David and Nathan

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Section 1: Opening Prayer

God our creator, you have given us work to do and call us to use our talents for the good of all. Guide us as we work, and teach us to live in the Spirit who made us your sons and daughters, in the love that made us sisters and brothers, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Section 2: You Don’t Know That I Know, but I Know

As we mentioned in the last section, one of David’s greatest mistakes was forcing Bathsheba to sleep with him and eventually become his wife, even though she was married to Uriah, one of David’s greatest warriors and closest advisors. How messed up is that? The King of Israel didn’t respect this children of God or their marriage enough suppress his own lust, so he used his God-given power to break them up, get Bathsheba into his bed, and get Uriah killed.

And you thought the Bible was a tame book. Check this all out in 2 Samuel 12-13.

Where this really gets interesting, though, is in Nathan’s judgement of David. You see, Nathan was a prophet who served in David’s court. David deeply respected Nathan, so when Nathan brings to David a hypothetical situation of injustice where someone stole something that didn’t belong to them, David rallies to quickly to join Nathan in condemning the thief. Only then does Nathan cry out those famous words, which reveal David is the thief and the recipient of his own judgement, “You are that man!” He pretty much says: 

Section 3: I’m THAT Guy?!

David’s sinful treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah led to God’s quick disapproval, but as king in the land, David’s power was unmatched. Almost.

God’s prophets carried the word of the Lord to help guide political rulers when their authority went to their heads. For David, the one God chose to replace Saul, this was a tense moment. Israel was at battle with the Ammonites and his plan to murder Uriah under the pretense of dying in battle cost him both a great ally and the respect of his military.

So when Nathan comes and speaks of this theoretical lamb that’s been stolen from a poor man by a rich man, David’s not only righteously incensed; he also saw an opportunity to regain a level of integrity within himself. Offering proper judgement against this wealthy thief who stole the lamb from a person in poverty seems like just the good deed to prove to himself that he’s still God’s chosen leader.

Once Nathan hears David condemn the thief, he turns the tables and reveals the metaphor, that David’s the rich thief, Bathsheba’s the lamb, and Uriah’s the poor man (don’t worry; we’ll get to the treatment of Bathsheba as property in the next section). David’s likely some combination of shocked and dismayed, for his response is only, “I have sinned against the Lord.” God condemned David’s sin, for using the divine power of the king to exploit Bathsheba and murder Uriah was surely a misuse of God’s anointing. The consequences of David’s failure are equally terrible, for Bathsheba and David’s first child died soon after birth. The result of David’s greedy lust wasn’t life-giving for anyone, but led instead to more death.

After the death of their child, David and Bathsheba eventually give birth to a boy that they name Solomon. He eventually becomes the wisest king in Israel’s history and develops significant allies with neighboring nations. God didn’t bless David’s sin, but God still used David and Bathsheba to bless Israel and the world.

Section 4: What Does This Mean?

Answer these questions:

  1. Why did David say he sinned “against the Lord” and not Bathsheba or Uriah?
  2. Why isn’t David’s violation of Bathsheba taken more seriously?
  3. What’s the difference between consequences and retribution?

When David said he sinned against God, it’s not a denial of sinning against people. Rather, it’s part of how the Bible reminds us that God is at the center of our stories and in all of history. Whenever we sin against someone else, whether we steal something or do violence to someone, we’re injuring the image of God in the world. God created us all in the divine image, so all sin hurts not just creation, but the creator that we reflect.

There is a huge problem within this story though, which is that Bathsheba is treated like property. She’s literally likened to an animal owned
by someone else. In ancient times, that was the norm. Women were second-class citizens, treated largely like property. Women were given by fathers into marriage as an economic device. David didn’t ask her to join him in bed. As the most powerful man in the country, he told her, and she obliged most likely out of a fear of retribution. What we know in light of Jesus is that we’re all equally God’s children, all deserving of love, respect, and consent with respect to our bodies and minds. Make no mistake: David’s sin here isn’t just against God and Uriah. It’s also against Bathsheba.

Yet, out of this arrangement God brings Solomon, a king of legendary proportion beyond Israel. This comes only after the death of David and Bathsheba’s first child. It’s difficult to imagine how the death of an innocent child could be an appropriate punishment. Yet, rather than attribute this to God’s punishment, it’s more accurate to see this as a literary device to reveal the consequence of David’s decisions. David killed Uriah to keep this child’s existence hidden. The child’s death and David’s grief represents the death and grief that David brought into Israel through his unfaithfulness. Solomon’s birth represents, then, the new beginning of God’s faithfulness on the other side of David’s unfaithfulness. Despite David’s sinfulness, God raises up his child to become a renowned leader in the world.

That’s something to remember always about sin: God doesn’t desire to punish us, but there are consequences that we must live with when we sin. Sin causes real hurt to real people, so we shouldn’t expect God’s forgiveness to magically erase the pain. Instead, like David, we must live with the consequences. Still, God’s faithfulness to us is unexpectedly gracious, and may lead to the birth of wonderful new things on the other side of our failures.

Section 5: Closing Prayer

God of grace, you have given us minds to know you, hearts to love you, and voices to sing your praise. Fill us with your Spirit, that we may celebrate your glory and worship you in spirit and truth, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Opening and Closing Prayers from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2017 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #25165.