Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “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.”
Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” – 2 Samuel 12:5-7
This summer. my Wednesday evening men’s Bible-study has been reading the Old Testament books of First and Second Samuel. It’s an epic narrative, documenting the nation of Israel’s transition into a monarchy and the rise to power of the storied King David.
This week we reached 2 Samuel 11 & 12, the sordid account of David leveraging his power to sleep with Bathsheba, his subsequent attempt at a cover up, the arranged death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, and the oh-so-far-reaching consequences – all set in motion by one selfish, impulsive act.
INSIGHT: As a group, we appreciated the courage and the insight of the prophet Nathan, especially as he reeled David in so beautifully via the heart-wrenching story of the rich man who took the poor man’s lamb (“it was like a daughter to him” – 12:3), slaughtering the family pet for his own use. We recognized the inherent goodness in David’s heart when he became emotionally overwrought at the injustice and the lack of compassion. And we smiled ruefully – as well as self-consciously – when Nathan paused, looked at King David, and said, “You are the man!”
We talked about our own tendency to act selfishly, and the way we compound poor decisions with obfuscation, deception, and outright lies.
Then – as it always does – the moment of clarity, or revelation, happened. At least it was insightful for me. We were reviewing David’s poor behavior when Robert pointed out that – for a King in those times – nothing that David did was unexpected, nor was it necessarily considered “wrong.”
KINGS BEING KINGS: Robert is right. Kings took what they wanted; that’s how they got to be Kings, and that’s how they stayed on top of the pecking order. David had several wives (not exactly what the selective literalists dub “the scriptural standard” for marriage). The Bible reports David routinely had people killed if they presented any kind of a threat to his position… or his wants… or his ambitions.
But God intervenes, and the God message is simple: “I haven’t called you to be ‘just like the other nations.’ My way involves making a shift, doing things differently. This is what I require of you: to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).”
It’s the same whisper God made in Abraham’s ear when the patriarch went along with “the way things are…” and prepared to offer a human sacrifice. “Pssst, Abe? My way is not anything like this. I’m calling you out of this all-consuming brokenness, and into a better way to be.”
STATUS QUO: And they stumbled along, always leaning back toward the status quo. But – little by little – God chipped away at the endemic violence, the racism, the ignorance, the sexism, the classism, the narrow view of the world, the choking religiosity, and so much more, until it was time for the message of Jesus to liberate all people from bondage, and to draw us closer to the heart of God.
God was offering King David a new and living way, an approach to leading his nation rooted in justice, and humility, and self-giving love. That has always been God’s way – it still is. When are we going to finally accept that the way of, “taking what we want, because it’s all about us…” is not only wrong, but it has oh-so-far-reaching consequences?
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. – Jesus, Matthew 7:12
Grateful for God’s continued – reforming – initiatives of grace – DEREK