Forgiveness of the Righteous
June 5, 2011
It wasn’t read a part of the scripture this morning but most of your bibles contain a one line introduction to this Psalm, the KJV beats around the bush a little bit here when it says “To the chief musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.” in the NLT and the NIV aren’t nearly as subtle because they put it this way: For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Interesting, because when you read that you just know that this Psalm wouldn’t be complete without the backstory. And the assumption was made that everyone would know what the backstory was. And in the case of the original audience I would wager that everyone did know what the backstory was, Much like 10 years ago if you had said “That happened right after Bill Clinton did not have sex with that Monica Lewinsky.” People would have known what you were talking about, but I’m not sure that is the case today with this story.
So let’s start with Who David Was We did a little of this awhile back. You will remember that after Moses had led the people of Israel to the promised land and after Joshua had led them into the promised land that their were governed but men and women who were called Judges, under a system called a Theocracy. Which simply means “Under God.” And if you follow the political news, particularly in the States, you see the far right would like to see a theocracy established again, but I’m thinking that perhaps they might want to be God. I read a while back Anne Lamott wrote “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” And that was free.
After 400 years of being ruled by Judges the people began to demand a King and from all the candidates a man named Saul was selected. And this is what was written about Israel’s new king. 1 Samuel 9:2 His son Saul was the most handsome man in Israel—head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the land. Tall and good looking, apparently no longer a requirement for royalty. Just saying. When it comes to Kings this is my view (Monty Python constitutional peasant) But Saul proved to be a pretty good king, for a while. He sought God’s guidance and was obedient to that guidance. But after a while Saul begin to think “I’m pretty good at the King thing, maybe I don’t need God.” Aren’t you glad you never you’ve never made that mistake, you know figuring you don’t need to pay attention to God?
The result was that a new King was selected, and ultimately it was to be David, he was the youngest son of a man named Jesse and tended the families sheep in the hills surrounding Bethlehem.
Not necessary a really auspicious beginning for a King. You might remember when the Israelites were fighting the Philistines and the Philistines brought their champion, a giant named Goliath out and challenged the Israelites to bring out their champion to take on Goliath, winner take all. And there was nobody willing until David, who had come to the battlefield to bring his older brothers supplies from home, offered to give it a go. If you don’t know the story you know the phrase “David and Goliath” it usually refers to the underdog taking on the big dog and winning. And that’s what happened; with only a sling shot David killed Goliath. And became a national hero. From there he went on to become a musician to King Saul and eventually after Saul was killed in battle David was appointed King. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but those are the highlights.
So David becomes King and led Israel into becoming one of the leading civilizations of the time, he established Jerusalem as the nation’s capital, he did all the initial planning for the temple his son Solomon would eventually build and settled down and did whatever it is that Kings do. Actually in that day and age most of the time it seemed they spent defending Israel against neighbouring kings. Fast forward ahead twenty years and we read this scripture 2 Samuel 11:1-2 In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war. . . David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath.
So here we discover What David Did Now you and I know what spring means. It’s time to do yard work, clean up the property, maybe do a little painting, a little raking, those are spring things. But in a different time and a different place, well it was different. We read in 2 Samuel 11:1 In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, . . . Ah, spring when the robins come back, the bulbs come up and kings go to war. Why spring? I don’t know, maybe in the winter it was too cold to go to war and in the summer everyone was at the beach.
Anyway here’s the story. It’s the spring of the year and the nation of Israel is at war with a couple of different factions, but the King, that would be David is not there. He’s at home, in Jerusalem. His troops are fighting the Ammonites in Rabbah and David’s in Jerusalem. Now today that might not seem all that strange, after all the heads of states only start the wars and keep them going, they don’t actually fight in them, and in most cases they don’t even send their children to fight in them, but that’s a different story. In David’s day and age Kings went to war, they led the troops, but not David, not this time. This time he’s home and one afternoon just after he had gotten up, honest that’s what the Bible says, I would understand that if we were talking about teenaged David but this was grown up David.
A couple of weeks ago we looked about Psalm 22 and how it pointed toward symptoms of depression in the King. This continues, he’s not going to work, he’s sleeping in the middle of the day and has probably isolated himself from his wife and friends.
So he gets ups from his afternoon nap, must be nice to be a king, bet when the poor farmer in that time of history was struggling with depression he didn’t get to lay around in bed, no he was out working in his field depressed. I guess that all part of being repressed.
Back to the story, the king is taking a stroll around the flat roof of his palace and he looks over and this lady is out in her back yard taking a bath. And she’s not just any lady the Bible says that she was a woman of unusual beauty.
Now I’m not saying that she ought not to be bathing in the back yard starkers, but I would think that when you neighbour’s house is much taller than yours that the thought might possibly cross your mind, “Hey this might not be such a good idea.” Regardless as the story goes David sends a messenger to fetch Bathsheba, and she arrives at the palace.
Now I don’t know why David invited her up in the first place, it might very well have been an innocent gesture. Maybe he wanted to warn her about the dangers of bathing in her back yard, or maybe he wanted to compliment her on her beauty, maybe he wanted to ask her about her husband because by this time David already knew that she was the wife of one of his troops, or maybe he wanted to show her his etchings. I don’t know. What I do know is that what ended up happening. The NLT says that “He slept with her”, but there must have been more going on than sleeping because in the very next verse she discovers that she’s pregnant and sends news to David of the consequences of their actions.
But what was done was, the die was cast so to speak, and a baby was on its way and it was what it was.
Well David was no dummy, well at least not after the fact. And so he sent for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, who was fighting David’s battle. The thought being that Uriah having been away from home for a while would be anxious to sleep with his wife, and would think he was the father, maybe they couldn’t count to nine back then. Anyways Uriah comes home, David the king greets him in person and says “Hey guy you’re doing a great job, why not go home get cleaned up and enjoy yourself, nod, nod wink, wink.” The king then sent a lovely dinner over to Uriah’s house, but Uriah didn’t go home, he slept outside. The King called him in and asked “am I missing something here?” And Uriah responded by saying, “How could I possibly go home to a nice warm meal, a soft bed and a beautiful wife when my troops are still in the field?”
So it was on to plan “B”, which was where David invited Uriah to a meal at the palace, obviously an offer you can’t turn down. While he was there David proceeded to get Uriah drunk, and then sent him home. But instead, Uriah bedded down outside once again, proving that he was a better man drunk then the king was sober.
Well it was on to plan “C” which was where David sent Uriah back to the battlefield with a note for his commander. If Uriah had of peeked at the note this is what he would have read
Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to us, but if we could read it in English it said 2 Samuel 11:15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.”
But Uriah obviously didn’t read it because he was killed in the battle, I’m sure that David must have been thinking “I love it when a plan comes together” And I’m sure that he thought that he had gotten away with murder.
2 Samuel 11:27 When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives. Then she gave birth to a son. But the LORD was displeased with what David had done.
Now it’s time to introduce another character into the story. God was displeased with what David had done, and we can understand that, and then in the next verse we read
2 Samuel 12:1 So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet . . .
Who Nathan Was. The first time we are introduced to Nathan is when David is making plans to build the temple, if would appear that Nathan replaced Samuel as the Lead Prophet in Israel, becoming the spiritual advisor to the King. And he seemed to be highly respected by the King and was even the namesake for one of David’s son.
And in 1 and 2 Chronicles we are told that Nathan wrote an account of David’s reign as well as Solomon’s. And part of the job description for Prophets is that they have the hard conversations. You remember that Samuel had to do that with King Saul when he was disobedient and that Elijah confronted King Ahab with his disobedience.
The story is told that John Wesley was asked by a young pastor what his duties were and Wesley replied “You are to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” And confrontation is still part of the job description for pastors today. Probably my least favourite part of being a pastor. And people get all bent out of shape and say “Don’t judge me” but really it’s part of what I’m called to do.
2 Samuel 12:1 So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: . . .
What Nathan Did When we were in Australia telling people I was a pastor often resulted in simply alienating the person, or making them hostile so sometimes when I first met someone and they asked what I did I would tell them that I was a storyteller and we would go from there.
Nathan could have started off preaching to David but instead he told him a story.
2 Samuel 12:1-4 So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”
And David was furious, he said that such a man shouldn’t even be allowed to live. And Nathan gave this great reply,
2 Samuel 12:7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!
I had a conversation with a gentlemen the other day and in objection to the bible he brought up this story and wanted to know how David could possibly be known as a bible hero when he had this incident on his plate. I’m kind of the mind that no one should be judged by the worst moment in their life. What David did was inexcusable but it would appear that it was an anomaly. Over all it doesn’t reflect who David was. I certainly wouldn’t want to be judged on my worst moment and I would suspect that none of you would either.
And that ends the introduction to the introduction to the Psalm. And really after that the Psalm pretty well speaks for itself.
And maybe you are sitting there saying “So what? David behaved like royalty has always behaved, what has that got to do with me?” Well the truth isn’t that David behaved like royalty has always behaved he behaved like we have always behaved, he chose to go his own way rather than God’s way. And if God’s prophet hadn’t confronted him then in time God himself would have confronted David. That’s why God sent Nathan so David could get it right before judgement day. And That’s why God sent prophets so the people of Israel could get it right before judgement. And that is why part of my job description is to “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” to give you a chance to get it right before judgment.
David Knew What He Did The is a major part of Psalm 51, When Nathan confronted the King with what he did, he didn’t try and justify it; “Come on Nathan, I was tired and I haven’t been getting along with my wives they just don’t understand me like Bathsheba does.” He didn’t try to rationalize it; “Really Nathan, compared to those who worship Baal and sacrifice children this wasn’t that bad, it was only once.” And he didn’t try to blame others, “Well if she hadn’t be so beautiful and if she hadn’t been naked in her back yard and if she hadn’t come to my chambers. Instead his response is written in 2 Samuel 12:13 Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
David owned his sin, and when he wrote this Psalm he talked about “my sin, and my rebellion and I have rebelled and I have done what is evil” The first step in getting right with God is admitting that we are wrong with God. And that can be tough because the further we drift the more normal it seems. Saw a T-shirt the other day that said “It’s only naughty the first time.”
We need to be keeping short accounts, not justifying, not rationalizing, not blaming others but saying as David did, Psalm 51:4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
Not only did David know what he did David Knew What He Wanted You’re thinking “Well this is a no brainer, he wanted forgiveness.” True but he wanted more than forgiveness. Sometimes we see “Grace” as a one trick pony, it means God forgives us for our sins but there is so much more to grace and David knew that.
Listen to what David asked for: Have Mercy on me, O God, Blot out the stain of my sins, Purify me, Give me back my joy, remove the stain of my guilt, create in me a clean heart, renew a loyal spirit within me, don’t take your Holy Spirit from me, make me willing to obey you.
Is that our prayer when we blow it? Especially that last statement: make me willing to obey you.
Not only was God willing to do that for David 3000 years ago but He is willing to do it for us today. The promise of God’s word still stands today, Acts 3:19-20 “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord. . .”