August 2015 — The consequences of sin
This month we investigate the Old Testament and look at the consequence of sin, where wisdom can be found, the nature of God’s covenant with his people and the nature and sacredness of God’s love.
2 August, 2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:13a
The story of Israel’s Bathsheba and David is a complex narrative that presents us directly with the consequences of sin. King David, the most powerful man in the kingdom, has used this power to take the wife of Uriah his general, and then has Uriah killed in battle when a pregnancy results from the affair.
The prophet Nathan, acting as God’s voice and the conscience of the king, uses a clever parable to accuse David, who believes himself to be above conventional morality. David discovers there is a high cost to ignoring the way of the Lord, and that everyone, even the king, is accountable.
David’s punishment is the death of his innocent child, the product of his illicit union. How is it fair that David sins and lives, but the child without sin dies?
As unfair as it seems, the story reminds us that the consequences of sin are rarely confined to the individual, and have a habit of spilling out to all who are close to us.
9 August, 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
This passage and its surrounding context are surely chronicles of one of history’s most dysfunctional families. Incest, rape, favouritism, murder, civil war, planned patricide and regicide – this story of David’s family has it all. The prophecy uttered by Nathan that the Lord will “raise up trouble for you in your own house” has surely come to pass.
The story of David’s dysfunctional family is almost a mirror of society. When we engage in such conflict, and seek the opportunity to destroy one another (both figuratively and literally), the consequence is a domino effect and the bringing down of others all around us. The passage lays this bare for all to ponder, and prods us to remember the God who suffers with us, and who calls us to offer love instead of hate.
16 August, 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
This passage is an often cited, well-loved piece of scripture from which a multitude of earnest sermons on wisdom have been generated due to the fact that Solomon chooses wisdom over the more individual gifts of long life, riches and power.
It is worth asking, however, what the lectionary leaves out of the story. King David’s deathbed instructions on what family scores need settling are omitted. This is a disturbing story that mixes up worldly power with divine expectations. It questions the nature of public piety and private motivation.
We all need wisdom. But we need wisdom that questions, that looks beneath the surface, and that is genuinely honest and discerning, in order to progress what is truly the common good.
23 August, 1 Kings 8:(1,6,10-11), 22-30, 41-43
The theme of covenant permeates this passage. As well as reminding us of the Exodus, the cloud of God’s presence is there to also remind us of the covenant made at Sinai. The message is clear – God is as surely present with the Israelites of Solomon’s kingdom as God was with their ancestors centuries before.
Yet Solomon’s prayer does not seek to confine God solely to the Temple. Though it is central to Israel’s worship for many years, the Temple ultimately is not essential. When it is later destroyed, God can still be found nearby and is present to God’s people, and even to Gentiles who seek to know God’s name.
This text encourages us to remember the ancient people of faith, and to rejoice that through the grace of God we are also included into a covenant where wild olive shoots were grafted onto the cultivated olive tree of Israel.
30 August, Song of Solomon 2:8-13
The Song of Songs reminds us of the beauty and sacredness of human love, and how such love reflects the sacred love that God holds for the human creature.
The Song is unusual in that the woman does most of the speaking. In verses that celebrate the return of spring, and the emergence of flowers, fruit and creatures, the rupture between the man and woman is repaired, and relationship and the garden are restored.
So we should rejoice in the Song of Songs, which gives us a glimpse of a world where men and women are in harmony with one another, and where the brokenness of the relationships between human beings and with the natural world are indeed reconciled, and the earth is healed.
This Lectionary Reflection was prepared by Rev. Elizabeth Raine of Wauchope Uniting Church and the Southern Zone Minister for Mid North Coast Presbytery
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