Sermon on 2 Samuel 11:26-12:15 - The aftermath of David and Bathsheba
I will have to admit, as I planned this summer sermon series, knowing that last week we would have our ecumenical service for Muskie Days, deep down I was excited that I would not have to deal with the story of David and Bathsheba. Then I looked ahead, seeing that last week we had the account from 2 Samuel 11, and now we have the aftermath before us. It is inescapable.
Those of you who don’t know the story. David is king, yet he does what was not a kingly thing to do. Chapter 11 opens with this line - In the spring when kings march out to war, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah, but David remained in Jerusalem. It has always struck me that when kings were supposed to be out fighting their people’s battles for them, that was one of the reasons why Israel wanted a king in the first place, David stays home.
It is at this time, late in the evening, he walked upon the roof of his palace and saw Bathsheba bathing. He wanted her, even though he knew she was another man’s wife, and so he took her. She gets pregnant. David does everything he can to cover up his sin. Brings her husband, Uriah, home from war to have him sleep at home. He gets him drunk even. None of it works. Then David has him killed in battle.
Now, is this story about adultery? It can be. Is it about sexual violence? It can be, definitely. Is it about covetousness, murder, deceit, attempting to hide from God? Attempting to hide ourselves, our sin, from others? Absolutely. But to all of those possibilities this morning, I will say for your benefit - not really.
Is it about honor? We discover that Uriah, the Hittite, a foreigner, is more honorable than the man after God’s own heart - David. He won’t sleep at home but sleeps at the gate of the palace with the rest of the servants because his comrades in the army are sleeping in fields. So is it about honor, or lack thereof? Yes, and no.
Is it about the effects of sin? Sins effect on us. Our attempts to hide it, to run away from it, to forget it. Its effects on other people. How we hurt others all the time and say “oops.” How often we think of victimless crimes. Of sins of omission and commission that often don’t affect others directly, unlike here with David, and yet they affect our love for others. Our help for others. Our trust in God even.
What this story does tell us of is a man, sin, a preacher, death, redemption. David the man sins innumerably against God in his sins against Bathsheba, his other wives, Uriah, Joab, so many others. Yet, the purpose of this story is not to berate against specific sins or to humiliate you, but it is to bring you a preacher. To have that preacher bring redemption, through a death and resurrection. Through repentance.
God never leaves us alone to deal with our sin on our terms. Sin exists for the preacher. More specifically, for forgiveness. So enter Nathan. Nathan the prophet. Nathan the preacher. He brings his parable to David for the sole purpose of bringing him to the mercy of God. The Giving-God. The God whom David worships and serves. The God that gave David all things. Gives you all things, and Nathan uses that for the purpose of repentance, and so can we.
David, God gave you wives, power, riches, prestige, a throne. Why is it not enough for you? You have it all and yet you looked to another man’s wife and said, I need her. This insatiable desire that has poisoned your soul.
In the TV show Dexter, which I do not recommend watching, the main character is a sociopath who has become a serial killer. His adoptive father notices the tendencies in him early and he trains Dexter to hide from the police and to use his sin to kill guilty people that avoid justice. Dexter calls it his Dark Passenger. Nathan, in his parable, uses the same wording in a way – a traveler. Something that comes upon us that we entertain. That throws off our discipline, our rhythm. Our way of life. That makes a home in us. Something that grabs us and we feed it. Eventually taking from others rather than enjoying the gifts God has given.
David experiences this sermon from Nathan, four words – You are the man – and turns to God. I have sinned against the Lord. He realizies that the deepest ill of all our sin is not what I do to you, but what I do to God in what I do to you. That the darkness of my heart grieves God even more than it does you, because you don’t see inside my soul, God does.
In David’s confession of his sinfulness, Nathan the Preacher brings the absolution – Your sin is taken away from you. You will not die. Again, sin being the reason for the Preacher. Death and resurrection being the work here. David – I have sinned (death). Nathan – You will not die (resurrection). Without a preacher, sin remains. It sits there. It festers. It kills, and no resurrection comes.
This is the reason you are needed. You and your gifts. To be preachers to one another. To tell your neighbor, your friend, your family, your spouse – Your sin is taken from you. That is different than forgiveness isn’t it? Forgiveness is a place in which memory still exists. We can forgive but still remember. We pretend that we can forget. If the sin is taken away however, it is gone. It does not exist anymore, or someone else has taken it. But you don’t have it anymore.
Psalm 51 bears this out. David wrote this as his response to Nathan’s sermon. This is a text everyone should have to memorize. Because if you can’t think of words to pray to God, turn here - be gracious to me according to your faithful love; wash away my sin; against you, you only have I sinned; purify me, wash me and I will be clean. It becomes your confession and a sermon to you all in one. If God has washed you of your sin, you are clean. Beautiful words. Words for you and for your enemy. For the most righteous of men, and for the dirtiest of scoundrels.
Even in the midst of sin, of pain, of shame, of the preacher who comes to show you your failure, victory follows in its wake. You are not a preacher without those words – you will not die. There can never be the preaching of Christ and the cross without disclosing your sin, your debts, but then also plastering you with the cleansing found in Christ. Christ exists for the purpose of sin, not to love it but to forgive it. To destroy it. To take it away from you. That is the reason we are here. The reason for church. The reason for the sermon. For the Word. For your Jesus. Because we get so bound up in the world looking for sins to announce, instead of sins to be forgiven.
Alright. Now. Today, there are people combing through the social media accounts of anyone famous or powerful to find any words they have ever said that they can interpret as offensive or sinful. It becomes a huge story. A big deal. Reputations are ruined. People have lost jobs, livelihoods, friends and family, because we give half the sermon. The desire becoming one to destroy the neighbor by hoping they are dirtier than I am. By cutting for that pound of flesh. But here, that is like telling someone, you are the man, without adding – you will not die.
Now. An important aside for you this morning. Be patient with me. The darkest part of this story is the suffering of an innocent. I can’t avoid it. Nathan says to David - Your son will die. The child conceived by the sin David committed against Bathsheba dies. Wretched news. Horrible. In many ways it showcases the unintended consequences of sin upon innocents around us. The young and old alike. However, I am not saying, please hear me on this! I am not saying that every infant that has ever died has been the result of a parental transgression. No. Don’t read that here. Yes, death exists because of sin – for the wages of sin is death, right? But this is not a proof text that a baby dying, or an innocent suffering, is a sign of God’s vindictive retribution. Read the rest of 2 Samuel 12 after this and you will see mercy and resurrection there. Even in the death of the child. That within the narrative of this death, like anyone who has lost a child, we have to cling to the hope of resurrection, which David does. He prays for healing knowing God to be gracious and merciful, but when the child dies he knows that he will see him again.
For Gospel, we are given the dreadful words, “Your son will die.” Think of whom the Preacher is speaking to. Who is Nathan speaking to? David. He announces to him that the consequences for David’s rejection of God’s goodness to him is what – You will not die, but your son will die. Now, those of you who know your Bible, who is the Son of David? Who has that title? Jesus. Who died for you? For David? For your sin? For his? Jesus, the Son of David. Nathan foreshadowing to David the remedy which is to come.
The more we know of our sin the more we are equipped as Paul says into the unity and fullness of Christ. The more we know and proclaim the words of David – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right Spirit within me – the more we know of where that remedy comes from. Of whom we need our greatest victory. Coming into the greater knowledge of Christ through the preachers in our lives, then the more we look at our own sin, and less at the sins of others. People need to hear this message. I need it, if anyone, I need to hear the message of a merciful God who sends his church not for condemnation but for salvation. Preachers unite. Thanks be to God. Amen