The Fourth Sunday of Advent: Bathsheba

Bathsheba – A Sprig of Forgiveness

Behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. -Zechariah 3:8b

Christmas is only a few days away! My week has been filled with last-minute details – final attempts to make everything more special. A few days ago, amidst the chaos that I voluntarily placed myself in, I could feel my spirit dropping, overwhelmed by the scads of things I still had on my to-do list. As I sat in my van, I remembered: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” A SaviourOne Who Saves, who came to “save us from our sins”.

What would it be like to live day in and day out as “forgiven”? Forgiven implies a knowing of our sins and a peace that we no longer have to bear them. To live as someone who is “forgiven” is a daily reminder that I need to repeat to myself as I relive some unbearable moments. Forgiveness doesn’t end with “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you,” even though I continually teach my children to use these words. Forgiveness is a perpetual sprig that God gives to us. It is a sprig that I desperately need for myself, and one I desire to extend to those around me. The need and choice to forgive myself sometimes feels impossible. The need and choice to forgive the people who have hurt me sometimes feels impossible. The choice to receive God’s forgiveness sometimes feels impossible. And just when we experience the peace that transcends all understanding through forgiveness, something pops up out of nowhere and once again we have to choose what is only possible with God: forgiveness.

I think Bathsheba would have experienced these feelings as well. There is a lot of speculation about Bathsheba’s story. What part did she play in the affair with David? Did she desire him as well? Was she victimized, and forced to be with him? We are not given many clues as to what happened, but whichever way you look at it, forgiveness would have been part of her journey. Here’s her story, found in 2 Samuel 11:

At a time of war, King David sent Joab, his chief commander, out with the Israelite army, while he remained in Jerusalem. One evening, as David was walking around on his rooftop, he saw a beautiful woman bathing. Taken with her beauty, David learned that she was the wife of Uriah, a soldier in his army. This did not stop him and he summoned Bathsheba and slept with her. Bathsheba conceived and sent word to David.

Forced to think and act quickly, David had Uriah come back from the war in the hopes that he would sleep with his wife while at home, making a baby look like the natural product of Uriah and Bathsheba. But as was practice for an Israelite during a war, Uriah did not go home and sleep with Bathsheba. David, not willing to give up so easily, made sure Uriah had plenty to drink and once again sent him home to his wife. Uriah still did not sleep with his wife and David’s plan of covering up their affair had failed.

Out of desperation, David sent a letter to his commander in chief, Joab, delivered by Uriah himself, with instructions placing Uriah in proximity to the fiercest fighting. David’s plan to have Uriah killed succeeded, but the battle continued. Bathsheba mourned the loss of her husband, but because she was pregnant she was left in an extreme place of vulnerability. David soon married her and she bore a son – but the Lord was not pleased. The Lord sent Nathan, a prophet, to David. Nathan told an allegorical story that enraged David – and then brought him to a place of repentance. Bathsheba and David’s firstborn son died. David comforted Bathsheba, and it did not take long for Bathsheba to bear another son, this one named Solomon, who became known as the wisest king in history.

As I read this story, I couldn’t help but feel the pain of having to work through sin. Much of the story is stated in facts, delivered without much emotion. A little bit of sin here and there that seems to grow as the story develops. One of the truths that keeps hitting me today is how our sin can draw other people into sin. David’s enticement of Bathsheba, his instructions to Joab, his continuous concealment of his sin – I would love to let myself off the hook! After all, hissin was great! But my mind keeps replaying instances where I have done the same thing. Times where in my own frustration, I have said or done things that have basically invited my children to react with their own anger and rebellion. In effect, I have almost set them up to sin – forcing someone who is in a “lesser” position into a really tough position and facing a very difficult choice. The folly of sin affects more than just me.

But the gift or the sprig that is offered to us is forgiveness, from the Branch, our Saviour. Forgiveness is an incredible place to rest in. Without a doubt it is humbling, but in that humility there is a sweetness, a relief, and a peace. The aroma is fresh and invigorating, regardless of whether you are the giver or the taker of it. To stay there, in the sweetness of Christ, is not always easy. Forgiveness is not always easy – to accept or to give. Sometimes forgiveness comes rolling in with restoration on its heel. At other times, forgiveness comes in waves and layers – and we have to forgive over and over again. Both take a choice. Refreshing…

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord… Acts 3:19