I really hope folks who read what I write on this site will sense that I take it seriously. In order to offer even a half way intelligent comment on Scripture, it takes time* to think, and pray. And I must be honest with my self. Something has to make sense to me, or there’s no way I could possibly expect it to make sense to you or anyone else.
There are some things about these stories which you and I will probably never be able to understand completely. There are incidents which are absolutely horrifying and definitely not for mixed audiences. Or for the faint of heart. But I’m not so sure how far we’ve progressed. Not sure there’s a polite, civilized way to kill someone. Someday the clouds may clear away, or my understanding may be enlightened. But in the meanwhile, there are things which I accept as information and simply withhold judgment.
In considering “God’s Comeback Kids,” we must never overlook or excuse, or endorse the repeated examples of serious, obvious misconduct. Nor does God. To be honest with you, I sort of lost track of how many wives and concubines David had! Or how many mistresses. Some of our athletes and politicians would probably have to take a back seat to him if there were a marathon!
The Scriptures are cast in a specific time and place in history and in a culture which the modern western mind doesn’t grasp. Women in those days were considered barely more than chattel. That is still pretty much the rule where the teaching and influence of Christ has not gone. The Bible doesn’t usually go into lurid detail about sensitive matters, but unless you have an ostrich mentality you can get the picture.
However commonplace it may have been then or may be now and in whatever circles it may be practiced, sexual immorality is always wrong and will always have its consequences. You kid yourself if you think otherwise.
There’s no way to count how many people died violently by David’s direct action or decree. If you don’t see that kind of contradiction in these pages, it is because you aren’t looking. God was dealing with sinful mankind, as He always has and as He still does today. How He could tolerate some of the things all of us know is wrong and not just wipe His hands and be done with the lot of us is one of the reasons the writer entitled his song AMAZING grace!** For my part, there is simply no way to attempt to explain what I can not understand, so I’m not even going to try.
While a cloak of mystery surrounds some things in Scripture, other things are not thus shrouded. They are clear as crystal. My concentration will be on those things. My focus will continue to be trying to find sensible answers to these practical questions: How did these “saints” get into such messes? How did they deal with the crises and tests of faith? How did they manage to emerge? And, finally and most importantly: What difference does it make to us today?
(The context for the episode currently being considered is the entire eleventh chapter of II Samuel. You’ll need to read it in context to understand what took place. Here the stage is set for David’s fall).
2 Samuel 11:1 “And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. 2And it came to pass in an eveningtide that David arose from his bed and walked upon the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman washing herself, and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. 3And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her, for she was purified from her uncleanness; and she returned unto her house. 5And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” 6And David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.”
In attempting to sort out events in David’s ascent and descent, here’s what occurred. In considering the event which created such a scandal and thinking about how it happened, there were several questions which I raised for my own benefit:
WHAT WAS DAVID DOING ? One night he evidently had insomnia. When he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t have a refrigerator to raid or late night television talk shows to bore him back to sleep, so he went for a walk. Up on the roof of his palace.
As he scanned the city of Jerusalem that night, his eyes fell upon a scene which stopped him dead in his tracks and set his pulse pounding.
There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this picture right now, unless you consider the next question.
WHAT WAS HE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING? The story says the incident took place in the spring when kings went to war. Just a few months before, he’d been personally leading his troops against the Syrians and routing the opposition. The other kings were at war. Maybe it was some kind of blood sport. You will recall that David had earned a reputation as a warrior, a leader, and a man among men. That was a large part of his persona. Remember, after all, in the wake of his defeat of Goliath, the tune about his exploits had been number one on the hit parade.*** He was a man of action. To be lazing around the palace while his men were in harm’s way was totally out of character.
Any way you look at it, nothing seems right about a nation’s leader dallying with a young intern or one of his general’s wives while his soldiers were fighting.
WHAT WAS BATHSHEBA DOING? Bathing. In the nude obviously. With the King living next door? There’s something to be said for indoor plumbing! Was she, perhaps, an exhibitionist? We don’t know, so we can’t say for certain. Who knows what she knew? She may have been completely innocent and oblivious that anyone was paying any attention. But there are other possibilities, and speculation seems to be pointless.
It doesn’t really seem to matter in this case. The King was the person who could and should have taken control of his emotions and appetites. If you don’t conquer them, they will conquer you. We hold our leaders to a higher standard. And we have a right to do that. No matter what Bathsheba’s motives or actions may have been, or how provocative she was, David was the king. He not only was an imposing figure. He was king. Kings had absolute authority. That included the power over life and death. No one said “no” to ancient monarchs. He was in control of the situation, but he was not in control of his appetites. When he let go of the reins of self control and gave in to lust, and self-gratification, he turned loose destructive forces which cost an innocent man his life, almost destroyed the king’s legacy, set in motion some continuing consequences which stained his record, nearly cost him his kingdom, and left scars on his reputation which were never erased.
There’s no way you can justify that kind of conduct. And there is no way you can cover it up. Eventually, the truth will emerge. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23) isn’t just a statement in Scripture. It is an inviolable, eternal, universal principle. If it hasn’t, don’t give up. It will. Sooner or later. “Whoever covers his sins will not prosper”(Proverbs 28:13.) is another of those principles which are engraved in granite. Robert Louis Stevenson put it another way saying that sooner or later everyone must “sit down at a banquet of consequences.”
We’re free to make choices. Even foolish choices. But we are not free to choose consequences; and consequences always follow choices.
When will we ever learn?
David is in a mess. Spin-doctors and image-makers now have a P.R. problem they’ll be unable to handle. His biggest problem, though, isn’t that the scandal hungry press might pick up on the rumors and flood the market with salacious reports. The greatest problem with which David must now deal is quoted in the last sentence in this chapter:
“The Lord was very displeased with what David had done.”
(*Time…These posts don’t come easily or automatically for me. I can’t churn them out with what I call a “mimeograph mentality.” Nor do I try. My prayer is that, whether or not you accept my conclusions or thoughts, you’ll begin to approach the Scripture, as it deserves to be approached: with a thoughtful, inquisitive mind and a teachable spirit. Your observations are always welcomed . . . and respected. ~don)
** Amazing Grace is the title of a familiar hymn composed by John Newton, slave trader, infidel and libertine turned minister in the Church of England somewhere in the mid 1700’s
*** I Samuel 18:6-7 And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music: “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” This song made the rounds and eventually even found its way into some of the enemies’ camps. Someone did a really fantastic job as David’s press agent following the giant slaying. And his reputation grew even larger!