August 04, 2012
Written by Daniel Hazard

2 Samuel 12:5-6

"David's anger flared up against the man. 'As Yahweh lives,' he said to Nathan, 'the man who did this deserves to die!' . . . Then Nathan said to David, 'You are the man.'"

Reflection by Anthony B. Robinson

For weeks now (if you follow the lectionary) we've been hearing how great David is. David this and David that.

David, the runt of Jesse's litter, is the one God wants for king. David, the kid with a slingshot, topples Goliath. Noble David honors his fallen enemy, Saul. David dances into Jerusalem at the head of the parade. David, David, David. David, "You're the man!"

Now, David screws up -- massively. He doesn't just covet his neighbor's wife, Bathsheba, he takes her. And he arranges to have her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. When this all happens, neither prophet Nathan nor the Bible look the other way or pull any punches. Nathan tells David, "You are the man," but now in an entirely different sense.

In some ways it is our own culture's most popular story line: celebrity rise/celebrity fall. We hear such stories and are tempted, even invited, to judge another harshly while congratulating ourselves on being nothing like them.

There's another possible response to David's story (and other stories of human failure). Instead of judging David harshly we might see the ways we too have failed. Instead of congratulating ourselves, "Thank God, I'm not like him," we might grieve our own failures. We might learn modesty and forgiveness. Perhaps such a story is intended to help us avoid the inhumanity of thinking of ourselves as not so fallible as others?


In the face of sad and tragic failure, grant me the grace not to gloat, but to grieve. To grieve others' failure and my own. Amen.

About the Author
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of the just-published Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at by clicking on Weekly Reading.

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