• Dr Harold Koch

Abuse of power is not new

Abuse of power is all too frequently in the news these days. Far too often, people in authority use their privileged positions to indulge their own desires and in so doing cause harm to those for whom they are responsible. Elaborate scheming may take place to cover up these misdemeanours.

Many instances from foreign governments could be cited, but closer to home we’ve seen examples in business corporations and even religious institutions. And we hear of all too many cases of abuse within family contexts.

This is not new. Similar examples can be found in the Bible—including the story told in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. Here is one of the most shameful episodes in biblical history. And yet, surprisingly, it concerns one of the greatest heroes of biblical history, King David, who was later taken as the model for God’s messiah.

This king, who was specially chosen by God, did much to ensure the security and unity of the nation of Israel, and was known for his devotion to God, which was expressed in the many psalms he composed.

And yet he indulged in adultery with Bathsheba and devised an elaborate scheme to cover up her resulting pregnancy by having her husband Uriah killed as an apparent casualty of war.

God sent the prophet Nathan to confront the king with his misdeeds. This encounter stands as a great example of someone speaking truth to power with courage and creativity. By telling David a story which appealed to the king’s instincts as an administrator of justice, it was actually a parable of his own conduct.

The king immediately perceived the heartless injustice of the situation and declared “the man who did this deserves to die”. Nathan’s words “thou are the man” made David realise how heartlessly abusive his conduct was, and how offensive to God. There would be consequences of his actions which would bring calamity to David’s family and even the nation—even though God offered forgiveness.

To his credit, David promptly accepted God’s rebuke, acknowledged that he had sinned, and accepted the disciplinary results of his sin. David expressed his gratitude for God’s forgiveness in the beautiful penitential psalm that we have as Psalm 51—including words still used in our liturgies, such as: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

- an excerpt from a sermon preached by Dr Harold Koch on Sunday 29 July at 11.15 am.

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