I was horrified this morning as I read 1 Samuel 11 – not just the edited version of the lectionary, but the whole chapter.
King David was terrible.
- He sends out his troops in battle but stays home in Jerusalem.
- He sees the wife of a foreigner who is fighting for him and lusts after her.
- He sends messengers to get her to come to him. He goes to bed with her.
- When he finds out she’s pregnant he tries to find a way to hide it.
- He sends for the foreigner who is fighting for him and tells him to go home and have sex with his wife. He even sends a present after him.
- The foreigner, more just than David, refuses and instead sleeps with the other troops at the palace door. The foreigner had sworn by God and by king David that he would not do it and he is true to his word – as well as to God and king David.
- Then David gets him drunk so that he’ll go home, have sex with his wife, and cover up David’s adultery.
- The foreigner, although drunk, refuses.
- David is distraught. So he sends a message to his commander by means of the foreigner that tells his commander to find a way to do away with the foreigner, disguising it as an act of battle. David not only commands a killing; he sends the message through the person who he wants killed.
- David’s commander arranges for the foreigner to be killed by a strategic move during a battle. Other soldiers are also killed.
- David gets the word. He’s first angry at the defeat but is appeased when he finds out the foreigner is killed.
- After the foreigner’s wife finished the time of mourning, David took her into his palace as another of his wives.
David was a sinner – and Psalm 51 is perhaps the only decent response to these acts.
But are we any better?
You may have noticed that I did not use the names of Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba his wife, or Joab. David treated them not as persons but as things to be manipulated for his pleasure and power.
Do we do that?
Also, are we not often like David in other ways? I remember the honest answer of Jimmy Carter to the question about whether he had ever committed adultery. Carter recalled that he had committed adultery in his heart.
And how many times are we not like David in trying to cover up our sins and the results of our sin? We may not kill someone to do this but we sometimes try to manipulate persons or the facts in order to cover up our sins. Or we may try to kill another’s reputation by blaming our faults on another.
I think I see some of this happening in the US primary campaigns and in the corrupt politics here in Honduras. But I must also ask myself, “How much am I like king David?”
Horror of horrors.
But God is merciful.
Have mercy on me God in your kindness;
in your compassion blot out my offense….