Friday, May 20, 2011
Create in Me
I have a wonderful Jewish Old Testament called the Stone Tanach that I like to read to bring an immediacy to the ancient stories that my Christian Bible sometimes lacks. For instance, it quickens creation by personifying God: "And God called to the light, "Day" and to the darkness, He called "Night". I can hear the very voice of God in those words and it brings a fluttering rush that makes me wish I were there to see it.
Of course, this book is also written by men with prejudice and interpretation and, while they stop short of changing the words, sometimes paint with broad strokes in their interpretation. This morning, I was reading about David. Like Moses and Abraham, David is revered by the Jews. I don't blame them. David, a man after God's heart, is everything I would like to be. He is passionate, loyal, brave, humble, joyful, loving, and more. He also brings an honesty and brokenness that never leaves the shepherd he once was completely behind. A good guy. Not a perfect guy, but a good one. Unfortunately, the Jewish interpreter who wrote the footnotes revered him a bit too much.
This morning, David was hanging around on his rooftop and spotted Bathsheba, the wife of one of his commanders, next door taking a bath. In that moment, David liked being the king. He called for her and slept with her, then later learned she was pregnant. With her husband at the battle front, that left him in a pickle, so he called her husband back, tried to get him to sleep with his wife so the child could be presented as his own and when that didn't work, put him in harm's way so that he was killed.
All of this looks pretty despicable to you and I, but not to the Jewish interpreter. Evidently, Jewish law allowed David to do pretty much everything he did. Bathsheba was not technically married because commanders routinely gave their wives divorce papers before they left for war so that they would be free to remarry right away if the men went missing in action. Also, well, David was the king, and when it came to women, it was good to be the king. He had a right to Bathsheba. In addition, when David told Bathsheba's husband to go home and sleep with his wife and he refused, he was guilty of insubordination and deserved death.
Not a bad deal. Technically, David had a proper reason to do everything he did. But he knew better. Technicality notwithstanding, David knew he did wrong in God's eyes, even if he had squeaked by before men. This is what makes him a man after God's heart. Squeaking by would not do for David because God does not accept it. God looks at actions, but does not stop there. He is not pleased when we do the right thing for the wrong reasons.
So, in the end, I admire David for his bravery, for his tenderness, for his faithfulness and joyful praise, but I remember him most for his honest repentance. The wrong we do presents a greater danger, and reveals a more ruthless enemy, than any other battle. Real courage is looking our own sins square in the face and calling them exactly what they are. Thank you, David, for your example.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight...Create in me a pure heart, Oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me." Psalm 51:3,4,10