2 Samuel 12:1-7,10-17
The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to David. He came to him and said:
‘In the same town were two men,
one rich, the other poor.
The rich man had flocks and herds
in great abundance;
the poor man had nothing but a ewe lamb,
one only, a small one he had bought.
This he fed, and it grew up with him and his children,
eating his bread, drinking from his cup,
sleeping on his breast; it was like a daughter to him.
When there came a traveller to stay, the rich man
refused to take one of his own flock or herd
to provide for the wayfarer who had come to him.
Instead he took the poor man’s lamb
and prepared it for his guest.’
David’s anger flared up against the man. ‘As the Lord lives,’ he said to Nathan ‘the man who did this deserves to die! He must make fourfold restitution for the lamb, for doing such a thing and showing no compassion.’
Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man. So now the sword will never be far from your House, since you have shown contempt for me and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”
‘Thus the Lord speaks, “I will stir up evil for you out of your own House. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. You worked in secret, I will work this in the face of all Israel and in the face of the sun.”’
David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord, for his part, forgives your sin; you are not to die. Yet because you have outraged the Lord by doing this, the child that is born to you is to die.’ Then Nathan went home.
The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David and it fell gravely ill. David pleaded with the Lord for the child; he kept a strict fast and went home and spent the night on the bare ground, covered with sacking. The officials of his household came and stood round him to get him to rise from the ground, but he refused, nor would he take food with them.
With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’
You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel
The story of David and Bathsheba makes for somewhat jarring reading. It’s hard not to feel betrayed. This isn’t the David that we love, slayer of Goliath, humble shepherd boy from the countryside. This is David, the corrupt conqueror. David’s slippery slope of sin starts off innocently enough. First, he decides to slack off going to battle, sending Joab in his place instead – “…in the spring of that year, when kings usually set out to fight, David send out Joab, his officers and all the Israelite troops” (2 Samuel 11:1). With all this free time on his hands, David becomes open to distraction and that’s when he meets the beautiful Bathsheba. He enquires about her, and finds out that she is a married woman, a huge red flag! Maybe it’s because she is ‘forbidden fruit’ that David becomes even more intrigued and sends for her. So what started as a short break from battle, quickly spirals into a succession of sins – infidelity, manipulation and treachery, culminating in David’s execution of Uriah so he can have Bathsheba for himself. David even justifies this as part and parcel of war, showing us how far he has fallen away from God – “… do not let this thing disturb you, for the sword devours one this time and another at another time” (2 Samuel 11:25).
The story of David and Bathsheba is difficult because the David we know is a man after God’s own heart. The David we know stands victorious on a pedestal, he is not allowed to fail. But that’s the thing! It is precisely because he is fallible that he is the model of all of us. The story of David and Bathsheba is put here to illustrate our human frailty, how we become susceptible when we put ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. It might be a simple case of lingering too long with someone we know we shouldn’t be with or making excuses to be someplace hoping we’ll meet that someone we know is trouble. It might be the temptation of being with a colleague when we’re away on a business trip. Like David, we think, ‘Are we really hurting anyone if no one finds out?’ We do our deeds in secret, then lie to cover up our trails. It almost seems like the more we have to lose, the greater is our temptation to transgress.
David might have shattered our view of him as the model citizen, but he is most definitely the model sinner. When confronted by Nathan, he confesses and immediately entreats God for forgiveness. Unlike Saul, who tries to rationalize his actions to Samuel (1 Samuel 13:5-14), David confesses and pleads to God not to cast him out of His presence, or take the Holy Spirit from him (Psalm 51:13). And though God’s answer to David’s prayer to save his child is a ‘No’, David considers the matter closed and moves on. David’s sinner doesn’t let the burden of unanswered prayers hold him back from continuing God’s work.
Sin separates us from the grace of God. When we cover up our sins to preserve ourselves, we take ourselves even further from His grace. There is no moving on from here until we have confessed, bring our deeds into His light and let conscience pierce our hearts into contrition. “O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart you will not despise” (Psalm 51:19). Like David, it is only then that we can move on. To those of us who are carrying around the heaviness of unresolved sins, let’s take a moment this weekend to entreat God to wash us clean once more, so that we may move on from this place of purgatory. We have nothing to lose but our pride, but all our peace to regain.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all those who have issues unresolved in their hearts. We pray they find the honesty to come confess and in the process, set themselves free.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Word that serves as our moral compass in times of temptation.