Sunday Sermon: David and Bathsheba

As we pick up the story of David, today, we find David seemingly on top of the world. It seems like he has it all.

David, as we saw last week, is king of all Israel and has ended the civil war between Israel and Judah. His military secured the borders of this united nation through victories against the likes of the Ammonites and Philistines. Furthermore, God gave David a promise that his kingdom would never end. A promise that would be the forerunner for the hope of a Savior, Jesus Christ, who would come from David’s lineage.

While so much was going right for David, things were starting to bubble up that showed that not all was going well for him. This mostly came when David began to focus more on his own needs than the needs of the people. David wanted to build a temple for God, even though the Lord never asked for one. He sends his military into battle, but stays home contrary to the practices of the rulers of that time. David was becoming more relaxed and acted as if nothing would or could stop him and his kingdom.

That would soon change beginning with this scene from 2 Samuel 11:1-15. It is the grand pivot in David’s narrative where we see David move from a powerful leader into a broken person who struggles to hold his kingdom together. What we see, here, is David’s biggest moral failing and a massive abuse of power.

The story may be familiar to many of us. David sends for Bathsheba. Bathsheba gets pregnant and, then, David kills her husband, Uriah, when he could not convince him to go home to Bathsheba. It is a familiar story not just because we know this story, but also because I believe this is a story of us. This is the one story of David we can relate to the most, because we all know moments in our lives when we’ve acted like David does here. We have all done something wrong, and then tried to do everything we could to make sure no one knew what took place.

This comes to light as we go deeply into the story. It begins as the military is at war. David stays home and decides to go for a walk on the roof of his house. As he is walking on the roof he notices Bathsheba taking a bath. Now, how does David see this? It actually was not that difficult for him. His palace sat on the top of Mount Zion and many of the homes in Jerusalem were located on the hillside below. He could easily see into people’s home from his rooftop.

David, even though he has several wives, is interested in Bathsheba. He asks his servants about her and they report that she is the daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah. They are both among David’s best officers. This should have stopped David from wanting Bathsheba. It does not. David believes he can take whatever he wants and he wants Bathsheba. He tells his servants to get her. She comes into his home and they engage in a sexual affair.

Let’s think about what is going on. David is known as the man who sought after God’s own heart, yet David is more interested, here, in seeking after his own desires. He lives into Samuel’s warning that Israel’s king would take whatever they want without any concern for anyone else. David, this worshipful man, allows temptation to control him and he enters into sins by having an affair with Bathsheba.

What we see in David is that no one is exempt from temptation and sin. All of us are capable of sinning. We think of sin as the act of doing things that are more about living for ourselves than living for God. Sin is about turning our back towards God and seeking our own way. This happens when David pursues Bathsheba and has an affair with her. It happens anytime when we focus more on what we want than what God wants for us.

Sin is nothing trivial. There are no little sins. There are no ranking of sins. All sins are the same in God’s eyes. It disappoints and breaks God’s heart when we sin. The reason sin breaks God’s heart is it damages our lives. It separates us from God’s love and from the love of each other, because our acts do not just impact our lives but the lives of others. The wrongs we commit do not just hurt us, but they hurt other people as well.

That is what we see in David’s actions with Bathsheba. This affair affects a lot of people, such as Uriah, Eliam, the entire military, and the people of Israel. David has violated all of their trust by focusing more on himself.

We also see this when Bathsheba finds out she is pregnant with David’s child. Keep in mind Uriah is at war and soldiers during war abstained from sexual relations. It was not possible for Uriah to be the child’s father. This was David’s child. David has violated the trust of his leadership and he has taken from Uriah, Bathsheba, and so many others.

David is now faced with the question we also face when we come face-to-face with a wrong we have committed. How will we respond? There seems to be two options for David. He could admit what he did. He could also try to hide the truth. David chose the latter.

He sends a message to his commander-in-chief, Joab, to send Uriah home. Once he arrives, David and Uriah enter into a discussion about the battle. David soon gets to what he really wants from Uriah. He wants Uriah to violate the standing order to abstain from sexual relations and go home to his wife. It is an order David should have obeyed himself. David believes if Uriah does this it would allow him to say the child is Uriah’s and not his.

What David does, here, is he acts out of fear. He tries to cover-up his actions instead of confessing them. David is in denial of his wrongdoing and tries to prevent people from knowing what happened.

This is where we see ourselves in David’s actions. We tend towards denial when faced with our actions than to admit what we did wrong. If we deny that the action happened, we believe, then that the situation will go away.

One of the ways we deny our actions is by making excuses for them. We’ll say something like it wasn’t our fault, because someone else told us to do it. Excuses are nothing more than our own efforts to save ourselves rather than seeking true grace and help when we do wrong.

But, what often happens when we try to make excuses or seek our own way out of our mistakes? They never work. We often make things worse when we try to make excuses or to seek our own way out of our troubles.

That is what happens with David in his attempt to get Uriah to go home to Bathsheba. Uriah refuses to follow David’s wishes. He stays with the servants. When pressed by David, Uriah says he could not go home when the Ark of the Covenant and the military are in the battlefields. Whether he is aware of David’s actions against him or not, Uriah refuses to violate the trust of his fellow soldiers. He will not assist David in the cover-up.

David, at this moment, could have stopped and admit his mistake. Instead, David commits another unbelievable act. The only way, David believes, to cover-up the act now was to have Uriah killed in battle. So, David sends Uriah back to war with his own death certificate. What started with an affair as now led to the death of Bathsheba’s husband.

That is the thing about what denying our actions, trying to cover them up, or justifying them away. We end up creating a situation that is much worse than the initial act. David is now guilty of Uriah’s murder. A situation that is outlandish and easily could have been prevented had David simply admitted what happened.

David’s admission was the only way to get past his sin. Confession of our sin is the only thing that makes sin goes away. When we do wrong, the only way to move beyond the act is to admit that we have done wrong and to seek forgiveness from God and from those whom we have hurt.

Confession allows us to experience the truth that there is nothing that God is not able or willing to forgive. God’s grace can cover a multitude of sin and is available to us when we admit we have done wrong. Nothing we have ever done in our lives is beyond the ability of God to forgive. Just as God forgave David for the affair and Uriah’s murder, so can and will God forgive us of anything the wrongs we have done.

This does not mean we have a blank check to do whatever we want knowing that God’s grace is there or that we are free of the consequences of the action. David’s life was forever changed by this affair. Even though he seeks and receives God’s forgiveness in 2 Samuel 12, David’s kingdom is in disarray and he is left to defend it from coup attempts. Forgiveness does not mean we are free and clear of the responsibility of our actions. What it means is that God’s grace goes with us as we live into the situation and make amends for our mistakes.

We cannot hide in denial of our wrong if we want to receive God’s grace. We must be open and admit our mistakes and see God’s loving forgiveness. Communion invites us not to hide from our wrongs, but to bring them to the table in order to seek God’s redeeming love and grace. When we take this meal, we gather as a people who recognize that we are broken people who need God’s love. When we leave this table, we experience God’s transformative love that cleanses and heals us of our brokenness. That grace allows us to share grace with others, both those we have wronged and those who have wronged us.

As we come to the table where are you like David? What are you hiding from or trying to make excuses about in your life? Where do you need to experience God’s redeeming love? Where do you need to feel the same grace that God gave to David and gives to us freely every day?

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