2 Samuel 11:1-5; 12:1-9
October 23, 2022
Before this morning’s reading from 2 Samuel, God made a covenant with Adam and Eve, with Noah, with Moses, with Abraham, and a few chapters before this morning’s reading, with David.
God says that he will establish David’s throne forever and will love him as a father loves a son. God will punish David for his misdeeds, but promises to never stop loving him.
No matter what faults he may have.
David is king by today’s reading. But even though he is God’s chosen king, David isn’t filling the role as he should.
David is supposed to be with his troops on the battlefield. Instead, he is neglecting his duty to protect the people.
David is relaxing at home. He gets up from his nap and goes up on the roof to enjoy a little late afternoon sun.
He looks at a neighbouring rooftop and spots Bathsheba … who is married to Uriah … one of his generals.
While David isn’t doing what he is supposed to be doing, Bathsheba is.
Bathsheba is following the temple law and is in the middle of a ritual bath to cleanse her of the impurities so that she can worship in the temple.
David is overcome with desire and beckons her to his home.
Once she’s there, he sleeps with her and she becomes pregnant. Some of scholars, writers and even filmmakers like to portray this through a romantic lens or offer a version where Bathsheba seduces the virtuous David, but it seems obvious that David is using his political power to get a married woman to bed.
Bathsheba tells David that she is carrying his child. David showing that he is a human king with some major flaws … sends her away.
So David comes up with a plan to avoid responsibility for his actions.
David calls Uriah back from battle … hoping that he will sleep with Bathsheba and will believe that the child is his. But Uriah doesn’t sleep with his wife, so David goes to Plan B.
He arranges for Uriah to die in battle so he can marry Bathsheba. After Uriah dies and after Bathsheba has mourned the prescribed amount of time, David marries her and claims the child. He hopes that by marrying Bathsheba, all his misdeeds will remain hidden from sight.
But they do not.
As a woman, Bathsheba was powerless to call David to account for his actions, that is left to the prophet Nathan.
Nathan … who, like other prophets before him, serves as a mediator between God and the people … calls David out on his transgressions.
David has broken a number of laws and has damaged the covenantal relationship between him and God.
Nathan tells David that God knows what he has done and is none too pleased by Uriah’s murder and the loss of his wife to David’s desires.
Nathan appeals to David’s sense of integrity and provokes the king into passing judgement on himself.
Today’s Psalm is David’s response to Nathan’s statements and it is held as a model for others who are contrite over their actions.
In Psalm 51, David pleads with God to cleanse him of sin … to pardon him for his actions … to give him a clean heart.
To have his heart cleansed puts David on the path to restoration … allowing him to feel the full effects of God’s forgiveness. Cleansing one’s heart provides the opportunity to change … to transform and live into the covenantal relationship that remains in place.
This is what grace is … and this is what grace does.
It’s easy to look at David’s contrition … his plea for forgiveness after all the evil he has done … that God forgives all … and leave it at that.
It’s fine to take this as a reminder that God’s love is unconditional. After all, God won’t take David’s life for all he has done.
But despite this forgiveness, David’s actions still carry a cost … one that is borne by others in David’s life. He actions carry consequences that spiral out through his family.
In this passage, Bathsheba is the victim of an abuse of power … an unwanted pregnancy … a murdered husband … and she is coerced into marrying her rapist and the one who arranged her husband’s death, because if she doesn’t, Bathsheba and her baby will face a life of shame and poverty.
Bathsheba was where she was supposed to be … doing what she was supposed. David was not where he was supposed to be … and … like a Russian nesting doll … his choice to be away from the battle leads more bad choices and to suffering for others.
After her husband is murdered … Bathsheba pretty much disappears from the story. We can assume that Bathsheba continues on … living with her attacker. But there isn’t any mention of the mental anguish or the trauma she suffers from losing her husband and child because of David’s actions.
Bathsheba, David’s other wives and his children all suffered because of David’s choices.
There are a number of takeaways for those hearing or reading this story.
One is the affirmation that the effects of our choices and actions can remain unseen and unnoticed. There are consequences.
Maybe what we can take away from Bathsheba’s story is how we can and should view the world. … how we need to look beyond the distractions that are present in our lives and in the world … to consider our willingness to accept the questionable or downright despicable actions of others. Inaction carries consequences too.
How we are called to listen for the victims’ cries and advocate for their safety and care.
And when we hear these cries … we are called to minister to … to liberate … to bring back from the darkness … the people who are at risk of being missed or forgotten.
We are each called to be in mission for others … to see the people who are being overpowered by others … and to stand between them and the people who victimize them … to stand with them. Because when we do this … God’s grace is made known … it is shared and fully realized in this world.
And in those moments, we can recognize that God remains faithful to us … and we can be a sign … a sign … a reminder of the covenant like the rainbow … that God’s promise … God’s love … is unconditional and remains in place for all.