David and Bathsheba
The two stories most widely known concerning David are firstly his fight with Goliath and secondly his affair with Bathsheba. In the first, he showed courage and, in the second, he showed cowardice.
David was barely a teenager when he was anointed by Samuel the prophet to be the new king over all of Israel, because God showed him David was a man after God’s own heart, but it was not until he was aged thirty when he finally became king over all Israel as well as Judah. As we reflected earlier, this was a time of preparation for the big job but the Lord was with David all the way and, despite his trials and tribulations, which we can read about in the Books of Samuel and the Psalms, the Lord had His hand on David and blessed him. But he was more than ten years into his reign when this second seminal event occurred in David’s life. By then he was well into middle age. God continued to bless David and, significantly, he was able to drive out most of Israel’s enemies and secure its borders.
The story is straightforwardly told in the Bible narrative. While his army was away fighting battles, David stayed at home and from the roof of his palace was able to watch a beautiful women bathing. He lusted after her even while knowing she was married to one in his army, in fact one of his “thirty mighty men”, Uriah the Hittite. He had sexual relations with Bathsheba, who became pregnant. In order to cover up what had taken place, David called Uriah from the battlefield and encouraged Uriah to sleep with his wife. Uriah declined and all his attempts to hide he had slept with Bathsheba failed, so David decided to order the commander of the army, Joab, to deploy Uriah where the battle was fiercest and withdraw support.
This is what happened, just as David had intended and Uriah was killed in battle. Soon after, David married Bathsheba. Months went by but David remained unrepentant concerning the fact that he had broken the majority of the Ten Commandments. But then David was confronted by Nathan the prophet concerning his sin. Nathan knew what had taken place, because God told him. Then David did repent, something his predecessor, Saul, would not have done. Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 is evidence of David’s change of mind and his heart for God. While David’s sin was heinous, his repentance was real and so was God’s forgiveness and restoration, but not without far reaching consequences, which we will soon see. While the child coming out of that illicit union did die, David was to have another son through Bathsheba, Solomon, who was to become the next king of Israel.
“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” 2 Samuel 12:8-14
We can take many lessons from the David and Bathsheba (and also Uriah) story. David continued to be referred to in glowing terms, right through to the New Testament and we can take heart that all what David wrote in these two Psalms can apply to us. The writer(s) of Samuel and Kings were always ready to record the bad and the ugly as well as the good, even when it came to mainly good kings, such as David. While I don’t wish to argue with the Holy Spirit, I find the statement “Because David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” 1 Kings 15:5, hard to swallow, especially as I am aware and will cite later incidents where David was in the wrong.
I like to end with an application some may find objectionable, yet is pertinent. One of David’s many qualities was courage like with his encounter with Goliath. We are called to be courageous, and thank God for many believers who have paid a heavy price for doing so, prepared to stand out for the cause of truth, righteousness and God’s honour. But courageous David was also a coward, as demonstrated in this Bathsheba and Uriah story. Today, I came across an article “‘This is wrong’ – Anglican priest challenges CofE leaders to condemn arrest of woman in silent prayer” (outside an Abortion clinic). While I have traveled between the two extremes (courage and cowardice), making the story personally applicable, it is a sad indictment of Christians that too often they have taken the cowardly rather than the courageous route, doing the right thing.