“So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
There are two things worth noting about this verse. Both speak rather directly to where our culture is today. One focuses on the sin and one moves past that to life afterwards. One is a reminder that the #MeToo moment is an important reckoning for our culture to have. The other grounds us in the fact that grace is big and one person’s #MeToo moment need not define the rest of his or her life.
Usually when this story is read and even taught today, it is seen as a story of the sin of David AND Bathsheba. They had an affair together, she got pregnant, and they had to deal with it. Some commentators have even hinted that the real lead into the sin was Bathsheba who shouldn’t have been showing herself off like she was by bathing on her roof where anybody could see. Because of who David was and the status with which he looms over the Scriptures as a whole, we sometimes approach this looking for a way to excuse him from any kind of grievous wrongdoing.
This is misguided and downright wrong. If we’re going to deal with this story honestly we need to be able to be honest about what is going on here. David was the king. We don’t really understand this like other cultures have across the centuries because we are an almost anti-monarchical society. The thing about kings is that when they are at home they get what they want.
Bathsheba was a military wife. She was missing her husband, Uriah, who was away at battle. She was doing her best to make it at home, but was no doubt missing her husband. Here she was obediently following the Law by taking the ritual bath prescribed to women two weeks after their monthly cycle ended. Given that she may have had some number of other family members or even children living in the house with her, the only place to bathe with any amount of privacy would have been on the roof. And while it would have been open to the air, houses then utilized the roof as a kind of second living space. It was probably somewhat shielded from any neighbors and their prying eyes. But it wasn’t shielded from the leering looks of the king in his palace.
No sooner does she finish her bath and get dressed than there is a knock at the door. It’s a messenger from the king inviting her to the palace to meet with him. She’s no dummy and neither is anyone who lived there in the house with her. It’s evening. She had just been naked on the roof in what she presumed was private. And it’s the king.
When she got to the palace she was taken up to the king’s bedroom. When the room was cleared he expressed his intentions to her. And he was he king. You don’t tell the king no. She may not have fought him—we don’t know whether she did or not, but it’s not like it would have made any difference—but we shouldn’t assume for any reason that she was willing. Given the kind of character we later learn her husband has, we can gently make some assumptions about her own. We can call this what it was: The rape of a vulnerable young woman by a man in a position of power.
That may be an uncomfortable fact to acknowledge especially since this is a story from the Bible and especially because it concerns David, but to do otherwise is dishonest. David raped Bathsheba. This was an evil, sinful act that dramatically altered the course of both of their lives. But…
Hard to believe there could be a “but” after all of that, isn’t it? The #MeToo movement in our culture has many people programmed to believe anything that falls within its purview (and this certainly does) is a reputation-destroying, career-ending, life-forever-marring act. But…
God’s grace is bigger than that. David did this awful thing and even compounded it by having Bathsheba’s husband murdered to try and cover up the potential future problem of him coming home from battle to find his wife pregnant. There’s no question on any of that. And yet he still holds the reputation in the Scriptures that he does.
The truth this tells us is that when we have blown it (and the Scriptures are clear both that David blew it royally, no pun intended, and that he was held accountable for it), if we are willing to genuinely and humbly repent, we can move forward again and play a role in the unfolding of God’s plans for His world. Just because sin marks our past doesn’t mean our journeys with God are over. Now, David paid for his sin for the rest of his life. God didn’t spare him from that. He was also punished in the aftermath. But God wasn’t done with him. God’s not done with us either.
You have sinned. I know it because I have too and you’re like me in that. We have blown it before. We can own that. There’s shame in it, but it’s the good kind of shame. It’s the shame that is taken away by grace. It’s the shame that is swallowed up in love. You see, in spite of your sin, God still loves you and still has marvelous plans that He wants to see played out in and through your life if you will let Him. And you may not think you’re worthy of it—you’re right on that score—but God wants to do it anyway because He loves you that much. He is the God who restores us in our brokenness.
As followers of this God of grace, we should be the first to demand that people be held accountable for their #MeToo moments. But we should also be the first to offer grace and the chance at a fresh start in response to genuine, humble repentance. Our God did with us. The cross was big enough to cover all sin even as it was necessary to pay for it. Let us not forget that and live faithfully in light of both realities.