Summary: David and Bathsheeba - an old story with a very contemporary ring to it, and a few things still to teach us!

"You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act-that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And would not anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?"

C. S. Lewis, of course.Who else could parody so well the rather incomprehensible nature of human (or at least ‘male’) sexuality?

According to the good people of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources in the U.S though, it is not only human beings that regularly get themselves into trouble through their sexuality. According to these good folk, they can predict entirely accurately when the most road kills of deer are going to take place on their state highways. Of the 17,000 or so deer that die each year in their area after being struck by motorists, the majority of those deaths take place in late autumn. Why? ‘Because the males are concentrating almost exclusively on reproductive activities’, they say ‘and are a lot less wary than they normally would be.’

It would be interesting to see if there were similar statistics for roo’s and wombats over here.

From Frederick Buechner I get this powerful, if somewhat lurid, quote:

Lust is the ape that gibbers in our loins. Tame him as we will by day, he rages all the wilder in our dreams by night. Just when we think we’re safe from him, he raises up his ugly head and smirks, and there’s no river in the world flows cold and strong enough to strike him down. Almighty God, why dost thou deck men with such a loathsome toy?

In a survey in Discipleship Journal, readers ranked what they believed to be the most effective means of dealing with their ‘loathsome toys’ (ie. resisting temptation):

Prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).

If you want a rather left-of-field indicator as to the power of lust in our world, take hold of this statistic, again from the U.S.:

In 1994,the U.S. State Department spent US $200,000 to purchase condoms for U.S. troops that were being deployed in Haiti.

That strikes me as a rather grim statistic, and I trust that it has not been mirrored in any Australian government policy concerning our troops in East Timor.

Let me conclude this grim compilation though with a quote from Martin Luther who, surprisingly perhaps, saw a more positive role for lust:

‘God uses lust’ says Luther ‘to impel man to marriage, as He uses ambition to impel people to office, avarice to earning, and fear to impel people to faith.’.

Maybe so, but most of us, I think, would consider it a rather sad faith that is based solely on fear, just as we would expect a marriage based on lust to be an unhappy marriage.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps... but then perhaps our Bible story today will upset our settled theories for us here, for it tells us about a marriage that was based on lust, and which indeed was developed through lies, deceit and murder, and yet... a relationship that became one of the great relationships – a relationship through which the two persons concerned become the mother and father of a great line of kings that culminates in the person of the Lord Jesus Himself – the son of David, and equally, we might say, the son of Bathsheeba.

But we get ahead of ourselves. For while our story ends in Jesus, it begins on the rooftop of a palace in Jerusalem, with King David going for an innocent stroll around his roof.

It is spring, we are also told, and the rest of the men of Israel have gone off to war. Why has David not gone with them we might ask? Perhaps quite a lot of the men at the front were asking the same question. Indeed, David’s key role as a leader for most of his life had been as a military leader. Now though, it seemed that David had decided to let somebody else fight his battles for him!

It is spring, we are told, at any rate. And this was not just a good time to go to war, but also a good time to go for a stroll about your roof, and indeed, so it would seem, it was a good time of year to have a bath on your roof.

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