The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 2, 2009
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
St. Francis, Norris
Last week one of you asked me about the Old Testament reading about David and Bathsheba so I decided this would be a good week to preach on the reading from Second Samuel rather than the Gospel. The scripture last week was about David and Bathsheba. David had spotted Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop and called for her to come and be with him.
Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, was away fighting the Ammonites. Bathsheba became pregnant, so David called Uriah home so he could be with his wife and not discover that the father was actually David. However, Uriah was such an honorable man that he refused to go to see his wife while his comrades were still fighting. Even when David got him drunk he didn’t go home. As a result David went to plan B and sent Uriah back to the fighting. He went so far as to have Uriah himself deliver the plot to put him at the very forefront of the fight. The plan was to have everyone other than Uriah to go into a rapid retreat leaving him exposed to the enemy. David knew that Uriah would not peek at the orders he sent because he was such an honorable man. Uriah was killed and David was spared an embarrassment.
Now we have Bathsheba becoming a part of David’s harem and bearing his son. Of course this only happens after an appropriate mourning period we are told. After all, we wouldn’t want to appear trashy now would we?
God is not pleased and sends Nathan to tell David a little tale of greed and selfishness. A simple tale of a man who had an abundance of his own but stole from a man who had very little. David is incensed and says that this wicked man should die and repay the person he stole from, fourfold.
The first key line is this whole story is the line Nathan delivers, “You are the man!”
You are the man. David was selected by the Lord to be king. David was the youngest son in a society that always has honored the oldest son. This is not the first time we have heard of the societal rules being overturned. Jacob and Esau were twins. Esau was the first born but Jacob, with the help of his mother, tricked Isaac into giving the blessing of the firstborn to Jacob instead of the rightful heir Esau. Jacob later became known as Israel.
You are the man, Nathan tells David. I find it interesting that David immediately recognizes the evil that he has done. He makes no excuse for his deeds, but is immediate in his admission of guilt. It leads us to believe that he saw no foul in the whole affair up until that very moment. Or did he?
Bernie Madoff became very apologetic after his arrest. The comment was made by many that the only thing he was really sorry about was that he had been caught. That same sentiment is shared anytime some prominent figure is discovered to have been involved in scandalous behaviors. Politicians and religious leaders are at the top of the list since they are presented as being above the moral weaknesses of the average person. We seem to be learning about the fallacies of that concept more and more often these days.
So, what was it? Is David truly sorry, or is he just sorry he was discovered? Does it matter? All David can say is, “I have sinned against the Lord.” It sounds as though he has little concern for what he has done to Uriah.
David didn’t get away with his scheme for very long. It appears that Nathan shows up shortly after the birth of his son by Bathsheba. The important thing to realize, though, is who it was that has caught him. This is not some story the press had uncovered, catching David in some place he should not have been. It was God that is calling him to task. David is very aware that there is no escaping this apprehender. He thought he had gotten away with it. Perhaps he never considered what he did as wrong; after all he is the king. Kings don’t have to abide by laws. They make the laws.
This story of David will continue. This newborn son will die and there will be much trouble with David’s other children and with his wives. This is a story of a vengeful God in some aspects. This would be a great place to launch into a God is watching every little thing you do and say and even think. I thought about it.
I imagine that all of us already know that God is omnipresent and omniscient. Because of that, I wont present the hellfire and brimstone approach. There is another approach to the lesson of Nathan’s bearing the news from God. That message is in part that God continued to love David even as this so called punishment was being doled out.
I think there is a message that God does not take kindly to wanton abuse of power. This applies to everyone, not just the rich. Not just the politicians. Not just the CEO’s. Not just the heads of classes. Not just the famous. Not just the pretty people. Not just the strongest. Not just the smartest. Everyone.
Everyone has power over somebody or something. It may seem insignificant but it is not. As human beings we, at the very least, have power over the animals and the environment as well as other people in our lives. We may not recognize it as power but it is there. Quite often it is the fact that we fail to recognize our power that causes the problem. I suspect that David was so accustomed to his power that he ceased to recognize the occasional wrongdoing in the use of that power.
As a priest I am sometimes surprised and always humbled by the power of this position, especially among people that are at an extremely vulnerable point in their lives. If I am not very careful I can do more harm than good. I know… it has happened before.
I like to think David was just being thoughtless, but the fact remains, it was because he had the power, which made it possible for him to have Uriah killed in order to keep from being discovered as immoral and greedy.
We need to be aware of the power that we possess. We need to be aware that power is not always with the same person. I certainly have power over my children but are they even aware that they have power over me? We especially need to be aware of that power we have with our loved ones, be they children or parents or friends or employees or co-workers or even pets. A thoughtless word or act can be very hurtful whether intentional or unintentional if you have power with that person. All of us have hurt someone we have power over.
God sees everything. The good news is that he loves us anyway. God did not take David’s life. David’s sin was not just murder; it was also the abuse of power. Power that God had bestowed upon him. David sinned not only against Uriah but against God himself. I hope we can all see that same sin in our own lives and I hope that we can say with all sincerity as David said, “I have sinned against the Lord!”