2 Samuel 15:13-37
by Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
The eternal love of God, which had once created you out of nothing and then redeemed you from Adams’ curse through the sacrifice of his blood, could not bear to let you go on living so common a life far from him. And so, with exquisite kindness, he awakened desire within you, and binding it fast with the leash of loves’ longing, drew you closer to himself into what I have called the more Special manner of living. He called you to be his friend and, in the company of his friends, you learned to live the interior life more perfectly than was possible in the common way.
Cloud of Unknowing p38
Before I read our Old Testament lesson I want to take a few moments and fill in the story. Two weeks ago we looked at the story of David and Bathsheba. David committed adultery with her and then killed her husband, Uriah. Nathan, the prophet, confronted David. One of the statements Nathan made to David, as a word from God, was that “the sword shall never depart from your house.” In the stories that follow we see that become a reality.
Chapter thirteen in 2 Samuel starts with the gut-wrenching story of Tamar. She was David’s daughter and the brother of Absalom. Her step-brother, Amnon, raped her. When David heard about it he got angry, but he didn’t do anything. There was no punishment or consequences of any sort. Two years later Absalom got revenge by having Amnon killed. Absalom was worried how David would react, so he ran away. He was gone for three years. Again, David didn’t do anything, except for the fact that he missed Absalom. His heart was broken.
In chapter fourteen Joab, the general of the army and David’s right hand man, realized that David was grieving Absalom, so brought Absalom back to Jerusalem and helped the two of them reconcile.
In the fifteenth chapter Absalom started acting like a politician, drawing people to himself. He was a handsome young man and people started falling in love with him. Then he started a conspiracy and plotted to become king instead of his father. Over several years he was very successful. That is where we pick up our story.
Read 2 Samuel 15:13-17
At this point David’s world had fallen apart. He was a broken man, running for his life. As he ran away he carried the guilt of what he had done. He family was disintegrating. On top of that, he has lost control of his kingdom. However, David was still a brilliant leader, and if you read the rest of the story through 2 Samuel, you know that he regains his role as king of Israel. Part of what makes that possible is that David is blessed with some wonderful friends. As people leave the city of Jerusalem with David four people are mentioned.
Read 2 Samuel 15:18-23
These 600 Gittites who followed from the town of Gath, which was the town where Goliath had come from. Somehow David had won their love and loyalty. They were devoted to David.
One of the Gittites was named Ittai. David stopped him and told him to go back. Essentially he said, “You’re a foreigner and don’t owe me anything. Your life will be so much easier if you go back.” Ittai makes one of the most amazing statements of loyalty in the Bible. “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be” (2 Sam. 15:21). David ended up making Ittai a commander in his army.
After Ittai and the Gittites went by, a group of Levites followed. Two priests in particular were named. Read 2 Samuel 15:24-31. Abiathar and Zadok carried the ark of God. There were probably two other men but they weren’t named. Normally, the ark went with the king when he led the army out to war. It was a symbol of God’s presence and would bring victory. These Levites were part of the old guard. The religious establishment supported David. However, David sent them back to Jerusalem. There are two reasons he may have done this.
On the one hand, this may be an act of humility on David’s part. He recognized his own sin and wondered if God might have rejected him. He certainly had no claim on God. He didn’t want to use the ark inappropriately or try to manipulate God. He trusted that if God wanted him to be king God would bring him back.
On the other hand, knowing that Abiathar and Zadok were on his side allowed him to send them back into the city where they could act as spies for him. They would be right in the middle of the action and be able to keep David posted, to inform him about what Absalom was doing. They would have insider information. It was a dangerous job, but they were willing to do it.
We tend to prefer life in Black and White. Either this is humility and faith, or it is a cunning, strategic plan on David’s part. The Bible is not always so clear about life. Sometimes faith and sin are mixed together, God’s work and our work. In Philippians Paul said, “work out your salvation, for God is at work in you” (Phil. 2:12-13). Jesus even said “I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Mt. 10:16). That is what is happening in this passage. As David left Jerusalem he wept and mourned. But he also received a report about Ahithophel. David trusted God, but he also did whatever he could to get his kingdom back.
The fourth person to come along was Hushai the Archite. Read 2 Samuel 15:32-37. Before the rebellion Hushai had been one of David’s official advisors. David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem. Ahithophel had also been one of David’s advisors, but now was working for Absalom. David hoped and prayed that Hushai would counter Ahithophel’s influence. Hushai would also be a spy for David. But notice how Hushai is described – David’s friend.
A Brazilian pastor came to the United States. He had been very successful back in Brazil. He started a church that was thriving and that church had started other churches. He created a seminary to train new pastors. He’d written a number of books that were used by the Brazilian pastors. He was a big thing and had come to the United States to share some of his wisdom.
A young pastor was asked to pick him up from the airport and drive him around to the various places he needed to go – the hotel, the conference site where he was leading a workshop, a church where he was speaking. As they were driving from the hotel to the conference, the young pastor said, “Hey, do you want a cup of coffee?” The Brazilian pastor said, “Really? We have time? Wow, I’m honored! That would be great.”
The American pastor didn’t understand what the big deal was. He pulled into a drive-through coffee stand. The Brazilian pastor responded, “Ugh, you Americans. I feel so sorry for you. I thought you were asking to be my friend. I thought we were going to sit together and share life.”
Friends are an essential part of life. Our American culture tends to deny that. The ideal in our culture is being a strong individual who doesn’t need anyone else. Even the church encourages individualism. Just me-n-Jesus – that’s what counts. I’m convinced that God created us to need friends. Yes, we need God, but God often comes to us through our friends.
There are different types of friends. Some people are acquaintances. I go down to our local Y and work out. I’ve met a lot of people down there, many of them I would call friends. Some of them I even know their names. There’s one guy down there, I would guess he is about 65 years old. For least six months we worked out side-by-side. We would chit-chat a bit about the weather or the Steelers. One day we were talking and both admitted that we didn’t remember each other’s name. Now we play a game with each other. Whoever sees the other person first calls the other ones name across the gym. Every now and then I’ll hear him call out “Hey Dougie!” I always respond “Hey Davey!”
The next type of friend is what I would call a casual friend. It is a deeper relationship that acquaintances. We see them in a several different settings. We probably have some common interests and might like to do things together. We share ideas and thoughts with each other. We might even have enough of a friendship that we can disagree with each other.
The third level of friendships is close friends. These are people with whom we have similar life-goals and we share our faith. We socialize together and maybe even go on vacation together. To a certain level we probably are even able to share some of our struggles and questions and doubts, and even some of our emotions.
The fourth level of friendship is intimate friends. These are people we spend time with on a regular basis and we have a deep commitment with them. We are able to share life, both the good and the bad. We can tell them about our failures and our fears. It’s okay to reveal our deepest emotions. To be honest, in your life-time, if you have three or four people like this you are fortunate.
Friendships must be cultivated. They take time. David had spent a significant amount of time with the 600 Gittites. They were with him out in the wilderness before he became king and probably faced all sorts of trials with him. One of my most best friends is a pastor down in Tennessee. Obviously we don’t live near each other so we can’t spend time together like we used to during seminary. This week we were able to spend about an hour and a half on the phone, not only catching up with each other, but sharing our lives, our faith, our struggles and joys. What do you need to do to cultivate the friendships in your life?
True friendship takes also takes loyalty and commitment, especially close friends and intimate friends. Ittai, Abiathar and Zadok, and Hushai, were willing to stay with David, even if it meant risking their lives. What do you need to do to show your commitment to your friends?
About twenty five years ago I was at a Presbytery meeting. Laurel Neal came before the Presbytery hoping to be ordained. It is a daunting process. There are all sorts of hoops you have to jump through to become a Presbyterian Pastor. The last step is being examined by the Presbytery. You read your statement of faith and then the Presbytery, pastors and elders, get to ask you questions about anything. You have to try to satisfy the intellectual pastors who like to ask questions to show off their own knowledge, elders who haven’t a clue about the church or theology, and all types of people who have their own issues and they want to find out where you stand on them.
Laurel read her statement of faith and then answered three or four questions. Someone got up and asked a question something like this: “Tell us your understanding of Jesus and the work he has done for us.” Laurel gave all the right answers to that, and she ended by saying this. “I believe all of that is true, but to me personally, if I have to choose one idea about Jesus I believe he is my friend. He is the one who listens to me, who loves me even when I’m a jerk, who died because he wanted me to be his friend.”
We all need friends. So I invite you to cultivate your friendships, to work at your friendships, to spend time with your friends. Above all, I pray that you will know that Jesus is your friend.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
2 Samuel 12:15-25
by Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
It occurs to me that Jesus needed to call home in the middle of the hassles as much as I did. He was surrounded by people who wanted food and disciples who wanted a break. His heart was heavy from the death of John the Baptist. He needed a minute with someone who would understand… So he… chatted with the One he loved. He heard the sound of the home he missed. And he was reminded that when all hell breaks loose, all heaven draws near.
Max Lucado, “In the Eye of the Storm,” p82-3 (based on Matthew 14:19)
Riding Out the Storm
I grew up out in California. We didn’t have thunderstorms. I’ve lived most of my adult life in areas that do have thunderstorms, but every time a good storm comes along I still react like a little kid – excited and awed by their power. However, when life-storms hit us they are not fun at all. In the middle of a storm it feels as if life is out of control.
There are two types of life-storms. The first type catches us by surprise. These are the storms that are not the result of doing something wrong. Life and struggles just happen. I have a friend who is a fitness fanatic. She eats healthy foods and exercises all the time. She is 43 and is in better shape than most 23-year-olds, at least she was until last year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. We’ve had a bit of a storm here this week with Ron announcing that he is leaving. No one sinned or did anything wrong. It is just part of life, but it’s hard. It is a storm.
The second type of storm is our own fault. We do something that brings the storm into our lives. This is the type of storm that hit David’s life. Last week we looked at the beginning of the storm, the story of David and Bathsheba. David committed adultery and murder, and a whole list of other sins. When he was confronted with his sin he confessed his sin and was forgiven. But there were still the consequences of what he had done, and that caused the storm. That is where our passage today picks up. As David begins to put his life back together, he tries to ride out the storm. What I want to do this morning is look at how David did that because what he did is a good example for us as we ride out the storms of our lives, whether we have caused them or they are totally unexpected.
The first thing David did was to confess his sin. After Nathan confronted him he admitted what he had done. “I have sinned against the Lord.” If we are in any way responsible for our storm we need to start with confession. We looked at this last week so I’m not going to spend time it.
The second action that David took was to pray and fast. Nathan confronted David and then he left. Right after that the child got sick. David’s first response was to pray. “David prayed desperately to God for the little boy.” He also fasted which is a form of prayer. For seven days David’s life was focused on praying that God would let his son live. This was one of those times when God’s answer to prayer is “No.” The baby died. Nevertheless, the first thing David did to ride out the storm was to pray.
Ten to fifteen years ago Tanya and I read a series of novels by Susan Howatch. They are psychological/spiritual thrillers. One of them was called “Glamorous Powers.” Jon Darrow was an Anglican priest who had lived in a monastery for seventeen years. Then he had a vision that made him leave the monastery. The story is about how he deals with the storms that happen as he goes out into the world. At one point Darrow said this about prayer:
You must never think for one moment that a trained religious person necessarily prays more effectively than a devout layman. Prayer's the great leveler. Anyone can do it, and the only pity is that more people don't try.
Darrow’s words remind me of another quote I heard one time – actually in a sermon.
Prayer is our greatest privilege. Prayer is our greatest power. Prayer is also the most neglected part of the Christian life.
I don’t make any claim to be an expert at prayer. I struggle with praying as much anyone else. In some ways I feel very confident and comfortable with my prayer life. In other ways I know that I have lots of room to improve. What I want to suggest to you is that prayer is an essential part of riding out the storm.
Sharon church has gone through and is going through a storm. Therefore we need to pray. That certainly includes prayer by individuals. Each of you needs to spend time in prayer. That also includes groups of people gathering together on a regular basis to pray. What would happen if Session and all of our committees spent as much time praying as they did doing business? Maybe we need to start some small groups that focus on prayer or hold special prayer meetings. It would be wonderful if Sharon church became known as a house of prayer. I don’t know what that would look like. However, I believe God is calling Sharon to prayer. As we ride out the storms of life, God wants us to pray.
The third action David takes to ride out the storm is to worship. As soon as David heard that the child had died. “David got up from the floor, washed his face and combed his hair, put on a fresh change of clothes, then went into the sanctuary and worshiped” (2 Sam. 12:20 The Message). To put his life back together David worshipped.
Prayer, asking God for help is part of worship, so there is a connection with the first thing David did. However, worship involves more than just prayer. Worship is first and foremost adoration and praise. The word that is translated worship in our passage means to bow down, to acknowledge that God is superior. In the midst of a storm, when life is a struggle, one of the best things you can do is to praise God, to give thanks for the blessings that are still part of your life. Yes, Ron is leaving, but there are a lot of people staying and new people coming, people with gifts and talents. Maybe money is a struggle for you right now or you lost your job, but you still have enough of food to eat, and if you don’t have enough food I know of a wonderful food pantry that will help you. Maybe you’re facing some other struggle right now, but the birds are still singing and the flowers blooming. The beauty of creation surrounds us every day. In the midst of the storm spend time in worship, praising God for the many blessings that are still part of your life.
For David, worship probably included some sort of sacrifice. He may have killed a lamb and then eaten it, or poured oil or flour on the altar. Since Jesus offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice we don’t typically think of sacrifice as part of worship, but it is. You could be anywhere else this morning, but you have sacrificed your time to come here to worship. In a little bit we will take up our offering. You could spend that money in many other ways, but instead you sacrifice it by giving it to God.
Worship normally includes the Bible. For David that may have included writing or praying one of the Psalms or reading and remembering the story of the Exodus. We are so privileged to have access to the Bible, to God’s word for our lives.
I could talk for an hour about worship and how your presence helps worship. I could tell jokes about worship that would make you laugh, or at least chuckle a little bit. I could tell stories that would either make you cry or at least make you think. Your presence in worship helps me as a preacher and encourages everyone else who comes to worship. But I want you to hear why worship is so important. Worship is the place we come together to encounter the One who helps us through the storm. Worship is the place we come so that we can center our lives in God and are given the strength to live out of that center. Through regular participation in worship we can and will ride out the storms.
There is a fourth thing that David does to ride out the storm – he accepts the reality of his situation. For seven days David didn’t do anything except pray and fast. By the time he learned that his son had died there was a distinct aroma around David. Often, in a crisis, people ignore the daily routines of life – brushing your teeth and showering. The first thing David did was to get cleaned up. He took a shower and maybe even shaved. He changed his clothes. After fasting for seven days he was also hungry so he went and ate. Accepting the reality of the situation meant returning to the normal activities of life. In the passage that follows right after the one I read David joins his army in a battle against the Ammonites. That is where he should have been in the first place, to avoid this whole problem. He went back to the routines that were a normal part of his life.
David also accepted the reality of the situation by realizing that his son was gone. Nothing he could do now would bring him back. Look at verse 19. “Can I bring him back now? I can go to him, but he can’t come to me.” Part of riding out the storm is accepting the reality of the situation in which you find yourself.
Accepting reality seems obvious and simple, but it isn’t. One of great struggles of getting older is accepting that reality. People deny the reality that they no longer should be living on their own or driving. One of the hurdles that alcoholics face is the denial that they have a problem. We all have a tendency to deny our own sinfulness. We can point out everyone else’s, but accepting our own is not easy.
The way to survive the storms of life is to accept the reality of what life is like now. What changes will you need to make, in what you do and how you think? Get up, take a shower and change your clothes. Eat some food and move on, by accepting the reality of life.
Finally, the fifth way to ride out the storm is to serve other people. David went and comforted Bathsheba. He spent time with her and consoled her. There is an interesting detail about this story that I have never noticed before. Back in chapter 11 David saw a beautiful woman and wanted to learn something about her. He found out that her name was “Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (2 Sam. 11:3). Her name is not mentioned again in the story until our passage this morning. She is referred to as Uriah’s wife but not by her name. She is an object to be used and enjoyed, not a human being to be appreciated and loved. Her son is sick but there is nothing about David sharing the struggle with her. Finally, in our passage this morning it says that David went and consoled his wife Bathsheba.
When you are struggling with life, one of the best ways get through the storm is to serve other people. There are times when I’ve been down or struggled with depression. I’ve found that one of the best ways to get past that is to go visit other people, to listen to their stories, their struggles and their pain. It does two things. First, listening to others and focusing on their situation is a distraction from your own situation. It takes your mind off your own problems. Second, it helps you to realize that there are other people who are hurting just as much as you are, maybe even more. To ride out the storms of your life, become a servant, comforting and caring for other people, serving them in whatever way you can.
In the passage that Richard read the disciples got into a boat with Jesus. As they crossed the Sea of Galilee a storm came up. Being a follower of Jesus does not mean that we won’t have storms in our lives. Jesus never said that we won’t face storms. But the good news is that in the midst of the storm Jesus is with us. The disciples survived the storm because Jesus was with them.
We can ride out any storm, by spending time in prayer, by participating in worship, by accepting reality, and by serving other people. Above all, in the midst of our storms let us remember that Jesus is with us.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing.
2 Samuel 11:27-12:14
by Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
The account of David’s great sin contained in these chapters (2 Sam. 11-12) reflects the absolute honesty of the biblical treatment of God’s chosen servants. Moral obliquity (immorality) is not painted in pastel shades to save the reputation of “the Lord’s anointed.”… The Bible is concerned to maintain the glory of God, not of any individual human being, whatever his earthly fame, his trappings, or his title. Ganse Little, “Interpreter’s Bible; vol. 2”
David & Bathsheba!
Every time a respected public figure is caught in some sort of sin it feels like a kick in the gut. The fact that these stories bother us suggests that our worldview is not as biblically based as we think. The Bible is bluntly honest about Biblical heroes and their sins. The Bible doesn’t try to glorify humans as much as it focuses on glorifying God.
David’s story is probably the best example of this. Today we are looking at what is probably the most notorious of these stories – David and Bathsheba. 2 Samuel 11 tells the story of what happened. I’ll review that in a moment, in case you don’t remember. Our passage this morning starts with the last verse of chapter 11 and describes how God responds to David’s sin. Listen to God’s word. “2 Samuel 11:27-12:14”
The story is well known. Rather than going out with his army David stayed home and saw a beautiful woman, Bathsheba. He had her brought to him and raped her. Bathsheba got pregnant. David tried to cover it up by bringing home her husband, Uriah, from the war. Uriah, who was a Hittite not a Hebrew, followed the Hebrew law by not going in to his wife.
David came up with plan B. He sent Uriah back to the war front, carrying a letter for Joab, the general in charge of the war. The letter contained instructions to have Uriah killed. I’m always struck by the fact that Uriah carried his own death sentence to Joab. Joab carried out the instructions. Uriah was killed in the war and David took Bathsheba as his wife. At that point David thought that he had gotten away with it. He was the king. He can do what he wants, and he does, including rape, adultery, lying and murder. A few people knew, or suspected what had happened, but they certainly wouldn’t say anything.
However, God also knew. God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. In chapter 11 the verb “sent” is used six times to talk about what David does. David sent his army out to fight against the Ammonites. David sent messengers out to find out who the good looking woman was and then sent the messengers to bring her back to his room. David sent two messages to Joab. At the end of the story David sent messengers to bring Bathsheba to his house so he could marry her. David is a man of power. He is the king. He takes whatever he wants. He sends and people act. He can do anything, until God sends.
Nathan has the unenviable job of confronting the king, but he does it brilliantly. He tells a story about a rich man and a poor man. Not much is said about the rich man – he has plenty of sheep and cattle. The poor man is described with great detail, in a positive light. He has only one sheep and he treats it like a daughter. He loves his sheep. It is part of his family. The rich man has a visitor so he steals the sheep from the poor man to feed his guests. As the king, David was used to handing out judgments in cases like this. He heard the story and decided that the rich man was guilty and deserved to die, but at least would have to buy four lambs for the poor man. What David doesn’t realize is that the story is a parable and he is the rich man. He passed judgment on himself. It is only when Nathan says “You are the man” that David realized that the story was about his own sin and what he did to Bathsheba and Uriah. He confessed his sin and listened to God’s judgment against him. That is the story. What I’d like to do is share with you three truths about this story, three truths about sin. [8:00]
First, God sees our sin, and to God sin is evil. There is a natural and understandable tendency to hide our sins. We might be able to fool everybody else and maybe even convince ourselves that we haven’t done anything wrong. But God always knows.
The first verse I read says that “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” The Hebrew actually says that it was evil in God’s eyes. There is a play on words here that isn’t translated. Back in chapter 11 Joab sent a report to David saying that Uriah had been killed in the battle. However, the way the battle was described suggests that Joab had not been a very good commander. David acted upset at Joab’s mistakes, until he heard that Uriah was killed. In chapter 11 verse 25 David sent a message back to Joab saying “Don’t let this matter trouble you.” Literally, the Hebrew says “Don’t let this be evil in your eyes.” But this thing was evil in God’s eyes.
David was so caught up in his sin that he didn’t even recognize that the story Nathan told was about him. He had been on the downward spiral of sin for so long that his perception of reality was distorted. He was in complete denial about his sin.
Grampa Joe was a coal miner in the hills of eastern Kentucky. He lived hard, worked hard, and drank hard for most of his life. When Grampa Joe was sober he was the beloved patriarch of his clan. His grandchildren loved to sit on his lap as he told them stories. But a couple times a year Grampa Joe went on a drinking binge and disappeared for weeks at a time, choosing whiskey and brothels over his wife and family.
Late in his life Grampa Joe got liver disease from the alcohol and black-lung disease from the coal mines. He was in hospice, waiting to die. His daughter was a Christian. She desperately wanted her dad to know about Jesus’ love and to become a Christian. She sat with him for several hours and carefully presented the message of the gospel, how our sins can be forgiven through Christ and we can have eternal life.
Grandpa Joe listened politely and then said to her, “I don’t believe I’ve ever sinned.” She was surprised at that. Everyone knew about his lifestyle. She said, “But Grampa, we’ve all done bad things. Can’t you think of just one thing you’ve done wrong?” He thought for a moment, and said, “Well, yeah, I guess. There was one time when I voted Republican.”
It’s easy to laugh at Grampa Joe, but let’s be honest. We do the same thing. We deny our own sins or at least downplay how serious they are. We are much better at noticing the sins of others than admitting our own sinfulness. We may not recognize the sin of our lives, but God does. That is one reason why it is so important to confess our sins together every week with the prayer of confession. As the passage that Sara read from 1 John points out, if we claim that we are not sinners and haven’t sinned, we are lying. Everyone has sinned. And the problem with sin is that it is evil. It breaks our relationship with God and destroys our lives.
Scott Peck wrote the bestseller, The Road Less Traveled. He asked his eight-year-old son what evil was. His son answered, “That’s easy, Daddy. Evil is live spelled backwards.” Sin is evil and is anything that keeps us from living the life that God wants us to live. We may deny our sin but God sees it and knows that it is evil. Our only hope is to admit that we are sinners and need to be forgiven.
The second lesson has to do with the consequences of sin. The obvious consequence is that sin breaks our relationship with God and with the person we sinned against, in our story Bathsheba and Uriah. However, the consequences go much deeper.
Nathan told David that his sin was forgiven. “The Lord has put away your sin”(2 Sam. 12:13) is how Nathan says it. However, as a consequence of David’s sin the son born to Bathsheba died. On top of that, David’s household, for generations was filled with conflict. As Nathan says, “the sword will never depart from your house” (2 Sam. 12:10). As we look at David’s story the next couple of weeks it will be obvious that his family was messed up, completely dysfunctional. At least part of the reason for that was David’s own sin. The consequence of sin is felt far beyond the person who sinned.
That is a message that our culture does not want to hear. There are at least two reasons for that. First, many people don’t even like the idea that there should be consequences at all. “God forgives us. There shouldn’t be any consequences.” Yes, God forgives us. Our relationship with God is restored. However, we still need to deal with the consequences of our sin. If you abuse the body that God has given you God will forgive you. It won’t destroy your relationship with God, but you still will need to deal with what you have done to your body.
The second problem is that our culture is so individualistic that the idea of one person suffering the consequence of another person’s sin is beyond our imagination. It doesn’t seem right that the child should die because David sinned. It doesn’t seem fair that David’s sins should have consequences that last for generations. Yet that is what Nathan said would happen.
Our society likes to talk about “victimless sin,” sin that doesn’t hurt anybody else. Sexual sin is the most obvious example, a relationship between two consenting adults. There is no such thing sin that doesn’t impact others. I want to be careful because you can’t always say there is a direct correlation between a sin that one person commits and what happens to someone else. But we need to realize that in some way or another, sin always impacts other people.
The third truth, is that God forgives our sin. After Nathan tells David this story and confronts him, David said “I have sinned against the Lord.” He doesn’t make excuses or blame someone else for his sin. He confesses and acknowledges that he is completely dependent on God’s mercy. He trusts in God’s grace as his only source of hope and comfort.
Our prayer of confession this morning was based on Psalm 51. The heading to Psalm 51 says “A Psalm of David, when the prophet Nathan came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba” (Psalm 51). David admits that he has sinned. “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). Sin is like dirt that we cannot get off by our own power. David acknowledges that his only hope is God’s mercy. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow… Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:7,10).
In my first church I was an associate pastor, and most of the time I led the prayer of confession and assurance of forgiveness. To be honest, I got rather bored leading that. Often the written prayer didn’t match the sins that I knew I had committed. Other times I couldn’t think of any specific sins that I had committed, or at least hadn’t yet confessed. About ten to fifteen years ago that started to change for me. Leading the prayer of confession and assurance of forgiveness became one of my favorite parts of worship. I don’t think it is because I’m sinning more, at least I hope not, but I have become more aware of my sinfulness and aware of God’s holiness along with God’s grace and mercy.
I appreciate having a liturgist up here to help lead worship. However, the liturgist usually leads the confession and assurance, so I never get to say one of my favorite lines in worship. I’m going to repeat it right now.
Friends, we have all sinned. We are all sinners.
Hear and believe the good news;
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven. Alleluia! Amen!
I invite you, right now, to take about thirty seconds and pray. As you sit in silence confess any sins that you know you know you need to confess. Ask God if there are any sins that you need to confess. As you pray, confessing your sin, do it with the assurance that through Jesus’ death on the cross we are forgiven.
Let us pray…
Holy and merciful God, we come before you and admit that we are not worthy. The best we have to offer falls short of your glory and our lives are filled with sin. Our only hope is Jesus Christ, who died for our sin. Forgive us. Create in us clean hearts, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
2 Samuel 9:1-13
By Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
Thought for Meditation:
The gospel’s open secret is that strength is found in weakness. Crippled people know that they need a Savior. The goal isn’t to avoid disability. The goal is to find the Savior. And our dis-ability is always the means for discovering the Savior’s ability. Adapted from Craig Barnes.
Mephibosheth – WHO?
This morning we are returning to the story of David. Let me see if I can catch us up. We didn’t look at the first part of David’s story, back in 1 Samuel. Many of those stories are familiar. As a young boy David is chosen to be the next king of Israel, David and Goliath, David sings for Saul and becomes best friends with Saul’s son, Jonathan. That story actually plays a part in today’s story because David and Jonathan make a covenant with each other. Saul eventually turns against David and tries to kill him, so David runs away and lives out in the wilderness with a band of rebels and outcasts. 1 Samuel ends with Saul and Jonathan both being killed by the Philistines.
The story continues in 2 Samuel. In chapter 4 there is a short paragraph about Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. At first it seems like an irrelevant story, trivia that isn’t important. I’ll tell you more about it in a few minutes. Chapter 5 is where we started looking at David’s story. He becomes king of the united kingdom of Israel. He moves the capital to Jerusalem and brings the ark into the city. Then we looked at God’s covenant with David in chapter 7.
At that point David was at the peak of his life and faith. Everything went his way. He was securely established as the king. His government was well organized and his enemies were defeated. And so he paused and reflected on his life. That is where we pick up our story, in 2 Samuel 9. Read 2 Samuel 9:1-13
I love the name Mephibosheth. It’s easy to mess up but fun to say. Mephibosheth spent the first part of his life in fear. The passage back in chapter 4 tells us that his dad and his grandfather were both killed by the Philistines when he was only five years old. The nurse who took care of Mephibosheth knew that the Philistines would try to find and kill any of Jonathan’s sons, who would be heirs to the throne. She picked Mephibosheth up and ran away. As she was running she tripped and dropped the young boy and he broke both of his ankles. There weren’t any good orthopedic surgeons back then so Mephibosheth lived the rest of his life crippled. He knew that if the Philistines found out where he was they would kill him. Yet he was unable to run away.
He probably was also afraid of David. Saul probably told stories about David and his band of guerillas. Then David became king and Mephibosheth assumed that he was in great danger. In that culture, when a new king was anointed he typically killed all the surviving heirs of the previous king to make sure that they didn’t try to become king. For years Mephibosheth lived in fear, lived with his disability, hiding from the Philistines and David. I wonder if his heart skipped a beat when David’s servants finally knocked on the door.
Many people live crippled by fear. Maybe you have physical limitations that fill you with anxiety. Maybe you were abused as a child or are still in an abusive relationship. Maybe you did something in your past and have a constant fear that people will find out what you did and who you are. We all have fears that cripple us, and every time someone knocks on the door of our lives we cower and put up our defenses to try to keep ourselves safe.
David wanted to know if Jonathan, his best friend, had any children. The covenant that they made with each other was that if something happened to one of them the other would care for the family of the one who had died. So David asked “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Sam. 9:1). The word for kindness in Hebrew is hesed. It’s one of the great words of the Old Testament, but is difficult to translate. It includes love and compassion but it also includes a gracious commitment to help the other person. It is the word that is often used to describe God’s love for us.
Ziba, who was one of Saul’s servants, told David that the only heir he knew of was someone that he didn’t need to worry about. “He’s a cripple.” Ziba didn’t even say his name. “Don’t worry about him. He’s insignificant. He lives out in Lo-debar” which means a place where there is no pasture. It’s barren land. Lo-debar is the place we all live when we are defined by our weakness, when we live out of our fear.
David wasn’t looking for Mephibosheth to get rid of him, but to show his love and commitment to Jonathan. He wanted to surround Jonathan’s son with hesed. David didn’t care that he was crippled. He wasn’t worried about how it happened or whether Mephibosheth would try to take his throne. He just wanted to where he was. He asked Ziba “Where is he?”
That is the question that God asks about us. When Adam hid from God in the garden of Eden God came and asked “Where are you?” Whenever we hide from God he wants to know – “Where are you?” Not “What happened? How did you mess up this time? Who’s to blame for this problem?” Just, “Where are you?”
David’s servants brought Mephibosheth to his house, his royal palace. Mephibosheth probably thought his life was over. David would kill him as the last of Saul’s heirs. He threw aside his crutches, fell on his face and begged for his life. David calls him by name. “Mephibosheth!” He’s not an enemy. He’s not a threat. He’s not an insignificant crippled man. He is a person with a name, a human being, the son of his best friend.
When God thinks of you he doesn’t think of you just as part of a group. “You belong to Sharon Church.” You’re not a number. “Your #278645. Let me look up your file and see what it says about you.” God doesn’t look at you and think “He’s that sinner.” Or, “She’s that one with all the problems.” God knows your name. “You’re Todd, Joan, Rhiannon.”
Then David offered to Mephibosheth an amazing promise. “Don’t be afraid, for I will show you kindness, for the sake of your father Jonathan; I will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul, and you yourself shall eat at my table always” (2 Sam. 9:7). Essentially David adopts Mephibosheth as his own son.
It is obvious in this story that Mephibosheth does not deserve what he gets. David shows him kindness, hesed, not because he has earned it, not because he is worthy, but because David had made a covenant with Jonathan. It was “for Jonathan’s sake” that he did this (2 Sam. 9:7).
Mephibosheth was a disabled man, who lived in constant fear and who couldn’t do much of anything for David. Yet David showed kindness to Mephibosheth. He restored Saul’s land and servants, which would bring Mephibosheth plenty of money to live. He invited Mephibosheth to eat at his own table, which was not only a provision of food but an invitation to an intimate relationship and a position of honor.
David sought out Mephibosheth, to show him kindness, to bless him and restore him to a place of honor, to welcome him to his table and adopt him into his family. In the same way, through Jesus Christ, God has sought us out, to surround us with hesed, to restore us to a place of honor, to welcome us to His table, and to adopt us as his beloved children.
This is a story of grace, grace that God offers to everyone who lives in fear, grace for those who live in barren places, grace given to those who have nothing to give. This is grace for you and for me. God welcomes us into a relationship of intimacy and invites us to a table of fellowship. God doesn’t do this because of our inherent value. He does it for the sake of his son, Jesus Christ. This is just who God is, and what God does.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.