Sermons

Sun, Jul 29, 2018

Reverence for life

Series:Sermons

If only Uriah had slept with his wife...

then everything would have been okay.

Of course, David didn't actually want him to sleep.

It's a strange expression isn't it--

'to sleep with someone'?--

because it doesn't usually involve a great deal of sleeping;

until afterwards, perhaps.

And sleep was definitely not what David had in mind.

If only Uriah had gone home and had sex with his wife...

then everything would have been okay.

No one would have known what David had done.

No one would have been hurt-- 

least of all David--

and Uriah might still have been alive.

 

It's a common human tendency, isn't it?

To cover up our mistakes;

to manipulate others; 

to massage the truth;

to devise devious schemes to avoid facing up to our blunders...

so that no one finds out what we have done;

so that we don't have to face the consequences.

But, as with David, it seldom works.

Tell one little lie--

distort the truth just a smidgin--

and it seldom stops there.

We unleash an ever-deepening spiral of deceit and cover-up...

as we become more and more desperate...

and more and more afraid of being found out.

Things that get covered up are eventually exposed.

And, inevitably, someone gets hurt.

 

Of course, if Bathsheba hadn't conceived, then everything would have been okay.

There would have been no need for such an elaborate cover-up.

In time, David may even have forgotten about this 'one little indiscretion'--

this 'one moment of weakness'.

Then again, perhaps it might have continued to gnaw away at him--

the memory of his abuse of power;

of using another man's wife to satisfy his desires simply because he could...

simply because he was the king...

and she wasn't in a position to resist or refuse him...

making it, in effect, a sexual assault.

Maybe he could have just gone on with his life...

or maybe he would have lived with a troubled conscience...

but either way, no one else would have known.

Even if Bathsheba had told anyone, it would have been her word against his...

and, after all, he was the king...

who would have believed her?

If Bathsheba hadn't got pregnant, then no one would have known.

David's public image would be intact.

And there would have been no complications or ramifications.

 

How often do we humans abuse the power entrusted to us?

How often do we use people for our own ends?

How often do we do things simply because we can...

without worrying about the consequences...

or without thinking through the implications?

And how often do we try to ignore our mistakes...

pretending that they don't exist unless we get caught?

 

Of course, if David hadn't seen Bathsheba that day, then everything would have been okay.

There would have been no need for a cover-up--

nothing to hide...

nothing to pretend had never happened--

because there would have been no indiscretion.

If she hadn't been there... 

in full view...

naked...

her voluptuous body glistening with moisture from the bath;

if she hadn't been there, having a bath, then he wouldn't have been tempted.

And, in any case, why was she having a bath at that time of day;

and in such a place--

in full view of the palace?

Maybe she engineered it all.

She should have known that he might see her.

And, maybe, she wanted that to happen...

and everything else that came after it.

Maybe he had been seduced by a loose woman.

Maybe it wasn't his fault at all.

 

How often do we blame others for the mistakes that we make?

Indeed, how often do we blame the victim--

shifting responsibility...

making excuses--

rather than admit that we were wrong?

 

In the end, this story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah is our story--

one that each of us, in some way, plays out.

Faced with the reality of moral failure, we try to cover it up.

We try to ignore it or pretend that it didn't happen.

We try to shift the blame to others--

particularly the victim.

We deny responsibility and excuse ourselves.

 

So what should David have done?

 

First of all, we need to realise-- 

this didn't result from a single lapse in judgment.

David was culpable at a whole series of levels.

If only he had gone with his troops, as was expected of a king--

after all, we're told at the beginning of this sordid tale that it was "the time when kings go out to battle";

if only David had been where he should have been...

doing what he should have been doing...

then none of this would have happened.

If only he had spent more time with the wives that he already had...

then none of this would have happened.

Having seen the naked Bathsheba, if only he had turned away...

and gone back inside his palace...

then none of this would have happened.

If he hadn't made inquiries...

if he hadn't sent for her...

if he hadn't had her brought to him...

then things would have turned out very differently.

If only he had taken responsibility for his actions...

if only he hadn't tried to cover it up...

if only he had come clean and told Uriah what had happened--

sure, it would have got messy...

and there would have been repercussions...

but things would have turned out very differently.

If only he had taken responsibility and not tried to cover it up...

then Uriah would still have been alive...

and David wouldn't have become a murderer.

At any point, David could have stopped and chosen a very different path.

He should have seen the warning signs;

paused;

considered his choices and the consequences;

and done something different.

If only he had, then David would have remained an honourable man...

and a genuine man of faith.

And that, of course, begs an important question:

where is God in all of this?

Because nowhere in this story is God actually mentioned.

 

Maybe, in a sense, God's presence is seen in God's absence.

After all, in this whole story...

and through all that happens... 

clearly David's mind wasn't on God.

And, let's be honest...

it seldom is when we follow our baser instincts.

Nowhere does David ponder or contemplate what God would have him do here.

And I don't mean that in the sense of following some strict moral law or code.

Rather than adhering to some formal set of rules--

which will, inevitably...

reflect historical, cultural, religious or political biases in varying degrees...

and which can actually result in negative or harmful consequences-- 

acting morally is ultimately about seeking to do what is most loving...

and most life-affirming.

As Albert Schweitzer reminds us, "Ethics...are nothing but reverence for life".

Nowhere, here, does David contemplate this most basic ethical principle.

 

And perhaps, in the end, that's the real point of this story for us.

In our world...

in our own lives...

as we interact with other people...

as we seek to engage with politics and society...

and all of the contentious issues of our day--

would that we asked what David didn't:

what is truly life affirming here;

what would love have me do?

 

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