Saturday, 4 February 2012

The challenge of David - part 2

The story continues though (if you are wondering from what, please read part 1 first!), and somehow, it all seems to go very badly wrong. Taking up kingship, David, who has been anointed to be a different sort of king, a ‘king after God’s own heart’, seems to resort to exactly the same strategies as his predecessor, maintaining his power through violence and military might, and living in the midst of riches and wealth. When God called David to a different kind of kingship, I have to question whether this is quite what he had in mind.

David commits what is, probably, his most famous sin: Taking the wife of another man, and then to cover the deed, causing the man to die ... how different this from the David who refused to kill another man, even when some would have justified him doing so as self-defence.

Another prophet comes on the scene, and Nathan recounts to David his sin, through the use of a parable (2 Samuel 12). Sleeping with Bathsheba is generally recognised as being the sin from which David needs to repent, but reading the story more closely, I wonder whether Nathan actually identifies a far greater sin of which David is guilty: it is not just killing and eating the poor man’s ewe lamb which is the sin, but the preceding reality of having many flocks and herds in the first place, while another man has virtually nothing. The sin which allows the man of the parable to take the poor man’s lamb, the sin which leads David to think it is acceptable to claim another man’s wife as his own, is the sin of allowing the inequalities in the distribution of wealth to persist, and of justifying that this inequality is acceptable, even right.

Heading off at a slight tangent, this brought to mind the Sodom story (Genesis 19). In a church which can seem to be obsessed with the gravity of sexual sin while ignoring other far greater sins which are much more actively condemned by the bible, this story is usually presented as God’s wrath against sexual sin. However there is, in the text, another explanation of God’s anger: the sin of refusing to offer hospitality, the sin of refusing to share what you have with those who have nothing, the sin of excluding the outsider.

Maybe sexual sin is an easier and less challenging target for our condemnation than the acquisition of riches. Maybe we can be tempted to hide behind condemnation of the sexual sin to avoid the greater challenge of the call to open our doors to outsiders and to share what we have.  Maybe we, like David, are repenting of our peripheral sins while, with our eyes blinded by wealth and privilege, ignoring or even justifying our most significant ones.

To be continued ...

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