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I listen to A LOT of sermons throughout the week. After listening to one this week, I was alerted once again about an all too common preaching practice — a menacing practice — the dangers of bringing in assumptions, from our personal and cultural perspectives, into a sermon.
Let me exemplify this.
While preaching on the passage typically labeled “David and Bathsheba” in II Samuel 11, some preachers inject their assumptions and/or cultural thinking into their sermon — even into their interpretation of the passage. It is often stated that Bathsheba was a willing sexual partner and purposefully exposed herself on the rooftop to potentially be seen by King David, if not at least others. When contacted by King David’s servant, she consented because she was a willing accomplice in the adultery — a sin against her husband and her God.
There is nothing in the passage that states or argues such a viewpoint. If that was true, the Lord chose not to include it in the Scriptures and/or warrant such an exposition. It is eisegesis, not exegesis. A preacher or teacher injects their own thinking into the passage and makes the account teach something that is not the focus of the passage!
If the Lord wanted to teach sexual complicity and responsibility, He could have simply included but a few words or a sentence to make that point. Bathsheba’s morality or thinking that was behind her response to the servant’s request is not included. What is included is that she responded to David’s messengers to come to his palace. What is included in the passage is “he took her” — which does not on its face speak of complicity!
It is possible to bring our own personal or cultural perspectives into the understanding of a passage, and in contrast to that, to not bring in our own cultural perspectives when understanding a passage of Scripture! That may seem contradictory, but let me try to establish that point.
#1) We can fail to understand how different historical periods are to our present-day. There was no “Me-Too” movement during Old Testament days, the Gospel period, the Middle ages, or during various ruling empires. Power was used and abused, and especially towards the poor, the powerless, and women. Whether Bathsheba had any idea of why such a meeting was requested — I rather doubt she was told that King David saw you bathing and wanted to know if you would be willing to eat dinner with him tonight. — is unknown because it is unstated.
#2) Let’s bring in our own cultural perspectives and realize that the rich, powerful, positioned, and protected abuse and use their power the same way even today. Today, there is the same tendency to assign some level of blame towards the innocent — “She should not have dressed that way if she didn’t want to have someone take advantage of her.”
The point of the passage is David’s actions. He is the story’s focus, and his actions are confronted by the Lord through Nathan, the prophet. Nathan held no marital counseling session with David & Bathsheba! In fact, she was described in Nathan’s story as an innocent ewe lamb. Nathan could have designed and constructed the parable many other ways that did not include that imagery!
As probably you are, I am often taken back by the assumptions that creep into a sermon but are not founded on the text. I have attempted to lessen those tendencies by framing such comments with the statement . . . . “Now, if that were me, I might be thinking / responding / remembering / saying / shouting out . . . . ”
Don’t try to save David, or any other man, pastor, missionary, ministry leader, staff member, or church member by improperly injecting assumptions, presumptions, speculation, preconceptions, or theories into an account — biblical or contemporary.
“Don’t vouch for him, pastor!” Those were but a few of my words to a pastor who has repeatedly gone out on a limb and defended sexual misconduct in the church. That may be one of the biblical accurate and practical truths that comes out of the passage — a truth too-often unheeded even today!
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Vouching For David & Blaming Others: “Bathsheba’s beauty and love of pleasing were her snare. Beauty is a great temptation to many women; they are intoxicated with admiration; but O, what dangers lie in this! ”
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