I enjoy watching Scandal, a show on ABC that features the character of Olivia Pope. She is a “fixer” in Washington DC. In it, she helps out many a politician or celebrity by manipulating the situation or media so that the scandalous situation is no longer a problem. People in power often make mistakes. Sometimes very large mistakes. And they try to “fix” them. Isn’t that what we all do to some extent? When we make mistakes, we try to deny, fix, or avoid responsibility.
After David beds Bathsheba, and she tells him she is pregnant, David tries to use his position to “fix” the situation. He first tries to send Uriah home so that he can sleep with his newly pregnant wife, and no one would know the difference. When that doesn’t work, he resorts to putting Uriah on the front line of war … Killing him, without responsibility … Or so he thought. David didn’t realize how he had abused his power and hurt people through his actions. It takes Nathan, the prophet, to open David’s eyes. In order to be a good leader, David needs to see himself as others see him and as God sees him. “Fixing” it cannot be manipulating the forces of war to murder and steal people. Fixing it means doing the internal work and offering repentance … Saying he’s sorry.
I was listening to an episode of Radio Times on WHYY a few weeks ago. (I really appreciate that show, by the way). The topic was “apologies,” and one of the guests said that an apology allows people to know that someone in authority has a heart.
In David we see that a King has a heart, not just an army. The humanness of David, the brokenness of David, the sinfulness of David … They are not hidden. In fact, the transparency allows us to see what a man of great faith and integrity looks like. David was not a stoic, warrior. He was a mourner, a singer, a dancer, a reveler, a womanizer, a murderer, a coveter, a schemer, a lover.
We know David has heart. In his song of repentance he asks God to make in him a clean heart. To make him right, clean, and good. A good apology, the Radio Times show said, includes the ability to listen, to see things from the other’s perspective, and to make amends.
God can see the good heart of David despite his sinfulness. And God does wipe away his guilt, but not without consequence. David, too, needs to give up something in order to make the relationship right.
In the end, David, in all of his power, is not the “fixer”. God is. But God can only make things right when we allow others to see our hearts, and are willing to see ourselves clearly. This is the act of confession … and repentance …. so that God can forgive.
Today’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.
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.
This week we’ll continue reading the story of David. That’s Chapter 12: The Trials of a King. For those reading along in your own Bible, the reference is: 2 Samuel 11-12; 18-19; 1 Chronicles 22; 29; Psalms 23; 32; 51. Look for this week’s reflection/s on Monday Morning. In the meantime, make comments or ask questions here. Or on the facebook group page, or on Twitter using the hashtag #apcthestory