this story,
then we are just as blind as David was when Nathan told him his story.
The truth is, “We are that person.”

And putting David’s sin aside for a moment.
The story shows us and the rest of the regular people of God,
 that not even power and wealth and position or even
God’s anointing can take away the realities of being human.
Nothing can take away the moments of anguish and pain
that come with living life on this earth.

To give David some credit again, he did not have Bathsheba killed,
and he did not dismiss her in shame, which is often how these kind of things ended.
He marries her and she is his wife until his death,
and he seems to treat her kindly and with love.
More kindly than a lot of wives are treated in the scriptures.
It says that after their child died that he comforted her.
And they had another child and they named him Solomon.

And it says in 2 Samuel 12:24 that “the Lord loved the child.”
As Bruggemann writes about this:
Solomon, the child of the sin, Yahweh loves. In a family of resilient evil, Yahweh loves .
In a history of sordid disobedience, Yahweh keeps a covenant.
We're not left in despair, because Yahweh loves.
But we're not left in a fairytale where love conquers all.”

And that is our story too.
God loves us, even through in our sordid disobedience.
Never without hope, but not in a fairytale.
David lives where all people of faith live.

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