Scripture Reading: 2 Samuel 11:1-15 (NRSV)
David is the king by which all other kings of Israel or Judah take their measure. He is the great uniting force of Israel following Saul and pulls more territory into the kingdom after his conquest of the Philistines. He bested a giant in his youth and was an accomplished poet and musician. He was so renowned that the book of Psalms was attributed to him (although most scholars believe the majority were written at a later date).
After the kingdom split into Israel in the north and Judah in the south, citizens of both realms looked to when David ruled as a golden era. After each of the kingdoms lost their independence to foreign powers, the surviving remnants began to look toward a time when God would send a Messiah that would reunite the people and free them from Gentile occupation. Of course, this Messiah would be in the line of David - born in Bethlehem which was where David called home.
So in all of this good will and remembrance, how did this week’s lectionary reading survive the editor’s cut when the Bible was copied again and again? The story of Bathsheba does not paint David in a good light at all. The story begins with David staying at home, letting others do his fighting for him. He gets up long after the crack of noon. He is a voyeur and then uses his position to sleep with the woman who is married to one of the soldiers fighting for him.
After she becomes pregnant, David schemes to have her husband Uriah to take credit for the baby. When this fails, he coordinates a military move where Uriah would be killed. The hasty retreat might also cost the lives of other innocent soldiers.
David is not to be admired in this story.
It is not a show of his great leadership.
This story reminds us that the Bible does not feature heroes in the regular sense. While David may be heroic at times, he is also flawed. We see that David has become the very king that Samuel was warning the people about just a few weeks ago (according to lectionary time). It is a reminder that while we do put our trust in our leaders, they also have moments of weakness.
God remains the one faithful constant in the Bible. This is helpful for us to remember.
As we live in a time of partisan politics, we often find ourselves defending behavior that shouldn’t be defended. Supposedly, we do so for the sake of the greater good - if our side wins the day, we believe the country will be better off. We must be careful when going down this road. Today’s story reminds us that no one is beyond reproach. Of course, in the days of partisanship, each side looks at the other and thinks, “Yes, this is exactly what they do!”
I’m looking forward to being back in the pulpit on Sunday. I will be preaching on this text and my sermon title will be, “Why Did They Include This Story About David?”
Check out more of Sam’s blog articles at www.precedinggrace.blogspot.com.
Photo by katesheets via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.