Yesterday at Journey, we started a series of conversations called For All The People. It’s a Christmas series, quoting Luke 2:10 and focusing on the “All the peopleness” of this good news.
Mike took us through the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew and drew our attention to what could have been part of Matthew’s agenda to show the good news is also good news for women. At the time of writing, good news often was for Romans or men, but not for women. In the genealogy Matthew records, he explicitly names four women. Women were not counted in genealogies, so this was unusual.
My friend Kristi tends to point out throughout her teaching that Jesus came to bring justice and righteousness. Mishpat and Tzedekah.
“In every interaction Jesus had with women in the 4 gospels, he brought two things into their lives — mishpat (justice) and tzedakah (righteousness). He not only lifts us out of our shame, He restores our honor and sends us forth in shalom.”
Matthew sets us up for this.
I remember first learning about this and hearing the emphasis placed on the women participating in prostitution, adultery, promiscuity. They were outcasts and sinful, and how wonderful that God can use sinful women to bring forth the savior, so, therefore, he can use anyone. Ugh.
While all that is true, it’s incomplete.
Yesterday, I did some reflecting and rereading of the text. I noticed things I had not paid close attention to before.
For most of my Christian life, I’ve heard David described as “a man after God’s own heart.” This is true because David had times in his life and leadership when he showed humility, kindness, benevolence, and courage. More importantly, it’s true because it’s how God described him.
I have a lot of compassion this morning for people were taught this about David and may have difficulty trusting God’s heart for them after a deeper look at Bathsheba’s story.
1. It says she was bathing to purify herself from her monthly uncleanness. If you know anything about women’s biology, she was likely ovulating. The author wanted us to know this. First, because she was fertile, which is pertinent to the story. Secondly, some of us were taught that Bathsheba may have been tempting David, that she was bathing and flaunting her body purposefully in the king’s sight. However, this simple line explains that she was actually following Jewish purification ritual/law for women.
2. David sent messengers to “get her.” He didn’t invite her. He didn’t romantically pursue her. It doesn’t say he loved her or even seduced her. It certainly doesn’t say she seduced him. David was a powerful man. He saw what he wanted and used his power to get it. Women did not have agency for themselves, much less in the presence of a King and his desires.
3. After her husband Uriah was killed, she mourned for him. Kaddish, traditional Jewish mourning, is typically a year. However, the bible says, “After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.” (2 Sam 2:27). I’ve been pregnant four times, and all four times, I gave birth in less than one year. So perhaps her mourning time was even cut short.
4. She loses her husband, is relocated to another man’s home, where she gives birth to his child, and the baby eventually dies.
When Nathan, the prophet, confronts David, he describes a lamb (Bathsheba in the story) dearly loved by its owner. The confrontation with David is about taking something that belongs to another man. Property. Not an image-bearer or beloved child of the most high. Or a woman in a vulnerable position because her husband was off fighting David’s war.
If you’ve made it this far, maybe you’re getting uncomfortable with how I’m talking about scripture. Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end, I do believe that God invites us to look at his word and wrestle with the hard things so we can really know him and his heart for his people. It would be easy to read 2 Samuel and go into our binary thinking patterns, believing we have to choose between David, the man after God’s own heart, and David, the man we see in 2 Samuel.
Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
I would like to think I am a woman after God’s own heart. And yet, I have sinned. I have injured others. I have participated in the sins of others. But Jesus.
“God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,” Colossians 1:19. If you want to see what a man after God’s own heart looks like in his fullness, look at Jesus, not just David.
David was a man after God’s own heart, but he fell short. David could have done whatever he wanted to Bathsheba. But Psalm 51 tells us he did repent and made amends with God. Sadly, the culture at the time didn’t place a high enough value on the dignity of women, and we’ll never know how much of that he came to terms with the crying out to God we see in Psalm 51. Maybe David did the best he could with what he had available to him at the time.
Context matters. Culture matters. Naming things matters. Telling the truth about ourselves and God matters.
Because today how we teach it is how we understand the history of it. This doesn’t make the Bible less true or take away its authority. In fact, it can make the truth more compelling and, more importantly, Jesus all the more lovely.
So, this third week of advent, when we turn our attention to joy, we can go back to Luke 2.
Good news of great JOY for ALL the people.
The sinners and the saints.
The abused ones who were not believed.
The ones who have been blamed for another person’s sins.
The ones who come to repentance.
The ones who do the hard work of making amends.
We can hold space for our brokenness AND our redemption. We can hold space for the deeply mingled joy and sorrow we experience in this world and wait in anticipation for Jesus to set all things well someday soon.