In the other Old Testament passage, King David had taken Bathsheba, Uriah the Hittite’s wife, as his mistress. And had caused Uriah to be killed in battle so that the shame of Bathsheba’s pregnancy would be overshadowed and absorbed into Bathsheba coming to the court of David. It is not a pleasant story, and having written of it more than once I was loathe to write about it again.
The other story was of the Israelites complaining about the lack of food in the wilderness.
“The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.” (Exodus 16:2 – 4)
Through Nathan the prophet the Lord told David that he was greatly displeased at King David’s subterfuge, actions, and deceit. The Lord said he had given so much to David, and would have given him more if he had asked. But to take something precious and dear to another, and to kill that other in the process, was inexcusable.
The Lord God had also brought the Israelites out from Egypt and out from slavery. But they still yearned and longed for the slim advantage that came with slavery.
What merit is there to sating hunger when you are not free to live your life as you choose? What glory is there in kingship when you allow your “hunger” to lead you to sin? Yearning for what we do not have and should not have leads us off the path that the Divine has set before us.
“Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.'” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'” (Verses 9 – 12)
It would be easy to condemn King David and the Israelites with lack of trust in the Divine. But I know I have doubted the Lord also; have yearned for things that were not right for me to have, and have longed for indulgence that would actually cause me to suffer. Each time we turn away from that which would teach and strengthen us, and crave and follow that which would harm us – we have undone some of the work the Divine has done within us. And we have blinded ourselves to the blessings that the Divine has in store for us.
“In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.” (Verses 13 – 15)
I have often wondering what would have happened in King David has just turned away from Bathsheba bathing, or exercised some restraint instead of desiring. Or if the Israelites has asked Moses how the Lord God would provide for them instead of assuming that their death in the wilderness would be a foregone conclusion. I also wonder what would have happened in I had showed more confidence in myself and the leading that I felt in my growing up years.
The Divine can take our mistakes and make something wonderful out of them. Bathsheba’s and David’s second son was Solomon. The Israelites were shown that the Lord God had not abandoned them. And I eventually heeded the call of the Lord God and went to seminary. Maybe all things did not turn out as they could have; but they did turn out the way that they needed to.
May you, beloved reader, be directed by the Divine in the ways you should go. And if you get lost, may the Divine and the Holy Presence re-direct you with patience, gentleness, and mercy. Shalom & Selah!