Anna Karenina, Ulysses, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The End of the Affair, Madame Bovary…They all have one thing in common. They and many others include the story of a cheating spouse. Gustave Flaubert, D.H. Lawrence, Leo Tolstoy, and James Joyce all capture the story of infidelity. The classic movie, The Graduate, captures the story of the affair of a neglected housewife. Recent movies, like The Other Woman, still tell the story of the cheating spouse.
Adultery seems to be part of the human condition. Some spouses for any number of reasons cheat on their husband or wife. It is all too common in our world and has been a part of humanity. It is part of the human story as old as time, even to the time of King David. Though, with King David’s affair, it was not the man who cheated and the woman may have been an unwilling partner.
King David was the beloved king of Israel. He was the second king anointed as a boy to reign following King Saul. The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. The Bible may tell us an idealized story of a great king, but he was not perfect. That the Bible tells us he was loved by God and known for his devotion to God should give us comfort that we don’t have to be perfect to be forgiven, because David was not perfect.
King David was anointed by the prophet Samuel as a boy. He would have a difficult relationship with King Saul but a close relationship with Saul’s son, Jonathan. A favorite story we love to tell the children about David is that he slayed the giant. He was a remarkable man who was devoted to God and tried to live out his call as king. But, David was not perfect; he was an adulterer.
King David was a powerful man. He saw something he wanted and took it. David saw the wife of a man in his army and wanted her for himself. Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, was following the ritual purity practice of bathing following her menstrual cycle. King David from his palace above looked upon her nakedness and burned for her.
David sent guards to fetch her and bring her to the palace. David was the king and the people did not refuse the king. David made his advances and Bathsheba had the choice of being with him or death. She chose life and adultery. Many Biblical commentators are tempted to blame Bathsheba for being suggestive or seducing the king. The truth is King David forced Bathsheba to have sex with him by holding over her his power. Bathsheba chose her life but her life would now include infidelity. Bathsheba was a faithful Jew following the ritual purity laws, but forced to break a commandment in order to live.
Bathsheba became pregnant. David knew it had to be his child because her husband, Uriah, had been away fighting a war in David’s army. David plotted to have Uriah come home so he would lay with Bathsheba. If Uriah had sex with Bathsheba, he might believe that child was his and not question who she had been with. David had Uriah’s unit come home for a leave. It was the custom of men home from war to sleep at the city gates on leave. Uriah was encouraged to go home to see his wife, but he refused. He was a good soldier and would not leave his unit.
When David heard that Uriah had not gone to be with Bathsheba, he was forced to develop a new plan. David had Uriah and his unit sent to the front line so he would be killed in battle and die an honorable death. With Uriah dead, David would be free to take Bathsheba as his wife and no one would question her pregnancy.
King David was in deep. He had forced a woman to commit adultery and Uriah’s blood was on his hands. He may have been known as a man after God’s own heart, but he was not perfect. He was however maybe not feeling so guilty about his behavior until the prophet Nathan comes to convict him.
The Lord sent Nathan to tell King David of his transgressions. Now, I imagine it was a pretty scary task to tell the king he had sinned against God. Nathan’s life was in danger. If he marched right up to the king and very bluntly and plainly told the king he was a sinner, David would become defensive and Nathan would probably be killed. Nathan had to be gentle about tell the king he had sinned against God. Nathan tells King David a story to help him come to the conclusion himself that what he had done was wrong.
Nathan told the story of 2 men, one had much and a poor man who had little. The rich man stole from the poor man to feed a guest. David is asked to hand down a verdict on the rich man and David said the rich man must die. Nathan said, “you are the rich man.” Nathan reminds David of all the Lord had given him, a place, a kingdom, numerous wives. God would have given him more had he only asked, but David went and took a woman who belonged to another man.
David, convicted by Nathan’s story, repented of his sin. In the verses following our Scripture reading today, the Bible tells us that David’s son by Bathsheba dies. I don’t remember which movie I saw, but there is a movie portraying King David as being tortured and inconsolably grief stricken by his son’s death. Does anyone know which movie that was in?
David repented of his sin. Psalm 51 is his repentance. King David confesses that he has sinned against God. He hadn’t just sinned against Uriah for killing him or against Bathsheba for raping her. David confesses that he has sinned against God. I believe when we sin we sin against others, we sin against others, and we sin against God. Sin affects our relationships. In the case of King David, he sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba. He sinned against himself for not being the man he could be and was called to be. He also sinned against God, because he had broken the commandments.
Sin affects our relationship with others, with ourselves, and with God. At the end of the day, in our time of prayer, it is not easy to recognize the ways in which we have sinned that day, but we can be sure we have sinned. We may not have broken the commandments. We may not have killed someone or committed adultery, but we have sinned. I’ve said it before, sin is sin is sin. No sin is worse than the other. Sin is sin and we’re all sinners.
A friend told me that they want repent every evening when they are praying. They don’t just pray for all the people who need healing or comforting. They don’t just pray for their needs. They repent every day of the sins they have committed that day. The thought of repenting every day, confessing our sins, is difficult. It is difficult to repent of sins that we are not conscience of having committed. The problem with confessing our sins is that we are not always aware of the sins we have committed.
Perhaps we all need a Nathan to remind us of our sins. We may not need someone to remind us every day that we are sinners, but we should regularly remember that we are, in fact, sinners. Perhaps we need a Nathan to call us out when we’ve gone astray. Nathan called out King David for his transgressions gently, but Nathan helped King David see his sin. King David was able to repent of his sin and reconcile his relationship with God, because he had a prophet willing to show him his sin.
I have a friend who is my Nathan. She has called me out a few times when I was thinking about or had gone down an unrighteous path. It is a difficult job to be the one to call out a friend, but she loves me enough to hold me accountable to myself and God when she sees me treading into dangerous territory. It is uncomfortable to hear, but we are closer. I love her more, because she is willing to help me see the right way to live. I now know that if there is something I don’t want to tell her it’s probably because I shouldn’t be doing it. I know if I tell her she’s going to correct me and set me on a path of righteousness.
We all need a Nathan willing to help us live righteously. We all need a friend who holds us accountable and helps us live a life worthy of a child of God. We also need to be willing to be that friend who is willing to tell our loved one that they are not living well. Now, I warn you against running around telling everyone how to live their life. We are not all close enough with everyone to point out transgressions and our seeking to help could become judgment. But, we all have someone we are close enough to that we can help that loved one live a righteous life.
When we have a friend help us find our way or when we are that friend, it is not that we are being judged or judging. In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus tells us to point out faults to our brothers and sisters. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:15 that we should speak the truth in love. This love talk is not judgment for judgment’s sake. This reproving is an opportunity to recognize our sin…so that we can repent.
Our repentance may not be as eloquent or poetic as King David’s in Psalm 51. But, we can surely use his words, read his words, as a confession that we have sinned against ourselves, others, and God. In repenting, we confess that we are sinners. We should never forget that we are sinners. And, we should remember that as surely was we repent, we are forgiven by the grace of God in our Lord Jesus Christ.