I knew what was coming. The next couple of chapters are the most well-known part of 2 Samuel and I could feel them getting closer. And I was dreading tackling this issue. My dad’s advice was to miss it out, to avoid it all together, because no one would notice, right? I couldn’t do that because although I haven’t commented on every single verse of every chapter in our Bible journey so far, I have not missed out any chapter or story all together. And people would notice, I imagine – because this is where the mighty king David, a man after God’s own heart, proves himself to be completely human, just like any one of us.
So I’ve been mulling over the whole issue of infidelity and what to say today for a few days now….my random thoughts are pretty muddled and I haven’t managed to get them in any sort of sensible order as yet so please be gentle with me.
Because yes, infidelity is wrong. Wrong enough to be listed as one of the ten most important commandments that God gave to his people –
You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14
Society cannot function where adultery has become an acceptable norm. Society is based on a stability in family life. Society relies on a structure of long-lasting family units. And relationships are based on trust. Relationships and society break down when trust is broken. What people say becomes meaningless if we can’t trust their words.
We know this in our bones. We probably all know someone who has had an affair – and even if the two people are happy and seem good together, there is something about it that makes us really uncomfortable, right? Especially if we are called upon to cover for a friend, to lie for them, to become involved in the deceit. Because nobody deserves to be treated like that. No one deserves to be lied to. Cheating on someone is still something we frown upon in our society, isn’t it?
And yet it happens. It happens all the time. Our soaps are built on this kind of intrigue. Some of the best love stories in films and books are about a love that cannot be denied, cannot be ignored, cannot be controlled. And just look at the magazines on the shelf – how many celebrities are snapped flirting with another star?
It happens all around us too. People fall out of love. People fall in love with someone new. Relationships fall apart.
I’m not naive enough to believe that every marriage will or even should stay the course. Some marriages turn out to be really miserable places. People change. Other people don’t change. The stresses of raising children, managing money, coping with health issues etc can bring so much tension that the home ends up being the place you least want to be and your partner becomes the person you least want to spend time with. We all gravitate towards the places and people that are the most affirming – that make us feel noticed, valued, attractive, liked…..whether that be a group of friends, a workplace, a gym, a church, online – or a special someone. That’s where we want to be. That’s who we want to spend time with. That’s where we feel good about ourselves.
And the more we put our time and energies into these rewarding pursuits, the less time and energy we have left to try to save our relationship. Until it comes to a point where there is nothing left to save. Where we are living in despair. Despair is the absence of hope – the feeling that nothing can ever change – the knowledge that tomorrow will be the same as today – and that lack of hope can be unbearable. My dad feels that an indication that society is getting worse is the statistics surrounding marriage break up – I’m not so sure – I wonder if it’s just that people today feel less obligation or necessity to stay in desperately unhappy relationships (but maybe that option has become too easy – maybe people bow out too quickly……).
Anyway, let’s be realistic. Relationships do break down. For whatever reason. And relatively frequently. Divorce and remarriage have become a very real part of our society and families are becoming more complicated with step parents and step children and half brothers and sisters…..and all sorts of people have a lot of emotions to deal with that we need to be sensitive to and respond with compassion. No one other than the people involved ever know the whole story and it is not our place to judge.
The big issue for me is trust and honesty and integrity. All relationships are based on trust and the best relationships involve the most honesty. In my opinion, lying to a partner is never right. Deceit is not acceptable. Cheating is wrong. Destroying trust is the natural consequence of adultery – I don’t know how anyone can ever get that back. There is a right order in which to do things which does not involve needing to lie to and deceive a partner.
Anyway, there are some of my thoughts. Now let’s look at David’s story –
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” 2 Samuel 11:1-5
There’s not a lot of detail given here, is there? It’s not the greatest love story ever written. And these few verses raise a lot of questions.
If this is the time kings go off to war, why did David not go? Why did he send his men and not go with them? Why did he remain in Jerusalem? That’s pretty weird in itself. A crisis of confidence? Exhaustion? Laziness?
He clearly had far too much time on his hands. For an active man like David, lounging around with no purpose must have been hard – and boring – and maybe that’s why he ends up in all sorts of bother. He’s alone in town when all the other men are away fighting his battles.
And why does Bathsheba bathe where she can be seen? What does she feel about being summoned by the king? Why is it mentioned that she was at a certain point in her cycle?
And does he sleep with her only once before she falls pregnant? How unlucky is that!
There’s far more to it here than adultery actually. David sees what he wants and feels that he deserves it. It doesn’t matter that she is someone else’s wife. He feels entitled to be happy. His needs have to be met. Maybe he has become too full of his own success and started to believe that his needs are more important than anyone else’s. We all know people like that.
I believe in trying to make it work.
I believe a relationship takes time and energy.
I believe that a relationship thrives on hope.
I believe in trying to fix what I have rather than imagining that there is something better out there.
I believe honesty is key and deceit should never be an option.
I believe that if a relationship can no longer work, then there is a right order and way to do things so that the least hurt is caused.
I believe that none of us has the right to take something (or someone) that belongs to someone else, just because we want it for ourselves.
I believe there are always consequences to everything that we do.
We’ll learn more about David’s consequences tomorrow.