WAYPOINTS: It didn't begin with a bath
One cannot open the paper or watch the news without being overwhelmed by the ever-expanding list of accusations of sexual impropriety swirling about us. He said, she said. Who do you believe? Where does one draw the line between boorish behavior and assault? Everyone seems to have opinions, but are there any answers?
The Bible doesn’t attempt to respond to the particulars of every circumstance of life, but it does give us insight into human behavior and follows with principles that our maker laid down for us to use in making decisions. So I found myself turning to the story of David and Bathsheba to try and better understand what is going on and how to best approach dealing with it in a biblical way.
They say it all began with a bath. In the spring of the year, when David was king in Israel, he sent his army out to war while he remained in Jerusalem. One evening when David was walking along the ramparts of his palace he noticed a beautiful young woman bathing in a house nearby. Inquiring about the lady, he discovered that she was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of the soldiers he had sent off to fight the enemies of Israel. He summoned her. She came, and sordid events unfolded that ended in her pregnancy, Uriah’s death, and her marriage to David.
They say it all began with a bath. That may be true, but the diagnosis correctly identifies the beginning of the chain of events while neglecting the underlying cause. What was true in David’s situation remains true today. Until we understand what leads a person to make such a decision, any prescription to punish past behavior and correct future behavior will most likely fail.
What we do know about David is that he was not minding his own business only to find himself suddenly swept up in the throes of passion and unable to contain himself. The text gives us an insight when it informs us that for the first time David had decided to remain in his royal city instead of leading his army as they went to war. The king had grown used to the benefits of his office and had come to take for granted his anointing by God to be the leader of the people. He had power. He felt entitled to have whatever he wanted when he wanted. In this case, what he wanted was Bathsheba.
While it is abundantly clear that David rightfully bore the guilt for the whole affair, Bathsheba had her own issues. She bathed out in the open enough to be seen by occupants from the palace and she was close enough to be recognized as lovely. What was she thinking? When brought before the king there is no indication from scripture that she understood her own value and the sacredness of her marriage enough to reject David’s advances. Nor is there any indication that she minded in the least becoming David’s wife as soon as she finished mourning the death of her first husband.
If we look for a root cause behind such behavior both then and today, we can sum it up with these words — they either never knew or else have forgotten who they are and whose they are.
“Who we are” is declared in Genesis 1:28, Then God said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” We are human beings, created in the image of God. St. Paul clarifies what that means in his letter to the Ephesians. Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24) We are human beings created and set apart by God from the rest of creation to reflect his righteousness and his holiness.
“Whose we are” is simple. We are the Lord’s possession and we have been redeemed from sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus his son. Whether we think about it or not, whether we admit it or not, we belong to God and he has deemed us worth the price of his son. If that is so, can we put a value on a human being other than to recognize every life as priceless? When we forget who we are and whose we are, it is only a matter of time before we will act as if the Lord is not there or else doesn’t care. We will act as if other people are either not as important as we are, or much more important than we are. And we will move easily toward actively abusing others or passively allowing ourselves to be abused by them.
Ah, but when we remember who we are and whose we are, we will treat both ourselves and others as infinitely valuable and worth protecting.
So then, how do we continue to walk in holiness and righteousness? We make a decision to put the Lord in the center of our daily lives through prayer and reading the Bible. And we make sure that we are mutually accountable to one or two trustworthy and godly people with whom we can share everything and who will offer us wise counsel. If we should be tempted it means bringing that to light with our prayer partners. If we have fallen that will mean confessing to the Lord and probably to the other person or people involved. We do so knowing that God will always forgive us, but there may be earthly consequences.
King David lived through very difficult consequences for his sin, but through his confession and amendment of life, God affirmed him as a “man after his own heart." Remember, then, who you are and whose you are. And what is true of David will be true for you.
The Rev. Mike Hesse, former senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church, is now retired and living in Destin.