Sunday, 5 February 2012

The challenge of David - part 3

As well as the sin of sleeping with Bathsheba, David compounds matters by the state-sponsored murder of Uriah. So why the change, from the man who refused to kill Saul to the one who hardly had a second thought about ordering the death of Uriah: could it be the riches and the palaces, could it be the money and wealth that drives a non-violent man to surround himself with armies? Perhaps it is always inequality that makes us hide behind violence and aggression.

And just maybe, the different kingship, the ‘kingship after God’s own heart’ to which David was called, and to which God hoped he would be true was actually a rejection of all of this. A rejection of the palaces and the armies. Maybe the reason he was anointed for kingship as he came in from the fields to a family meal is because this was the kingship God was looking for, this was the kingship of service that would have made David a ‘king after God’s own heart.’ Perhaps the many “blessings” that David received from God in the form of riches and wealth were written into the story later, a justification of power, nationhood and empire; when God abides not in the centres of power, but at the edges of society, and alongside the poor.

How often are we tempted to justify our wealth: by giving token amounts to good causes to salve our consciences, by claiming God has blessed us with our possessions and our ability to oppress others. How true the words “How poor is the rich man who thinks he’s been blessed, by God, for the wealth that he hoards, how poor is the rich man who’s doing his best, to justify serving two Lords.” (Garth Hewitt)

Uriah is the named individual who suffers at the hands of a king maintaining his power and position by military might: but actually his death is no more of a crime than the thousands of others who die alongside him on the battlefield, for whose deaths David expresses no remorse, or even recognition that their deaths are a crime. Not much has changed. The nameless corpses on the global battlefields continue to pile higher and no one is repenting the deaths of the “unknown soldiers” and “unknown civilians” all around the world.  As the bodies pile higher no-one is even keeping count, let alone able to name, the victims of violence and aggression.

But maybe David’s prior step of accepting wealth and power, is also our preceding sin. The violence and aggression which we see as essential, as "protecting our security", are a side-effect of the local, regional and global inequalities which persist in our world and which most of us hardly even pause to question: or certainly not for long enough to make the sacrifices that are necessary to bring it to an end.

We claim that security and peace are high priorities, and most of us, if asked, would say it is wrong that children die of hunger while other countries are bowed by the pressures of over-indulgence and greed; but are we willing to step away from our palaces if that is the cost of setting things right. Do we, like David, cling to the centres of power, resorting to violence to defend them, or are we prepared for that truly different kind of kingship, that of God’s own heart?

1 comment:

  1. Steph you have given me so much to think about. There is certainly no doubt everyone can always do more to bring about justice and equality and work for peace. The big picture of interntional peace and global poverty can seem too daunting. But the challenge everyday is to make decisions in our own lives that take into account the effect we are having on others.