Summary: A sermon about the life of David and his commitment to walk with God.
The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 28, 2011 Proper 17 A
St. Andrew’s Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
John Jacques Rousseau, the 18th century philosopher, heard the three words that strike fear into the hearts of sexually active single men or philandering married men. From Therese Lavasseur, Rousseau’s lover, John Jacques heard these three words: “I am pregnant.”
King David had heard these same words from Bathsheba. After a failed attempt to cover his tracks by recalling her husband from war and trying to get him to sleep with Bathsheba, David conceived a second plan. David sent Bathsheba’s husband Uriah into intense combat and had the commander order the rest of his men in retreat so that Uriah would be killed. This plan worked.
So, David, the greatest king of Israel ever was an adulterer and a murderer. On that score, Rousseau wasn’t that much different. He convinced Therese to leave their baby at a local orphanage. Most of the babies in that orphanage would die there. The few who survived past childhood would be turned out on the streets to become beggars. Rousseau was aware of all this and in his writings he tried to justify his actions. In all, Therese and John Jacques left five children at that orphanage.
David had many more differences to Rousseau than similarities. For one, when David did wrong he confessed his sins and sought God’s forgiveness. He made a serious effort to be righteous and always desired God’s love and mercy.
What do we know about David?
When we are first introduced to David he is a young shepherd (1 Samuel 12:1-13). David becomes part of the court of Saul as a musician. He plays the lyre, a stringed instrument, and his playing cleanses Saul of an evil spirit (1 Samuel 16:23).
David is also a courageous warrior. He kills the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). He is successful in battle against the Philistines (chapter 23), the Amalekites (ch. 30), the Moabites (2 Samuel 8), the Edomites (ch. 8), the Ammonites (ch. 10), the Syrians (ch. 10), and other enemies of Israel.
He was loyal to King Saul, and Saul’s son Jonathan. He was kind to Mephibosheth, the crippled grandson of Saul (2 Samuel 9). He was also kind to Barjillai, an old man who provided food to David when David was fleeing Absalom (ch.s 17, 19).
He could also be humble. When he was cursed by Shimei he did not allow his servants to kill Shimei because he was open to the possibility that the curses that Shimei rained down on him might be from the Lord (ch. 16).
David had 8 wives, many concubines and 21 children. He is portrayed as a failed father, particularly with his son Absalom who tries to usurp David’s throne and with another son named Amnon.
As Eugene Peterson says, “the life of David is a labyrinth of ambiguities, not unlike our own” (The Jesus Way, p. 87). David was described by the prophet Samuel as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), yet he committed adultery, had Uriah killed, and was ruthless in exterminating rivals to his throne. Despite all of this, we read in Psalm 26, a psalm of David,
1 Give judgment for me, O LORD, for I have lived with integrity, and I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.
The word integrity if translated “a blameless life” in a number of English Bibles including the New International Version. With all that we know about David, how could he say that he lived a blameless life? We need to understand what that means in the Hebrew context and the parallelism of Jewish poetry helps us with this. The word integrity in line two corresponds with “trusted in the Lord” in line three.
A blameless life or a life of integrity does not mean a life of sinless perfection. It has to do with the direction of life. For David, that direction was toward God. The desire of his heart was righteousness. He sinned in some huge ways, but his desire was to please God.
As Walter Brueggeman says, David was “neither sinless nor innocent.” He was “fully human with wounds, scars, and failures. He can be and is forgiven, however, so that he has the power for new life” (1,2 Samuel, p. 357). Isn’t that what we all want? Don’t we all want to be forgiven for our sins and given God’s power for new life?
The Apostle John tells us, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9). David’s confidence is such that he can say to God,
2 Test me, O LORD, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.