This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: 2 Samuel 11:1-27
Sermon prepared by Rev. Richard deLange, Aylmer, Ontario
Dear family of God,
Many young people and adults as well are big fans of the television show The Simpsons. The attraction to The Simpsons seems to be the ridiculous antics of Homer and his family. The show gets laughs because it’s got a connection to the lives of ordinary people, whether it’s tensions between parents and kids or amongst spouses or neighbors, or maybe even celebrating the good things in our lives like birthdays and anniversaries. I believe there are even some faith-based rituals like going to church, spiced up by Dad falling asleep during the sermon and making a fool of himself. Those are points of contact with our ordinary lives that the show exploits to create a laugh.
In preparation for The Simpsons Movie released in the summer of 2007, a promotional poster for the movie contained a picture of the Simpsons family and below it the words, “See our family. And feel better about yours.” You see, that’s the real attraction of the Simpsons for many people today. When Homer Simpson messes up things on a regular basis—at home, school, work or church—we end up laughing as we watch and listen. And laughter is good medicine for our hearts. But as we watch the brokenness in his life and family, we start to feel better about ourselves. “I guess I’m not so bad after all!” or “Things could certainly be worse for us!” That’s why promoters say, “See our family. And feel better about yours.”
You could almost hang a slogan like that above Second Samuel 11. God allows us to watch the private life of a royal family. And despite their best efforts to put on a good front, we discover pride, lust, adultery, conspiracy, murder, and more! The picture goes from bad to worse. The royal family is falling apart and you can imagine people saying to us. “See this family. And feel better about yours.”
God allows us to look into the home of King David who is sometimes called “a man after God’s own heart.” But we see him at a time of weakness and brokenness. God allows us to see "the interior hurt, anguish, and ambiguity that operate" in the palace. He lets us see that the royalty are "utterly human in their hurt, their hate, and their hope." He says to us, as it were, “Here! Look at this picture of David's family. Look behind the palace walls. But don’t just look because you are nosey. Look there if you wish but then look at what’s going on within the walls of your own home and your own life.”
Chapter 11 marks the point of transition in the life of David and Israel . It is a point of no return. The chapters before tell of Israel ’s triumph over enemies. And, as chapter 11 begins, David has just sent his chief commander Joab with the army to engage the Ammonites in battle. We don’t know yet if they will win or lose. All we know is that David does not go along. In fact, verse 1 ends with these very strange and uncharacteristic words: “David remained in Jerusalem .”
The significance of those words may not immediately strike us but they are important. In 1 Samuel 8:20 the people asked for a king to “go out before us and fight our battles.” And up to this point David has been valiantly fighting in the name of the Lord but now he is at home, relaxing. In fact, in v.2 we read that David has been resting. David remains in Jerusalem when he should have been leading his troops in battle. And that sets the stage for two battles. While Joab and the army face the Ammonites, David remains in the palace and is about to fight the battle of his life.
As we look in the palace, we see a man who has begun to rely on his own thoughts and ways instead of relying on the Spirit of God who came upon him when he was anointed king. God's child is now self-assured. He is self-confident, instead of God-confident. It's like he's saying, "I've got it made now!" So he stays home and sends his servants out to do his work.
We grieve the Holy Spirit who lives in us too when we do things our own way instead of depending upon the Lord. Looking at David, you wonder, “What happened to the young David who once enjoyed spending quiet hours in the field singing to His God in a simpler time in his life when he tended sheep? What happened to the young man of faith who valiantly rose to fight Goliath because he defied the name of the Lord? What happened to the king who fought the enemies of Israel in the strength of the Lord?” David never made a conscious choice to stop listening to God. But the move from the field to the palace has slowly changed him.
In tough times, we also tend to walk hand in hand with God. We depend on Him, but once we've established ourselves in our career, once we’ve attained our goals, or once our pockets are full of cash, we tend to think less about God. We trust more in ourselves. We trust in our own power, our wealth, our genius or our reputation. And as we see in David, we start to think that we can do whatever we want. We forgot God’s commandments and His love for us.
Oh, dear people, when all is well in your life, beware of temptation. David is at the height of success, by worldly measures. One evening, v.2 says, David got up from his bed. Perhaps he couldn’t sleep or something awakened him. In any event, David walks out on his patio and scans the city. His eye catches a beautiful woman having a bath. He likely locked his eyes on her for a time. And that’s when David’s bad choices begin to compound. We can only wonder what would have happened had David done as Job did? Job tells us,
JOB 31:1 "I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look lustfully at a girl.
But David is king and he decides that as king he can have whatever his eyes see and his heart desires. Doesn't really matter who the beautiful woman is, he can take her. He's king. David sees her. Lust takes over. He sends for her and they sleep together. Whether Bathsheba resisted at all isn’t clear but, either way, David takes another man’s wife for a one night stand. And when he is done, he disposes of her. It’s a cheap act for any man, but especially for a man of God! Motivated by nothing but lust, he forgets to ask whether his proposed plan is right or wrong. Instead, everything he wants he takes because he can. He has the power.
Let this be a warning for all of us still today, my friends. David was not what we might call a weak Christian. He walked with God daily from the time he was a child. He loved the Lord greatly. But temptation doesn’t stop when you get older. David’s life teaches us the same lesson God told Cain in Genesis 4:
GE 4:7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
We might have the world by the tail, as we say. We can have a great job, a wonderful family, a big bank account and blessings galore. All those things in themselves are good. But sin is always crouching at the door. It seems that the more power, money or influence we have, the more we must guard against the temptation to think we can do as we please. We must all guard against self-reliance and pride.
We must be aware of the temptation to sin that comes with living in the comforts of our day and age, the temptation to turn our mind and heart off to the Word of God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls us to beware of this downward slide when He says,
LK 12:15 …"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."
Whatever you have you didn’t get because you were so smart or good. You got it because God, who owns all things—the earth and everything in it—and has entrusted it to you in the first place.
Rather than guarding what is entrusted to him, David lusts after that which is not his. He takes Uriah’s wife for himself and from there things just get messier. Sin, regardless of the form, can be devastating if it is not dealt with in God’s way. Sin happens. Even God’s good people do bad things. There’s no sense trying to hide it. Our sinful actions cause pain in the greatest of families. And whether it’s mom’s sin, dad’s or that of the children it makes no difference. It is painful. And it can get really messy. Tears flow on earth… and also in heaven.
The only one smiling is Satan. His game is enticing people with promises about greater happiness and satisfaction. But his words are lies. He tells us we deserve better or he whispers, “It isn’t so bad.” He did it with Adam and Eve and he’s still doing it. And after we listen to him, we find that sin has consequences we weren’t counting on. Satan’s promises of happiness are lies.
It would be nice if we could blame Satan for it all, but sin is our choice. And that’s why we must also choose how to deal with it. In today’s Scripture, David must decide whether to come clean or white wash his affair with Bathsheba! Be honest and confess his sin or try to cover it up. David chooses deception—a cover-up—in an attempt to save his good name.
We read the story: he calls Uriah home from the war so that he’ll sleep with his wife and then she can say that the baby is from him! But Uriah won't even go into his house to sleep with his wife. He refuses to enjoy the pleasure of his home while all of his fellow soldiers are risking their lives at the front line. Even after David gets Uriah drunk, Uriah won’t change his mind. His integrity stands in sharp contrast to David's lack of it.
Then in a desperate attempt to cover up his sin and protect his name, David arranges to have Uriah killed. Then he marries Bathsheba. Uriah is not around to argue whether the baby is his or not. DNA tests aren’t available. So David breathes a sigh of relief. The sin is covered up. Mission accomplished. No one will ever know about his adultery!
No one, except God, that is. Chapter 11 ends with these words: But the things David had done displeased the Lord. Sin cannot be hidden from God. Yet so often that’s our first line of defense because we don’t want people to think we are as bad as we really are. We don’t even want to admit that we are that bad.
When we try to hide our sin, Satan laughs because it just leads from bad to worse. When David tried to cover-up his sin with Bathsheba it led to conspiracy and death. And that pattern repeated itself in some of David’s children if you read further into the book. When we do not deal with sin it begins a vicious process of growth. We may foolishly try to hide sin, keep it quiet, or pretend it never happened but David’s life shows us in a very real way that our sin, particularly when it is unconfessed, can do all kinds of damage to ourselves, our families and our community.
So while David was able to conquer his Syrian and Ammonite enemies, the enemy within himself proved to be his downfall. And Satan laughs. But sin is no laughing matter. It needs to be dealt with according to God’s righteous demands, not our own standards. That’s the problem with the slogan of The Simpson’s Movie. It might make you feel a little better about your family or your life when you see the mess at the Simpson’s home, but sin is sin and comparing yours to someone else’s doesn’t make yours go away.
So, finally, we need to see the Lord’s call to deal with sin and see how He deals with it. The Lord shows us that He takes sin seriously because He loves His children. In chapter 12, the Lord sends Nathan the prophet to David, Nathan exposes David’s sin and David quickly confesses it. He says, in v.13, like he does in Psalm 51,
2SA 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD."
[And] Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin.”
That is the right way to deal with sin. David found out that covering it up doesn’t work, even though shame and pride may lead us to try that route time and again. Dear friends, sin needs to be confessed to the Lord.
While God did punish David, he also gave him signs of hope. Sin does not have the last word for Christians. The hope for the Christian comes in knowing that God promises to forgive our sins through Christ. David’s moral failure occurred when he became too comfortable in his life. When he thought he had it made in this life, he began to neglect his God-given calling as king. He sent his army out to battle without him while he stayed home in the palace in Jerusalem . And in the ease of life in the palace, he dropped his guard against Satan the deceiver, and he fell.
Our Lord Jesus, on the other hand, gave up the comforts of heaven to take on a battle on earth for our souls. He never dropped His guard against Satan but always sought the power of the Holy Spirit to stand firm in the battle. For Jesus knew that winning the battle had eternal consequences. And Jesus did win for us!
And He won for David too. God doesn’t share the brokenness of David’s life and home so that we’ll think our family isn’t so bad, the way the producers of the Simpsons try to entice us to watch their movie. God allows us to see into David’s home—to see the sin, the cover-up, the deceit and the sorrow—in order that we’ll also see God’s grace.
God does not give up on us. The Lord looked with favor upon David and Bathsheba again. After their first son dies, we read,
2SA 12:24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; 25 and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.
Jedidiah means “the darling of the Lord.”
But still more amazing is that our Lord Jesus was born from this line of David and Bathsheba, showing that God can still use us for His purposes after we sin. David, the man after God’s own heart, falls into great sin. Even he cannot do without a greater King, Jesus Christ the Son of David. Only Jesus can lead God’s people into the glorious kingdom where God dwells among His people and they live lives that honor Him. Our spiritual health as individuals, families and churches depends on Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration.
Because of Jesus we have hope for salvation which includes renewal in our sin-broken lives. God is a God of new beginnings and grace. Because of our Lord Jesus, God still manages to do good things through His broken people today. But He doesn’t call us to compare ourselves to the Simpsons or anyone else in order to feel better. He says, instead, that we must look to His Son who provides us with grace that is greater than all our sin, grace to forgive and to overcome, and the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our daily battles against sin and Satan.
Prayer of Response
Dear Father in heaven, forgive us for seeking salvation in ourselves. Forgive us for trying to cover our sins up and hide them for others and even from you. Forgive us for trying to look better than we are. Help us instead to rest in the completed work of our Lord Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Grant us the full measure of your Holy Spirit so that we will have your power at work in us to help us honor you in all we do. We ask this in Jesus’ powerful name. Amen.
Order of Worship
Call to Worship
Gathering Songs: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty PsH #249
Come, Everyone, and Join with Us PsH #66 (alt tune: #547)
Prayer of Confession
Assurance of Pardon
God’s Will for Our Lives
Song: I Will Sing of My Redeemer #479
Prayer for the Word
Scripture Reading : 2 Samuel 11
Sermon: When Everything is Well, Beware
Song: A Mighty Fortress is Our God #469
Tithes & Offerings:
Song: Have Thine Own Way, Lord #287
Doxology: All Glory, Laud and Honor #375