“Where did you get that filthy story?” she asked - pounding her fist on the table.
“From the Bible,” I said.
I can still see it in my mind, plain as day … the church kitchen … adult Sunday School … gathered around a table.
The lady had never heard the story of David and Bathsheba.
A grim story, for sure.
We might well ask, “Why did Israel tell such a terrible story about it’s fabled king?
It helps to remember where most of this material comes from.
The Babylonian Exile - Judah defeated, Jerusalem in ruins, temple destroyed, leaders hauled off to captivity in Babylon.
Who went into exile?
Not the factory worker.
Not the tenant farmer.
Nor the single mom.
But religious leaders, political leaders ... shakers and movers … bankers and business leaders.
A time for tough questions:
“Why are we here?
“Did we fail?”
“Did we go wrong in our attitudes?”
Sometimes great failure is the heart and soul of great learning.
Let’s take a look at the story …
In the springtime of the year … all sorts of things a-poppin’ after the cold and rainy winter months.
When kings go out and make war … ironic humor here?
Like flowers in the springtime, kings make war when the weather turns - for what purpose? - “Oh, I don’t know; thought it was a good idea at the time.”
David stays home … an ironic smile or two right here - “If only David had made war instead of love.”
David pacing in the cool of the evening on his palace roof …
And there he watches a woman bathe in her nearby home.
An eye-catcher, she was!
Did she know it?
But it isn’t question about Bathsheba - her beauty, whatever.
It’s a question about David.
Who sees what he wants, and wants what he sees.
He commands war, but lets others do the fighting.
Was David bored on his palace rooftop that evening?
Was Bathsheba lonely when she bathed?
The point is clear: David should know better!
He’s the man.
He’s the king.
He’s the one blessed by God.
He’s the one with the power.
David should know better!
Those to whom much is given, much is required, says Jesus.
David watches Bathsheba bathe, wants to know more … when he learns who she is, he sends messengers to get her … what can she do?
Her husband’s in the army!
Can she refuse the king?
She pays a fateful visit to the palace.
They’re intimate - she conceives!
She tells David who brings her husband home for some R & R.
“It’s Uriah’s child,” folks will say, conceived when Uriah came home, because King David is a kindly man.
More ironic smiles and raised eyebrows.
But Uriah stays at the palace: I have no right to be home while my men are fighting and dying in the field.
Uriah is an honorable man!
What’s David to do?
Food and wine, lots of it, that’ll do the trick.
But after an evening of food and drink, Uriah stays at the palace again … even more ironic smiles here.
David is out of tricks.
He pens a note and seals it, gives it to Uriah to deliver to General Joab.
David knows that Uriah will carry the note unopened.
Unknown to Uriah, he carries his own death warrant.
Put Uriah in the front lines, find a battle; when the battle rages, call a retreat; abandon Uriah … Uriah must die.
General Joab does as commanded.
News is brought back to David … David sends a congratulatory note to General Joab. Well done, sir; well done.
When the time of mourning is over for Bathsheba, David sends for her.
They marry; a son is born.
The Bible says: What David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.
How difficult it must have been for the leaders of Judah to tell this story about their fabled King David.
But Babylon requires truth … the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.
National tragedies do that.
John F. Kennedy assassination … Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy … the Challenger explosion after launch … 9/11 … times that require deep questions, “Who are we?” and “What do we value.”
All was gone in Babylon … it lasted 70 years … that’s a long time to endure national disaster.
So they told stories, hoping to find some reasons for the suffering … maybe even some purpose … and hope.
The David story, sad as it is, isn’t about adultery, though adultery is wrong enough; the story isn’t even about murder, though murder is bad enough … this is a bigger story … the story of Judah - a nation having lost its way … when the blessings of God blinded them to God’s purpose … Judah gained the world and lost it’s soul.
The sins of Judah are detailed in the Prophets:
Wealth without responsibility.
Power without restraint.
Politics without compassion.
Religion without a conscience.
Disdain for the poor and the oppressed.
Unfair wages … scales and balances rigged.
Mortgage and banking systems tilted in favor of the wealthy; the poor couldn’t get ahead no matter what they did.
Sins of power and wealth destroyed Judah; Babylon was merely the instrument of God’s wrath.
Perhaps some said, “We should have had a stronger army!” … “We should have attacked first!” … “We should have spent more on defense.”
Others said, “Don’t worry. God will restore our greatness; we’ll be back home before we know it. This is a momentary blip in our story” [Jeremiah].
But no momentary blip.
No use crying over spilt milk and wondering what might have been.
This was a time for Judah to come face-to-face the sins of wealth and power …
They told their stories with courage; they didn’t hold back or try to dress things up. They didn’t blink … and that’s why we have the Old Testament … and David’s tragic story.
Only in truth-telling, could they find hope - the God of salvation is the God of truth and the God of hope - God saves in the midst of our realities, not in some alternative universe.
Centuries later, the Son of David is born in David’s town of Bethlehem … angels sing to shepherds in the fields, and wise men follow a star.
The King of kings, the LORD of Lords; Jesus is his name … to finish the work; do it right.
Jesus gives his power away … and gives life to all.
No restless pacing in a palace, but walking the length and breadth of Palestine, preaching the Good News of God’s Kingdom.
Jesus welcomes the poor and the outcast … chides the wealthy for heartlessness and scolds religious leaders for hypocrisy.
He heals the blind … restores hearing to the deaf.
Cares for the lonely woman at the well in Samaria … forgives the woman brought to him for stoning.
Sees Zacchaeus up a tree, calls him down; gives him a second chance to use his money well.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
On this, the 29th day of July, in the year of our LORD, 2012.
To God be the glory.
And to the Son of David, our thanks.
Because of him, we live. Amen and Amen!