The last few weekdays we have been reading at Mass from the dark chapters of David’s life following his murder of Uriah and his affair with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 9-20) Our readings this week are from 2 Samuel 15-18 as he faces the consequences of his sin.
In Monday’s account David must flee from Jerusalem because his own son, Absalom, takes over his kingship by popular acclaim. The people abandon him, and even as he flees from Jerusalem, David’s cursed and stoned and called a murderer. Absalom’s tragic death following that humiliation only deepens his misery. (Tuesday)
Sin has consequences, human consequences, we’re reminded. “If he does wrong, I will correct him with the rod of men and with human chastisements.” (2 Samuel 7, 14)
“ The rod of men” strikes David hard; he not only faces reaction to his own sins but to the sins of his predecessor Saul as well. He lives in a world of violence and revenge, a world not perfect.
David’s not perfect either. He’s imperfect till be dies. But David will not fail, God supports him. Our readings for Thursday and Friday praise David as a man and king “The LORD forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever.” ( Sirach )
David orders a census as he regains his throne and expands his kingdom. To take a census doesn’t strike us as wrong at first. We take surveys and censuses all the time. But David recognizes that his census taking is an act of pride. He’s making his own calculations more important than the wisdom of God. He’s making his own war preparations and plans more important than the power and plans of God.
Still, the last words about David in the scriptures praise him. How easy to type him as a murderer, an adulterer, a bad father, a failed leader. We humans type people– today we do that a lot. David was more than all those things. He reminds us how complex we humans are. And also how great the mercy of God is.