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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, July 23, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | 2 Samuel 11:1–15

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”  (NRSV)

This story is difficult to read and comprehend. David, writer of many of the psalms, king of Israel, in a covenantal deep relationship with God, made the choice to dominate, possess, and murder in his personal life.

David had been having a string of military victories, and it would seem he became intoxicated with his own success and believed whatever he wanted he deserved. It is a good example of the message “Power corrupts,” and it applies to each of us.

We all live with an inherent human tendency whereby our successes and accomplishments have the potential to inflate our ego, “go to our head,” and separate us from our “heart.” It is in our heart that our values of humility, fairness, compassion, and kindness towards others reside.

Choices made from the parts of ourselves (that we all have) that are ego driven, mean, greedy, self-centered, unkind, or predatory hurt others and ourselves.

One definition of forgiveness is to align with the truth of what actually happened in order to allow healing to occur. Later on in this story David was visited by the prophet Nathan who, through allegory, broke through David’s denial and enabled David to see the true consequences of his destructive actions. Only then could David begin to forgive himself and be forgiven by God and others and heal.

Our shame may cause us to want to hide from God, but God does not withdraw from us. While God does not protect us from all the consequences of our actions, God’s promise to love us and be in relationship with us cannot be broken by anything we do.

Loving God, you know our brokenness and vulnerabilities. When we make choices that hurt ourselves and others give us the strength to fully own our truth so healing can follow. Thank you for your promise to love and support us every step along the way! Amen.

Written by Thomas Schemper, Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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