Anyone who calls the Bible boring clearly hasn’t read the story of David and Bathsheba. It has the same lust, murder and intrigue we expect to find in a late-night cable TV movie. And of course, there is hypocrisy, deep, deep hypocrisy from a man who was clearly favored by God.
There are many nuances to this story, some difficult to notice if you are not familiar with the traditions of the day and the subtleties of language being used to tell it. Let me point out a few that are important to the story as we have heard it thus far:
- King David was not where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to do. We’ll come back to that later.
- Bathsheba certainly was beholden to her king, and some people have described her as being a victim of power rape. That is possible, but as you read further into the Davidic story in 1 Kings, Bathsheba hardly comes across as a passive character. I believe she welcomed the series of events leading to the cuckolding and death of her husband Uriah, events that freed her from a foreign husband and empowered her.
- The one honorable human early in the story was a foreigner. Uriah the Hittite remained loyal even after he likely has figured out what is going on, knowing the conspiracy between his king and his wife will lead to his death.
As the story continues, we see Uriah was not the only character aware of the king’s hypocrisy. Everyone seemed to know what the king had done: first messengers, soldiers and prophets; later, we can assume, the whole city, thanks to gossips, a swollen belly, and a little math. Again, the evidence for these facts is subtle, but present in the story.
How could one who was so loved by God and who loved God so much fall into such a sad, embarrassing state? Well, David fell into hypocrisy for a simple reason. He stopped being the person he was made to be.
Let’s go back to the very beginning of the story. In a time when kings went out to battle, David stayed home. David was supposed to be fighting a particular kind of battle, one waged against the enemies of God’s plan for the Promised Land. In what we have to remember is a story set in primitive times, David was fighting for what was holy. But at a time when he was still virile enough to pursue and impregnate women, he also had grown to prefer the luxuries of palace life, sending others out to do the hard work he once did so well himself.
In the process, he had become indolent, even lazy. I expect he would have described himself as bored. We are told he saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof after he had arisen from his couch late one afternoon. In other words, David was not only staying home from the war, he was sleeping through key parts of the day. And in the process, he had become a shadow of his former righteous self. Formerly passionate for God, he now simply chased the passions of the moment.
When in such a situation, it helps to have someone come along, someone you trust, who can say, “Look at yourself.” David had such a person in the prophet Nathan. The prophet used a story of a stolen lamb to stir David’s sense of righteousness, and then turned the story on David by revealing to the arrogant king he was the real thief and murderer.
Nathan also revealed the punishment, which was harsh, but not as harsh as the death the repentant David expected. David’s kingdom would be without peace for the rest of his life; also, the child conceived by Bathsheba would die, despite David’s prayer and fasting to convince God otherwise. Sin can have devastating effects in this life, even where there is forgiveness.
Never forget what God has called you to be. None of us are called to be kings, but the day we begin to follow God through Christ we all are called to enhance his kingdom in some way. It may be in public ways, like the preaching or teaching of God’s word; it may be in the equally challenging roles of mother and father to children of the kingdom; it may be in how you bring Christian values into your work or community. Such calls may last for a lifetime or simply for a season, but they are always there.
When you sense boredom in the midst of fulfilling your call, be careful how you choose to relieve it. God’s word and a steady prayer life are always your first, best choices when bored. They will enrich you rather than taking you places that sap you or impoverish you.
And know that if you have fallen from your calling, whatever it may be, you live in a wonderful time. Thanks to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross, God’s grace is easier to access than ever. Simply make a true repentance and let God lead you back to the person you were made to be.
The repercussions of your sins may follow you, but God’s grace will bring you healing, restoration and a new joy.