Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Speaking Truth to Power

2 Samuel 11:26-12:15
Just a couple of thoughts from this week's readings but both, I think, very important. The first is that the confrontation between Nathan and David clearly demonstrates the role of the prophet in Israel. Once more, to read this as only relating to personal morality would be to dismiss much of the significance of this story. The prophet is commissioned to speak truth to power. What David has done isn't just about overstepping an ethical boundary, furthermore it can't be understood simply within the framework of property regulations (which included women in ancient patriarchal societies), even the murder of Uriah doesn't fully round out the picture of David's transgression. David has systemically abused the power granted to him as king - the very same power that Nathan stands under as he rebukes David. When prophets speak out on behalf of the vulnerable and the oppressed they may well be putting their own lives in danger, however this is often what they are called to do. There is a vital lesson here about civic duty and the kind of justice that stands up repeatedly for those who cannot always stand up for themselves.

Secondly, we have an image of God here that I personally find untenable. The vengeful God who contrives to publically humiliate David by abusing his wives and children is not a God that I can worship with any integrity. It's not sufficient to chalk this up to the 'mystery' of God or dismiss it because it's a story from the Old Testament. I think sometimes the authors of the Bible reveal their humanity and frankly, they sometimes get it wrong. Let's be brave enough to admit that there are some passages in our Scriptures that are abhorrent and that paint a picture of God that is unworthy of our worship. We can learn something about ourselves here though: how tempting it is to justify our own feelings of jealousy, hatred, prejudice and parochialism and to project them onto the divine image.

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