Sunday, January 24, 2016

Irony. . .

Irony is when one's ordinary expectations are juxtaposed against the reality of what actually occurs. Most often the expectation and the reality are opposites. To quote Alanis Morissette, “isn't it ironic... don't you think. . . It's like rain on your wedding day... It's a free ride when you've already paid... It's the good advice that you just didn't take... Who would've thought... it figures.”

Understanding the way of the the opposition is the key to appreciating the irony. If you do not see the opposition between the two, the irony itself is lost. Paradox is a sort of irony, in that the reality is opposite of the seemingly logical conclusion. So it is in Christmas that we laud and honor David's Son who is come to sit on David's throne forever and fulfill the promise of the Father.  Yet the irony is that David's Son is come to die for David's sin.  It was all there hidden in the shadow of David's torrid story of lust, domination, adultery (perhaps rape), illicit conception, conspiracy, murder, and smug contentment that he had gotten away with it all.  But we usually miss it.

Read 2 Samuel 11-12 again.  This is not some sad love story that turned out bad but David's stealing of Uriah's wife, the murder of Uriah, the appearance of righteousness that hides his terrible sin, and how all of Israel was caught up in the deception.  But not the Lord.

He revealed the terrible deed by deceiving the deceiver who owned up to his sin only when he knew the Lord and His prophet Nathan knew.  David sat in sackcloth and ashes to demonstrate his repentance but repentance does not remove consequences.  The prophet Nathan announced that the Lord had taken away David’s sin; he would not die. There must have been a sigh of relief that uttered from David's lips but not so quick as for him to hear that blood cries to blood: “The son born to you will die.” (12:14)

Now this is where it always was dicey for me.  What kind of God would claim the innocent life of a child who had no part in David's sin as consequence of that wrong?  We ask the same thing all the time.  What kind of God would do that?  But, of course, the story demonstrates the mercy to be revealed when David's Son dies for David's sin, David's Lord becomes his innocent sin offering.  Not the child conceived in his adulterous rape of Bathsheba but the one who is hidden in this story all along -- Christ, the innocent who dies for David the guilty.

No matter how you explain this story you are still left with a dead baby, an innocent character in this lustful tale who seems unfairly chastised for his father's transgression.  But surely this is exactly how we ought to feel for Jesus who is incarnate for but one purpose -- to die in our place for our sin.  How we should feel.  But do we?  We complain about the gross injustice to the child of David and Bathsheba but do we complain about the gross miscarriage of justice over Christ who died for David's sin and ours -- the innocent for the guilty?  Isn't it ironic?  Yet even this unnamed child is not outside the mercy of God.  His lost memory is remembered forever by the God who gives and redeems life through His Son.

For David and for each of us, the irony cannot be lost upon us.  The guilty live and the righteous dies.  The shameful sinner receives mighty mercy.  The one born into sin and who embraces that sin is redeemed by the one sinless keeper of the Law who exchanges with us His righteousness for our dirt and scandal.  That is what lay hidden in the manger and in the stable.  It was what the Angels sang about, what Mary magnified in words of song, and what the world is called to know wherever the Gospel Word is proclaimed.  The innocent dies for the guilty.  If you do not get this, what you celebrated at Christmas is an illogical and odd excursion or diversion from the reality of everyday life.  But if you see the irony and embrace it with faith that trusts such incomprehensible wisdom and unfathomable love and mercy of God, then Christmas naturally leads to Calvary.

A little irony... a great paradox...  What shall we do but, like Blessed Mary, ponder it in our hearts with faith.  God is not like us.  Thanks be to God!  God is for us!


Anonymous said...

Dear Rev. Peters: Your write, “No matter how you explain this story you are still left with a dead baby, an innocent character in this lustful tale who seems unfairly chastised for his father's transgression.”
Does the fact that the baby dies mean that he was “unfairly chastised”? The seven day old baby went to be with the Lord. Is that “chastisement”? Is it chastisement when we die? It was David who was chastised by the loss of his son, of whom he said, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23) This baby was saved a lifetime of suffering. No doubt he would also have been subject to rumors that he was not David’s son at all, but Uriah’s.
We should also understand that when the Prophet told David, “You shall not die,” he was saying that David would not be subjected to the Law of God that requires both parties in an adulterous relationship to be stoned to death. As far as the child of such a union is concerned, Deuteronomy 23:2, “Those born of an illicit union shall not be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord.” So there was great mercy in the Lord’s taking of the baby to himself.
Therefore, I do not feel sorry for this baby. I do feel sorry because of the suffering our Lord had to endure. But this is where it becomes difficult: without that suffering I would stay an enemy of God forever. He, our Lord, decided to take this suffering upon himself, as it is written in Hebrews 12:2, “Who for the sake of the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, disregarding its shame …”
The Gospel turns our understanding of “what makes sense” upside down. Our Lord wept when He brought His friend back from Paradise into this vale of tears, and He told His Apostles on the day before He died, John 14:28, “if you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father.” So I rejoice because that the 7 day old baby went to the Father, and I rejoice that our Lord went to the Father, although I regret my role in His suffering on Good Friday.
To accept the Gospel means to accept that we are totally dependent on the gift to us that our Lord makes of Himself without either being able to or being asked to do anything in return.
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

JL said...

This is the first time I've read anything that suggested that David's adultery with Bathsheba might have also been rape. Could you please explain why you think this might be so? I don't recall reading anything in the text that might suggest this (though I understand that the power differential between a king and a common woman is vast and could easily be abused), but I am willing to be instructed otherwise.

Thank you!