Sunday, July 29, 2012

You the Man! (Second Samuel 11:26 - 12:13)

Up until this part of the story -- which modern news media would probably call "Bathsheba-gate" and create spiffy graphics to play while a news reader looked Serious and Disapproving -- David has been what we saw him in the beginning. He's a man after God's own heart. Whatever sins he commits he confesses and repents openly to God, acknowledging that he has not done what God would want him to do.

Not any more.

From here on, we will see David commit errors and sins and do his best to try to fix things on his own, or to leave them alone and hope nothing bad will happen. The results will be as deadly as they are for Uriah.

David has now had Bathsheba's husband Uriah killed so he can safely marry her and claim their child as the result of a legitimate union. Neither of them will face charges of adultery. He figures he's got it all sorted out, and the whole mess is safely behind him. No one knows but Bathsheba and David -- although some may suspect, there is nothing like the proof you'd need to accuse a king. Whew. Dodged that one. Nobody knows.

To borrow a phrase I learned at church camp, that's cray-cray.

David seems to have forgotten that he's not just Israel's king, he's God's chosen king over Israel. He was anointed by Samuel as a sign that God had selected him and he's been guided and watched over by God for his entire life. He told Saul that the Lord was with him when he drove off wild animals that tried to steal his sheep. He told Goliath that the Lord was with him, so Goliath should get ready to lose. Over and over again during the time leading up to his kingship and as his rule began, David realizes his strength comes from God's presence by his side. God's presence that never leaves him. God's presence that never leaves him, even if he's sleeping with another man's wife and plotting to have the other man killed to save his own behind.

So God decides to remind David of this presence, using the prophet Nathan. Nathan tells David a story about a mean rich man who steals the only ewe owned by a poor man and his family. David is infuriated at the rich man's cruelty and demands his name.

Nathan gives it to him: "You are the man!"

David realizes his sins have not been hidden at all. They have always been visible to God. God saw David's sin from the very first moment that David shirked his duty as the nation's leader in battle to hang out at his palace, from the moment he saw Bathsheba bathing and kept looking instead of looking away, from the moment he called her into his presence and slept with her, from the moment he tried to finagle it all by getting Uriah to shirk his duty, from the moment he decided to have Uriah killed. God has seen it all.

I am amazed at my own ability to believe I've somehow hidden my sin. I know God is everywhere and that God sees all things, and yet I somehow think I've gotten away with something when I make sure I know that nobody knows what I've done. Yep! Snuck that one by everybody, baby! Score one for Mr. Stealth!

And then my own version of the prophet Nathan confronts me with the reality that I didn't.

If you ever watched the TV show Friends, you may remember that Ross once cheated on Rachel when he was first dating her. He manages to hide that from Rachel and then goes all over his circle of acquaintances to tell them not to say anything, since he and Rachel were "on a break" and he didn't think it counted. He spends the morning and most of the afternoon doing so and finally gets to the last person, Gunther who waits tables at their coffee shop. He tells Gunther not to say anything, but Gunther already has, and Ross sees Rachel at the seat by the window, realizing she knows what has happened. They spend several seasons estranged before reuniting in the finale.

Had Ross spent all that energy and time confessing to Rachel and showing he would repent, might things have been different? Sure, if you convince the scriptwriter, but my point is that if we look at all of the ways David tried to get out of the consequence of his sin, we see their futility. God knew. God always knew.

And so David confesses his sin, which we can read in Psalm 51, and asks God to forgive him and heal their relationship. God does. He even redeems the marriage of David and Bathsheba, stained by his dishonesty and murder. Bathsheba will later give birth to Solomon, the heir to David and the one who will build the temple.

Our own confessions can come after a Gibbs-slap confrontation with reality, or they can come before, when we first realize we've strayed. Yes, either way we'll be forgiven. But I've found I've grown more in my faith when I've owned up to my sin from the start. And after all, when I confess that I'm a sinner, I'm just telling people something they already know.

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