Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 20 May 18:
1. 2 Samuel 11:1 — “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel…. But David remained at Jerusalem. ” To me one of the most shocking, tragic, and frightening stories in the Bible is that of David’s adulterous and murderous deeds committed against his faithful warrior Uriah. How could this “man after God’s own heart” do such terrible, terrible things (deserving of the death penalty), particularly against someone as faithful and dedicated as Uriah who was deployed in combat fighting for the king? If David, a man who had such a close relationship with God, could do such a thing, what does that suggest about the potential susceptibility to sin of ordinary people like us? There are countless lessons in this story which will continue to unfold as we read on, but when I look at the chain of events (or decisions) that led to this tragedy, 2 Samuel 11:1 jumps out at me – when David should have gone out with Israel to battle, he stayed home. Simply stated, David wasn’t where he should have been or doing what he should have been doing. David set the conditions for his demise through his complacency towards personal responsibility. Complacency kills! He had let his personal guard down and had, as we say in the Marine Corps, “gone internal” or became “focused inward.” His focus shifted from “He” (God) to “me.” Self-gratification became the goal. Verse 11:2 expands upon David’s mental/emotional state: “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.” Why is the king, during a time of war, on his couch late in the afternoon or idly walking around the roof of the palace? As the saying goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” David’s wandering mind led to wandering eyes which led to inappropriate inquiries which led to adultery and murder. Small decisions led to massive destruction (much of which we haven’t read about yet). David should have stayed focused on his responsibilities and should have gone to battle with the rest of the men. You can imagine David telling himself, “I deserve a break; after all, I am the king, and look how hard I have been working all these years; Joab can handle it.” Be very careful when you find yourself looking for an escape from the burdens of responsibility or commitment. During these times of weakness, you are very susceptible to sin. For most Americans the threat comes from where or how they seek entertainment or “amusement.” In Latin the word “muse” means to think. In Latin, when you place the letter “a” in front of a word it means the opposite; so “a-muse” means to not think or to stop thinking. So, amusement involves letting your guard down intentionally, to “just relax and escape the concerns of life.” Where do most Americans choose to stop thinking? In front of media devices or in front of TVs, which promote very destructive behaviors. Also, many choose to ‘relax’ at social establishments which promote excessive eating and alcohol. Does that make sense? “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) We all need a break from work, but replace amusement with recreation, which is to ‘re-create’ oneself. Do enjoyable, constructive things that refresh you, revive you, and contribute to a better you. Like your heart, your brain must never stop working. Have fun, but with a sober, fully engaged mind.
2. 2 Samuel 11:11 — “Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.’” Uriah was a real leader. Uriah displayed the loyalty and fidelity one would have expected from God’s anointed king. Uriah loved his wife more than anything, but he did not go to see her because the other soldiers in battle couldn’t, and Uriah made this choice realizing that it could be his last chance to ever see his wife again since the battle continued. Uriah honored God through his noble character, yet God did not spare him from these tragic circumstances. The test of character is your willingness to do the right thing when no one is looking, regardless the outcome. Are you willing to be as faithful as Uriah even if it costs you everything?
3. 2 Samuel 11:15 — “In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.’” There is no limit to what a person enslaved by sin will do. Sin is selfishness. When a person becomes wrapped up in sin, others become expendable.
4. 2 Samuel 11:24 — “Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” Many people needlessly died as part of the plot to cover up David’s sins which, by law, warranted the death penalty for David. At this point, David made himself one of the greatest ‘villains’ of the Bible.
5. 2 Samuel 12:1 — “And the LORD sent Nathan to David.” God uses His messengers to communicate judgement. Nathan did not remain silent in the face of sin and, in fact, risked his life to confront David, the most powerful man in the nation who had already demonstrated his willingness to go to extremes to cover up his sin. What would you have done? How do you confront sin where you are?
6. 2 Samuel 12:2 — “You are the man!” Perhaps no more powerful, more damning words were ever spoken to David. David often did the things expected of a godly, humble leader but from the wrong heart. However, Nathan has now exposed David’s hidden hubris which has led David to tremendous, unthinkable sin. David’s hubris was always there, and if you reexamine what we have read about David to date, you can trace the thread of this character flaw, this “fatal flaw,” through many stories. Perhaps even Eliab had a sense of his younger brother David’s pride when he rebuked him (seemingly unfairly) many years before – “Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, ‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.’” (1 Samuel 17:28, David and Goliath) Despite his moments of great faith, we have seen glimpses of David’s pride, ambition, deceptiveness, sense of entitlement, and lack of self-control. David had a character flaw that grew over time, while simultaneously David grew more powerful, with fewer and fewer people holding him accountable — a dangerous combination. Proverbs 18 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” (Proverbs 18:1) Perhaps, if David had remained in the company of people like Uriah and Nathan, he never would have sinned with Bathsheba. David had a weakness; so do you. Under what conditions are you most vulnerable to sin? Who is your Nathan? Who knows you well enough to see in you what you cannot or will not see in yourself, and who do you respect and trust enough to tell you the truth about yourself? Who have you placed in position to protect you against yourself? This person usually cannot be your spouse or a member of the opposite sex. This person should ideally be a senior mentor or trusted peer who shares your faith perspective, sees you perform your daily functions, and has the courage to speak candidly to you with the right mix of firmness and gentleness. Pray for a Nathan if you don’t have one, and make a conscious effort to place protective barriers around yourself where you know you are weak.
7. 2 Samuel 12:3 — “But the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb.” David took Uriah’s everything without blinking an eye. Bathsheba abandoned the one who loved her with his life. Shocking! Yet David and Bathsheba are in the genealogy of Jesus. In fact, Mathew 1:6 describes their roles in the genealogy this way – “And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” Bathsheba is not listed as the wife of David but rather Uriah! How are we to reconcile all this? As with all stories of the Bible, this story is a testimony to our total depravity and our total reliance on the grace of God. Take note that those who are often called “heroes” of the Bible fail greatly in their areas of strength. Abraham, known for his great faith, impregnated Hagar rather than waiting on God’s promise. Moses, the humblest man of his time, lost his temper and sought to share glory with God at the rock. We will soon read that Solomon, the wisest man on earth, foolishly and permanently divided the kingdom. Courageous Peter will deny Jesus three times when confronted by a group of strangers. God will humble us in our pride and tear down our idols so we will understand our total reliance on Him and Him alone. If our hope is in our abilities, we have no hope at all. We must build our house on the rock of Jesus. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)
8. 2 Samuel 12:5, 6 — “Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’” In the Name of The Lord, David imposed judgment on others he was not willing to impose upon himself. David’s crimes deserved the death penalty, but he did not hold himself accountable to the same standard. The Lord’s Prayer (which is really the disciple’s prayer), says, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Do we not impart a curse upon ourselves when we don’t show unmerited forgiveness and grace to others?
9. 2 Samuel 12:10 — “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’” No matter what David told himself about his sin. The truth was that he committed adultery because, in his heart, he really despised God. In his shocking sin, David had rejected the Almighty as Lord. The ripple effect of David’s sin lasted for generations.
– Comments from Henry T. Blackaby on 2 Samuel 12:10 — What is required for God to forgive sin? Repentance. But even repentance does not ensure the removal of the consequences of sin. The consequences often remain as a reminder of the terrible, destructive nature of sin. David was forgiven for his grievous sins of lust, adultery, robbery, and murder. God forgave him absolutely and removed his sin from him completely (Ps. 103:12). God did not, however, remove the pain that David would endure as a result of his transgressions. The child born of David’s adultery died (2 Sam. 12:14). David’s son Amnon raped David’s daughter Tamar (2 Sam. 13:14). David’s son Absalom murdered Amnon (2 Sam. 13:28-29). Absalom brought the kingdom into rebellion (2 Sam. 15). For the rest of David’s reign, violence filled his home and his kingdom. Although David knew he was forgiven, he bore the painful consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. It is presumptuous to assume that God removes every consequence the moment you repent of your sin. Do not think that the instant you show remorse God will restore everything as it was. He may not. Some sins, such as adultery, come from a flawed character. God forgives sin immediately upon repentance, but it takes longer to build character. It is character, not forgiveness, that determines what God brings next to your life. Because we know the devastating consequences of our disobedience, let us diligently avoid every sin and “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1b).
10. 2 Samuel 12:11 — “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.'” Throughout the Bible, God punishes by giving sinners a taste of their own medicine. What David did to Uriah secretly would now be done to David publicly. In fact, David’s sin has been exposed and recorded for all eternity, which is why we are now reading about it.
11. 2 Samuel 12:13 — “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” This is an example of “Amazing Grace” — The Lord did not condemn David. However, grace did not free David from life-long punishment. Jesus was not done with David and would use discipline to sanctify Him. No one wants to be disciplined, but God’s goal for us is not to comfort us but to draw us closer to Him. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11, 12)
12. 2 Samuel 12:23 — “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” There is no sense in lamenting the past. What is done is done. Be faithful with today, and trust God with the future. David knew he would see his son in the afterlife.
13. 2 Samuel 12:24 — “Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the LORD loved him.” David’s sin did not detract from God’s love for Solomon. Solomon was the child of adulterous parents, but that did not affect his relationship with God. It is not from where you came that matters; what matters is who you are with. With Jesus, you are a new creation. When He is with you, who can be against you? In Him, there is no condemnation.
14. 2 Samuel 12:28 — “Now then gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called by my name.” While David was wrapped up in personal issues, Joab was doing the work of the king. Slowly David was losing respect and credibility. A leadership void will be filled by someone, perhaps the wrong one. Leaders must lead. We are called to be leaders in love, to be the primary influencers in our environments for God’s glory. If we don’t lead people to Christ, someone else will lead them away from Christ.
15. 2 Samuel 12:28 — David has allowed himself to become too dependent on Joab for his successes; this hindered David’s willingness to hold Joab accountable later, which would eventually lead to the death of David’s son. When you rely on someone else’s strength, you promote your own weakness.
16. Proverbs 20:6 – “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” Truly faithful people are a very rare commodity.
17. Proverbs 20:11 – “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” Our true character is eventually revealed by our habitual actions. What is in the well comes out in the bucket.
18. Proverbs 20:24 – “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?” Trust the path of your life to the LORD and focus on obedience
19. Psalm 59:7 — “…for ‘Who,’ they think, ‘will hear us?’” Sinners think they are getting away with something. Sometimes we think they are too. Check your perspective.
20. Psalm 59:9 — “…you, O God, are my fortress.” When God is your fortress, what worries should you have? Who can threaten you?
21. Psalm 59:11 — “Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by your power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield!” David’s sins deserved death, and God could have delivered it, but God made an example of David that His people would never forget; and God used David to reveal the greater truth of His grace.
22. Psalm 60:11 — “Vain is the salvation of man!” There is no strength, no peace, no success, no hope apart from God. Many people are striving today to create their own heaven on earth and to achieve their own salvation from sorrow, pain and death. They come to no lower point in life than when they eventually realize that they hoped in nothing. Salvation is only found in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The Bible offers many practical steps to better living, but we must be very careful not to turn the Bible into a supernatural self-help book or to preach good advice to others rather than Jesus. The goal of the Bible is found in John 17 – knowing Him and being one with Him. The goal is not comfort but rather Christ Himself.
23. Psalm 60:12 — “With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.” Victory is in the hands of The Lord.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 May: “God has spoken in his holiness….” Pray to God with your ears open. Prayer is a two-way conversation. Listen patiently for God’s response to your prayers. Listening requires attentive silence. (Psalm 60:6-8).