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Back to all sermons The Life of David

Date: April 28, 2019

Speaker: Eric Stillman

Series: The Life of David

Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:1–12:25

Over the past few months, we’ve been going through the life of David as recorded in the books of 1 & 2 Samuel, and this morning we are up to 2 Samuel 11. At this point in the story, David has become king over all of Israel and has been reigning for about 20 years, and things are going really well. David is a man after God’s heart, the slayer of Goliath, and defeater of the Philistines. He has restored peace and security to Israel, and brought back the ark of the covenant, the presence of God, to the center of life in Jerusalem. He writes Psalms and loves the Lord. Basically, David seems to be an all-around good guy and hero. And then comes chapter 11, in my opinion one of the most jaw-dropping chapters in the whole Bible.

 

2 Samuel 11 - In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.  2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful,  3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"  4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home.  5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, "I am pregnant."  6 So David sent this word to Joab: "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent him to David.  7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going.  8 Then David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him.  9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master's servants and did not go down to his house.  10 When David was told, "Uriah did not go home," he asked him, "Haven't you just come from a distance? Why didn't you go home?"  11 Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!"  12 Then David said to him, "Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next.  13 At David's invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master's servants; he did not go home.  14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah.  15 In it he wrote, "Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die."  16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were.  17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David's army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.  18 Joab sent David a full account of the battle.  19 He instructed the messenger: "When you have finished giving the king this account of the battle,  20 the king's anger may flare up, and he may ask you, 'Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn't you know they would shoot arrows from the wall?  21 Who killed Abimelech son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn't a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you get so close to the wall?' If he asks you this, then say to him, 'Also, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.'"  22 The messenger set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say.  23 The messenger said to David, "The men overpowered us and came out against us in the open, but we drove them back to the entrance to the city gate.  24 Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king's men died. Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead."  25 David told the messenger, "Say this to Joab: 'Don't let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.' Say this to encourage Joab."  26 When Uriah's wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.  27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

 

You think???

 

What a stunning passage. To recap – David sees a woman bathing. He covets her, sends for her, sleeps with her, and impregnates her. And then he tries to cover it up, first by bringing her husband home and trying to get him to go be with his wife, and then, when that doesn’t work, he has the man, Uriah the Hittite, killed in battle. To make matters worse, do you know who the Uriah the Hittite is? 2 Samuel 23:24-39 lists 30 of David’s mighty men, men who stuck by David’s side and fought for him when he was on the run for his life. The last one listed is Uriah the Hittite. Uriah was a man devoted to David, and David betrayed him and then had him killed. Stunning.

 

We have a lot to learn from this passage about the nature of temptation and sin, and as we look at the chapter 12, God’s forgiveness and redemption. This is the kind of passage that has the potential to save your life, so listen carefully. I want to look at four things we learn from this passage about the problem of sin, and three things we learn about solution of grace.

 

The problem of sin

 

  • The slippery slope of sin

 

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army... But David remained in JerusalemWhat a telling opening line of this chapter. All the terrible things that will happen in this chapter and in David’s future can only happen because David is not where he should be. Not only that, but the author continues in verse 2 to say “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing.” Now, many people took afternoon siestas, but here is King David, getting out of bed in the evening. David is getting lazy. And as they say, idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

 

Isn’t this how a fall into sin so often begins? With just a small step away from where you should be, one step away from abiding in Christ. The slippery slope of sin begins when you are no longer walking with God, when you are no longer connected to Him. You know there are important things to be done or places you should be, but you can’t get out of bed, or you can’t turn off the TV or the computer or put your phone away. You know it’s a bad idea to be driving by the liquor store, or to go online shopping, or to be watching a certain kind of movie, or to click on that link, or to text that person, or look him up on Facebook, or sit with her at lunch, or to be rummaging through your snack cabinet for food, or to say something you know you shouldn’t. It’s only a small step, you tell yourself. But the truth is that if you could only resist that first, small step, it would prevent the slide that inevitably will happen. After all, it’s so much easier to destroy an acorn than to fell an oak tree.

 

Even before 2 Samuel 11, there is evidence of David’s slide. Look at 5:12-13:

 

2 Samuel 5:12-13 - And David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.  13 After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him.

 

This contradicted God’s words about choosing a king and how he should resist taking many wives:

 

Deuteronomy 17:14-15,17 - When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,"  15 be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses…  17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.

 

Polygamy is never a good idea in the Bible, and that’s one of the reasons you have to understand how to read the Bible, that it’s not a collection of moral examples to emulate. Just because David had many wives does not mean God was in favor of that. With David, having many women did not abate his sex drive but increased it – even though he had a harem, he still coveted Bathsheba. Giving in to sex drive does not make it go away, but makes you want more. Similarly, giving in to temptation does not make the desire go away, but only feeds it and makes it come back stronger the next time.

 

So here we have David growing in complacency, pride, power, and lust – he can have anything he wants. And with every step away from God’s will, it becomes harder to stop.

 

  • The deceptiveness of temptation

 

In temptation – whether sexual, spending money, lying, cheating, alcohol, gossip, or anything else – what happens is that you are often captivated by the excitement, the adventure, the thrill, but you never have the clear-headed ability to contemplate the long-term result. You are never told the future, that this decision will ruin your family, ruin your life, or ruin your reputation. In David’s case, this misstep – looking at a naked woman bathing - will lead to adultery, murder, lying, the division of his kingdom, rebellion of his children, and the loss of favor of the people. From that perspective, do you think the momentary pleasure was really worth it? But that is what happens when we are tempted. All we can see before us is what we want. Our temptation blinds us to how the cigarette will lead to lung cancer, or the half gallon of ice cream will lead to heart disease, or how the flirtation will lead to the destruction of our family, or how the lie will lead to us losing our job. Temptation is so deceitful. Remember what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:14 - Satan masquerades as an angel of light. The devil doesn’t come with a tail and a pitchfork but in a coworker’s smile, or in a commercial for beer showing friends having a great time, or in a friend’s Facebook picture of something you don’t have. Temptation and sin are deceptive, promising something great and then delivering destruction.

 

  • The universality of evil

 

Let me ask you: do you read this story and say, “I could never do that.” Do you think that you are somehow better than David, that you are not capable of this? That if you had unlimited power and everyone serving you, you wouldn’t be in danger of becoming complacent, lustful, and proud either? We are all capable of this. Often the only thing holding us back is the fear of being caught. Be honest – if you knew you would not get caught and there would be no repercussions or consequences, would you still live with as much moral restraint as you do? If you were invisible, what would you do? If you had absolute power, what would you be capable of?

 

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 - So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!  13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 

This capacity for wickedness that caused David to steal a man’s wife and have him killed resides in every human heart.

 

Let’s step back from this story for a minute to understand how to read the Bible. A big mistake many people make is to see the Bible as a collection of morality tales, to see people like David as examples of what we are to be like. Yes, there are times when he is a model for us, but the hero of this story is clearly not David. It is God. It is always God.

 

The Bible is not a collection of morality tales. The Bible is the story of the incredible grace of God, His undeserved love and favor given to men and women who do not deserve it, who continually resist it, and who don’t even appreciate it once they have experienced it. It is God choosing David, taking him from the hillside watching sheep to make him king, blessing him with an everlasting lineage despite his shortcomings. Just look at the so-called heroes of the faith: Abraham lies and puts his wife in danger; Moses doesn’t trust God and disobeys God in the wilderness; Jacob is a scoundrel; Joseph is arrogant; Paul kills Christians, and so on, but God still chooses them and uses them.

 

But this is not the end of the story. Let’s continue in chapter 12:

 

 NIV 2 Samuel 12 - The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.  2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,  3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.  4 "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."  5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."  7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  8 I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.  9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.  10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'  11 "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.  12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'"  13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.  14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die."  15 After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill.  16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground.  17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.  18 On the seventh day the child died. David's servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, "While the child was still living, we spoke to David but he would not listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate."  19 David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. "Is the child dead?" he asked. "Yes," they replied, "he is dead."  20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.  21 His servants asked him, "Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!"  22 He answered, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.'  23 But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me."  24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him;  25 and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.

 

Three things we learn from this passage about the solution of grace, and one more about the problem of sin:

 

  • Coming clean is always one step away

 

Even though it is hard to recover from a first step into sin, all along the slippery slope there are always opportunities to stop, to confess, to make it right; or, to cover up, to excuse behavior, and to continue the lie. It’s never too late to make things right, to begin the process towards restoration and righteousness. Otherwise, we just dig ourselves a deeper hole. David sees Bathsheba, but he doesn’t have to act on his lust. Even the servant says, “isn’t that Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, wife of Uriah the Hittite?” After David slept with Bathsheba and got her pregnant, he could have owned up to what he had done.

 

Remember the passage we read earlier: 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 - So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!  13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

 

God always provides a way out. Hebrews 4:7 says, “If today you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” If you are on the slippery slope, make it right today. There is always an opportunity to flee, to confess, to throw yourself on the mercy of God.

 

1 John 1:8-10 - If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

 

This is what the Bible calls repentance –turning from sin and turning to faith and obedience to God.

 

  • We all need accountability

 

Sadly, David never makes the decision on his own to come clean, but tries to cover it up and hope it goes away. He does not repent until the prophet Nathan comes to him with a story. Remember that in David’s day, kings such as David were responsible for hearing court cases and judging them. In chapter 12, Nathan brings David a case to hear about a poor man whose one lamb is stolen by a wealthy neighbor – it is not a real story, as we soon find out, but David does not know this. After hearing the case, David responds with his guilty conscience by exclaiming that this man deserves to die. He calls for the man to make fourfold repayment, which is according to the law set down in Exodus, but there is nothing in the law about death. David’s guilt seems to be making him more judgmental. And then Nathan turns it around on David, saying “you are the man.”

 

Notice how Nathan confronts David. He does not just start with “you are the man.”  God is after conviction, not condemnation. Sometimes people just confront in condemnation instead of working for conviction. That often works to put people on the defensive. Nathan gets conviction and repentance, not condemnation. Great sermon by Nathan to an audience of one.

 

Listen to how Eugene Peterson put it:

 

“The art of preaching is to somehow or other get around our third-person defenses and compel a second-person recognition, which enables a first-person response. This is not a sermon about someone else. YOU are the man. YOU are the woman. “I have sinned against the Lord.” Eugene Peterson, Leap Over a Wall.

 

I always smile when someone comes and swears that I was preaching directly to them. That’s when I know that the Holy Spirit has been working and when you have been open to hearing from Him instead of keeping your defenses up.

 

Who do you have in your life that will tell you the truth? What kind of accountability do you have in your life? You need to give people you trust permission to speak into your life, especially in those areas where you are prone to temptation, because many people will not tell you the truth on their own.

 

And who in your life do you need to tell the truth to, even when no one else will? Take the risk, and be sure to do it with the goal of conviction and repentance, not condemnation.

 

The fourth thing we learn about the problem of sin is:

 

  • The certainty of reaping what you have sown

 

 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'  11 "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.  12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'"  13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.  14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." 

 

David experiences the tragic results of his actions. His son dies. His family falls apart – in the next chapter, his son Amnon will rape his daughter Tamar, and then his other son Absalom will kill Amnon. Absalom will rebel against his father, and Israel will turn to follow Absalom, causing David to once again have to flee for his life, until finally Absalom is killed.

 

Remember the law of reaping and sowing:

 

Galatians 6:7-9 - Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

 

You can trust that if you stray from God down the slippery slope of sin, you may be able to resist the consequences for awhile, but one day you will reap what you have sown. You may be forgiven, but that doesn’t mean the consequences go away.

 

  • God’s grace is available to all who repent

 

Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.

 

  24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him;  25 and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.

 

David deserves to die, but the Lord forgives him. More than that, David and Bathsheba have another child, and this child (Solomon) ends up being the child of promise, through whom the Messiah, Jesus, will eventually come. What is going on here? God is able to bring the greatest good out of the worst evil. It’s not that all of this mess had to happen in order for Jesus to be born, but rather that God in His mercy uses our worst failures to bring the greatest goods out of them. Some of you have made giant messes of your life, or others have caused the mess for you. Do not despair. Turn and trust in the Lord and He can bring hope out of tragedy.

 

Jesus’ genealogy is full of people like this. This is His family. You are His family.

 

1 John 1:8-10 - If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

 

How can God do this? How can he shower such grace on someone so undeserving?

 

Remember that David is not the hero of this story, but God is. Look at the contrast between David in 2 Samuel 11-12 and Jesus standing before Pilate. David is the one who deserves to be judged, but he is standing in judgment before Nathan as Nathan says “you are the man.” Jesus, on the other hand, stands before Pilate being judged – “behold the man” – when he is the one who deserves to be the judge. Jesus allowed himself to be judged and killed, even when he did not deserve it, so that those of us who deserve His judgment can find forgiveness and redemption. We find forgiveness in Him, even when we have done horrendous things. More than forgiveness, when we come to him we find that God is able to bring the greatest good out of the worst failure. His mercy is beyond measure.

 

This morning, do what you can to flee temptation before you slide down the slippery slope of sin. Find someone to whom you can confess your sin, someone who can be a Nathan for you. And above all, know that sin is not the final word, that our God loves to bring the greatest goods out of the worst failures.