Sermon: Living with the Consequences

Lectionary: 2 Samuel 11:26 - 12:13

Last week I spoke about David’s adultery, conspiracy and murder, how he broke at least 4 of the 10 Commandments:

  • murder
  • adultery
  • theft
  • covetting your neighbour’s wife

Today I’d like to continue with the lessons that we can learn from David.

Now remember, it wasn’t that David was starved for female companionship. By this time as a wealthy king, he has many women: Ahinoam of Jezreel, Abigail the widow of Nabal, Maacah daughter of a king from Geshur (east of Galilee), Haggith, Abital, Eglah — that’s six while he was living in Hebron — and then “David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him” (5:13). In addition he has Saul’s concubines in his harem (12:8). So, don’t think that was the issue here!

I didn’t mention this last week, but some commentators have blamed Bathsheba, saying “she came without any hesitation and offered no resistance to his desires.”  hmmm…  The person with the power here is David, not Bathsheba, and in chapter 12 of Samuel, we find that David is held solely responsible for the sin by God (12:9).

At the beginning of this morning’s Reading, we see that after Bathsheba’s time of mourning has passed, David sends for her and makes her his wife.  This is nothing new for David – he’s added wives before, and so she is simply another.  But, for many, what David did was an act of heroism:  He has taken into his harem the poor, pregnant wife, widow of one of his fallen captains.   It was not unusual for a king to take a widow to wife immediately after the death of her husband. It was viewed as charitable, since the king would provide for her provisions and protection.

“Look at the way he stands behind his men!  If they are killed in battle, he will take care of their widows!  What a great King!”

Right?

The Bible clearly points out that this displeased God!

Since Adam & Eve sinned,we have attempted to cover it us.  We fall into guilt and estrangement from God and from our fellow man!  We are embarrassed by it, and we try to put our fig leaves in place to cover it up.  And when that fails, we hide!

Unlike Nixon, Clinton or even Martinelli, David seems to have gotten away with his shenanigans.  His cover-up was very effective and culturally appropriate.  No one is pointing the finger at him for what he had done.  And it looks like he’s gotten away with it.  A whole year has passed.  The baby has already been born…

But during this time, David is suffering from the guilt!  One of the Psalms written about how he felt during this period is Psalm 32:

… When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.

But even though David knew what he had done was wrong, he still hadn’t dealt with it!  David knew the stress and agony of living a double, false life.

Even in his deceit, David was still leading the worship of Yahweh. You can imagine the tension going on inside of him. He was the judge of Israel. So, during that time God just wrings him dry. Until he is finally ready to face the real issues in his heart.

And so we read that God sends Nathan to speak with David.  We don’t know how long Nathan took to prepare this message, but his approach was nothing less than masterful!  He confronts David with his actions, brings him to acknowledgement and repentance, and stayed alive in the process!

Remember, David is the judge of Israel, and he has, so far, gotten away with murder and adultery… No one knows… and so he thinks he’s being told a real story, to pass judgement, when really, he’s being hung out to dry by his own tongue.

“There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.  The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb 

A little ewe- remember – David was a shepherd, and had probably, at one stage, had his own little pet lamb. So he immediately identifies again with the poor man and this one little lamb.

I remember we had a pet lamb once, Mum & Dad named him LambChop… you can imagine my horror when I worked that one out!

and so, this poor man had bought and nourished this little ewe lamb; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him.

it was dear to their hearts, something special, just like Cecil the lion…

and so the parrable goes that a traveler 

just a passing fancy, like a look over the parapet at a naked woman, no love, no commitment, just someone going by… a little like the dentist that just wanted to hang a great head on his Wall to boast to his friends about… until his next great hunt…  

came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan,

“As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”

Most of us are umpires – we jump at the opportunity to call strikes on someone else.  It’s so easy to apply God’s standard to others – but we dodge its application on ourselves.  Isn’t it wonderful when you can find somebody who is worse than you?  You can vent upon them the spleen, the wrath, that you feel about yourself. That is exactly what David did.

He had been a shepherd. He had had a little ewe lamb. He knew what it was all about.  Then here was this totally callous person, this rich man with flocks and herds, who grabbed this poor little ewe lamb, all the poor fellow had, and took it for a wayfarer, not even for his mother-in-law or some important visitor.

He is pronouncing judgment on himself, and he doesn’t even realize it.  He’s strict about applying the law in THIS case!

And then, once he has him where he wanted him, Nathan comes in with the punchline:

“You are the man! 

Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gaveyou your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, 

Remember that harem I mentioned?

and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!  Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 

Notice, no mention is even made of Bathsheba – this is ALL on David!  You used treachery; You used deceit; and You used pagan enemies. Collatoral damage – all the men that Uriah was leading at the time… it wasn’t just one man on his conscience!

And yet Nathan says “you sinned against God”.  Why God? Because David failed to accept and believe God’s promises:

if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!

What does repentence look like?  While it’s difficult to describe, it’s easy to recognise.  You know it when you see it!  And there is no mistaking it here with David:

I have sinned against the Lord!

That’s a short response.  No excuses. No qualifications.  Guilty as charged.  David didn’t say “well, we all mess up once in a while” or “well, I didn’t expect it to go that badly?” or “but I had legal permits for hunting a lion, I just didn’t realice it was Cecil… well, except that we tried to destroy the GPS tags”…

No, he takes full responsibility for everything, including the consequences.  Accepting responsibility is liberating. Yes, it’s hard to admit you were wrong. But it demonstrates strength, courage, and a commitment to personal excellence. It’s respectful. By doing so, you demonstrate that you care about yourself and others.

And David was forgiven!  He should have died for this, as he says in his own condemnation of the rich man!  But even though he will not die for his deeds, he still doesn’t get to escape the consecuences.  Unfortunately, many times, even though we have admitted our mistakes, we still have to live with the consequences.  Most of us think that God’s forgiveness is escaping the consequences, but that’s not usually the case. Even when we’ve admitted we’re wrong, there are often still consequences that we are going to have to live with.

And so we have Psalm 51:

  1. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your lovingkindness: according to the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
  2. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
  3. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
  4. Against Three, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: so You are justified when You speak, and are clear when You judge.
  5. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part You make me to know wisdom.
  6. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  7. May be to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which You have broken may rejoice.
  8. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
  9. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
  10. Cast me not away from Thy presnece; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
  11. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.

This is why David is a man after God’s own heart!  Because he acknowledges, heartfully, when he has screwed up and offers true repentence!

Sermon: Naked & Vulnerable

Genesis 3: 8-15

1 Samuel 8: 4-11, 16-20

I can’t tell you how excited I am to stand up here today and let you know that today we’re going to talk about getting naked, and not going with the crowd!

I’m going to give you a moment to let that sink in…

We just read in Genesis about Adam’s reaction when his eyes are opened, and he realises he and Eve are naken – they sow together fig leaves and make themselves clothes, and in verse 10, Adam responds to God:

“I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Yesterday, I was giving Isabella a bath, and I can tell you, two-year olds are not ashamed of their bodies, and have nothing to hide.  If I would let her, I’m pretty sure Isabella would’t put on clothes at any time – she doesn’t understand what she needs them for. She struggles against you when it’s time to get dressed and routinely says “NO” when you say she needs to put clothes on.

More importantly, Isabella has no need to put up defenses and barriers between her and other people – she wears her heart on her sleeve. She laughs without reserve, she cries without reserve, and she simply shows every emotion that she is feeling.  She even manipulates without reserve and then laughs when you call her out on it, totally living in the present moment and without shame. When she’s uncertain, she lets you know, reaching out for support.  And if she gets scared, she seeks immediate shelter!

Take a moment – when was the last time you were truly authentic?  How long has it been since you allowed yourself to take off your armour and defenses, take down all those barriers you’ve built to protect yourself, and actually allowed yourself to live and feel?  We talk about “putting on our face”, rather than putting on make-up, or “keeping a poker face” instead of showing emotions.

How long has it been since you were naked and vulnerable before the people that matter the most in your live?  Most of us have lived for far too long in a society where naked has a sexual connotation, and we’ve forgotten that it also means to be open and discovered; it means to be honest, sincere and real.  Like Adam, we hide.  And then, when those who know us best get through that defense and find us, we give excuses like Adam did – it was HER fault, not mine.  That woman that YOU gave me, God, SHE made me do it!  It couldn’t possibly have been my fault!

In coaching we talk about secondary and primary emotions – and most of us are only in touch with the secondary ones, and fail to accept to even admit that below that emotion there’s another one that we’re too afraid to even acknowledge.  Many times our anger is simply a mask for impotence or pain and hurt; or our coldness and indifference is a mask for pain and vulnerability.  We put on a brave front, when we are really scared and insecure.  And we get so busy trying to convince the world that this is who we are, that we lose touch with ourselves and our true emotions.

All of this seeps over and into our Christian life and our relationship with God.  How many times do we try to keep on the mask, saying hollow prayers and just going through the motions?  When was the last time you were completely unarmed and defenseless before God?

Ephesians 6: 10-18 tells us to put on the full armour of God.  I have a really simple question – have any of you ever tried to put on a suit of armour ON TOP of another suit of armour?  If you are already wearing your own suit of armour, how could you possibly put on the suit of armour that God has to offer?  I’d like to look at this quickly:

  1. You have a belt of TRUTH – when was the last time you had truth in your life? Blatant, honest truth?  Where you didn’t have to mince words and keep up appearances? When you were who you really are?  What if, instead of being protected by all these lies, you could be protected by truth? What difference would that make in your life today?
  2. There’s a breastplate of righteousness.  I don’t what your definition of righteousness is, but when I think of righteousness, I don’t only think of holiness or blamelessness – it’s all tied in there together with fairness, goodness, justice, honor, and virtue.  And once again I’m going to ask – how can you wear a breastplate of righteousness when you already are living a lie?  If there is no authenticity and you are not being true to yourself, what kind of goodness and fairness can you offer to others?
  3. Next we have your feet fitted with the gospel of peace.  Oh! That’s deep.  How many of you can say your feet are shod with peace and tranquility?  Or are you so busy, keeping moving and always in a hurry that you fail to truly have a moment for peace?  Why the busyness? What’s the hurry? Does it make you feel more important? Does it give you self worth? Are you hiding from other feelings and simply filling up the void and emptiness in your life with “I’m too busy”.  Is there room on your body to put on the gospel of peace on your feet? Or do you need to get naked in order to have this possibility?
  4. Then, you are to take up the shield of faith – faith in humanity, faith in yourself, faith in God’s goodness and greatness, living a life of conviction and constancy, with the certainty that “it is well with my soul”.  Did your faith get broken, like a child’s toy, when life’s struggles trampled on it?  When did your heart get broken, such that you could no longer believe?
  5. We’re called to put on the helmet of salvation – does it fit on your head? Or are there too many ideas and issues rolling around in there?  When was the last time you took time to accept that perhaps salvation doesn’t depend on you, but only on God’s grace!  Can you accept God’s grace and undying love for you?  Or are you once again, too busy, trying to earn it and deserve it with everything you are doing? Be still… and know that I am God! The helmet of salvation is simply knowing that it’s not all on you.  You aren’t in this alone.  And keeps your mind clear and free.
  6. We are each given the gift of the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  Yes, there’s the Word of God in the Bible, but there’s also the word of God in our hearts.  Have you taken a moment to listen to what God would say to you today?  Are you busy fighting your battles alone, rather than with God’s help?  When you ask God for guidance in your daily battles, do you actually sit quietly and listen to God’s answer?  Or do you just plow ahead into “this is what I need to do” without listening?  Who else are you not listening to?  The words of wisdom and advice we can find in the Bible are only available if we are willing to listen.
  7. And finally, we have praying in the Spirit – when was the last time you let you spirit pray directly in tune with God’s spirit? Have you taken the time lately to quieten all the senses and stop the rush, to be able to allow your spirit to pray, rather than your mouth, your emotions, your thoughts, your brain?

When we stand before God, we are supposed to be naked! Not naked, afraid and ashamed – naked, unashamed and vulnerable, open, holding nothing back, masking nothing.

Are you so busy trying to show everyone that you have it all together, that you’ve started telling this to God as well? Living your life as if you don’t need God’s help, assurance and salvation?  God wants us to get real! To get real with him. Get real with each other.  Talk from the heart!

To quote Kevin Smith:

  • Stop fakin’ the funk!
  • Stop fuontin’ and Stuntin’!
  • Stop trying to be something that you’re not before God!
  • Stop coming before God with “Oh holy, most reverent, wise & eternal God”!

GOD DOESN’T BELIEVE YOU!  As terrifying as it may be, he sees through the whole facade – you can’t keep pretending.

God wants us to be free! And freedom starts with being who you really are, and then building from there!

Speaking for myself –

I am terrified of being vulnerable and opening up – my facade is cold and unfeeling – and God says – “be vulnerable, risk being hurt, and open up” – then, and only there, will you be able to truly show God’s love to others.

My facade is being “too busy”, and always having excuses – and God’s response is “take time to simply be still and know that I am God”, there’s peace there.

My facade is that I am self-centered and ego-centric – and God’s response is that God is love, and there’s more than enough to go around!  I don’t need to live looking out for myself and my own interests, because the lie that I have been told that “there’s not enough” to go around is simply that, a lie.  There is abundance! I can always afford to give, because God promises to each of us:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

God’s gift for us is that we are a special people – we don’t need to live like everyone else does.  We can be different and live in abundance.  But most of the time, we want to have a king to rule over us, like the people of Israel in Samuel – without realising the blessings that we will lose as a result.  Everyone else lives with barriers and facades, and so we should to?  I don’t think so – we are intended to live naked and exposed before God and men – covered in the armour that God has given to us, rather than the armour of our own making.