Passion fruit: the fruit of passion

Text: 2 Samuel 11:1-3, Psalm 51:1-12

King David was a heroic figure. In his youth, he defeated the national enemy, Goliath with just a sling and a stone. He was a warrior. He was a “superstar” whom the Israelites sang the praises. From boyhood, he understood God’s love, presence, mercy and grace and he wrote songs on them which we can read from the book of Psalms today. God even called him “a man after God’s own heart”.

From a humble beginning as a shepherd boy, God had chosen him to be the king of Israel.  David had everything: military success— he reigned over a vast kingdom. His empire was from the edge of Egypt to the Euphrates River in modern-day Iraq. He had material success— he lived in a palace. He too was spiritually connected to God Whom he worshipped, adored and wrote many songs about. He was physically strong too as he was a mighty warrior. King David had success in all areas of his life. Unfortunately, his desire for a woman had caused his downfall. And ever since she had appeared in his life, his life was never the same again.  

There are many love stories in the Bible and one of them was the story of King David and Bathsheba. It all started when it was spring. It was a time where the kings would lead their armies to war. David sent the Israelites army to fight against their enemies. However, King David stayed back in his palace in Jerusalem. He was lingering about his palace, and not with his army as he should have been. If we were not alert and be where we are supposed to be, and do what we are supposed to do, we would be putting ourselves in danger too. It is important to stay prudent and to be faithful in doing whatever we have to do. Let’s encourage each other to be watchful and stay on guard. Idling around will open us up to unnecessary temptations.   

One evening up on his roof, he looked down and saw a very beautiful woman bathing in the river. It is interesting how the NIV describes her as “very beautiful”, implying that “beautiful” is not enough. Her appearance attracted David’s attention. The first glance must have been an accident. It would have not been a sin if he looked away, but he looked again and again. He then desired to have her and asked to find more about her. She was not just merely bathing, but she was undergoing a ritual bath to cleanse herself 7 days after menstruation. It was a common Near East practice. You can read more about this purification bath in Leviticus 15.

Unfortunately, knowing that she belonged to someone else did not stop him from feeding his desire. He already had wives and concubines but yet, he desired for Bathsheba. It seemed that the forbidden fruit tasted much sweeter. He asked for her to be brought to him and he slept with her. Then as in the culture of the day, women did not have much say, they were treated like objects. After sleeping with her, he sent her away. May be David hope that this was the end. But it was not.

What was her reaction when the king, not just an ordinary king, but a king honoured, respected and loved by the people, asked to sleep with her? Was she frightened? Did she love him? I am curious to know.  

We human beings are creatures of passion. We are made for love. When God first made Adam and Eve, God made them just for each other. God had taken a rib bone from Adam and made Eve from it. When Adam first saw Eve, he cried out, ““At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’” (Genesis 2:23, NLT).

Passionate love is a gift given to a man and a woman. Passionate love is the fuse the inspiration for great art, poetry, songs, literature and so on. 

Quotes of passionate love are:

You know you’re in love when you don’t want to fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams. (Theodor Seuss Geisel)

I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone. (R. R. Tolkien)

Passionate love between a man and a woman is a beautiful thing. We are made to love and be loved. This love is beautiful and wonderful because it is self-giving and God-glorifying.  

David loved Bathsheba with a passionate love but it got out of his control. His passion fanned into lust and it turned into a disaster.

A few months later, Bathsheba sent news that she was pregnant. “I am with child”, she said. In those days, the consequence for adultery was to be stoned to death, but Bathsheba put responsibility to David by letting him know that he was the father.

Now, Uriah was at the battlefield. It would be obvious that he was not the father of her child. David then had a plan and asked for Uriah to leave the battle and go home to his wife and to sleep with his wife so that the child would be “his”. But Uriah would not. The soldiers on battleground would not leave the battleground to go home to their wives. It was an expected loyalty to the country and to the king. So David invited Uriah to eat and drink with him and David made Uriah drunk. Even when he was drunk, Uriah remained faithful to the king and to the country. He would not go home to his wife but would stay on the battlefield.    

Uriah was not an Israelite. He was a Hittite (2 Sam 11:3) a foreigner, yet, he was so faithful to God, to David and the country. When David’s plan had failed, he devised another plan. He sent a letter to Joab, the commander of his army. In the letter, David ordered that Uriah to be put in the most dangerous place in the battle—the spot where the battle would be the fiercest. David specifically told Joab to put him there and withdraw from him so he would die.

The worse thing was that Uriah, did not know what would be coming upon him, was carrying the letter that would orchestrate his own death. In the battle, Joab had the city under siege and put Uriah at a place where there would be the strongest defenders.  

Uriah died in the battle. Some of David’s best soldiers were killed too. It could have been avoidable but because the king wanted Uriah dead. It is scary to think how far David would go to have Bathsheba by his side. It is a reflection for us too: the higher our position, the more we have to be careful because we do have the power to make powerful decisions that would affect the lives of others.

When David received the news from Joab, he would normally be very angry if precious lives were taken and if the deaths of his soldiers could have been avoided. But not this time. He would not care if other good soldiers of him died together with Uriah. All that he cared about was making sure that Uriah was dead. With him out of the way, he could finally have Bathsheba.   

Bathsheba mourned for her husband. After that, King David took her to be his wife. And she gave birth to a son.

When King David first saw her, he desired to have her. He must made her his. He arranged for her husband to be killed so that he could have her.

King David, a bright shiny star, the glory of the nation of Israel had fallen. His passion to have Bathsheba led to unexpected consequences. I wonder how many times when David was lying in the bed at night regretted his decision. If only he could turn back time, would he repeat his action again?

His action did not please God. The child that they had would be taken away from them.

We make mistakes but as always, God is always there. He will forgive anyone who repents. Because God loves David, He sent His prophet, Nathan to him.

Nathan told him a story: there was a rich man who had a very large number of sheep and cattle and a poor man who only had an ewe. A traveller came to the rich man and he wanted to prepare a meal for the traveller. Instead of taking one of his own sheep for the meal, this rich man went to the poor man and took his ewe lamb, which was his pride and joy and prepared it as a meal for the traveller.

David was furious at the rich man. He was shocked when Nathan said he was the rich man in the story. He had everything. Yet, he despised God and took the only wife of his faithful soldier and killed him.

David broke 5 of the 10 commandments. He coveted his soldier’s wife, he committed adultery, he bear false witness, he murdered and he stole his soldier’s wife.  

Because David had despised God, this child must die. This consequence was upon David and Bathsheba. But that was not the end of the story. David did not cast Bathsheba in the harem and forget her. No. Instead, they had 3 more children together. In the later years, as David grew old and weak, his son, Adonijah had claimed the throne. Bathsheba came to remind David that he had made a promise that their Solomon would be the next king. Whether or not he actually promised her this, we did not know. But David listened and trusted her. David then made Solomon the king.

In her older years, some traditions said that Bathsheba recited Proverbs 31 to Solomon on the day of his marriage, “charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeing; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”. Everything in the world will fade away some day: power will not last forever, beauty certainly does not. Even as the greatest king of Israel, David too had to step down and coronate the new king of Israel. But our relationship with God lasts forever.

God loves you and I too. When you and I make mistakes, we will have to bear with the consequences but God will always forgive us. We will be made clean.

After realising his sin, David prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12, NIV).

Psalm 51 is a beautiful psalm of repentance that David sang after his adultery with Bathsheba.

He asked for a pure heart and a joyful heart to obey God’s commands. He too, pleaded with God, not to leave him or take His Holy Spirit or from him. He desired for God. He yearned for God and to delight himself in the Lord again. 

God will discipline us because we are precious in His sight. He did not want us to continue in the wrong path. He wants to wake us up to the right path. When God speaks, we have to listen. He did not condemn us but bring us back to the path of salvation.   

The genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew highlighted the fact that Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife. It said, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (Matthew 1:6b). Although Jesus, the Saviour of the World, is perfect and holy, he did not come from perfect ancestry. We are not perfect, yet, in our own imperfections, we experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness. None of us can say we have never sinned. But we all can say we have tasted and see God’s love and mercy. How great and deep His love us for us. 

What is the love story of your life? May it be a sweet passion fruit that blesses you and your beloved. And that your passion fruit is an example to others, one that brings great rejoicing among friends and relatives, and one that glorifies God.

The Joy of Feasting on “Vegetables”?

“Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17, NIV).

I had a picnic lunch with my buddy, Su Juan, today. We enjoyed the scenery, the melodic chirpings of the birds flying above us, and the soft and gentle breeze blowing on our faces.

As a full-time pastor, I realise what I eat and drink is important to optimise my health for ministry. What we eat and drink are important for our well-being but our attitudes when we are receiving our food are equally important. We may be having an abundant feast with the finest of food and in the grandest of place, but if we are not thankful for what we have, or if we do not get along with the people we are dining with, we will not enjoy the meal.

The next time we sit down together for a meal with our companions, thank the Lord for them. It may be a simple meal, it may be with your parents, it may be with your closest friends, it may be with your colleagues. It is the companionship that counts. Look them in the eyes. Pay attention to what they are saying. Show that you care. Minister to them.  Enjoy each other’s presence.

Life is short. We should treasure the people in our lives and appreciate them while we still can. Don’t take them for granted.

10 Ways to Honour Our Parents (Part 1)

With Father’s Day just around the corner (I understand that different countries celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day on different days, but in Malaysia, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May, and Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June), let’s pause for a moment and thank God for our fathers and for all that they have done for us. God had commanded us to “Honour your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12, NIV). This commandment is the fifth one, and it is the first commandment regarding our relationship with others. The first four commandments are about our relationships to God.

The word “honour” (τίμα) is translated as: to determine the value of something. When we honour our parents, we are saying that they are so valuable in our eyes (as well as in God’s eyes).

How do we honour our parents? Here are 5 ways we can honour our parents (another 5 will be in the Part 2):

  1. Treat them with respect

When we show frustrations and resentments to our parents by our actions and speech, it shows that we are not grateful for all that they had done for us. Also, we are not respectful of the authority God has ordained to them.

They are one of the most important people to us. They deserve our respect in our actions, speech and behavior.

  1. Appreciate them

List down all the things that you appreciate about them. It can be the things they have done for you throughout the years, or what you love about them. Read the list to them on special occasions such as Parent’s Day, on their birthdays or on their wedding anniversaries. This activity reminds us to be grateful for all that they have done for us, making us the people we are today.

“Honour your father and mother” —which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3).

 

  1. Spend time with them and communicate with them

Visit your parents as often as you can. My dad still visits his mother once a week before the lockdown. If you are living in another town or country, calling them on the phone or video call them regularly. Sometimes life gets the better of us and we neglect spending time with our parents. But your visit or your call is definitely a highlight for them. They can’t wait to hear from you!

God had created us for relationships, and the first relationships we had were with our parents. Show them that we care by asking them about their day, ask them questions about their childhood or younger days, talk about the topics of their interest and listen to them. Such conversations will deepen the bonds with our parents.

  1. Speak your parents’ love language

In his book, “The 5 Love Languages”, Gary Chapman listed five love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. These love languages help to express and experience love between partners but I guess the same applies to our parents as well. Does your mother love to receive gifts? Does helping her with a chore bring her more delight? Does your father enjoy doing something together with you? Knowing your parents’ love languages will make them feel loved and appreciated.

  1. Pray for them (and with them)

Praying for our parents is one of the best gifts we can give them. Commit them into the loving hands of God. Pray for wisdom of the Lord to guide them in every decision they have to make. Pray for God’s peace and love to surround them. Pray also for protection for our aging parents as they may slip and fall.

Honouring our parents is our duty. Let’s do so with much joy and love. I will see you in the Part 2!