Week of 3 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  Nathan and King David

Contrition and Consequences

JANUARY 27, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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2 Samuel 12:1-25 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And the LORD sent Nathan to David.  He came to him, and said to him,

There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had very man flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought.  And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him.  Now there was a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him.

Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan,

As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

Nathan said to David,

You are the man.  Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.  Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?  You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites.  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”  Thus says the LORD, “Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives int he sight of this sun.  For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”

David said to Nathan,

I have sinned against the LORD.

And Nathan said to David,

The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die.

Then Nathan went to his house.

And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became sick.  David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in lay all night upon the ground.  And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.  On the seventh day the child died.  And the servants of David feared to tel him that the child was dead; for they said,

Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and did not listen to us; how then can we say to him the child is dead?  He may do himself some harm.

But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; and David said to his servants,

Is the child dead?

They said,

He is dead.

Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD, and worshiped; he then went to his own house; and when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.  Then his servants said to him,

What is this thing that you have done?  You fasted and wept for the child while it was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.

He said,

While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, “Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?”  But now he is dead; why should I fast?  Can I bring him back again?  I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.

Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her, and lay with her; and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon.  And the LORD loved him, and sent a message by Nathan the prophet; so he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.

Psalm 51:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17  Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no pleasure in burnt-offerings.

18  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Mark 4:35-41 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them,

Let us go across to the other side.

And leaving the crowd, they took him with them, just as he was, in the boat.  And the other boats were with him.  And a great storm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him,

Teacher, do you not care if we perish?

And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,

Peace!  Be still!

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them,

Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?

And they were filled with awe, and said to one another,

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of 3 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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The prophet Nathan confronted David, and the King, much to his credit, expressed honest contrition.  Yet this did not prevent the chickens from coming home to roost.  For initial details, begin with the next chapter in 2 Samuel.  Read it for yourself; immerse yourself in the narrative.

Now I explore certain aspects of this day’s reading from 2 Samuel 12.  First, David is familiar with the religious laws, some of which he has violated.  For example, Nathan uses a story about the stealing and killing of a sheep to get David’s attention, and the king says that the thief-killer ought to make fourfold restitution.  This is consistent with Exodus 22:1.  I choose to send you to a text (if you choose to read it), rather than reproduce it here.  Besides, the verses following 22:1 are quite interesting, and sometimes disturbing.

As for the child’s death being the result of his parents’ sins…

This reflects an understanding the origin of suffering which Jesus rejected in more than one passage.  The first example which comes to my mind is Luke 13:1-5 (I am so grateful to own an unabridged concordance!).  For more details, follow this link.  I think also of the story of a man who was born blind.  John 9 speaks of him, and of how some people wondered whose sin had caused his blindness.  For more details, follow this link.  As I heard Donald Armentrout, a Lutheran who helps train Episcopal priests for a living, say about a decade ago, the best way to read the Bible is with “Gospel glasses.”  So Jesus overrides some of the theology in 2 Samuel 12.

That said, expressing regret for one’s sins and changing one’s ways does not negate the consequences of one’s sins.  In other words, one cannot unscramble an egg.  This rule applies beyond sin, applying, for example, to merely bad judgment.  I can think of examples of this in my life, and maybe you, O reader, can identify with this statement.

While we condemn the sin of David recorded in 2 Samuel 11, may we applaud the king for accepting Nathan’s justified and harsh words.  A lesser man would have had Nathan killed.  There was still hope for David.

Some stories haunt me; this is one of them.  I find that sometimes, when trying to make good decisions, I do the opposite, and so I pay for my mistake for years.  It is maddening.  And that speaks of blowback from good intentions, which David did not have in 2 Samuel 11.  I have learned, however, that grace does not erase all consequences of sin, but it does enable one to survive the storm one has stirred up, whether out of ignorance or foolishness or perfidy.

A wise person does learn the correct lessons from the mistakes of others, so may we, as often as possible, avoid duplicating the errors others have committed and stirring up needless whirlwinds.

KRT

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