Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Sins of the Fathers, Visited Upon The Sons - Part 5 of a series based on 2 Samuel 11 & 12

I’ve shared this earth with twelve U. S. Presidents. I suppose, from their perspective, they have shared it with me. Fully one-third have been adulterers. Others may have been as well, and just didn’t get caught. Certainly none of the twelve were without sin. At least one who was never accused of adultery resigned, nonetheless, under the almost certain possibility of impeachment for covering up a crime. All of that in a land that many like to call “Christian America.”

But, if it seems unusual that so many of the leaders of an avowedly moral nation should be plagued with lapses of integrity, consider the ancient nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, whose greatest King was also, arguably, one of its greatest sinners. There is no reason to believe that King David’s “secret sins” were kept any better from his contemporaries than have been the sins of modern leaders. In fact the rumor mills of that day undoubtedly distorted, and inflated his sins just as they do today. But the rumors, prevalent in David’s day, ran rampant through a place they do not circulate in today, the King’s harem. Any of David’s wives or sons or daughters, old enough to be interested, could hear truths, or half-truths, about the King’s doings.

Most absolute monarchs who maintain harems do so for a variety of reasons, ranging from lust to diplomacy. Lust and diplomacy are both strong incentives to keep expanding the harem. And every wife who bears a son, has some hope, though for most, admittedly slim, that they will someday occupy the highest place in the king’s regard and that their son will succeed him on the throne. It could not have been any different in David’s harem.

David was no longer a young man when his affair with Bathsheba energized the rumor mills of his harem. And the sons of earlier affairs could not have been ignorant of Dad’s latest hunt for a trophy. The Judeo-Christian religions see David as almost saintly, the patriarch of the royal line through which would come the Messiah. His sons, watching from the harem, would have had a different opinion.

It is with a mixture of sadness and horror that we watch the dissolution of the Royal Family in David’s latter years. Still, it should not surprise us. Though God does not hold sons responsible for the sins of their fathers He, nonetheless, does not shield them from the consequences of their father’s sins. After David’s murderous deeds involving Uriah and Bathsheba, he could never again hold his head as high as before. There was always someone willing to throw stones at him both verbally and literally. And there were those who saw him as a wounded, weakened old man who could be shoved aside by a younger, more attractive man. We can hear echoes of these threats to the safety and authority of the king in many of the Psalms attributed to King David.

Among those David had to fear was his own beloved Absalom. It is tempting to imagine that Absalom’s ambition to succeed his father – indeed to usurp his throne – began as he listened to harem rumors in his youth. It may be significant that, when Absalom had – temporarily, as it turned out – driven his father from the throne, he asserted his power by stealing from David what David had stolen from Uriah. In Absalom’s publicly defiling of David’s harem, left behind in his rush to escape Absalom’s forces, the king’s sins were returned to him, multiplied by the exact factor that David himself had chosen as, over the years, he added wife to wife and concubine to concubine.

Absalom, like nearly all who were participants in the sordid affair between David and Bathsheba, dying, literally caught up by his pride, hanging from an oak tree, gives us almost nothing to pity, certainly nothing to admire. He does, however, give us something to ponder. It seems unlikely that Absalom could have mounted his insurrection if his Father had maintained the full respect of his courtiers and subjects. Just as God has promised not to hold the sons responsible for the sins of the fathers, he has also declared that the sins of the sons will not accrue to the fathers. It is clear, nonetheless, that David’s sins opened the door to Absalom’s rebellion, and Absalom’s sins returned upon David a treachery no less tragic than that he had visited upon Uriah.

There must be, in all of this, some lesson to learn about cause and effect. It might be that God, who often is accused of bringing judgment upon sinners, merely allows the natural consequences of our sins to indict, convict, and punish us; that none of us can escape the earthly consequences of our sins, but men and women who repent – who are persons “after God’s own heart” – can escape the condemnation that befalls those who will not acknowledge their sins.

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