Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
Yesterday, I taught on David's escalating sin with Bathsheba. It's one of the better known stories in the Old Testament. I love it when God gives new insight (at least to me) as I study a passage I thought I knew well. I thought I'd share some of the insights from yesterday's study.
I've always read that the whole "affair" started because David was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That it was the spring, "the time when kings go off to war", but he hadn't gone (2 Sam. 11:1). A commentary I read this week pointed out that since Rabbah was under seige, David wasn't due at the battle field yet. He would have been there in time to lead his troops in capturing the city.
When David went out of the roof and spotted Bathsheba taking a bath, he hadn't started out to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was just "up on the roof". But his mistake was that he acted on the lust he had for Bathsheba.
David sent a messenger to find out who she was and discovered her military lineage: Her father Eliam was a member of David's elite troops, her grandfather Ahithophel was one of David's advisors, and her husband Uriah was a high-ranking soldier in David's army. David could have walked away, but he still wanted her.
David sent several messengers to bring her to him. She obviously didn't want to come, but he persisted. He took what he wanted and his sin escalated as he acted upon his desires. Even knowing who she was and that several people now knew what was going on, David allowed his desires to push his actions. He committed adultery.
The sin led to consequences. Bathsheba became pregnant, so David tried to create an elaborate coverup. However, Uriah was an honorable man and didn't play along. In his panic, David's sin escalated again, this time taking the life of another.
It's a common story, isn't it? How many times have we read of someone who did something unthinkable who always says, "I didn't mean for it to go that far." I wonder how many times I have said that to myself about my own actions?
2 Sam. 11:27 records that what David did had "displeased" the Lord. The word in Hebrew means "to tremble or quiver". I get "displeased" with my 7-year-old grandson when he pitches a fit. I've always felt better about using that word than saying the kid is driving me crazy. But I think our English understanding of the word discounts the passionate response God had to David's sin. God loved David. David "had the heart of God." God must have felt deep disappointment and betrayal at watching David's escalating sin.
David could have walked away at any time and stopped the escalating desires and actions. But he didn't. He kept acting on them until he did what should have been unthinkable.
Eugene Peterson wrote a precious little book in 1987 entitled Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. In the book, he points out that three pastoral or ministerial acts are so important, so critical, so basic, that these acts determine the shape of everything in our lives. These acts (which he describes as the angles of a triangle)––praying, reading Scriptures, and searching for spiritual direction––are quiet acts that do not call attention to themselves and are often left undone. Each is an act of attention before God. Pray is the act of bring ourselves to attention before God. Reading Scriptures is the act of giving God attention through speech and action. Spiritual direction is the act of giving attention to what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of any persons who happen to be before us at any given time. Picture a triangle. We see the triangle in it's full structure, but the angles are what makes the triangle what it really is.
In a nutshell, these acts keep us focused on God. The more we can focus our attention on Him, the less likely we will be to allow our focus to take us into sin that escalates beyond our control. Peterson's reminder for all of us is that if we work these three angles, the rest of the structure of our lives will be solid. But if the angles are left unattended, our lives can easily become a three-legged stool with a broken leg. We can become total unbalanced, unfocused, and whobbly in our faith.
The final insight from this lesson was that our vulnerability to sin impacts everyone around us . . . not only is the sin against God, but it will hurt our families, our friends, our faith communities. In David's case, it even placed the holy nation of Israel into civil war. What we do matters to God. It's that simple.