Pentecost 10 (Proper 13B)
Sermon by the Reverend Jo-Ann R. Murphy, D.Min.
“Bible #Me Too”
Stories, no matter how simple, can be vehicles of truth; can be, in fact, icons. It’s no coincidence that the Bible is full of stories. Stories tell us who we are and who God calls us to be.
For weeks this summer we have been hearing the story of David, the shepherd boy anointed by Yahweh; David the psalmist; David who slew the giant Goliath of the Philistines; David, the mighty warrior and savvy king. But last week and today we learn about another side of David. Last week and today we learn of David the adulterer, David the murderer. Adultery, murder – in Scripture? In the Bible?
And today we hear the story of Nathan. Nathan the prophet who spoke truth to power; Nathan who confronted David with his sin and brought the mighty king to his knees with remorse. Nathan who tells David the story of a rich and powerful man who butchers the pet lamb of his poor servant rather than give up one of his own flock for a guest.
And we meet Bathsheba. Bathsheba, the young and beautiful wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of the king’s premier soldiers. Bathsheba was bathing on her rooftop when David saw her and lusted after her. We don’t hear much about Bathsheba in scripture, do we? She seems to get a bad rap. In today’s passage from II Samuel she is not even given a name. She is called “the wife of Uriah.” Bathsheba is given no voice even as she mourns the death of her husband and is summoned to marry King David. And if our lectionary had gone on with just one more verse we would learn that because of David’s murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s first-born son will die.
We might well wonder about her thoughts and feelings through all these events. Could Bathsheba have refused the king? Did Bathsheba’s silence indicate her consent and surrender, or did it indicate the agony of her soul? Or, are we hearing a biblical #Me Too?
Bathsheba, however, plays a very important role in salvation history. When she finally does speak up, her intervention determined the future of our people. By insuring that her son Solomon, legendary for wisdom, becomes king after David, the influence of Bathsheba determined who would lead the nation.
In the book of II Kings Bathsheba goes to the dying King David and holds him to the promise that her son Solomon would succeed him on the throne. At the end of his life, finally, David does one kingly thing, one thing worthy of the one from whose line our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ will come. David remembers, with Bathsheba’s urging, that before Yahweh he has sworn that Solomon will come after him on the throne of the United Kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Finally, the adulterer, the murderer, fulfills his promise to God. And he does so because of his wife’s prompting. Ann Ulanov writes:
“Because of Bathsheba, a major reorientation in [David’s] consciousness occurs, from ego-king to Self-king, from preoccupation with himself and his kingdom to occupation with God, first and last. She is where she belongs in the ancestry of Christ.”
Check out Matthew 1:6 and there you will find Bathsheba listed in the lineage of Jesus.
In her own way Bathsheba is a prophet, too, just as is Nathan. She speaks truth and brings the mighty king to remorse. Bathsheba is truly worthy of being one of the ancestors of Christ. As is David.
We have in David a fully human figure who is no saint. He is a hot-blooded individual who is guilty of murder, adultery, and sundry forms of exhortation and exploitation. But he is God’s choice, and it is good for us to remember that God does not see as the human eye sees. God never withdraws his favor from David just as he never withdraws his favor from you or from me. We are more than the worst thing we have ever done. When the nation is finally ended by the Babylonians, God’s promise to David was thought to stand. If there was no king in the present, then God’s promise must be fulfilled in the future by the restoration of the Davidic line. This is the origin of the hope for a messiah, fulfilled thousands of years later in a stable in Bethlehem, in the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.
Today we remember David, Bathsheba, Nathan, and all the unnamed God-fearers of old who truly are our ancestors, too. Thanks be to God for stories remembered that tell who we are and where we have come from, for promises kept, for dreams realized, for sins forgiven, and for love everlasting, generation to generation. Amen.