by Interim Pastor Doug Marshall
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!
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.