Sunday, September 29, 2019 Brad Barrett
2 Samuel 11-12—Rise and Fall
The Fall of David
I am beginning this morning by asking you a very deep, personal question. A question that may make you squirm. A question that may bring up bad memories. So for the worst sermon introduction ever, here is my question:
What is the worst sin you have ever committed? At that time, and maybe even today, did you feel guilt and shame? Did you try to hide it? Did you excuse it? Did you blameshift?
Well, if you did, you’re in good company. Or should I say, bad company? Every one of us has been there.
One of the greatest men of faith in biblical history, David, King of Israel, has likely surpassed you in the depths and darkness of his sin. Or in the worst case, you are tied with him for worst sins… though it’s not really a competition we want to win, is it?
We are going to read a story this morning of the darkest moment in the life of one of the greatest men of God.
What David did was unspeakably evil. In his sin, he despised and scorned the Lord Almighty, his Creator and God. Honestly, the story shocks me.
But an important part of this story is described with another word: MERCY.
When David finally came to his senses and repented, he pleaded with God for mercy. He didn’t deserve mercy. For according to the Law given to Israel, David deserved the opposite: Death. But God showed him grace and mercy. David found forgiveness. He found the blessing and joy in God’s forgiveness.
And as much as David’s sin shocks me, God’s mercy shocks me more.
We are in Week 9 of an 11-week series on the Book of Samuel called “Rise and Fall.” The Rise and Fall of God’s people.
We see individuals and the chosen nation of Israel rising….walking by faith, obeying the Lord. And we see them falling…rebelling. Turning away from their God who loves them.
For the past four weeks, we have seen King David’s “RISING.” But today we see David falling. And his fall is very great. This story will alarm us. It will humble us. Yet the story can also give us hope. For though David fell, he rose back up by the mercy and forgiveness of our gracious God.
We can do the same. No matter how great our sin, God’s mercy is greater.
Today the story of David changes trajectory. For David, one of the greatest men of God in biblical history, it’s like he climbed to the summit of a great mountain, rejoicing in the glorious view. Then he stumbled and fell headlong down the mountain. At the height of his reign, he fell. David had been a sinner before, just like all of us, but now his sin reaches a dark and low point.
Today we’ll pick up the story in Chapter 11. [page 262 in the house Bible]. The drama of this story is stunning.
2 Samuel 11 (ESV)
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. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2 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.
At this point, David should have fled. Even if he needed to literally get on his horse and ride away. [The NT tells us to flee evil and to pursue what is right.] But he didn’t.
3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.
5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
It’s hard to imagine news worse than this for David.
- He slept with a married woman.
- He slept with the wife of one of his great warriors. One of David’s 30 Mighty Men.
- Now she’s pregnant.
What is David going to do?
Well, he’s going to do what any of us would do. He’s going to lie and try to cover it all up. He hatches a cover up story. In guilt and pride and shame….. he covers up his sin.
As a brief aside: This story is an excellent example on how to interpret OT narratives.
We must not read more into the story than is given. We can consider possibilities, and can speculate. But often we’re simply not told motives and reasons and details. For example, why didn’t David go off to war? Was he getting old and tired? Was he privately seeking an opportunity to do evil? Or we might wonder about Bathsheba. Was she complicit in the adultery? Or was she a victim, forced to follow the king’s desires? In this story, we’re simply not told some of those details. But the Lord has given us what we need. And we ultimately need to be content with that.
Now back to the story. David begins a cover-up plot. He is desperate. According to the Law of Moses, adultery is a capital offense. David should die for his sin.
6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.
7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going.
David was duplicitous. He didn’t invite Uriah back for talk about the war. What a hypocrite!
8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king.
9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.
10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?”
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.”
David wants Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife. Then in 8-9 months when the baby is born, Uriah will think it’s his own baby. Then David’s sin will be covered up. No one will know. “Whew! Crisis over!”
But Uriah, being an honorable and noble warrior, won’t go home. His fellow soldiers are back fighting a war. They cannot go home and have pleasure with their wives. So how could he do that? Out of honor for his fellow warriors, he won’t.
Now David is desperate to cover up his sin.
12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next.
13 And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
David has made one more desperate attempt to cover up, even getting Uriah drunk. Again it fails.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
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.”
Surely David couldn’t go lower…… but he does. Having failed twice to cover up his sin, he writes a death warrant for Uriah. David has stooped to the lowest point of hypocrisy and lying.
16 And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men.
17 And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died.
18 Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting.
David’s cover up is complete. To cover up his adultery, his only option was murder.
David, whom God himself describes as “a man after God’s own heart,” is now an adulterer and a murderer. One of the greatest men of God in history now has a dark, dark, dark blot on his life. A stunning… alarming… fall.
SKIP DOWN TO VS. 26.
26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband.
27 And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
Whether Bathsheba knew or not what David had done—murdering her husband—we don’t know.
Such a great, great evil had been done, and the Lord here states it quite plainly, seemingly understating the gravity of the moment: “The thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” But stronger words are coming.
2 Samuel 12 (ESV)
1 And the Lord sent Nathan to David.
This scene may have been at least nine months later, for it seems the child from David and Bathsheba had already been born.
So David’s cover up and lying had been going on for 9 months or more! Nathan the prophet comes to David to rebuke him. He tells David a story. Like a parable.
He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor.
2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds,
3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.
4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
At this point, David thinks it’s a true story. As a former shepherd, David could easily relate to the story. So as the king, he offers judgment against this rich man.
5 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,
6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.
8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.
God had given David so much. The kingdom. Wealth. Wives. What more could David want or need?
But David wanted something that was not his for the taking. Another man’s wife. And another man’s life.
Like David, we in Christ have been given everything. We have been promised a share in Christ’s eternal kingdom. So when we sin, it is a grievous thing indeed.
9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
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.’
When David sinned, he was despising the Lord! We often think of sin in little terms. A little lie. A little lusting. A little immorality. And we dissociate our sin from God. We deny it. Excuse it. Cover it.
God does not take sin lightly. He says that by sinning, David was despising the Lord.
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.
12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”
13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”…
These are the words Nathan hoped he would hear from David. No excuses. No blameshifting. No denial. No lying. The simplest, most sincere repentance. “I have sinned against the Lord.”
…And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.
14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”
15 Then Nathan went to his house…
God had mercy, and determined to not put David to death for his sins. But David utterly scorned the Lord!! He showed contempt for the Lord. In vs. 10, Nathan prophesies, “the sword will not depart from your house.” There will be violence in David’s house— his family—for the rest of David’s life. Next week, we will look at portions of the next 7 chapters, and we will see this prophecy lived out in David’s family. Much heartache and grief is coming.
Insights into David’s Heart—Psalm 51
Now right after Nathan leaves, what David was thinking? He had been hiding this dark sin for 9 or more months. Now Nathan had confronted him. David finally came clean. He admitted he had sinned.
Now what was he thinking? Well, we don’t have to wonder, because David wrote a Psalm expressing his thoughts and heart. Psalm 51.
He wrote this after Nathan had spoken to him. Perhaps just hours after Nathan left. What we are about to read in Psalm 51 is remarkable, timely insight into David’s soul. Think of a time when you sinned, and the Holy Spirit convicted you. How would you like to write down all your thoughts, and then put them on display for all of us to read? This is what David did in Psalm 51.
We can take what David wrote and thought, and find help in our own issues.
Psalm 51 (ESV) [page 474 in house Bible]
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
Be merciful, Lord. Blot out my sins. Don’t count them against me. Sin makes us feel dirty. Polluted. Unholy. David cried out for cleansing within his soul.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
Ultimately David’s sin was against his Creator and God. And God would be fully justified to bring severe judgment down on David.
Skip to verse 9.
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
David pleads for mercy. For forgiveness. A clean heart. For a restored relationship with Almighty God.
He wants to experience once again the “the joy of the Lord’s salvation.”
Lessons and Observations
What do you think of this story? What can we take out of it? What lessons can we learn?
David throughout his life is a positive model to us in many ways of faith and obedience.
But he is also a negative model, i.e., a warning, of the allurement, deceptiveness, and destructiveness of sin. All of us could be like David… either positive or negative.
I have been reading and re-reading and re-reading this story for two weeks. I’ve shaken my head in amazement many times.
My, how David fell. Despising the Lord. Sleeping with another man’s wife. Killing that man. Many others died in the process. Hiding it all for 9 months.
Let me offer you a few lessons that I have taken out of this incredible story of David.
Hate evil. Love good.
For most of his life, David did this. Except for this period.
Romans 12:9 ESV “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
We are to abhor…hate….despise all kinds of evil. We are not to be indifferent to evil in ourselves or in others. Hate it.
But because we love the Lord so much, we love what he loves and we hate what he hates. This doesn’t mean “Hate people,” or “hate yourself.” So I mean hate evil behavior. Idolatry. Adultery. Unbelief. Selfishness. Lust. Lying. Unforgiveness. Pride. These are things God hates, and they simply bring grief and death.
Instead we are to hold fast to…cling to… literally, the word can mean “GLUE YOURSELF”…to what is good and right and pure and holy. We should love good actions. Good behavior. Good books. Good speech. We should love Holiness. Integrity. Truth. Selflessness. Humility. These are things God loves, and they bring joy and life.
By sinning– instead of despising sin– David “despised the Lord” and his word. This is an alarming description of sin.
When we read David’s story, it ought to cause some alarm in us. David was such a man of God. He loved the Lord. He had written many Psalms. Such an intimate walk with God. Then to read what he did causes me some alarm. I’ve found myself praying, “Lord, please help me never to go down a path like David did.”
In our hatred of evil and love of what is good, we need to have a strong dose of humility.
We all have the potential to sin, and to sin greatly. In all this story, we are reminded of the need to be humble. We can fall into sin, too.
Galatians 6:1 ESV Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
It’s very tempting to become harsh and critical of others. And feel superior. Paul says, “Keep watch, lest you too be tempted.”
In humility, we must admit that we all have the potential to be like David in the whole story: temptation, sin, deceptiveness, and covering up.
We need to have a level of fear of sin. But at the same time, we don’t need to be afraid.
So fear, but don’t fear.
For though we are to be on guard against temptation and sin… and though sin is dark and destructive….. we don’t need to panic or despair, as if sin is unavoidable and we cannot stop it.
For in Christ, God always… gives us a way to escape.
1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
God always…always….always provides us with a way to escape our temptation. We must never say, “I couldn’t help myself.”
Rather, we can rejoice that God has given us the means to keep from sin:
- The Son redeems us –
- The Spirit empowers us –
- The Word directs us –
- The church helps us –
- Prayer connects us –
Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God, has come to redeem us from judgment. If we believe in him, we are set free and will never be condemned!!
The Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every Jesus follower. And he empowers us to live different lives. We are not alone. God is with us. He will help us.
The Word of God is living and active. 2 Timothy 3:16 says it is useful, profitable. Profitable to teach, reprove, correct, and train us.
The church helps us to keep focused on the Lord. We are the Body of Christ, and we help one another to keep our eyes on the Lord. Sometimes we need a Nathan in our lives. And we might be Nathan to others.
And in prayer, we are connected to the Lord as we seek God’s strength and direction. And his protection. Jesus taught the disciples to pray in the Sermon on the Mount: “Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil.” We should pray that every morning before our day begins.
So we walk with the Lord by hating what is evil and loving what is good. And by God’s grace and power and the work of the Holy Spirit, we will do that.
Humbly Repent like David
A second lesson that has been running through my mind the past two weeks:
If and when we do sin (even though we don’t want to), we can learn how to repent from David.
Psalm 51:1–2 ESV
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
We learn several lessons from David in Psalm 51.
- We humble ourselves. Look to the Lord. Stop hiding. Stop covering up. Make no excuses.
- Admit that your sin has been against God. David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
- Believe God is a just judge, and he has the right to judge.
- Believe God is merciful. He loves to show mercy. He is safe.
Read Psalm 51. Learn from David.
In essence, we remember the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Gospel. Guilty sinners throw themselves at the feet of God, believe in the work of the Son of God on the cross, and we cry out for mercy.
Rejoice in our forgiveness like David.
If and when we do sin and then repent, rejoice with great joy in the Lord’s salvation. Stop groveling around. Moping. Stop attempts of penance, trying to make up for what we did. Rather, we humble ourselves and rejoice that God is merciful and that his Son cleanses us completely.
Ancient church tradition holds that David wrote another Psalm following Psalm 51. It is Psalm 32.
Psalm 32:1–2 ESV
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
I don’t know for sure if David wrote this shortly after writing Psalm 51 and repenting, but it’s not hard to imagine David did.
David knew the holiness of God, and that David’s sin grieved him. David also knew the mercy of God, and when God forgave him of his capital crimes, David rejoiced.
For us who are in Christ today, we rejoice in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead, God offers life and forgiveness and salvation and adoption through faith in his Son. And for the believer in Jesus, life will never…..never be the same.
Now when we sin and repent, we rejoice in the NT truths promised for the true Christian. Promises like these:
Romans 8:1 ESV There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:35 ESV Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Nothing can separate us from his love.
This is cause for great celebration. God Almighty has cleansed us by the saving power of the blood of his Son, Jesus.
Our joy should be great. Our guilt and shame should be no more.
English preacher from the 19th century, Charles Spurgeon, said this:
“It is an unfortunate thing for the Christian to be melancholy.
If there is any man in the world that has a right to have a bright, clear face and a flashing eye,
it is the man whose sins are forgiven him, who is saved with God’s salvation.”
Spurgeon is not saying there are never times to grieve and be sad. He is talking about our patterns of discouragement and guilt and shame. We who are in Christ ought to be very, very happy. Like David said, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven.”
I have an assignment for you. You won’t be graded on it. But God may use it to change your life.
Today read two passages. Over lunch. Before bed.
If I could summarize our story today, I would say this:
Walking with God is glorious
Sinning against God is destructive
Repenting to God is beautiful
Rejoicing in our forgiveness is refreshment