Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Lord loved him

Reading Morning Prayer in the Daily Office today, I stumbled across this passage about King David. Although the story of David and Bathsheba is one of the few in Old Testament that is readily familiar to me, I can't say I ever paid much attention to the actual text.

I found this extraordinary:

2 Samuel 12:15-31 (NRSV)

Then Nathan went to his house.

The LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his house stood beside him, urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead; for they said, “While the child was still alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us; how then can we tell him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, he perceived that the child was dead; and David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.”

Then David rose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes. He went into the house of the LORD, and worshiped; he then went to his own house; and when he asked, they set food before him and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while it was alive; but when the child died, you rose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Then David consoled his wife Bathsheba, and went to her, and lay with her; and she bore a son, and he named him Solomon. The LORD loved him, and sent a message by the prophet Nathan; so he named him Jedidiah, because of the LORD.

I knew full well that David's first child by Bathsheba was struck ill and died, presumably as God's punishment for David having caused the death of Bathsheba's husband Uriah so that he, David, could have Bathsheba for himself. But I had missed the poignancy of this story, how David fasted and wept, hearing no one while his son lay dying, but once death came, he accepted it, stood up and put aside his grief, without complaint to God and without the kind of remorse that mires one in regret and inaction. Instead, he did the only thing he could, go to Bathsheba, console her, and lie with her again, this time truly as husband and wife. And God did not strike out against them, but gave them a son, Solomon, whom "the LORD loved."

David did a truly terrible thing, yet he went on with his life, making things as right as he could under the circumstances, after accepting the awful consequence of his wrong. This is the stuff that we all face, day in and day out, whether our wrongs are great or small, the sin being the ways in which we stray from God's will. Yet I wonder if David's way of standing up and moving forward is better than the endless regrets and worrying over choices we might have made and consequences we might have avoided if only we had been stronger, wiser, or more virtuous. We cannot bring back our past and live our lives over, we can only make them anew from this point forward.


BooCat said...

klady, There you have it. For 43 years I was "stuck on my spot" looking back wanting to change everything that had happened to me. It was when I let go and moved forward to embrace the future that my life began to change. Forty-three year habits are hard to change, so sometimes I temporarily slip back. There are still a lot of changes to make, but when we come right down to it that's what life is about isn't it--it's all change, all the time.

klady said...

Thanks, boocat. I wish I had your courage and determination to make changes as you have. Too often I am stuck in my head and immobilized by a body that gets too much food and too little exercise. Some of it I can't help because of my work at home in front of the computer, but of course there is much I can do but don't. You are an inspiration for making those changes, external and internal.

Off to church today and then the soccer fields, so I'll be out of my head for awhile!

Mary Ann said...

Yes, that's one of the things about David-- he was a world-class repenter, and repentance is all about a means of moving on. (He also combined disproportionately tender family relationships with being a warrior-- the whole David saga's well worth many rereads. It's very strange.)

Grandmère Mimi said...

David is one of my favorite characters in the Bible, because he was so flawed, so human. Despite that he was chosen to be king.

That gives me hope that God will make something good out of me yet. I think I am a pretty good repenter, too. I've had lots of practice.

Klady, David's way of moving on is definitely better. The past is gone. The future never comes. All we have is the present to work with.

I believe that God not only forgives, but that he wants us to feel forgiven. Regrets and worry about choices not made are a dead end. God does not lead us to dead ends.

Now I'll go and try to practice what I've preached. That's the hard part.

klady said...

The sermon by Archbishop Tutu excerpted in the videos at the Episcopal Café this week speaks directly to this, grandmère, as I gather you've seen by now. The sermon in its entirety can be found at The entire sermon is at Trinity Wall Street videos.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Klady, so far I have seen only the excerpt, but I plan to listen to the whole thing when I can. I loved what he said in the brief excerpt. He radiates the love of God.