8 Pentecost proper B12
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
2 Samuel 11:1-15 Sermon
July 26, 2009
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
428 "O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing"
491 "Break Thou The Bread Of Life"
397 "Love Divine All Loves Excelling"
543 "Blest Be The Tie That Binds"
A MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART, PART 1
TEXT (vs. 2-4a): "One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, 'Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?' Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her."
NOTE: This is part one of a two-part sermon about David and Bathsheba. Next week's sermon will be based upon 2 Samuel 12.
It seems that almost every time we turn on the radio or television, or open a newspaper or magazine, there's some sort of scandal brewing someplace. In the American political scene, it would appear like every politician's "dirty laundry" is getting aired in front of the entire public. Of course there's a lot of embarrassment that goes along with this.
It was just this past month that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's dirty little secret was exposed. He told his staff that he was going hiking in the Appalachians, when in reality he was jetting off to Argentina to visit his mistress. Even though I don't quite understand why it is anybody's business where somebody goes during their time away from work (governor or otherwise), it still created an incident, and there was a scandal in the political arena.
And then we can think of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached from office in January of this year by a State Senate vote of 59-0. In general terms, he was ousted because of his abuse of his political power. Another political scandal.
Or how about the 62 year-old U. S. Senator Larry Craig from Idaho, who was arrested in June of 2007 at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport. He was caught in the men's restroom trying to solicit sex from an undercover police officer. He was arrested, and yet another name in politics became connected with scandal.
It never stops. Sarah's Palin's daughter fell pregnant out of wedlock. Scandal. Newt Gingrich's daughter has publicly announced that she is a lesbian. Scandal. President Bill Clinton had a brief affair with a White House intern. Big scandal. And going back even further, there's John F. Kennedy's affair with Marilyn Monroe. Or how about former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and his cross-dressing and homosexual shenanigans? And back even further is Franklin D. Roosevelt's mistress. Scandal, scandal, scandal; shame, shame, shame. It seems like there's no end to it all.
Just when we're about ready to throw up our hands and ask ourselves "what's the world coming to?" we come to the sobering reality that public scandal has been going on for years, centuries, and even millennia. There hasn't been any one generation worse than the other in this area.
That's where we get into our text for today. King David himself was right in the heart of one of the biggest scandals to have ever existed. In fact, our scandalous situations in current events and in recent history are mere drops in the bucket when they are compared to the very black page of history regarding King David, this one high political figure.
So let's examine in detail what happened with King David, the man the Bible calls "a man after God's own heart." Let's see the kind of situation that might surround someone God has called into his service.
To start off, this particular section of Scripture is one that has never been part of the historic lectionary, or pericopes. And even now, if you look at the appointed readings for this Sunday, you will see that there is an alternate Old Testament Lesson provided for those who would rather keep this sort of thing in the background. One commentator even mused that probably more pastors would be preaching on the "feeding of the 5,000" Gospel text for today, rather than tackle the scandal surrounding King David.
But I'm not one to shy away from a bit of a challenge or a controversial subject, so I'm jumping into this with both feet. Besides, God saw fit to include this in Scripture for a reason. There's a lot we can learn from this situation.
King David was the one chosen as the successor to the throne from King Saul. David was the youngest son of Jesse, and it would be through that blood line or ancestry that the promised Messiah, or the Saviour would come. David was the direct earthly ancestor of Jesus himself.
In any event, David is now the king. He's a handsomely rugged individual of about thirty years old. David's army was at war with Ammon, and his standing army was besieging that nation's key city, Rabbah. Like most leaders of his day, David should have been in the field with his troops; but instead he had assigned that responsibility to his commanding general, Joab. He remained behind in Jerusalem. This actually was the first time that David had not personally led his army into battle. So this is the first indication we have that David's power might have gone to his head.
One day, David had been taking a late afternoon nap in his bed chamber on the upper floor of his palace. When he woke up, he went out of the balcony door on to the roof where he walked around a bit. And as he walked around, a beautiful young woman who was taking a bath caught his eye. And so he said to himself, "Hello! Who have we here?" There is no telling exactly what was going on in David's mind at that time, except that his feelings of unbridled lust and sexual attraction completely overpowered him. His mind would have been going wild, blocking out any shred of common sense, decency, and morality. His focus was clearly fixed upon her and his intentional actions of moral turpitude.
Now we must remember that David had several wives and a number of concubines as well. But forget them; David was greedy! He had to have her! And since he was the King, he could basically have whatever he wanted. And so he sends someone to find out about this woman.
He discovers her name is Bathsheba, who is the daughter of Eliam, and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Her father Eliam was also the son of Ahithophal. Ahithophal becomes an adversary of David much later on, but that is a different story.
David didn't care whose wife she was or whose daughter she was, all he wanted to do was to get her into bed with him so he could sow a few wild oats. So he has her brought to him, and he has sexual relations with her.
Some commentators suggest that David may have raped her, but nothing in the account suggests that. In fact, there's enough evidence to support the theory that Bathsheba was a willing participant. In any event, she had to be responsible for her actions.
Let's move away from David and Bathsheba for a few moments, and have a look at Bathsheba's husband, Uriah the Hittite. The Hittites were a group of people that weren't of Hebrew descent, and so they did not worship the one true God. Instead, they followed the Canaanite religion, which was polytheistic; i.e. they had a whole list of various gods, almost more than one could count. Whether or not Uriah had converted to Judaism when he married Bathsheba is not known, but since he was still called a Hittite, he probably hadn't. When other cultures mixed with the Hebrews, mixed marriages often occurred.
The Hittites were a precious commodity to any army, and were often enlisted because of their superior skills in battle and weaponry. They made good use of metal in their weapons. They also had developed a special chariot for battle that could literally "mow down" the opposing forces--something like a Sherman tank would do today. And if you couple all this with their superior intellect in battle strategy, they were quite a fighting machine. Uriah held all the credentials of a good Hittite, so he was a great soldier, and he held a high position in David's army.
The Hittites were also strapping and well toned men, smooth skinned by nature, who never cut their hair. If you can imagine a whole army of "Fabios," that is probably a good description of the Hittites.
Well, as the story goes, Bathsheba becomes pregnant with David's child. There could be no doubt about whose child it was, since the Bible says that she and David committed adultery just after the ceremonial cleansing from her monthly "time." So she sends word to David about this.
Oh what to do, what to do, what to do? David devises an almost foolproof plan. He sends for Uriah to leave the battle and come and see him in the palace. David figures that he would go home to his wife, and they would have sex. After all, Uriah had been in battle a long time, and he would probably welcome the opportunity to be with his wife. And when Bathsheba's pregnancy was discovered, it would be assumed that the child was Uriah's, and not David's, since there was no way to do a paternity test in those days. A perfect plan, right?
But Uriah refuses to go to his wife. Instead, he chooses to sleep with David's man servants at the palace. Uriah indicates that he couldn't be with his wife while the men under him were on the battle field sleeping on the ground.
So David asks Uriah to come to the palace again. This time, the alcohol flows freely and David gets Uriah completely inebriated. He figures that in his drunken state, Uriah's noble ideas would be compromised, and he would head to his house and sleep his wife. But even then, Uriah chooses to sleep with the men at David's palace instead of his wife.
Now if at this point you might be wondering about Uriah's sexual orientation, you might be on the right track. The Hittites were also nicknamed the "effeminates." In those days, homosexuality was practiced and even encouraged amongst the heathen military, a good example being the Spartan Army. The thought was that a person would fight harder if they were trying to protect their "significant other" in battle. The Spartan women lived in dormitories, and their limited sexual activity was for procreative purposes only.
Otherwise, there were male prostitutes in the general public available for those men wanting to use them. They're mentioned several times in 1 and 2 Kings, and Paul even mentions them in 2 Corinthians. They were around, and they were popular. In general, heathen cultures even back then accepted or at least tolerated same-sex relationships. So it wouldn't be too far-fetched to conclude this might have happened to Uriah.
It was predominately the Jews, the followers of the one true God, who vehemently upheld God's condemnation of homosexuality, and that it was an abomination to God. So you see, the same old sins have continued right up to the present day.
Anyway, since David's plan for Uriah to have sex with Bathsheba completely backfired for whatever reason, he had but one choice left. So he sent a message to Joab, his field commander, to put Uriah on the front lines and then withdraw the troops so he was deserted there. Uriah would then be a sitting duck, and he would be killed in very short order. David basically put out a contract on Uriah's life. It's even been suggested that Bathsheba was a willing accomplice in this. And that ends part one of this story.
That's King David. That's the man the Bible refers to in 1 Samuel 13:14 as a man after God's own heart! And what does he do? In this whole scandal, he willfully and defiantly breaks at least five of the ten commandments! He puts himself ahead of God, he commits murder and adultery, he lies, and he covets his neighbor's wife! How could a man of God act in this manner? We could ask the same question about Simon Peter when he denied Jesus. How could a man of God act in this manner? Couldn't God have found better, more honorable people to be his spokesmen?
According to human logic, maybe so. Certainly there are people around who haven't been embroiled in scandal. But can you think of anybody better to demonstrate God's grace and love and forgiveness? Certainly David couldn't be a man after God's own heart according to his own righteousness. His actions were detestable.
But it was for the sinners, for the detestable thoughts, words, and deeds of mankind that Jesus came to this earth. The promise that Jesus would be born as a distant ancestor of David himself would show that Jesus came to save everybody regardless of the sin or transgression. In Luke 5:30-32 Jesus engages in the following dialogue: "...the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?' Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"
So how does one become a person after God's own heart? It's the person whose sins are forgiven through faith in Christ Jesus their Saviour. There is no sin that's too great or too bad that God cannot forgive it for Jesus' sake.
God had big plans for David, plans that would see fulfillment with the birth of Jesus. God forgave David for his sins, just like he forgives everybody who comes to him in faith.
Paul writes in Romans chapter 5 verses 20-21: "...But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Today we are assured that there is no sin so great, or any scandal so bad that faith in Jesus our Saviour cannot overcome. Regardless of a person's past, faith in Christ points us to the future. Therefore all true believers are people after God's own heart, and therefore fit for service in his kingdom.