In our story today, we’ll see King David ask, “What’s with all the chickens, and why are they coming here to roost?”
To refresh, David and Bathsheba had a liaison after David spotted her bathing on her roof. She was married, so her pregnancy would have, at the very least, marred David’s image in the eyes of the people. After unsuccessfully trying to trick her husband Uriah into sleeping with her and thus provide a reasonable explanation for her pregnancy, David has Uriah killed so he can marry Bathsheba instead.
So everything’s all settled now. The baby will be the product of a real marriage, and no one’s the wiser. Except Someone is.
Nathan the prophet came to David and told him a little story about a man and his pet ewe lamb. The man and his family lost their lamb because a rich man with many sheep and cattle didn’t want to use one of his own animals to make dinner for a guest.
David is furious. This is exactly the kind of thing the laws of God were designed to prevent, and as king, it is his job to enforce those laws. The strong should not take advantage of the weak, and this rich man owes four times the cost of the lamb, or else he’s in deep trouble.
“You are the man!”
Now Nathan’s getting wound up, and probably not the least because how often do you get to talk to a king like this? He gives David the message God sent him to bring:
I put you on this throne, God says. I gave you victory over your enemy and I gave you his wives and his household. If that hadn’t been enough, I’d have given you double that, but you didn’t care.
You killed Uriah with the sword of the Ammonites, God says to David through Nathan. You did it.
David’s response is very interesting. “I have sinned against the Lord,” he says.
Does David’s response – he doesn’t mention Bathsheba or Uriah -- mean he lacks compassion for the people he’s hurt? Some people think so, but I’m not sure.
I believe that David now sees the full impact of his sin. He knew he’d done wrong against Uriah and Bathsheba, but since he didn’t get caught, it didn’t count. Now he understands that it did count, in a way he’d never thought about.
It’s probably the one part of God’s message I have to have drummed into me over and over again – God has decided that what we limited human beings do in our finite lives is going to matter. Don’t ask me why, because I have no idea. All I know is that he did.
We’re not just unimportant blobs of protoplasm meandering around on a rock. We bear the image of God. So what we do isn’t just some sort of random spasm of physics and biology. Our actions and words and thoughts echo in eternity, with impacts and consequences and results we aren’t equipped to see.
God, who is so equipped, offered guidelines for us that if followed, help us join those echoes to his plan for creation. He calls us to roles in our lives that do the same, and when we depart from them we don’t just cut ourselves off from each other. We cut ourselves off from God, and we create ripples that may devastate us later, or devastate the lives of others, whether we know it or not.
Again, don’t ask me why. I wasn’t consulted, and I doubt I have the knowledge to have contributed anything intelligent. But I believe this a fact: God has decided that I matter, and that you matter, so what we do is going to matter. Anyone who’s seen one of the Spider-man movies knows another way of saying that: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
So David sees that yes, his actions did wrong people he was pledged to protect. But they also went against God, because anything done to one of God’s children matters to God as well. And he responds in a way that says he finally understands: “I have sinned against God.”
In my life, those words are awful and wonderful at the same time. Awful because I realize the extent of the harm I’ve caused.
Wonderful because once I say them, God says, “Yes, but I forgive you and now I think we can get started on fixing the problem.”
Good news, I’d say.