Tag Archives: Bathsheba

More Than Words

More Than Words (CaD Ps 101) Wayfarer

I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.
Psalm 101: 2b-3a (NIV)

The liner notes of today’s chapter, Psalm 101, attribute the lyrics to King David. The song is the king’s personal, public pledge to carry out his office and his reign in a blameless and upright manner. In the Hebrew, the song is structured in seven couplets. Since the Hebrews identified seven as the number of completeness, it is a concise pledge to the people that the king will be completely honorable and just.

To the ancient Hebrews, the heart and the eyes were of primary importance in determining one’s ultimate actions. The condition of the heart was important because the motivation of your heart fuels one’s actions. If my heart is greedy, then I’m going to act to get as much as I can for myself. If my heart is generous, then I’m going to be content with my lot and give freely to those in need.

The eyes were also important because what I spend my time looking at, taking in, and feeding to my brain, will influence the focus of my thoughts which will then affect my actions and relationships.

This combination of heart and eyes is mentioned twice in the lyrics, first in the King’s pledge which I spotlighted at the top of the post. The second time it is mentioned in contrast to the wicked person in the second half of verse five:

“Whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
I will not tolerate.”

As I meditated on this in the quiet this morning, I couldn’t help but think about one of the most fateful moments of David’s story:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful….
2 Samuel 11:1-2 (NIV)

David, the warrior king, chooses not to march out and lead his army on their spring campaign. This is a stark contrast to the strong military leader David had been his whole life. David was always leading on the battlefield, fighting next to his men, and getting his boots dirty in the field. Why did he choose to stay in his palace that spring? It suggests to me that there had been a shift in David’s heart.

The very next verse David looks at the beautiful Bathsheba, bathing. What would follow David’s wayward eyes was a chain-reaction of choices and circumstances that would threaten his reign and would forever stain his reputation.

In the quiet this morning I am reminded of two things. First, even the greatest of leaders have their blind spots. I write this looking back on the stains of my own story. This is both a sobering reminder to keep guarding my own heart as well as a challenge to be gracious with the shortcomings of others.

Second, I can’t help but wonder if the lyrics of Psalm 101 were a new king’s inauguration pledge that was slowly forgotten just like Charles Foster Kane’s journalistic principles in Citizen Kane. This is a reminder to me that this faith journey is a long trek. To make a pledge is easy. To live it out faithfully requires more than words.

A Psalm 51 Moment

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Psalm 51:17 (NRSVCE)

For anyone who does not know the story behind David’s song, known to us as Psalm 51, it is critical in order to have a complete understanding of the lyrics.

First of all, David had been the “good guy” his entire life journey. As a boy God declared him “a man after my own heart” and God chose David, through the prophet Samuel, to be God’s anointed king. David killed Goliath. David refused to raise his hand against King Saul and wait for God to fulfill the promise to give him the throne. David did everything right. David was devout. David was faithful. David was sincere. David was God’s man through-and-through.

Until he wasn’t.

The Reader’s Digest version is this: From the roof of his palace he creeped out on a beautiful young woman taking a bath on a nearby rooftop. David used his power to find out who she was. She was the wife of one of David’s soldiers, but the army was out on a military campaign and David knew it. David used his influence as King to invite her over. They had a one night stand. She ended up pregnant, and now a “no harm no foul” fling became a potentially Monica Lewinsky level political scandal.

The first step in the cover-up was to create the illusion of normal. David uses his commander-and-chief authority to give the woman’s husband, a soldier named Uriah, a special leave to come home and take a break from the action. It turns out, however, that Uriah was a “good guy” and a “man of integrity” like David had always been. Perhaps David had been his role model. Uriah, thinking of all his buddies on the front-line who didn’t get to come home and sleep with their wives, refuses to even go into his house.

Ironically, Uriah’s integrity leads to David’s further descent into depravity. To avoid his moral failure from coming to light and the scandal it would create, David sends Uriah back to the front with a sealed message to his general in the field. The message orders his general to place Uriah into the thick of the battle, order his fellow soldiers to abandon him, and ensure Uriah has an “honorable” death.

Uriah is buried with military honors. David makes a big deal out of caring for the widow of one of his soldiers by agreeing to marry and take care of her. Scandal averted and David is given the opportunity to improve his polling numbers and maintain his “good guy” image. David gets away it. No one is the wiser.

Except God.

God sends a prophet named Nathan to visit the King who regales David with the story of a wealthy land baron and sheep farmer who stole the only lamb of the poor tenant farmer next-door. David, angered, assures Nathan that the evil land baron will be forced to pay the victim back with four lambs for the one that was stolen.

Then Nathan informs David that the whole story was a metaphor and that he is the land baron in the story. He had a palace full of wives and thought he could steal poor Uriah’s wife and cover the whole thing up. David is devastated and has to own up to what he has done. He pours out his guilt and plea for forgiveness into a song.

If you’ve never read Psalm 51 in the context of this story, I encourage you to take the minute or two required to read the lyrics of the song in their entirety right now while the story is fresh in your head.

One of the interesting things about this chapter-a-day journey is the experience of coming upon chapters that I know really well, and have read countless times in the past 40 years. Do they have any fresh layers of meaning for me at this particular waypoint of life’s journey?

As I read this morning I kept hearkening back to one of David’s psalms from a couple of weeks ago. I went back to Psalm 26 in the quiet this morning and read it again:

Vindicate me, O Lord,
    for I have walked in my integrity,
    and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
    test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
    and I walk in faithfulness to you.

Wow. What a contrast.

I know Psalm 51 really well. It’s tatted on my left bicep as a reminder. I have a chapter of my own story that is a rough parallel of David’s. I was the “good guy” who everyone knew was a Jesus freak, a moral puritan, and who walked the straight-and-narrow. I’m sure I was even guilty of waxing self-righteously in my own way like David did in Psalm 26. Then I found myself in a place I swore I’d never be found. I had my own Psalm 51 moment.

Along this spiritual journey, I’ve come to understand that I never really understood and experienced grace, forgiveness, and mercy until I hit rock-bottom and the veneer of self-righteousness was peeled away like the striking of a stage set. Like David, it came much further along in my journey, but I can now look back realize how important, make that essential, my own mistakes were in teaching me humility, empathy, mercy, and grace.

I enter another work week this morning soberly reminded of my own need of grace, as well as my need to extend it to others having their own Psalm 51 moments.

Sister Wisdom

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
    and to insight, “You are my relative.”
They will keep you from the adulterous woman,
    from the wayward woman with her seductive words.

Proverbs 7:4-5 (NIV)

My sister and I were close in our growing up years. The younger siblings of elder twins, there was an unspoken bond between us simply by being relatively close in age, and in the way we were naturally paired in everyone’s minds and conversations. First, there was “Tim and Terry” (or simply “the twins”), and then followed “Jody and Tom.” I even followed my sister to college where she was a constant companion and friend. Jody and I shared a lot of life’s early journey together, and she put up with a lot from this bratty little brother.

In all of our adolescent and young adult years, Jody had very little to say to me about my various girlfriends, infatuations, and romantic flings. In fact, in retrospect, it was one area of life where we tended to stay out of each other’s business. However, all these years later, I still recall one very specific instance in which my dear sister took sibling license to emphatically raise the red flag of warning against the object of my amorous affection. So adamant was she, in her objection, that she made appeal to our mother to intervene.

I thought of that episode this morning as I read today’s chapter. Solomon continues to beat his drum, warning his son against the seductive, wayward and adulterous woman. Ironic, since Solomon’s own mother (Bathsheba) was the adulterous lover of his father (David), and the record indicates it was he who was the instigator. Fascinating.

What struck me in the text was the point Solomon makes to encourage his son to embrace wisdom, once again alluding to the personified wisdom as a woman, as a “sister” in contrast to the seductive, wayward woman. I couldn’t help but smile as I remembered Jody’s intense antagonism towards the girl of my affection. Let me simply say that the analogy is somewhat apt.

Jody, you were right. There, I said it 😉

In the quiet this morning, I find myself remembering decisions, both wise and foolish, which I have made along this life journey. In at least this one recounted instance, I embraced wisdom as my sister and likely escaped many woes. In other instances, I shunned wisdom and suffered woefully. C’est la vie. From my current waypoint on life’s road, I consider the most important point is to learn the lessons that both wisdom’s benefits and foolishness’ consequences have to teach me, and to apply them on the stretch ahead.

Will and Want

Solomon CrownedNow Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, “I will be king.” So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. (His father had never rebuked him by asking, “Why do you behave as you do?” He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)

Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei and Rei and David’s special guard did not join Adonijah.
1 Kings 1:5-8 (NIV)

King David is nearing death. David has many children from a handful of wives and a number of concubines. David’s hold on the throne has alway been precarious. He had to unite the divided tribes of Israel to claim Saul’s throne, yet an undercurrent of political discontent among the tribes simmers just below the surface. Just years before the events of today’s chapter, David’s own son, Absalom, had committed fratricide and attempted a coup de tat. He was nearly successful. The weaker David becomes in his old age, the more intrigue grows regarding the future of the throne and the kingdom.

Adonijah is the eldest living son. By tradition, the throne should be his. But, that adulterous woman, Bathsheba, and her son Solomon appear to be daddy’s favorites. Word has it that David has promised the throne to Solomon. It’s not fair. Solomon is only a kid. Adonijah has been waiting for years expecting he would be king. All the power and riches should be his, and he feels his chances slipping away.

So, Adonijah takes matters into his own hands and decides to strike while the iron is hot. He needs powerful men on his side. He gets two of dad’s inner circle, General Joab and the powerful priest Abiathar, to lend him their support. If he can get the military and the religious leaders on his side, this coup might work.

There was a fatal flaw in Adonijah’s plan. Joab and Abiathar were powerful men, but they were not part of the kings inner circle, and David was not dead. Adonijah pulled the trigger too soon. His father, the king, still had strength and voice to speak clearly regarding his will. Nathan the prophet, the equally powerful priest Zadok, and David’s elite military guard, held sway in the king’s chambers. Together with Bathsheba they convinced David that he must appoint his choice, Solomon, to the throne or risk another bloody coup that could rip the nation apart.

This morning I am fascinated by the complexities and political intrigue surrounding the palace and the throne room. History is filled with compelling stories of people who plotted and connived for various thrones and positions of power. I love these stories because times change and circumstances change, but the human element remains universal. I see in the story of Adonijah the shadows of people I have witnessed scheming for positions of power in business and churches. Making the right friends, relational alliances, family dynamics, and power grabs are as much a part of political, familial, corporate, and organizational systems today as they were in the palace of Jerusalem thousands of years ago.

I want to accomplish God’s purposes for me. I want to be wise in my relationships and my dealings. I want to obey Jesus’ command to be both shrewd and gentle. Yet, I hope that I never put my personal want of God’s desire and will for me.

Small Detail; Big Implication

The Uriah Letter
The mighty men were…

…Uriah the Hittite
1 Chronicles 11:26a;41a (NIV)

Great stories, both real and fiction, are layered with complexities and meaning. As both a reader and a writer, I am always fascinated and inspired with small details that add meaning to the overall story.

Weeks ago we read the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), in which David sleeps with the next door neighbor he’d been voyeuristically watching from his roof. She became pregnant and, to cover up his sin, David conspires to have her husband killed so that he can marry her. Her husband was Uriah, the Hittite. In today’s chapter we come across a small detail that adds layers of complexity to the story. Uriah’s name is listed in the roles of David’s “Mighty Men,” a group of elite special forces. Think about it: Uriah wasn’t just come random, no name infantryman. Uriah was one of David’s most trusted warriors and a member of “The Thirty.” When David arranged to have Uriah killed, it was a man he knew and with whom David had fought battles side-byside. Uriah was one of the best of the best, and a man in whom David entrusted his life. Killing Uriah wasn’t just a king using his power to whack some nameless peasant. Killing Uriah was a personal and professional betrayal in the most heinous sense. This is Judas’ kiss. This is Michael and Fredo. This is Iago and Othello.

I love that a little factual nugget buried in a “boring” chapter of lists can spark my imagination to contemplate so many additional layers of complexity to a story I thought I knew so well. No wonder Uriah lived in a building next to David’s palace. As a member of “The Thirty” he was the king’s body guard. David wrote orders to his commander-in-chief, Joab, to have Uriah killed and then sent it with Uriah back to the front line (talk about a Hollywood moment). This was probably a common. As a member of David’s body guard, Uriah was likely used to carrying messages. I also wonder if David’s orders created an erosion of respect from General Joab. There is a camaraderie among soldiers that is even tighter among special forces. Having Uriah killed would not have been popular move among his men. David’s mistake with Bathsheba was tragic failure on multiple levels.

Today, I’m thinking about how life imitates art and art imitates life. I’m thinking about David’s epic failure in light of my own epic failures. I’m enjoying thinking new and fresh about an old story I’ve known for years, and what that means to both the story and its meaning for me.

 

“If You Can’t Do the Time…”

david absalomAbsalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. 2 Samuel 15:6 (NIV)

Being forgiven does not erase the fact that we must face the natural consequences of our actions. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent conspiracy to commit murder, David showed great remorse and sought God’s forgiveness but the events sewed seeds of scandal, anger and resentment both inside David’s family and in the public. Nathan’s prophetic word that the sword would never depart David’s house is fulfilled as the consequences of David’s blind spots now bear bitter fruit.

David’s children knew their father’s weaknesses both as a father and as a king. In today’s chapter, Absalom masterfully exploits his father’s scandal and weak leadership in a brilliantly planned and executed coup d’etat. David was forced to make hasty preparation to escape the city with his closest followers and arrange for spies to gather inside information regarding his the rebels’ plot. David’s very own son had stolen his kingdom and was reaching out to steal his crown.

Today I am reminded of many mistakes I’ve made along the journey and their residual effect on relationships, circumstances, and perceptions. Jesus advised people to “count the cost” before agreeing to follow Him. The same advice might also be given when tempted. There is a cost to wrong-doing and we are all wise to give consideration to the tragic consequences that might arise in the wake of our poor choices. As the saying goes, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

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The True Spiritual Test

 

English: Nathan advises King David
English: Nathan advises King David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
2 Samuel 12:13a (NIV)

 

When I was five years old, while on a Christmas Eve sleepover at my grandparents’ house,  I stole all of my siblings’ gift envelopes off of the Christmas tree and hid them in my suitcase. I watched in silence on Christmas day as grandma racked her brain to figure out where those envelopes went. Then, I promptly forgot that my mom would be the one unpacking my suitcase when we got home. I was totally busted. My butt cheeks were rosy from the spanking that quickly followed, the cheeks of my face were quickly stained with tears of remorse as I called grandma to confess my heinous crime and to ask her forgiveness.

 

I learned early that your sins find you out. Having said that, let me readily I admit that it didn’t stop me from sinning. I’ve made plenty of tragic choices since then. I make them on a regular basis, in fact. Along the way, however, I’ve come to realize that hiding, concealing, obfuscating, blaming, and excusing my wrongdoing is both delaying the inevitable and stunting my spiritual growth and development. The further I get in the journey the more readily I’ve embraced my fallibility and shortcomings. I might as well cut to the chase, admit I blew it, and allow everyone to move on.

 

In this morning’s chapter, David is confronted by the prophet Nathan and his illicit affair with Bathsheba, his conspiracy to murder Bathsheba’s husband, and his attempt to conceal his paternity of Bathsheba’s child is revealed in dramatic fashion. David’s response was to quickly confess his wrongdoing and seek God’s forgiveness. It’s a fascinating contrast to David’s predecessor. When the prophet Samuel confronted King Saul of his wrongdoing, Saul excused his behavior and refused to repent of his actions.

 

We all make mistakes. We all make selfish choices that hurt others. The true spiritual test is in how we respond to God and others in the ensuing guilty conscience, or when when we are confronted and exposed.

 

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The Tragedies of Choosing Early Retirement

 

My Grandpa V with my father and daughter, Taylor outside the nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee.
My Grandpa V with my father and daughter, Taylor, sitting outside the nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee and tour guide.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)

My grandfather was a school teacher and administrator for many years. When the school system told him he had to retire from teaching he took over the school lunch and bus program. When they told him he had to retire from the lunch and bus program he got a job as bailiff of the county courthouse. After many years working at the courthouse the judge called him into chambers and said, “Herman, I’m tired of having to wake you up to take the jury out. I think it’s time for you to retire.” In his nineties, my grandfather was no longer able to manage on his own. When he moved into the nursing home, however, he promptly gave himself the job of welcoming new residents and giving them a tour of the facility.

My grandfather was fond of saying that “the day I retire will be the day I die.”

David was a warrior. David was a general. David was a natural born leader. He was still in his prime, and yet now as King he chose to stay in Jerusalem and send the army out to war without him. It would prove to be a tragic choice. Because he was not out with the army doing what he was gifted and called to do, he found himself on the roof of his palace peeping at another man’s wife. Worse yet, it was the wife of one of his own men who was an honorable soldier. David then made the tragic mistake of inviting the woman over for dinner and sleeping with her. She conceived. The led to the tragic mistake of covering up his actions and ultimately conspiring to commit murder. The consequences of this series of tragic and unnecessary mistakes would haunt David, his family, his monarchy, and his kingdom for the rest of his life and beyond.

We are not told why David chose to “retire” from leading the army. A few chapters ago we read that David wanted to build a temple and God clearly responded that building the temples was not what David was called to do. I get the feeling that having finally ascended to the throne, David was feeling a bit of a mid-life crisis that is common to man. He’s tired of what he’s always been gifted at doing. Leading the army is what he’s done his entire life. Yes, he’s good at it, but it’s boring to him. David wants to retire from all that and build temples and do other things.

Perhaps David should have stuck with what he was gifted and called to do. Perhaps he should have taken my grandfather’s attitude and just stuck with the job until “retirement” was forced upon him. Tragic things happen when we choose to prematurely retire from the path to which God has called us and strike out on our own.

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Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 7

Bathsheba Observed by King David
Image via Wikipedia

Don’t let your hearts stray away toward her.
      Don’t wander down her wayward path.
Proverbs 7:25 (NLT)

As one who has been journeying through God’s Message for many years, please know that head scratching and the occasional fit of confusion is a natural part of the sojourn. Through the first several chapters of Proverbs I can appreciate King Solomon’s repeated warnings about avoiding the temptations of an immoral and adulterous woman and how he literarily contrasts that (briefly) with embracing wisdom who is also personified as a woman.

What will forever have me scratching my head as I read Proverbs are two questions.

 First, history records that Solomon himself had 700 wives and 300 concubines. That means that the dude could sleep with a different woman every night for roughly three years before he’d have to see the same woman twice. It seems to me if that is your reality and you’re still warning your son about being tempted by a woman who is not your wife (or concubine), you’ve got issues. I’m just saying.

Second, and while I appreciate that Solomon was writing in a male dominated culture from thousands of years ago, it seems to me that for every female temptress there is at least one smarmy adulteror guy preying on unsuspecting women. Solomon, whose dad seduced his married mother (Bathsheba) and had her husband whacked, seems eerily silent on that subject. Of course, with 1000 women to satisfy, he was probably busy.

I appreciate the truth of what today’s chapter is communicating. Nevertheless, I do have a few questions for God when I reach the journey’s end.

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