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History is full of great men and women. Heroes who accomplished great things for their families, their nations, or for the world in general. In grade school we learn to sing the praises of these great people of history.
But later in life we often learn that those heroes are tainted. Pick a hero, and you can probably find a book which details all the flaws in their character. Sometimes the things that are revealed are shocking. When the layers are peeled back, we find our heroes were all too human, and prone to the same sins that we are today.
The same is true of the heroes of faith that we find in the Bible. Noah. Abraham. Moses. David. Peter. Paul. While the Bible speaks highly of these men, the Holy Spirit doesn’t shy away from recording their shameful deeds also. The one thing all our heroes have in common is this—they were sinners who needed a Savior.
To this point in our study of king David, we’ve sung his praises. We’ve seen how David trusted in the God of the Bible, and how he did great things in service his LORD and country.
But when we peel back the layers on this Biblical hero, we find yet another sinner.
One thing we find when we take a second look over David’s life, is that he was PRONE TO LIES AND DECEPTION.
When David wanted to prove to Jonathan that king Saul was after him, he told Jonathan to tell a lie. Tell the king that I’m not dining at his table because I’ve gone to a special family gathering in Bethlehem. If he’s upset about it, you’ll know that he really wants to catch me and murder me (1 Samuel 20:4-8).
It was a lie.
Later, when David sought refuge from Saul in the city of Gath, he was afraid Gath’s king would see him as a threat. So, David pretended to be insane.
It was deception.
Yes, David used lies and deception when he felt threatened, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were still lies and deception.
And this is what we find in our own lives too, isn’t it? We want to be truthful, but when we feel threatened, our sinful nature leads us to lie and deceive to escape that uncomfortable conversation or difficult situation.
David was not a violent man by nature, but since he lived in a time of war, he became a skilled warrior. Through his service in Saul’s army, David became an experienced general. He was molded into an instrument of war. And this made him a dangerous man when backed into a corner.
On one occasion, David’s anger got the best of him. David and his men had been keeping away from Saul, and camping in an area where a man named Nabal grazed his flocks. Instead of helping themselves to Nabal’s sheep, David’s men looked out for Nabal’s possessions and servants. They served as a protective hedge around them.
When sheering time came, David thought Nabal might repay the favor with something from the herds. But being a wicked man, Nabal refused David’s request, stating that he didn’t know who David was and certainly wasn’t about to start giving handouts to every servant who ran away from his master.
David was enraged at the insult, and mounted up with his men to go and punish Nabal. On the way, David swore that he would wipe out all of Nabal’s sons in retribution for his ungrateful response.
Thankfully, Nabal’s good wife, Abigail, heard what was happening and led a delegation with gifts to appease David. The massacre never happened. But the fact remained, DAVID WAS A POWERFUL MAN, AND COULD USE DEADLY FORCE IN THE HEAT OF ANGER.
And while you and I might not think to kill someone, we’re prone to the same feelings of resentment toward those who treat us badly. Our tempers flare up and show themselves with harmful words that we regret.
Overall David was a just king. But HE WAS ALSO PRONE TO FAVORITISM. When two men murdered a rival king and brought the head to David, he quickly administered justice and had the murderers executed. But when his own general, Joab, murdered a man named Abner in cold blood, David did little. Sure, David made the murderer walk in Abner’s burial procession. Sure, David made it clear that Joab’s action was evil and that David himself had no part in the crime. But Joab was not taken to trial and he was not executed. He remained David’s chief general.
Justice was sometimes hard for David to carry out when it hit close to home.
And the same is true for us today. It’s easy for us to denounce wickedness we see in the news, or the wickedness done by people not closely associated with us. But when the people we know and love commit sins, sometimes we just keep quiet and look the other way. We’re afraid to take matters head on, and seek the LORD’s will.
It’s true that the Bible calls David a “man after the LORD’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). But not because of his sins. David was a man after the LORD’s own heart because of his trust in God, and his willingness to be rebuked and corrected by the LORD. David knew he was a great sinner, but he also knew that the LORD had promised to save him through the Messiah that was coming.
In our reading for today we’re going to see David’s faults come out in full force. We’ll also see the LORD’s disapproval and rebuke of his servant. But first, we need to take just a few moments to get caught up on where we are in David’s life.
King Saul had died. The people had recognized David as the LORD’s chosen king of Israel. The civil war that had erupted after Saul’s death had run its course and came to an end. Now, as commander and chief, David was campaigning against the nations surrounding Israel. And the LORD was once again giving David the victory at every turn.
Philistia, Amalek, Edom, Moab, Ammon—all the surrounding nations were defeated by David and his forces. David even marched as far north as the Euphrates river to secure the land of Israel. To get some perspective, the great Euphrates river was about 340 miles north of Jerusalem. That’s about the width of Washington state. David secured all that land, and that was just to the north!
And while skirmishes sprang up from time to time, the LORD now gave David and Israel a time of relative peace.
It was during this time that David’s thoughts turned to building the LORD at proper temple. A real building instead of a tent where the people could come to worship the LORD. In response to this, the LORD told David that it was not his task to build the LORD’s temple. That task would belong to one of his descendants. And The LORD had also revealed to David that one of his descendants would rule over an ETERNAL kingdom. That ruler would be the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He would one day be born from David’s descendants to rule in the hearts and lives of all who look to him as Savior.
At this time, David not only sought to honor the LORD, he also sought to care for the survivors of Saul’s house. Saul’s son Jonathan had one remaining child. A son by the name of Mephibosheth who had been crippled by an accident in his youth. David summoned this man and declared that from this point forward, the crippled Mephibosheth would eat at David’s table, and live in David’s palace.
Things were finally looking good for David. And stable. The land was secure. The LORD had promised his family great things. And David was occupying his time with kind and gracious activities.
And then comes our text.
2 Samuel 11:1-17, 26-27 (NIV)
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, “She is 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. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly 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 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to 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 out in front 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.
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.
First of all, look at verse 1. It says that in the spring, when kings are accustomed to go off to war, David stayed home.
Why? It appears that all the success the LORD had been sending David finally got to his head. HE was the king. HE didn’t need to lead the armies of Israel, Joab could do that. HE could rest at home.
But before long, David was restless. And one evening he wandered aimlessly on the roof of the palace. And from that roof something caught his eye. Someone. A BEAUTIFUL woman. And when he saw her, David’s LUST was kindled.
When David sends to find out about this woman, he learns that she is the wife of one Uriah the Hittite. But that doesn’t stop David. HE’s the king. He sends for her anyway.
And the result is that she becomes pregnant. But her husband has been away to war for some time, and there will be no mistaking who the father of this child is when he returns. And so David turns to LIES AND DECEPTION.
His idea is simple. Get Uriah back home for a time. A little break from serving in the army. Then it’ll look like the child born to Bathsheba is Uriah’s child.
But David’s plan doesn’t work. Uriah won’t go home when his fellow soldiers don’t have the same opportunity. Uriah is like David in his youth, honorable and heroic.
So David tries to help his plan along by getting Uriah drunk. Surely then he will go home to his wife.
But again, even under the influence, Uriah won’t go.
And so David turns to LIES, DECEPTION, AND MURDER. He sends a message to his commander Joab to place Uriah in the front lines and to draw back from him in the battle so he’ll die. And this message, to David’s even greater shame, he sends in the very hand of Uriah. He unknowingly carries his own death warrant.
And to pile sin upon sin, with Uriah dead, David takes his widow Bathsheba to be his own wife. No remorse here. NO JUSTICE FROM KING DAVID. Just self-serving sin. He covers it all up, and moves on like nothing ever happened.
At this point we wonder, what in the world is David thinking?! How could he do this?! And all we need to do, to answer this question, is look in our own lives. How many times have we done what we knew was WRONG, simply because we WANTED to. Simply because we are sinners, one and all.
The people sitting beside us might not know our secret sins. They might even think highly of us as their fellow Christians. If asked about us they might tell a story or two about the kind favors we’ve done for them, or for others.
But if God were to peel back the layers in our lives and publish them out in a book—then all would see the truth about how good we really are. It wouldn’t even take that much would it. God could just write out our secret thoughts through the course of a single day, and people around us would never again look at us in the same way.
The point is simple. David was a sinner, and so are we. And for our sins against him, the just God should remove his love and blessings from our lives forever.
But that’s not what the just God did to David. And that’s not what he does to us. Instead, we find that the just and holy LORD is also the pitying, merciful, and loving God.
I think we all know how this story plays out. The LORD sends his prophet Nathan to rebuke David for his sins. Nathan tells David a story about a poor man who had only a little ewe lamb whom he cared for like a child. But a rich and wicked neighbor took that little lamb and slaughtered it to provide a meal for a guest in his home.
When David hears the story, he is angry, and declares that the rich man deserves to die. That he aught to pay the poor man back four times over for doing such a wicked thing, and having no pity.
And then Nathan tells David, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7 NIV).
David had committed adultery. David had lied and deceived. David had murdered and covered it up. But when the LORD presented David with his own wickedness, David was sorry. He was sorry for all he had done, most of all, that through these actions—he had sinned against the LORD.
This is true repentance. David wasn’t just sorry got caught. David was grieved that he had sinned against the LORD.
And so the gracious and loving LORD forgave David. Nathan told him, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13 NIV).
This is the way the LORD deals with sin. David would have to bear the consequences of this sin in his life. His child would die. And the LORD told David that now the sword would never depart from his family because David had despised the LORD by his actions. But before the LORD, David was truly forgiven. He would not be struck dead. Nor would he be cast away from the LORD’s presence for eternity. The LORD took David’s sin away.
It would be years from this day when Jesus would stagger up the hill of Calvary. It would be decades from this day when nails would be driven through Christ’s hands and feet. It would be centuries from this day when hell would descend on the crucified Son of God for the sins of all mankind. But it would be done. And David’s sins, and ours, would be paid for when the sinless Son of God suffered for them in our place. And in view of the payment Christ would one day make on behalf of David and all sinners, the LORD took David’s sin away. He forgave him.
So what do we take away from this dark chapter of David’s life? For one, we learn that when God blesses sinners, we often respond by wanting MORE. By nature, we are never satisfied with the goodness that we have. Even those who trust in the LORD struggle with being content.
Secondly we learn to BE ON GUARD when the LORD blesses us with security and power. For our sinful instinct is to reach beyond what is right and abuse the security and power that the LORD gives us.
Thirdly we learn that DAVID WAS A SINNER, TEMPTED TO SIN IN THE SAME WAYS WE ARE. Sins of deception, violence, and favoritism. He favored himself. And sadly we often do the same. We sneer and gossip over the sins of others, and dismissing our own wickedness.
As Christians who know the story of Christ, and the gospel of free forgiveness we are prone to abuse this gospel. Let me explain. Since we know that God’s forgiveness comes to us as a free gift sometimes pretend like this dismisses us from bearing the consequences of our sinful choices in this life.
I’m forgiven by God, so why doesn’t everyone just forget about what I did?! They’re judging me. Can’t they just trust me again?
We ARE completely forgiven in Christ. But we also need to repair the relationships our sins damage. Undo the gossip. Speak the words of apology. Rebuild the roads of trust that our sins have demolished. Repair the damage to Christ’s reputation that our poor choices have inflicted. And these things take time, and the Holy Spirit’s power.
Through Christ’s gift of forgiveness our relationship with God is repaired instantly. But our relationships with other people take more time to heal. Resenting this fact doesn’t make it any less true. In the gospel of Christ we are called to live in the land of peace and forgiveness, and also, to rebuild what we have torn down by our sins. That may be hard, but the Holy Spirit who brought us to faith is powerful, and he will lead us in the right direction and give us the strength to repair what we have broken.
You and I may not categorize ourselves with the great men and women of history. Men and women who are recorded in the history books, and in the holy Scriptures. But we do have one thing in common with them—we are all sinners who desperately need the pity, mercy, and loving forgiveness of the eternal God. And in Christ, that is what we have.
PRAYER: Father in heaven, we have sinned against you in countless ways. Our particular sins may not be known by those around us in great detail, but you know them. Lead us to live our lives in daily repentance. Daily coming to your throne of unflinching justice, to seek your unending forgiveness. As we lay our sins before you with downcast faces, reach down with your tender and powerful touch and lift our chins up. Lift them up to see your Son, and our Savior, and fill us with your peace. Amen.