August 5, 2018   “ Part 1- King David in the Palace”  by Rev. June Fothergill

Scripture:  2 Samuel 11: 1-15

Wow.  Can we be outraged?!  David, the hero of our Sunday School bible stories; that boy who trusted God and defeated the giant Goliath; David, the warrior who united the people and defeated the Philistine threat ; David, the one who God chose when he saw his heart as a young shepherd boy.  David, who mourned even those who had been his enemies, who loved Jonathan, who honored the anointed nature of King Saul, who was kind to Saul’s crippled grandson, who already had at least 4 wives and  6 sons.   David who has been given so much- God’s favor,  wives, children, a kingdom, adoring followers, faithful generals and fighting men, a beautiful house in his own town Jerusalem.  David, the greatest leader and beloved king.

Yet, sitting in that beautiful house or palace, no longer out on the battlefield, David changed.  The David we see in this passage is a transformed person.  He is King now.  And being king means he can take what he wants!  Samuel long ago warned the people that the office of king would bring  oppression. That kings take what they want ( 1 Sam. 8:11-17).

Biblical scholar,  Walter Brueggeman  points out that David just acts. He takes no time to consider, to ponder.  He sees the beautiful woman and wants her.   He asks who she is. And even when he discovers that she is the wife of one of his most loyal fighting men, likely a man who had been with him from the beginning of the journey to become king; a man whose house was next to his own;  a man who even now was out fighting David’s battles.  David doesn’t stop.  He wants and he had the power to take and he does.   There is no hint of conversation or affection or tenderness.   He gets her, he lays with her,  and sends her home.  He is the king.   Bathsheba says nothing.

But then, we hear the last verb of the sequence-  she conceived. And we hear her voice for the first time. She sends word to David simply saying, “ I’m pregnant”.   Whoops.   His kingly power and control are shattered by such a simple reality.   He knows it is his ( for she had been purifying herself after her period) .   What will he do?  Well, he is the king after all.  He will find a way to cover up  this reality.  He calls Uriah the husband back from the battlefield for some r and r with his beautiful wife!  That’s the ticket.   Ah, but in Uriah he runs into someone who in contrast to himself, is still seeped in the sense of duty and honor to his fellow soldiers.  David tries to get him to go down to his home. But Uriah refuses to do so!  Even when he’s drunk!  David is king. But he can’t control biology, he can’t control steadfast, honorable Uriah!

But he can count on Joab, he trusted general.  He is still the king.  He holds the lives of his subjects, especially his fighting men in his hands.  So, he sends Uriah back to Joab with the note that will see that  Uriah is killed.  Wow!

What do we do with this story?  It’s a terrible story.   Walter Breuggeman puts it this way,  “This narrative tells us more than we want to know about David and more than we can bear to understand about ourselves.  “  (p. 272, 1 & 2 Samuel, Interpretation Commentary)   It is an intrusion of a sin into the life of David ( and Israel) that cuts so sharply that it rivals in power the ‘original’ act of Adam and Eve.

1.  David is a fallen hero.     It is unnerving when someone who had such a close relationship with God, who relied on God for most every decision on the battlefield, who  had so much charisma could become so controlling and ruthless.    We are shocked and disappointed when people we admire fall.    With all the disclosures about misconduct among folks in the news, it’s not hard to think of someone we admired who has miss used their power in some way.   I have had several of those in my own life.  At one time I had to deal with the fact that three people I had admired:  a former mentor, a Clinical Pastoral Care supervisor and a beloved  conference pastor  all proved to be  involved in sexual misconduct with others.  I was shocked, grieved, betrayed, and distrustful of my own perceptions, for I  had had no clue.   The truth is that when this happens in our lives we have to grieve: to grieve the loss of our own innocence, the harm to others and ourselves, and the brokenness of the abuser.  And also as in the story of David, we all have to deal with the consequences of the harm done.    We can bring all this brokenness to God  for healing and hope.  We can also let God lead us to changes in our community and institutions that take into account this human failing.

Israel had hoped for a great, just ruler in David.  Surely this one could do it right, he was God’s  beloved!    The wisdom of ancient Israel was that none of us can do it right.  They looked clear eyed at the corrupting influence of power and control on human behavior.  They told this story about their most beloved king to remind us all that only God can truly rule with justice and truth.   We human beings are wonderful, beloved  creatures with  many gifts but dealing well with power is often not one of them.

This is why the prophet Samuel warned them about having a king. This is why God gave to the people the torah, the law and the prophets to help keep a balance of power and influence in their community.   This is why we today have things like a free press, a balance of federal powers, religious freedom and safe sanctuary policies to help us deal with and prevent some possible corruptions of power.  This is why movements which  tell the stories of hurt and help people find new life and healing are important.  This is why helping people name the sin of abuse, repent and find new ways to live are important.   God sent to us Jesus, to walk with us and show us a better more loving way.  Jesus was willing to suffer and die at the hands of oppressive rulers for the sake of all of us rather than misuse his power.   Jesus, whose death and resurrection reminds us that  God offers us all salvation and new life!  Why all of us?

Well because King David is us.   We too can succumb to temptation and misuse of power.  We too can get wrapped up in the delusions of sin.    David’s story invites us to realize that we are all human beings in need of the grace of God.  Even the best of us can get trapped in the self delusions of power and control.  How does this happen?    We convince ourselves that we have the “ right”  to control and manipulate others for our own agendas.  Whenever we start to look at the persons around us as objects to control- for whatever reason-we are beginning down David’s path of destruction.    Whenever we  choose to act out of our selfish nature rather than  our compassion for another we start down a path of harm to self and others.

I remember one woman in the first church I served who told me  about some of her struggles with infertility.   Being a young pastor, I neglected to guard this confidence and told some others folks about this women’s struggle.     This gossip was an abuse of my power and influence as a pastor. She had trusted me and my gossip hurt our relationship.

When we come to this communion table, we come as persons in need of God’s forgiving grace.  Few of us are kings with power like David, but we have experienced falling short of the glory of God.  Most of us can think of times we acted with selfishness and disregard for others.    We know that we live in a culture that tends to put down some people and elevate others in ways that are hurtful to all.  Some of us are dealing with the harmful effects of such abuse in our lives and families or society.  We bring to this communion table our human mess.   So, we

come remembering that we have a powerful, loving Savior in Jesus the Christ. One who knows our very messiness!  And who was willing to go to the cross for our sake- to take away the sins of the whole world.

We come remembering that God did not abandon King David.  David was still his beloved.    This imperfect king was still the king that reminded Israel of God’s love for them.  And after the tragic death of the child of his abuse of power, David gets up and starts anew.  He makes a different choice in how he treats Bathsheba- In 12:24 the story tells us- “ Then David consoled his wife Bathsheba”   Next week we will look at what helped him make this different choice. Today we see that each day we can make such choices of compassion too.

For we come to this communion table because we trust  God will bring to each of us the new resurrected life- a life where we can each moment, each day choose anew  to act with the compassion and love Christ gives us now and forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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