The parable of …

BathshebaToday’s reading continues the adventures with David, who is now king in place of the failed Saul. It is clear from the readings of last week and this that David is favored by God. However, David is not without his faults. This chapter opens up with infidelity, intrigue, and murder. While the soldiers are off fighting the Ammonites, David is cooling his heels in the palace. One day, he notices a beautiful woman bathing, and decides that he wanted her, even when he found out she was married. I am reminded of the warning that Samuel gave to the people a few chapters ago, about the demands the king would make on the people. Sleeping with their wives wasn’t one of those demands, but have this sense that David was starting to enjoy the power that came with being king, and he started to forget his responsibilities in the face of his privileges.

So he sleeps with Bathsheba, and she gets pregnant. Rather than admit his guilt, he tries to get her husband, Uriah, to sleep with her, so everyone with think the child belongs to him. Unfortunately for David, Uriah is more faithful than David, and won’t cooperate, even when David gets him drunk. So David conspires with his general to get Uriah killed in battle.

I’m sure that David breathed a sigh of relief at that point — all of his troubles were over. While I’m sure he felt some pangs of guilt over the whole thing, he was able to move on with his life, and forget it ever happened. Except for Nathan, the prophet.

Nathan could have just come out and told David that he had done wrong. Instead, he tells a story. Very much like the parables that Jesus will tell in the Gospels. I think that there is a very good reason for doing it this way. A direct confrontation with someone often leads to that person “digging in their heels” and resisting, just because they feel attacked. By telling the story first, Nathan got David to convict himself, declaring that the guilty party in the story deserved severe punishment — even death. Then, when the “reveal” happens — that the antagonist in the story is really David, David has no choice but to admit his guilt.Protest sign

Maybe we can learn from Nathan. I think we’re often called to speak with a prophetic voice, challenging those in power when they act injustly, but perhaps we don’t need to be waving banners in protest. Perhaps a more subtle approach is needed sometimes.

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