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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Basic Math

Most people can do basic math.

Maybe not everybody can do linear algebra, probability or calculus, but even relatively low-IQ palace servants living 1000 years before the birth of Christ could hardly fail to notice that David’s latest wife, Bathsheba, had just delivered a baby well short of the average human gestation period of forty weeks.

Sure, David married Bathsheba the moment he could reasonably get away with it. But nobody was fooled. Their affair had to be the worst-kept secret in Jerusalem.

The Worst-Kept Secret

Between the time Bathsheba conceived and her hastily contrived marriage to David, Uriah’s wife had to first discover the pregnancy (well before the days of Clearblue Easy®) and communicate it to David, after which David had to try (and fail) to fool her husband into believing the child was his, following which he had to plot Uriah’s murder by proxy and carry it out successfully. Then of course Bathsheba had to mourn her husband.

That didn’t all happen in a couple of weeks, we can be sure, fueling the gossips and speculators. And we cannot forget the servants who inquired about Bathsheba at David’s request, not to mention the messengers he sent to bring her to his house. These people knew precisely what had occurred and when, and it’s inconceivable none of them ever said a word about it.

So when David’s son Absalom staged his coup against his father over a decade later and chased him from his home, David’s detractors were less likely to have forgotten his disgraceful behavior than pro-Trump Republicans are to forget Bill Clinton’s.

No Salvation in God

Thus the people who said of David, “There is no salvation for him in God,” as he packed up and ran for his life from Absalom had probably not forgotten that David had once been the beneficiary of God’s grace and providential — even miraculous — care. They may not have been irreligious at all, nor were they necessarily expressing doubt that God was capable of saving the king from his murderous child.

They may simply have been saying, “Look, God’s done with that sinner,” much as Job’s friends said to him. The difference is that Job’s friends had no evidence against him, while those who anticipated the imminent end of David’s glorious reign had every reason to believe he was experiencing God’s righteous judgment.

The Sword Shall Never Depart

Which, actually, David was, at least in the sense that God had said this to him through the prophet Nathan:
“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.”
The circumstances of David’s life and his children’s lives were to be permanently changed for the worse as a direct consequence of David’s sin. He was to know sorrow in many different ways during his latter days. God is not mocked, even by kings.

That can happen to Christians, can’t it? We may love the Lord just like David did, but in moments of weakness or uncharacteristic rebellion do things we can’t take back. And life doesn’t let us un-ring the bells we have rung. The practical consequences of willfulness and disobedience follow, just as they do for unsaved men and women.

The Lifter of My Head

So I find David’s response in Psalm 3 both interesting and encouraging, because despite the fact that his detractors correctly understood that God must punish sin and sometimes even does so in this life, they had missed out on something about God that David understood:
“But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
A man needs his head lifted not when he is walking tall, but when he appears to be down for the count. And notice that David wasn’t proudly lifting up his own head and asserting his very questionable righteousness. It was God who did that for him:
“I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.
  I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.”
That’s grace, folks.

No Earthly Remedy

David had brought on himself a curse for which there was no earthly remedy. It would affect him until the day he died. But he had also repented of his sin and been forgiven. God rightly declined to relieve David of the fallout from his actions and the sorrow they produced — after all, how could the Almighty reasonably fail to punish a man who had set such a wicked example for his entire nation? But that same God sustained David through the trials he had brought on himself. His personal fellowship with his God remained blissfully unhindered.

Okay, maybe that’s not so basic. But it’s a wonderful thing all the same.

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