Today’s reading begins with David welcoming Saul’s son Mephibosheth into his household and concludes with David’s battle against the people of Rabbah.
As mentioned in a previous post, when a new ruler came into power in a kingdom, especially one of a different family from the previous king, the typical practice was to either force the prior ruling family into exile or maybe more often to execute the entire former ruling family. This was done to eliminate competition, intimidate the people of the kingdom, and consolidate power. David actions in many ways defied both custom and logic, and while there certainly must have been some loyalty to family ties and friendships because of David’s wife being Saul’s daughter and David’s friendship with Saul’s son Jonathan, it’s impressive that in the opening narrative of today’s reading that David sought out Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth to share both companionship and wealth.
The reading from today goes from a generous act of mercy and grace upon Jonathan’s paralyzed son Mephibosheth, to the greatest act of wickedness raeported of David. There are few of us, likely none of you reading this post, who could or would have done what David is recorded as having done next in the narrative. David was the king and could do nearly anything he pleased. It was his kingdom. Maybe it was a distorted perception of his own autonomy, but while David was relaxing and walking about the roof of his palace, he spotted a beautiful woman in the midst of bathing and inquires of his servants as to the identity of this woman. David’s servant recognizes who the woman is and reports to him that it is Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite, to which David replies, “Oh, she’s taken. Alright, just checking.” Well, that’s what David should have said, but instead of catching the subtle hint from his servant that this woman ought to be ignored, David instructs his servant to bring Bathsheba to him. David wasn’t looking to have a casual conversation with the wife of one of the best soldiers in his army, but rather an affair.
Soon after David has his one night stand with Bathsheba, she sends word to him that she is pregnant. Hoping to cover his tracks, David calls back Bathsheba’s husband Uriah from the battlefield and tells him to go home to his wife. Most men would likely have simply obeyed the king’s admonishment and having been away from their wife for an extended period would jump at the opportunity to go home and be intimate. Uriah displays his loyalty to the soldiers in his charge and instead of going home to his wife stays at the entrance of the city. Having heard of this, David invites Uriah back in and shares a grand feast with Uriah and gets him drunk hoping that he will then be motivated to go home and be with his wife.
After having passed on both attempts made by David to cover his tracks, Uriah is sent back out into battle and instructs his commanders to put Uriah into the area of battle with the heaviest fighting and then withdrawing from him to leave him to die. After word returns to David that Uriah has been killed, David treats the occurrence casually and basically says, “Oh well, let’s not get to bent out of shape about this, people die all the time in battle. It’s just one of those things.”
David had swept his sin under the rug, but the LORD would not let his sin stand without calling him to account. The LORD called upon the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. Nathan comes to David and tells him the story of a wealthy man with abundant livestock who passes through a town and instead of taking one of his own livestock to offer in sacrifice to the LORD, takes the beloved family pet of a poor man and offers the pet up as a sacrifice. David is enraged by this action and tells Nathan that this wealthy man should be put to death for this injustice, to which Nathan responds to David, “You are the man!” The LORD had confronted David with his sin and David finally comes to repentance over his actions. David rightly deserves death as he so rightly pointed out to Nathan, but God instead chooses to punish David in another way, by putting to death the child wrought of his sin and bringing calamity upon his household.
Although David was not entitled to God’s mercy, God gave it. Although David’s actions were sinful and he multiplied them by taking Bathsheba as his wife, God chose to work through the evil David had done by calling the offspring of David’s relationship, Solomon, to be the heir to the kingdom of Israel. God’s ways and His purposes in the story of David are always confusing. God spared a murderer and blessed the offspring of a marriage that was a direct result of the murder. I don’t think there’s any adequate explanation for what God did in the life of David, nor what he did consequently in the life of his son with Bathsheba, Solomon.
I am often convinced of my own conclusions as to what ‘will’ happen to ‘people like that’. Certainly God wouldn’t bless ‘people like that’. Certainly God wouldn’t use sinful people and sinful acts to bring about His purposes. God wouldn’t do something like that. God demands holiness. God only uses the good things we do to perpetuate good. The story of David should rock you to the core. It should rock me to the core. We will see that God by no means lets David off without consequence for his evil, but we will see in the remainder of the read-through of the Bible that God blesses what Satan intended for calamity.
And if you’re keeping score, here’s where the family lineage is to this point: Judah’s incest with his daughter-in-law who he had gone to because he thought she was a prostitute, Rahab the prostitute, Ruth the offspring of Lot’s incest, Solomon the offspring of David’s adultery and his act of murder. This is not what I grew up believing how God would work. It’s easier to skip the details of history: jumping to the highlights and ignoring the ugly.