Bathsheba’s Scarlet Letter

Today’s Reading: Luke 7:37-50, Psalm 90

There are five women in the genealogy of Jesus – five women with stained reputations but also five women whom God chose to bless by placing them in this royal lineage. As Jesus was growing up, I am sure his parents taught him the stories of his ancestors.

What would Jesus have said regarding Bathsheba, the fourth woman in his paternal genealogy? Let’s look at her story – a story that includes foolishness, adultery, intense grief and finally redemption – a second chance.

Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah)
. – Matthew 1:5-6

The fact that Bathsheba is described in the genealogy of Jesus as the widow of Uriah is a reminder of the sin that brought her into this family tree. Bathsheba made a foolish decision that led to a weak moment which led to a tragic death of an innocent man, her husband.

In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” – 2 Samuel 11:1-5

David’s first mistake is that he was not where he should have been. He should have been on the battlefield with the Israelite army but chose to send them out alone. Bathsheba’s first mistake was similar. She was not where she should have been. Even if the weather was warm and a bath on the roof was permissible, she should have set up a covering to prevent anyone from being able to see her. Bathsheba would have been fully aware that she could be seen from the roof of the palace.

Ladies, there is a strong warning in here for us. We know when our choice of clothing draws the eyes of men. When we wear something that reveals more than it should, we are no less foolish than Bathsheba was for bathing on the rooftop.

“Stay ever so close to me, and you will not deviate from the path I have prepared for you.” This is great advice from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling devotional. This would have been good advice for David and Bathsheba. If they had stayed close to God, they would have been where they were supposed to be and would not have given into sexual immorality. Their union led to shame and an unplanned pregnancy, which led to a murder to cover up the transgression, which led to their grief when their son died seven days after birth.

David confessed his sin to the Lord and, although there were still some harsh consequences, God forgave David his sin (12:11-14). God blessed David and Bathsheba with another son and David named him Solomon. The Lord loved the child and sent word through Nathan the prophet that they should name him Jedidiah (which means “beloved of the Lord”), as the Lord had commanded. – 2 Samuel 12:24b-25

This is the story of how Bathsheba came to be in the lineage of Jesus. What would the young man, Jesus, have to say of this woman in his family story – the one with the “scarlet letter”?

When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”
Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” – Luke 7:37-50

If you can relate to Bathsheba’s foolish decisions and sinful behavior, if you understand the grief and regret she suffered, then perhaps these words are what you need to hear from the Prince of Peace himself, “Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” If you relate more to the Pharisees who stood in condemnation of the sinful woman who was kneeling at Jesus feet, if you have focused on the sins of another person instead of on their need for Jesus, then perhaps these words are also for you – “Your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”