What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. And Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. And when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.” 2 Samuel 13:1-6.

David’s family has some troubling dynamics. He has some uncertain number of wives, who have given him children, and are part of an extended, entitled royal family. Amnon lusts after his half sister, Tamar, for no other reason than that she is beautiful. A friend of Amnon, another loose end in David’s family named Jonadab, concocts a plan for Amnon to get Tamar alone and have her. Amnon is not thinking of the consequences at all, and rapes her. Then he hates her and he throws her out.

This would be bad enough, but Tamar has a big brother who now wants to kill Amnon. This could turn into civil war. And this is all because some royal nitwit thought he was in love when he did not love her at all. He did not care at all what Tamar wanted or how she felt. As soon as he got what he wanted, he was disappointed with her, as if this had been her idea.

David has taken wives and started families that he does not oversee very well. Being a father is a weighty responsibility, and most of David’s sons are willfull and impulsive about romance, like their father.

God’s Voice of Dissent

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” 2 Samuel 12:1-9.

This is the gift of the prophet on full display. He is God’s voice of Dissent in his own system. He is the counter ballance to the king, lest he become an autocratic tyrant. It is not always pleasant work. But it is the pattern throughout the old testament that God sends a prophet, sometimes an outsider, to bring correction. Some people believe this gift has “passed away,” but they are usually pastors who want to be in control. If you have no prophet, you get no correction. It explains a lot.

There are those, usually in charismatic circles, who believe the gift is for today, but limit it’s effectiveness. They use 1 Corinthians 14:3 to say that prophesying is only for “edification, exhortation, and comfort.” This ignores the clear pattern established by God for thousands of years. I have even heard, with my own ears, pastors refuse warning by saying, “touch not God’s anointed!” They say this as if they alone are the anointed one, the lynchpin of ministry, and that any dissenter is a messenger of Satan.

Dissent is important, and it has it’s place. First, you do it privately. Then, you get witnesses to join you. Then, if they still won’t listen, you call them out before the church. I never see this done any more. If David, a man after God’s own heart can be corrected, so can we.

Power Corrupts

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 2 Samuel 11:1-5.

David is no longer just a shepherd with a sling shot who ran to fight Goliath. He is not just the youthful warrior who slays his ten thousands. He is now king, and rank has its privileges. He can now send the army to battle while he reclines on the couch. From his roof he can look down on the courtyards of neighbors. He sees a woman bathing, probably not for the first time, and inquires about her. His nameless source makes a point of telling him she is married and to whom. That does not deter him, and he summons her.

This premeditated affair and the subsequent murder of her husband to cover-up the resulting pregnancy has to be the blackest mark on David’s life. Her husband, Uriah, is called home by David and given some leave time with Bathsheba, but he does not take it, in consideration that the army is sleeping in the field while he could be with her. So David has him sent on a suicide mission and marries Bathsheba afterward.

It is hard to imagine the painstakingly conscientious David, who consults the Lord so readily about his decisions, doing such an evil thing. And poor Uriah, conscientiously avoiding his wife’s comforts because he sympathizes with his comrades in arms, being sentenced to death by the adulterer who has impregnated her. It is a terrible tragedy.

Although God will forgive him for this, it will have repercussions throughout his life. And it’s an object lesson on how close we are to committing the most heinous crimes when the opportunity presents itself.

Most of us do not have the same opportunity to sin that David did. We sin at our own level of opportunity. And it still happens when we drift from God and take our ease and presume upon His mercy.

Fearing the Worst and Getting It

After this the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. And David said, “I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me.” So David sent by his servants to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the Ammonites. But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it?” So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away. When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.” 2 Samuel 10:1-5.

If Hanun was trying to avoid having a war with David why would he provoked him? It must have been the foolish decision of his advisors, who wanted to make a name for themselves and appear like tough guys.