Last Sunday, we read in the Old Testament lesson about one of the most shameful acts in the Old Testament – and that is quite a record to beat.
King David commits adultery with Bathsheba – the wife of one of his close friends – Uriah
The story begins with that very strange verse
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army…… But David remained in Jerusalem.
David stays at home when he should have been at the head of his army.
He is in the wrong place at the wrong time
And so often, when we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, we fall into temptation and sin.
Standing at the top of his palace, David sees Bathsheba naked – and lust wins out.
He wants her – and being the king he takes her.
One Bible commentator has asked the question: Is this David out of control?
David is a man of God, but doesn’t act like one.
But David’s sin doesn’t end there because it turns out that Bathsheba has conceived by the one night stand – and David has to do something
First he tries to get Uriah home to sleep with his wife so they can pass the child off as Uriah’s.
But Uriah smells a rat and refuses to play ball and sleep with his wife
So the only alternative David can think of is to have Uriah killed and marry Bathsheba himself.
You might ask in today’s society – what was David thinking about?
But I think David’s pride took over and he had a reputation to live up to
So Uriah is sent back to the front unknowingly carrying his own death warrant and is killed.
And from David’s perspective – that should have been the end of the story.
UNTIL GOD INTERVENES.
David must have thought he had got away with it.
Though painful, God’s intervention actually restores David, though there are still long on going consequences to his actions.
In our OT reading this morning, the key scene is Nathan being sent by God to speak to David.
Nathan starts cautiously – after all it was quite a dangerous job being a prophet.
Kings in those days were absolute rulers and with David out of control, Nathan could easily have wound up a head shorter
So Nathan tells David the story of a man who had one single little sheep that he loved very much.
One day one of the rich local landowners had a friend come to visit.
Instead of taking a lamb from his own flock, he stole the poor man’s only sheep, killed it and put it on the table for his friend.
David is so incensed at the injustice of it all – and you see David’s real heart coming through – that he said that the man who did this must die!!
And in probably the most moving scene of the Old Testament - Nathan looks David in the eye and says:
“Thou art the man!” (2 Sam12:7).
What does David do?
Instead of putting Nathan in prison or executing him (like Herod did with John the Baptist) , David confesses his sin to Nathan.
I wonder there was an audible silence before David spoke – and then he says:
“I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13)
And THAT is the key to Paul’s statement that King David was a man after God’s own heart.
David stopped covering up and threw himself on God’s mercy.
St John in his first letter says this: If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from every wrong. (1 Jn 1:8-10)
David was quick to repent and God forgave him.
There were consequences within David’s own family of this sin – the child dies.
Perhaps the key to David being a man after God’s own heart as St Paul said is the sincerity of his repentance
Indeed so much so that that he wrote Psalm 51.
Knowing the background really helps to put the Psalm into perspective
It starts with this opening:
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Saviour, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
So what can we learn from this story?
For me it is this, as Mary Evans says in her commentary on the Message of Samuel
One failure does not necessarily negate a lifetime of service. (The Message of Samuel by Mary J Evans p.218)
But sin can’t be swept under the carpet.
But when there is sincere repentance, it CAN BE forgiven.
No sin is unforgivable except that of permanently rejecting Jesus Christ.
But there may well be consequences of sin
In David’s case, we see the child of liasion with Bathsheba dying, despite David’s prayer and fasting
Another consequence was that history repeated itself very quickly
In the next chapter 2 Samuel 13, we see David’s oldest son Amnon lusting after his half-sister Tamar – and he then tricking her into visiting him and then has sex with her.
And then Tamar’s brother killing Amnon out of revenge.
Very much “like father like sons.”
In fact David’s family became what we would call a dysfunctional family.
This story is a warning to all of us that sin has consequences.
But, as Mary J Evans says in her commentary on Samuel (The Message of Samuel by Mary J Evans p.218) it is also an encouragement to those of us who are facing the consequences of a deeply regretted action.
However much we might like to turn the clock back and return to the situation as it was, it is rarely possible and we have to move on.
We have to bring it to God – and then just leave it there – and go on.