Life of David: When We Really Mess Up

Scripture: 2 Samuel 11: 2- 5
Jill A. Kirchner-Rose, MDIV, DMIN
October 23, 2016

Today we conclude our five week sermon series on King David.  We have spent 1/10th of the entire year on David alone.  Let’s see how much you remember:

1).  David fought a giant named __________ (Goliath) who was from which army?  (Philistine)

2).  Which King of Israel tried to kill David out of envy?  (Saul)

3).  In his earlier years, King David played which instrument for Saul to soothe Saul’s depressed soul?  (Harp)

4).  King Saul had a son named __________ (Jonathan).  Jonathan and David formed a (covenant).

5).  Who was the crippled son of Jonathan who was given a permanent place at King David’s royal table?  (Mephibosheth)

6).  Which book of the Bible is mainly attributed to David?  (Psalms)

7).  David danced scantily clad before  ________________ (the Ark of the Covenant).

8).  What were the items in the Ark of the Covenant?  (Ten Commandments, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded)

9).  David is the only person in the Bible given the title “the man after God’s own ______ (heart).”

Yes, David is the only one given the name “a man after God’s own heart”.  He was a fearless fighter, a brilliant military strategist, a capable ruler, a musician, a composer of psalms, a dancer. In David’s good moments, no one was better.  But in his bad moments, no one could be worse.  The heart that God loved was a checkered one.  Today we read about David’s downfall.  It is an x-rated sermon.  

She was a beautiful woman. . .the kind of woman that turns heads. . .even the heads of married men. . .even the heads of religious men.  Her hair. . .her eyes. .. her curves. . .her body. . .Everything about her was attractive.  And then one day it happened. He walked out on his balcony at the very time she was bathing. Bathsheba was not soaking in a bath full of bubbles up to her chin.  This was the desert.  Water was a premium, and heated water, a luxury.  Her tub would have been a small basin of water from which she sponged herself clean, then risnsed her body by pouring fresh water from a pitcher.  David couldn’t take his eyes off of her.  Walking David became a Peeping Tom.  Something inside of him took over.  He had a passionate desire to be with her now – there was no more thinking, only feeling.  

It didn’t matter that he was married. . . it didn’t matter that she was married. . .it didn’t matter that her husband was off to war. . .it didn’t matter that he had made a pledge of faith to honor and serve God above all else.  All that mattered in that moment was finding a way to be with her. . . now.  And so it was.  David uses and abuses his power of leadership.  David ignores that power is a gift, a sacred trust held specifically for the good of others.  He asserted his kingly power and ignores his godly calling.  

His every desire was satisfied that night.  He thought that would be the end of it – one night of weakness where his passions got the best of him.  Perhaps he pledged even to be in better control next time.  .  . except she became pregnant.

He tried to cover up his exploitation.  That is, he tries to cover up his misuse of power by altering the narrative.  He called for her husband, Uriah, to come off the battlefields and share in a romantic evening of love making with his wife.  The pregnancy was still early – Uriah would think it was his child.  Uriah, however, refused.  Uriah is so committed to David and to God that he will not even sleep one evening in the comfort of his own home with his wife.  He will not abandon his troops in a time of war.  So, David comes up with a second plan – he will get Uriah drunk and then tell him to go sleep with his wife.  A second time Uriah refuses – his convictions are stronger than alcohol and again he stays with his troops.  Even drunk, Urriah behaved better than his sober king, who’d been intoxicated with lust only weeks earlier.  Exasperated by Uriah’s loyalty, David is desperate – so he comes up with a third and final plan – he will put Uriah in the front lines and Uriah will certainly be killed and David will be seen as a compassionate man for taking Uriah’s widow, Bathsheba, as his wife.  This plan works.  Uriah is killed.  Ironically, the name Uriah means “My light is the Lord” and David, a man after God’s own heart, has set out to extinguish the light of the Lord in Uriah.  

Now this is quite a story!  This is the stuff Entertainment Tonight would go crazy over, but it is not Entertainment Tonight, the nightly news (especially recently), or a soap opera on t.v. – no, it comes from the Bible, the Hebrew Testament, the Sacred Scriptures.  Remember that the next time you hear someone commend the Bible as a wholesome guide to family values.

It looks at this point like everything’s been covered up, David dodged a bullet, God turned a blind eye, and everyone, except for Uriah, will live happily ever after. . .  except there is a verse later in 2 Samuel that says “the thing that David did displeased the Lord.”  And so God sent a prophet, Nathan, to confront the king. Nathan was a White House chaplain of sorts.  Nathan confronted David indirectly.  Why?  Because he had not come to condemn David.  That would be easy enough to do, given the facts at hand, but Nathan was up to something much more profound than that.  He had come to change David’s heart if he could.  So Nathan told David a story, knowing good and well how human beings tend to drop their defenses while they are listening to a story about someone else.

The story went like this:  There is a rich man with many flocks and a poor man with just one little lamb.  This little poor man loved this lamb – holding her in his own lap, feeding her from his own plate.  She was all he had.  One night the rich man had a visitor and the so, the rich man, instead of using one of his livestock, went and took the poor man’s one little lamb and served that lamb for dinner.  Well, hair rises on David’s neck and David rushed to the poor man’s defense.  David knows what it is like to be a poor shepherd.  He was furious with the rich man and said “The rich man shall die!”  Nathan, the prophet, then said, “You are the man!  David you have 7 wives; Uriah had only one and you took his one and only wife and then had him killed.”  David’s heart split in two.  “I have sinned against the Lord,” said David.  In fact, in one of his psalms David writes, “Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.   You have all the facts before me; whatever you decide about me is fair.” (Psalm 51, the Message).  

It took David a year.  It took a surprise pregnancy, the death of a soldier, the confrontation of a prophet,  but David finally got it as he confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  And God did with that sin what he does with yours and mine – God put it away.  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).  And David lived.

So, what about you?  What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?  That deep, dark secret that haunts you at night?   Did you cheat on your income taxes, lie about your military record, have an affair, deceive your partner, commit a crime and get away with it?  Know this, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has God your transgression from you.”  God does not turn away from us.  God sends us prophets to wake us up.  The minute that we realize that we have gone astray and said so aloud, God can finally call us home.

David writes in one of his psalms, “A broken and contrite heart, O God, you do not despise.” There is something about admitting our brokenness.  It wasn’t until after Jesus took the bread the little boy gave him and broke it that it was multiplied and fed 5000 people.  It wasn’t until Mary had the alabaster jar and broke it that the fragrance filled the room.  It wasn’t until Jesus said, “This is my body broken for you” that this became the bread of new life.  God is looking for broken people to call home.  David learned something about brokenness.

But David also learned something about grace.  You see, David lived and ‘though David and Bathsheba’s first son died, their second son did not.  His name was Solomon and he was known as the wisest king to ever live.  And it is from the lineage of Solomon that Jesus was born.  In fact, the initial verse of the first chapter of the first gospel calls Christ “the son of David.”  The title contains no disclaimers, explanations, or asterisks.  David blew it.  Jesus knew it.  And Jesus claimed David anyway.  That is grace.  That’s the business God is in.  God takes our mess and turns it into a miracle.

So, as we conclude our five week series on David, I leave you with this question.  “Was David a good man or a bad man?  You decide.  I think he was both, as most of us are.  If we remember him as a hero, I hope it is not because of Goliath, or his war stories, or the psalms, (or the dance before the Ark of the Covenant, or the invitation of Mephibosheth to the table).  I hope it is because of that moment with Nathan,” (Barbara Brown Taylor, Bread of Angels, pg. 16), when he recognized his sin and confessed it so that God could say, “Come home, David, come home.”  For, ultimately, that’s what it means to be a person after God’s own heart!