Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Stones--David's Bathsheba

We’re on to Week Three of our look at Eleanor Gustafson’s The Stones

As a missionaries, while Stateside, my family and I traveled all over the nation visiting churches. This equaled many long, boring miles in the car with two siblings just as grumpy as I was. Like it was yesterday, I remember the day one of us grew desperate and asked Dad for a story we had never heard before. He took off on a tale of a king who had many wives but “hugged and kissed” that of another man. I remember my  horror at the thought, but it was compounded when I learned how this king covered his sin—by murdering her husband. At the end of this fascinating (yet rather embarrassing--Dad was talking about kissing. Yuck!) story, Dad told us that this king was none other than King David.

My little heart was completely broken. King David? No way! He was the lowly shepherd boy that killed lions and bears and mean giants. He was my hero. Isn’t he every kid’s? A tiny part of my innocence died that day.
I hated the story, but today, I look at in a different light—with gratitude. If David can behave in such a despicable way and still be called “a man after God’s own heart”, maybe there’s hope for me.

In The Stones, Ellie handles this portion of David’s life with brutal clarity and truth, and I thank her for it. Uriah is a sharp contrast to the king, who, at the height of his power, had become self-indulgent. In the voice of Asaph, Ellie writes:

I meditated, too, on the supreme irony of Uriah, flame of Yahweh. Had he known or guessed his wife was pregnant? He was certainly intelligent enough to put two and two together. Yet he would not do the one thing that would get David off the hook, and his very bravery and zeal became David’s weapon to destroy him. A man of gallantry, ready to die for his prince’s honor, died instead by his prince’s hand. 

Poor guy.

In her study guide, Ellie asks a couple of questions, which I thought I’d put to you, as well.

Why do you think God chose Bathsheba rather than a more “acceptable” wife (such as Abigail) to establish the House of David and the long line leading to the birth of Jesus?

In The Stones, Asaph was greatly affected by David’s colossal sin. (See Scroll Two, chapter 18). What, beyond the armband and scroll that David brought to him, restored his relationship with David?

And my question for Ellie—What first made you consider writing David’s life in the form of biblical fiction?

If you haven’t gotten it yet, make sure you pick up your copy of COTT champ, Delia Latham's,Destiny's Dream. We'll be discussing this fun romance next month!

--April W Gardner is the Sr. Editor at Clash of the Titles
and the award-winning author of Wounded Spirits


Ellie Gustafson said...

Oh, April, what a painful way to learn the true nature of even the best of kings! Your dad presented the sad tale with skill and sensitivity (I love the hugging and kissing part!), but it obviously impacted you negatively. The David and Bathsheba story does that. And this is where Asaph sets aside his objective narrator role and becomes deeply and personally involved. We feel the wrongness of David’s act, BUT when Nathan got on his case, David felt it, too, and that’s the big difference between repentance and remorse; remorse is sorry only for getting caught.
What’s your take on Nathan and his role as prophet in this dicey situation? If David could kill a valued Mighty Man, why not an eccentric prophet? This confrontation is one of my favorite passages. Did it affect you positively or negatively?

Your question for me: From my early adult years, I felt the power of the David story and first worked it up as devotional material for our youth group. It hung with me over the years until I felt compelled to try to make the story and characters come alive—jump off the page—for readers. It’s one thing to read the biblical narrative, but quite another to see the color of blood, as well as the beauty of a life laid out before the Lord, sins and all. In many ways, I am Asaph, and his reactions mirror my own. He and I HAD to tell the story that for today’s readers may seem half hidden by chapter numbers and stilted narrative.

Read on! There’s Absalom to chew on next week. : )

April W Gardner said...

Hi Ellie! I'd never considered Nathan's part in it and it being difficult for him, but it makes perfect sense. He was God's prophet, but he was a man too. So surely, he dreaded the whole thing and was probably fearful too. I'd say it affected me positively if for no other reason than to make me think more deeply of how it affected everyone around David, instead of just David as I'd always done. It's one of the reasons I love biblical fiction. It sheds fresh light on the old stories I love.
You certainly have made me to see "the color of blood and the beauty of a life laid out before the Lord, sins and all." I read Francine River's Bathsheba's story but this peek into David's life has been unforgettable. Thank you!

Gail Pallotta said...

Yes Ellie, I've always loved the story of David and all that goes with his life, but you have truly made it more real. In reading once again about poor, little Boaz, I was struck by how our sins sometimes affect others who are innocent.

To answer April's question about Uriah, I had to wonder if he did understand the situation and would rather have died than see Bathsheba leave him for David. But he was presented as someone more interested in battle. Maybe God made him that way, knowing his plight.

About Asaph's relationship with David, it was God's intervention that enabled Asaph to call out to David. then they both broke down in tears.

April's question about why God chose Bathsheba over Abigail to establish the House of David and the long line leading to the birth of Jesus is a hard one. What do you think, Ellie?

Ellie Gustafson said...

You people make me cry! You get it, and you're thinking deeply. Thank you!

Sometimes it's easier to ask the questions than to answer them. : ) Concerning Uriah, the Bible says little about him, other than his connection with Bathsheba and that he was one of David's Mighty Men. I tried to pull the dots together, making it reasonable that he might neglect his wife out of loyalty and his sense of duty. Even the best of our actions impacts others.

Why God chose Bathsheba as seedbearer is pure speculation, and I think somebody commented that God was showing his sovereign will and mercy so that none of us can get swelled heads. He uses imperfect vessels to accomplish his purposes.

Keep talking, folks--this is fun!

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