April 9 – 19, 2017
This week’s reading begins with David capturing Jerusalem, the city that will eventually become the heart of Israel, and the home of God’s temple. The week ends with what might be David’s biggest defeat, his poor choices and resulting sin with Bathsheba.
Shortly after David takes Jerusalem, he makes arrangement to have the ark of the Lord brought to the city, and it is in this story that we see yet another side of David. As the ark enters Jerusalem, David dances and celebrates and, apparently, acts in a way that some would find inappropriate for a king:
“When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would.”
2 Samuel 6:20-21 (NIV)
But David is unapologetic.
“‘I will become even more undignified that this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.'”
2 Samuel 6:23 (NIV)
Michal, the daughter of Saul given to David in marriage, was quite concerned what others might think of the king’s actions, but David was quite unrestrained in his worship of God. He gave no thought to his position, or his station in life, in his acknowledgement of God. Even as king of Israel, we see David humbling himself before God in ways that very few had before:
“‘Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?’
‘How great you are, O Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no god but you, as we have heard with our own ears. And who is like your people Israel – the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?'”
2 Samuel 7:18-25 (NIV)
Yet, despite David’s unwavering faith and trust in God, he was still subject to weakness, failure, and sin, as the story of Bathsheba clearly demonstrates. It is a story that reveals much about the struggle that mankind has with temptation. It is also a story that reveals much about the grace and mercy of God.
David lusts after Bathsheba, commits adultery with her, and then intentionally plots the death of her husband with the intent of taking her as his own wife. Who can know and understand the thoughts of David during this whole sordid affair? How does a man whose heart is fully committed to God fall prey to such obvious sin?
Ultimately, David suffers the extreme consequences of his actions. But those consequences – the loss of his son’s life – are as puzzling as David’s sin. Why didn’t God strike David down? Why didn’t he rip the kingdom from his hands?
The answer is likely found in 2 Samuel 12, when the prophet Nathan reveals David’s guilt to him. Nathan shares the story of a rich man who takes advantage of a poor man, and the scripture says that “David burned with anger against the man,” declaring that “the man who did this deserves to die.”
When Nathan reveals that David himself is the man to whom the story refers, he is grief stricken and repentant. It is during this time period that David writes the 51st Psalm, and it provides a clear window into the heart of David:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”
The son born to David and Bathsheba dies. Yet God forgives David, heals and preserves his kingdom, and ultimately gives him another son, Solomon. It is Solomon who will build the temple of God.
The cynic will rail against God’s decision to take the life of the innocent child. He will question the God that would allow David to take the life of an innocent man. But God must deal with imperfect men given to selfishness and poor judgment.Thankfully, he will look at the hearts of those men to see whether or not they are good men given to weakness and sin, or evil men intent upon oppression and injustice.
In David, he saw a man who, despite his flaws, was humble and just and righteous (2 Samuel 8:15), so he forgave his grievous sin.