We have seen consequences before in our reading. Today we get another look at them. Not only do we learn things about David today, but we also learn things about God. He chose David to be the second king of Israel. And many times, David is referred to as a man after the Lord's heart. But David is a flawed and sinful human just like the rest of us. The story today is familiar. It is spring when the kings go off to war. They went in the spring because they would be assured of good weather and there would be an abundance of food along their way. This story is set against the war with the Ammonites at Rabbah, their key city. Joab is leading the army and David has stayed home. King David was perhaps 50ish at this time and we read in 2 Samuel 21:15-17 that he had been advised to stay home. But, he could have been with the troops to help plan strategy. He didn't necessarily need to be involved in the fighting. This may have been the first time he did not go off to war and it seems he was bored.
Being up on the roof was not unusual. Many slept on their roofs when it was hot because there would be a breeze that was cooler than sleeping indoors. Bathsheba was a next-door neighbor it seems, she and her husband Uriah the Hittite who was one of King David's thirty, mighty fighting men. He was handpicked by David because of his military prowess. Bathsheba was most likely in the courtyard of her own home when David saw her. David saw her and he wanted her, and he used his power as king to take advantage of Uriah’s wife. Bathsheba became pregnant and sent word to David who then used one sin to cover up another. David committed adulatory and then had Bathsheba's husband Uriah murdered to cover up the adultery. For at least nine months David hid his sins and did not confess them to the Lord. Since David would not come to the Lord, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to him. Though God forgave David, he paid dearly for his sins. It has been said that God does not let his children sin successfully.
So, a bit about Uriah the Hittite. His name means flame of the Lord, or the Lord is Light. The fact that he is a Hittite may mean he was once a foreign mercenary who had become a worshiper of Israel's God. Right away we see another contrast in scripture. There is David, the Lord's anointed king. And there is Uriah, a convert...one who was not born of the faith but who willingly chose it for his own. David used his authority as king to take advantage of Uriah's wife while Uriah fought for the king and Israel. To cover up his sin, David called Uriah home thinking he would go home, have relations with his wife, and it would look like Bathsheba’s child was Uriah's. But Uriah was a dedicated soldier and he refused to enjoy the comforts of home while everyone else was on the battlefield. He is much more righteous than David at this point. Not only had David neglected his duty, but he had also stolen the wife of one of his best warriors. David failed miserably at covering up his sin, so he plotted his loyal soldiers' death. And even worse, Uriah carried the orders for his own death back to Joab, the commander of David's army. Just as David had planned, Uriah died in battle. After the appropriate period of mourning David took Bathsheba as his wife, perhaps in an attempt to make the child look legitimate. David may have been successful in covering up his sin from the people, but the Lord sees everything. And we read the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
Nathan the prophet was the one who had the privilege of delivering the message about God's covenant with David and his descendants. Now Nathan was being called on to confront David and his sins, for the Lord. He does so with a short parable about a rich man and one who is poor. The rich man had great herds and flocks while the poor man had one lamb that was like a daughter to him. When travelers came the rich man did not kill one of his own animals to feed the traveler, he took the poor man's only animal, the lamb. David was incensed by this story and declared that the rich man should pay the poor man back fourfold and he deserved to die. Picture Nathan looking David square in the eye and saying...you are the rich man. Can you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up? Perhaps you can see David slump forward, the weight of his guild nearly crushing him. He had managed to break four of the commandments; coveting, committing adulatory, bearing false witness and killing. And somehow, he seemed to believe he could get away with it. By law, both David and Bathsheba should have been stoned to death for their adultery. Over the course of the rest of his life, David paid dearly for his sins. The child who was born out of adultery died. The sword never left his house and there was always fighting, whether it was with other kings and nations or within his own family. We saw plenty of that is today's reading as well.
It is out of this experience David wrote Psalm 51; a personal lament turned hymn of praise. This is the Psalm we use on Ash Wednesday for our confession. He says to the Lord, ”For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” Davis asks to be made clean and that God wash away his sins. He also asks that the Lord create in him a clean heart and renew a right spirit in him. He ends by promising to sing of the Lord's praise.
But there is way more in this reading. We see the child of David's sin die and after some time, David and Bathsheba have another son whose name is Solomon. The Ammonites are defeated, and the troops come home. But now there is trouble within David's family. Now we see what happens when there are several wives and many children. The players here are David's daughter Tamar, who was the child of David and Maacah from Geshur, and Amnon who was the son of David and Ahinoam. He was David's firstborn son. Tamar’s natural brother was Absalom. He was a major player in this story and helped turn it from a drama into a tragedy. Jonadab was their cousin, and he was crafty and sly...in other words, dangerous. We learn more about David through all of this. It seems that David could have given Tamar to Amnon as a wife if they had asked, even though they were half brother and sister. But Amnon had some of the same tendencies as his father. He saw a beautiful woman and he wanted her. Nothing could or would stop him from getting what he wanted, and he raped his half-sister. If you look back to David's judgement of the rich man, he said he would have to restore the lamb taken, fourfold. That was the law, and that judgement fell on David's head. His first child with Bathsheba died. Absalom killed Amnon for raping Tamar. Joab killed Absalom during the battle of Mount Ephraim and later Adonijah was killed for trying to usurp the throne from Solomon.
Amnon may have thought since his father got away with adultery and murder, he would get away with raping his sister. There are always consequences, and they are significant here. Absalom’s hate of his brother simmered and stewed for two years before he carried out his plan to kill Amnon, and once he did the rest of his brothers fled in fear. Absalom fled to the king of Geshur to hide. That was the land of his mother. It is several years before Absalom saw his father's face again. David had mourned over the events but there were no real consequences for his sons' behaviors. Like Eli and Samuel before him, David does not discipline his sons and disastrous things happen. Even Joab gets into the mix, trying to reunite David and Absalom. There is so much pain and heartache here and all of it is unnecessary. We know David is a man after God’s heart but there is no indication that his children know the Lord. So once again, when David dies there won't be many left who know the Lord.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W