Victims and Villains

2 Samuel 11:1-15 is in the lectionary this week. The story of David and Bathsheba has been twisted and turned over the centuries, and I’ve struggled with it myself. Many see Bathsheba as a villainess who lured King David into a compromising situation. My early experiences with the church and my father’s opinion of women caused me to see David as an innocent victim seduced by a woman. My father had a famous saying he loved to repeat, “Water is the second most destructive force on earth.”

That begged the question, “What’s the first?”

He would smile and say, “Women!!”

My opinion of myself, and of women in general, was forged by my father’s opinions. I saw myself through his eyes for decades, but I’ve since learned to look through the lenses of my Father’s eyes to see the real me. Friends who see me as He does help with that process.

Six years ago, I was sitting in a Wednesday evening church service broken and confused. When I realized the topic for the evening’s Bible study was David and Bathsheba, my heart sank. I braced myself to hear the familiar tale of David’s demise caused by a wanton woman, but what I heard was something completely unexpected. There was something different about this message. I heard love in the story, and I didn’t hear the usual blame and judgment.

I listened intently as the familiar story was told honestly without vilifying or victimizing Bathsheba or David. I never realized Bathsheba was going through a purification ritual required of all women when their monthly menstrual cycle ended. Perhaps that aspect of the story was left out because it was deemed too sensitive for Sunday school or perhaps it didn’t fit the more convenient version. 2 Samuel 11:2-5 explains:

One late afternoon, David got up from taking his nap and was strolling on the roof of the palace. From his vantage point on the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was stunningly beautiful. David sent to ask about her, and was told, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent his agents to get her. After she arrived, he went to bed with her. (This occurred during the time of “purification” following her period.) Then she returned home. Before long she realized she was pregnant. (The Message)

I remember feeling my heart relax as I listened to the story unfold. Some folks were not comfortable with this new version. An angry woman to my left barked, “She liked the attention!!”

A lady on my right saw David as the villain and said, “He was the king! She couldn’t say no!!”

I sat still in the middle and listened. God used that moment to remind me that His Word must pass through the filter of my heart. What I hear depends upon how much fear is in my filter. How close am I to the subject at hand? What’s going on in my own life that relates to the verses before me? How open am I to hear the truth? The scriptures came to life in a beautiful way that evening as I forgot about my fears for a moment and listened with an open heart.

I’ve set myself up as a victim many times during my journey because it’s a comfortable position that causes others to sympathize with and protect me. Attention is addictive, and being a victim is the surest way to get a fix.That isn’t what God wants for me. Hearing the story of David and Bathsheba in a new light made me see my own story in a new light. Only God knows what happened on that rooftop, and only God knows what is going on in my own heart. There is great tragedy in the story of David and Bathsheba, but there is also hope. God chose their son Solomon to do great things, and Christ’s own lineage traces back to David and Bathsheba. God will, indeed, use all things for my good if I yield to Him.

I imagine folks will always vilify Bathsheba. I recently heard a woman speaker make fun of a girl named Bathsheba during her message. She made the remark, “Who would name their daughter Bathsheba!!??”I sighed and thought it was no wonder women are seen as they are when even women perpetuate myths that cement negative thoughts and lay a false foundation beneath God’s precious Word. It is frustrating and heart-breaking to hear.

There have been many attempts to capture Bathsheba’s image over the years. Most show her as a seductive nude reclining on a bed. I prefer this one from the History Channel because it shows the restoration God made possible. Bathsheba was the love of David’s life, and their son went on to be a great king. David, Bathsheba, and Solomon were not perfect, but they loved God. Instead of making villains or victims out of them to suit our own hearts, I think it’s best to see the story as an example of God’s ability to restore in any circumstance. I think that’s the point of the story.

Photo Credit: The History Channel
Photo Credit: The History Channel

Shattered Heart

Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
    a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
    when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
    don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. (Psalm 51:16-17 MSG)

I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of verse seventeen because I truly believe that a heart must be shattered before a life is ready for love. A heart-shattered life can no longer go through the motions, and God’s notice is captured in such a life.

A shattered heart cannot simply be pulled together. Appearance doesn’t matter to one looking at a heart in pieces. My heart has been shattered and scattered many times, and I’ve vainly tried to put together that which only God can repair. He knows that going through the motions won’t help a shattered heart, and that’s why He isn’t pleased. He wants whole hearts for His children, and He knows pride must also be shattered before He can begin the work only He can do.

Psalm 51 has long been a favorite of mine, and I turn to it when I am hurting. David’s heart was shattered, and his pride was in pieces on the ground when he wrote this beautiful song. God heard his plea, and he hears mine when I come to a place of repentance and confession. The world provides easy answers for shattered hearts and provides many ways to go through the motions, but God will not give even a flawless performance His attention.

God is struck by a heart-shattered life that is ready to love. His repairs that which is irreparable, and that changes everything. The world says sweep the pieces under the rug and don’t make that mistake again. It also says to get even. God says give me those precious pieces to Me and let My Son’s perfect love give you a fresh start and a new heart.

Photo Credit: Hive Resources
Photo Credit: Hive Resources

Absolutely!!!

Psalm 111 is filled with absolutes. As a middle school teacher, I warned my students about the dangers of overusing absolutes. If you know anything about middle school students, you know their world is absolutely wonderful or horrible depending upon the day, hour, or minute. Never, forever, always, all, none, everything, and nothing are ingrained into their vocabularies and their lives, and they love to pepper those words with exclamation points!! David used absolutes in his psalms because no other words will do when it comes to describing God.

Praise the Lord!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails.
He causes us to remember his wonderful works.
    How gracious and merciful is our Lord!
He gives food to those who fear him;
    he always remembers his covenant.
He has shown his great power to his people
    by giving them the lands of other nations.
All he does is just and good,
    and all his commandments are trustworthy.
They are forever true,
    to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.
He has paid a full ransom for his people.
    He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever.
    What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has!
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom.
    All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom.

Praise him forever! (NLT)

Psalm 111 shows why middle school students seek absolutes. We are all comforted by them, but they are rare in this world. My granddaughter Lilly is five, and she helped me start the week with an important absolute. She frequently spends the night with me, and we have the sweetest pillow talk. On Monday night, when she finished her prayer, I told her God loved her and so did I.

She said, “What about when I’m silly?”

I said, “God still loves you.”

“What about when I’m not nice?”

“He still loves you.”

“What about when I’m mean?”

“He still love you.”

“Gigi, when does God not love me?”

“Never.”

“God never loves me!”

“No, Lilly, there is never a time when God doesn’t love you.”

“Cool.”

“Yes, very cool!!”

My middle school students continued to use absolutes with abandon, and exclamation points filled their writing. They were searching for boundaries in their own lives, and their writing reflected a longing for something that is always true. So are we all.

David found his Absolute, and I’ve found mine. God will never leave me!! He always keeps His promises!!! He loves me, and He always will!!! Those absolutes bring comfort and hope. I’m working on loving God with all of my heart all of the time. I fall short, but God is always there to help me get back on the right track. He never tires of picking me up or helping me obey when I stumble and fall, and that gives me the courage to go forward.

Having an Absolute makes the journey a joy because I know when I fall from the high wires I get myself onto, God’s love is always there.

Photo Credit: Life Magazine
Photo Credit: Life Magazine

The Best Witness of All

From start to finish, Psalm 103 reminds me that I can count on God’s lovingkindness. He forgives, redeems, crowns, fills, gives, and does all He does out of a deep love for me. That makes me want to praise Him with all that I am. It had the same effect upon David, a man truly after God’s own heart.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

The Lord gives righteousness
    and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

He revealed his character to Moses
    and his deeds to the people of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
    slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
    nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
    he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
    is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
    as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
    tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
    he remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass;
    like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone—
    as though we had never been here.
But the love of the Lord remains forever
    with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
   of those who are faithful to his covenant,
    of those who obey his commandments!

The Lord has made the heavens his throne;
    from there he rules over everything.

Praise the Lord, you angels,
    you mighty ones who carry out his plans,
    listening for each of his commands.
Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels
    who serve him and do his will!
Praise the Lord, everything he has created,
    everything in all his kingdom.

Let all that I am praise the Lord. (NLT)

How can I read Psalm 103 and not understand the extent of God’s love for me? If I don’t read it with all that I am, I can do just that. All that I am is His, and that means the good and the bad. Love accepts both, and no one loves as God does. He is love and knowing that enables me to see Him and me in the light of His Son’s precious love. David knew the Messiah’s love would come one day. He couldn’t wait, so he sought God’s heart in a brazen way. His psalms are beautiful witnesses to intimacy he sought and found.

God has armies of angels at His command. He made the heavens and rules over everything, but lovingkindness is His greatest strength. His Son’s precious love redefined power and changed the world. David was a man after God’s own heart, and his pursuit paid off. He found love where most found fear. His awe of God inspired this, and many other, beautiful songs of praise that make me want to love God the way he did. That’s the best witness of all!

Photo Credit: heartlight.org
Photo Credit: heartlight.org

God Friends

Psalm 62:5-8 paints a beautiful portrait of God. He’s a powerful fortress who protects me from my enemies and a trusted friend to whom I can pour out my heart and know that it will be heard and cherished. David knew that God has his back and his heart.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
    my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
    He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
    Pour out your heart to him,
    for God is our refuge. (NLT)

David’s psalm reflects his love for and trust in God. In all his trials, he wasn’t shaken because He knew God not only protected him, but loved him dearly. I am fortunate to have family and friends who have my back and my heart. It’s a combination that reflects God’s love and provides a taste of what’s to come. God’s got my back, my front, my sides, my head, and my heart, but I don’t always remember that. When I do, I am able to wait quietly. Now, if I could only remember that all the time!

Waiting quietly has never been my strong suit, but I’m learning. There are times when I pour my heart out and talk to Him the way I would to my sisters or dear friends. He hears me when I cry. He hears me when I yell, and He hears me when I’m silent. I know I can tell Him everything anytime.

God made it clear last week that pouring out my heart and allowing others to pour out theirs to me is what love is all about. I have a few friends and three sweet sisters to whom I can pour out my heart. My heart is healed in their loving, nonjudgmental presence. None of them can replace God, but I like to call them God friends because they nudge me a little nearer to Him each time we connect.

Psalm 62

Precious Thoughts

Psalm 139:13-18 is a beautiful image of creation that leaves me feeling dearly loved. I can imagine God, The Creator, gently knitting and weaving me in my mother’s womb and then carefully recording every moment of my life in His heart. I’m His beloved, and that changes the way I live and love.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me! (NLT)

Knowing God thinks precious thoughts about me is hard to grasp, but Christ and the Holy Spirit help me wrap my head and heart around knowledge that is too wonderful for me to absorb alone. When I look at God’s Word, one thing strikes me throughout its pages. He says over and over again in a thousand different ways that He will never leave me. I know God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, but I have a hard time believing He thinks precious thoughts about me. My granddaughters help me understand this psalm. I find everything about them to be precious, and thoughts about them fill my life with joy. I love them dearly, but I know God loves me even more.

Most give David credit for this psalm, and I believe it is his work. His love for God stemmed from knowing God’s great love for him. David knew from a very early age that God loved him dearly. Knowing I’m loved so much changes me. Allowing my heart to grow deeply into God’s love frees my heart to be what He knitted it to be 🙂

Dearly Loved
Dearly Loved

Night Thoughts

Night Sky

Psalm 8 praises the majesty and mystery of God. David is looking up at the night sky and asks how the Creator of such a display could possibly think about him. I wonder the same thing each day.

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers-

the moon and the stars you set in place-

what are mere mortals that you should think about them?”

Psalm 8:3-4(NASB)

Christ answered David’s question when He became one of us and connected us to the Creator It wasn’t just any connection; it was a oneness, family brought together by the single most beautiful expression of love the world has every known.

David was well acquainted with love and known as a man after God’s own heart. If David had been alive when Christ came to earth, I believe he would have been the first in line to hear His message of God’s unfathomable love. David had faults, so do we all, but his psalms reflect an intimacy with God that astounds me. He cried, praised, supplicated, adored, and even argued with God.

Sometimes, King David forgot he was a mere mortal and took on the role of God. We all do the same at some point during in our lives. In Psalm 8, however, he humbled himself in the presence of God’s majesty as he looked upon His handiwork. I love sunsets and sunrises, but a clear night sky takes my breath away. I feel so very tiny under the vastness of a clear moonlit night. I wonder how God could ever notice someone as small as I am. Then, I remember a baby in Bethlehem and my heart relaxes into His love. I know Jesus loves me, and that means His Father and the Holy Sprit also love me because they are One.

Light came into my bedroom far too early this morning, so I got up to find the source; I assumed an outside light must have been left on. I smiled when I opened my curtains and found a spectacular moon setting in the western sky. The clouds were nestled in the valleys as the moon gave her final performance before disappearing into the day. I sat on the floor soaking in the majesty of my Maker and understanding why David was so enthralled with Him.

When I look at God’s handiwork, I am made vividly aware of His majesty. When I look at Christ, I am made vividly aware of His love. Like David, I can’t imagine how the Creator could even think of a mere mortal like me. God reminds me when I get those night thoughts or early morning thoughts that Jesus loves me and so does He ❤

This isn’t my view this morning, but it’s very close to the scene that woke me this morning. My mountains were covered in a fluffy white blanket of clouds. 

Moonset

Photo Credit: Consworld