Lust, Sex, Murder and Forgiveness
II Samuel 11 & 12
Bonnie A. Perry
June 16, 2013
Come Holy Spirit and fill our hearts with the transforming power of your presence, in your Holy Name we pray. Amen.
Lust, sex, deceit, drunkenness, adultery and murder: it's a wonder more people don't read the Bible. But I have to say the people who we are hearing about in this reading they are not folks with whom I want to spend a lot of time. I don't like how this story begins, where it goes or how it ends. Mostly because I understand how it starts.
We are a fragile, broken lot. Oh true, we have moments of brilliance, love, compassion, honesty, clarity and forthrightness, but we also have the capacity the capability to...Oh we can be such a sodden, broken lot. At least that's how I feel about myself some days, some weeks. I look at myself and I say, "Really—really Bonnie—you thought that was a good idea?" "You thought that was a helpful thing to say?" Or I take a look around and wonder: We are the ones God is depending upon? Really?
The Story--it's the midpoint—if you will—1000 years after Abraham and about 1000 years before Jesus—give or take. The Israelites are in the promised land. The problem with the promised land is that there are other people in it. So the Israelites are figuring out how to exist. As a result wars, campaigns and battles are commonplace.
David, a leader, chosen for the role as a child from the beginning he cuts an impressive swath in the world. He comes on to the scene after Saul, the very first king of Israel, pretty much makes a hash of things. David, is the youngest of 8 sons. A boy, as a shepherd he is chosen and anointed by Samuel. After being chosen he patiently waits to embody his call.
Saul is a melancholic sort he hears of David's talents as a musician and poet and asks him to court to play his music and soothe his soul. When David next appears we see him rising to the challenge issued by Goliath. We know how that story goes—adolescent boy versus giant warrior. Giant warrior felled by one well-placed stone in a shepherd's sling-shot.
Fast-forward thirty years. With lots and lots of intrigue, betrayals and partnerships in between (including David's lovely friendship with Jonathan but that's a different sermon.) Now we have David, the unquestioned, wildly beloved King of Israel. A man who has made Jerusalem something of a holy place. A man who has transformed the Israelites from a loose confederation of nomadic tribes to a settled people with a government, a civil service, a judiciary and an urbane, sophisticated upper class.
David is the man. He is, as biblical scholar Washington Jarvis says, "A restless middle aged man—who has it all—and finds himself bored in his success." So as David's troops are fighting on the borders, he is wandering around his rooftop garden surveying the city. When he sees a flash in the sun that catches his attention. Turns out the flash, was the splash of the water of the tub in which Bathsheba was bathing. Cleansing herself after her monthly menstrual cycle. David sees. David looks. David wants. David's the king. David is the king, David gets.
He makes inquiries—who is she? Oh—Bathsheba—Uriah the Hittites wife. Hmmm, lovely. A servant replies, Uriah, your faithful servant, decorated officer who is even now is fighting for Israel. David sends for her. Sleeps with her. And a sentence later in the only words we hear from Bathsheba in this entire section, we find out she is now pregnant. David is the father, that much is perfectly clear.
What does he do? He's got a problem. He summons Uriah back from the battlefield under the guise of giving David a report on how the campaign is progressing. Uriah fills him in. David says, "Thank you. Thank you. You must be tired. Go on home. See your wife. Wash your feet (biblical code for sleep with your wife.)
David rests easy. He sleeps well for the first time in weeks. Problem seen, problem solved. Except when David awakes that morning, what does he see but Uriah, his faithful servant, still looking like he just came in from the battlefield, sleeping at the front gate with the servants.
David, "What are you doing here? You didn't go home?"
Proudly replies Uriah, "Israel and Judah are living under tents, the ark is under canvas my comrades are all at battle. How could I go home? Eat and drink and have sex with my wife?"
David is flummoxed. So then he says stay another day. David then proceeds to feed Uriah and get him drunk. And then he sends Uriah home again. But Uriah, smashed out of his mind, is more devout, more pious than King David stone cold sober. Uriah leaves and again sleeps at the gate never crossing his own threshold.
The next morning David sends him back to the front, but with a sealed note to the commander. The note says, "Send Uriah to the front—where the fighting is fiercest—then pull back."
A few days later, words come, not surprisingly, Uriah has been killed.
Bathsheba keens and mourns for her lost husband.
Seven days pass, the mourning period is over. David sends for Bathsheba. He takes her and makes her another one of his wives.
That's where our story picks up today. Nathan the prophet comes in and tells David a story. It's a story about a rich man who has everything and a poor man who has very little, but one thing the poor man has is a ewe. A ewe who he raised like a child. Held her in his arms, fed her from his plate, loved her like a daughter. The rich man has a guest arrive—he doesn't want to be bothered slaughtering any of his own flocks to feed the guest—so he takes the ewe— the poor man's treasured one. Kills it, cooks it and feeds it to his guest.
David is horrified with the rich man's actions. Livid at the injustice, declares that the rich man has violated all that is good and right. The rich man should die, absent that he must restore to the poor man 7 times over. This is such a grievous offense. Wantonly taking what little the man had.
Nathan nods and calmly says, "You are that man."
God says this to you, "I called you. I anointed you. I gave you all of Israel and Judah—and would have given you more, but this was not enough for you?! You have killed Uriah the Hittite, you have despised me, and taken his wife and his life."
Time pauses, concentrates and then explodes like a dumping, devastating cement loaded wave crashing over David's head. David feels, David sees with complete and utter clarity what a thoroughly wretched human being he is.
You—You are that man. The pause although momentary is hours in his brain and pain—you are that man...
David says: (now truly naked before the Lord) David says. "I am. I am that wretched one I have sinned. I have sinned before the Lord.
Two things happen.
One: there will be consequences for his actions. The baby dies. Don't get me started on how this can happen. All I can say is when we sin, when we screw up, frequently other people in a variety of ways get hurt. That's why we call it sin.
God's gift to us of free will, well it is a gift with massive responsibility.
Two things happen: One when we sin frequently people are hurt.
Two: When we sin, if we realize our error, own our faults, our actions, and are truly sorry, and do all we can to make amends, God forgives us. Other people may still be hurt, we may or may not be able to make adequate restitution, but God will and God does forgive us.
Nathan says, "Your sin is forgiven. God has put away your sin."
Really?? That's it? David says he's sorry and that's it? God forgives him? Really?? That's enough?? That's all he has to do-- adultery, murder, and God is moving on?
David's second son with Bathsheba—is Solomon—Solomon the wise one—Solomon who builds the temple—God moved on.
Here's the very very good news: Once we have named it, confessed it, owned it, God moves on from our sin, God moves on from our sin.
And so should we.
Thanks be to God.
Copyright: Bonnie A. Perry June 2013