Monday, November 17, 2008

The Most Depressing Bible Story

This week I had to teach (well, I was scheduled to teach based on SBC lit--I fudge a lot of times on that) the story of David and Bathsheba. What a sordid mess. Why did God put that in the Bible? It probably proves in and of itself that the Bible is not a totally man-made document--an ancient culture would never tell that story about its great warrrior king. And so what? Kings took other men's wives all the time back then. No big. And of course, Bathsheba was just a victim of women's oppression.

NOT.

I think the story is there specifically to say no one is ever above the law. And Bathsheba is a hootchie if there ever was one. Let's not feel sorry for her. She saw her chance and took it--sleep her way to the top. I hope gossip followed her for the rest of her life.

I'm more interested in the story two chapters earlier. In the afterglow of being promised an eternal Heir over an eternal kingdom, David acts, as he could on his best days, like that eternal Heir. He restores Mephibosheth to his birthright as Saul's son. It's a beautiful story of grace, especially when we realize M.'s real name is Meri-Baal (what's a good Jewish boy doing with a name like that?). I see myself; I see us all. M. refers to himself as a dead dog--what is more worthless and even troublesome than roadkill, something of which we know a lot in North Georgia?

When I was in Italy, we were strolling on a breezy, balmy night down the streets of Sorrento. Italy absolutely gets under one's skin and into the circulatory system; I'd love to go back except that I'm almost afraid of its power over me. But that night in Sorrento, our first night there, we were met with packs of stray dogs roaming the crowded streets. One of my co-travelers had to say, "Who let the dogs out?" which got a laugh, but I felt as if I were back in the streets of Judaea 2000 years ago, when dogs were dogs--wild, feral, stray, unloved, kicked, occasionally used for a purpose but not of much value. We Americans love our dogs--too much, probably. Even a dead dog we have trouble valuing as nothing if it was our pet. But in David's time, a dead dog was worthless.

That touches me about M's story, as does the last sentence of the chapter. Despite all David did, all David restored to M, M was still lame in his feet. He would always be. Despite all God gives us in the Christian experience and all the grace of just being human, we are still lame in our feet, so to speak. We are still in these wonderful but aging bodies. We are still haunted by memories. We are still tossed about by elections, wildfires, 9-11s, grief, wars, disease.

Already, but not yet is the phrase I like to repeat to myself. On my headstone I want the word, Yet.

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