Posts Tagged ‘conscience’

2 SAMUEL 11:1-15

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day,13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

When Bathsheba the mistress discovered she was pregnant by David, she informed him of it. That’s when David’s strategy for self-defense kicked into high gear. He brought Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, home from the battlefront and told him to go to his house and “wash his feet” – a Hebraic euphemism for having sexual intercourse. His hope was that Bathsheba’s pregnancy would be attributed to Uriah’s lucky leave of absence, and that he would get off the hook.

When Uriah refused to have sexual relations with his wife – for it was the time of battle and his compatriots were risking their lives in the field – David got him drunk and tried again, but to no avail. Uriah’s commitment was wholeheartedly to the crown, even as the crown was destroying his home.

As if that weren’t enough, inclination and opportunity intersected one more time and David made arrangements for Uriah to be struck down in battle. Perhaps he was thinking that with Uriah eliminated as a possible witness for the prosecution, he could then foster the ‘leave of absence’ theory for Bathsheba’s motherly state. (Then again, there were those servants who had been with Uriah on each occasion of David’s attempted cover-up.) His window of opportunity for honesty and repentance was quickly closing. Observe the coiling fate of a desperate man!

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MARK 6:14-29

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.”16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

17 For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. 18 For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him. 21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee. 22 When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” 23 And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.” 25 Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.27 Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The degeneration of King Herod as a human being, descending the way of ‘harmless’ fantasies, swelling impulses, a growing disregard for conscience, the fateful decision, maneuvers in self-justification, an attempted cover-up, and finally adding murder to infidelity, presents us with a negative image of our unique capacity among God’s creatures. The tree and the bird each unfolds in its development according to the design and potential of their distinct natures. Their beauty is what we could call an ‘instinctive’ beauty, flowing out through natural tendencies and inherited patterns.

Human beings, in addition to having an instinctive nature, are conspicuous among the animal kingdom for being morally free, which means that our destiny as a species has been given to a great extent into our own hands. We can feel the drive of impulse in our organs and blood, but we can also discern the voice of conscience calling us to acts of fidelity, love, and self-sacrifice.

At some point in the progression of Herod’s guilt – a point that would preferably h come early rather than too late – there was a pause, a hesitation, a second thought. At that precise moment he was free to weigh the moral virtue and predictable consequences of his impending choice. Had he successfully uprooted the fantasy of his attraction to Herodias, or repented of his wrongful act when inwardly or outwardly convicted, he could have elected for a different path altogether. Instead of conspiring in the assassination of one of God’s prophets, Herod could have become an inspiring example of integrity and godly character.