Aston Presbyterian Church
July 25, 2021
A Story of Redemption
by Elder Pat Zebley
I’m pleased and grateful to be up here at the pulpit again. So thank you for asking me.
This week’s reading really gave me pause. There are always several scriptures to choose from for each Sunday in the liturgical year and this week’s are interesting, or should I say extremely challenging ones. I guess I could have chosen my own topic to research and discuss but I decided to take on the the story from Samuel and see if I could make sense of it for me and hopefully for you this morning.
It’s an interesting story – we all have heard of David and Bathsheba and their adulterous affair, but I can honestly say that’s about all I knew. No that’s not true, I also knew it was a strong message in the song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen which Tommy will sing during the service.
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
After much studying and research I realized that the story of David and Bathsheba reminds us of how even great men who are called by God are still human and struggle with sin and that if Satan can put temptation in front of David and Bathsheba, then certainly he can tempt us. And if God can forgive them for their sins, which were pretty big sins, then he can forgive us.
So to summarize their story -this is a story of two people who sinned, they were both punished by God, they both repented and asked for forgiveness for their sins and so were forgiven by God – they received God’s grace and love. – I see this as a story of redemption.
So let’s look at this story which is referred to as “one of the most dramatic accounts in the Old Testament.”
A Story of Redemption
David was the first king in Jerusalem and at this time was about fifty years old, perhaps a few years older. He had been on the throne approximately twenty years.
He had distinguished himself as a man of God, as a composer of psalms, as a faithful shepherd, as a valiant warrior on the battlefield, and as a leader of his people. This is the David I remember – we learned about his Godliness in Sunday School and revered him for his acts.
He not only led the people in righteousness, he gave them the glorious music of the psalms. He was a man of passion as well as compassion. a source of poems and songs, some of which are in the book of Psalms.
We don’t know that much about Bathsheba. She was the daughter of one of David’s bravest soldiers; her grandfather was one of David’s most trusted advisors, her husband, Uriah the Hittite, was one of David’s military leaders. On that night in question, Bathsheba was innocently taking a late-night bath in her backyard – my understanding is that she did this because she thought all the men were gone off fighting. However, David was not, he awoke from a nap and then took a walk on his rooftop veranda.
The Bible tells us that he shouldn’t have been there, not just on the rooftop or in the palace, but not even in Jerusalem. David should have been off at the battlefront. It was the time of year when kings went to war, but David had chosen to stay home. This is the beginning of David’s sin. He ignores his duties as King, envelops himself in idleness and stays home from battle.
He starts to build on that sin of neglect of duties, by lusting after his bathing neighbor. David saw her and had to have her. David sent his men to get her, even though he knew she was married.
Now, we don’t know why Bathsheba came to David – was it by force, or because he was King, or perhaps she was lonely. However, she went to him, and they slept together. Bathsheba became complicit in David’s sin, she too became a sinner – she became an adulterer.
What did she think, and what did she do when she arrived in the presence of her sovereign? What did David do or say to convince her to sleep with him? We don’t know what went through her mind. The Bible doesn’t tell us. It merely says, “David slept with Bathsheba, then she went back home.”
A few weeks later, Bathsheba sent a message to David, “I am pregnant.” Their one night together was not going to be just one night, now what was a secret “sin” between the two of them had consequences. A baby was going to be born.. Her pregnancy would be a constant reminder of their shared sin.
So David compounds the sin even further by thinking, “I have to cover this up. No one else can find out about this. Too many already know. If this becomes public knowledge, there will be a scandal. What will this mean for me? For my family? For the kingdom?”
David begins plotting and planning, “If I can get Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to come home, he will sleep with her, and then she can wait a few weeks to announce the pregnancy. The baby will come a bit early and be a bit large, but no one will be the wiser.”
This story sounds just like a soap opera or a Lifetime Movie – doesn’t it? The plot is thickening, as it always does when “at first we chose to deceive.”
This is David, the king after God’s own heart and here he is, engulfed in this spiraling story of sex, intrigue and murder.
Next, David called Bathsheba’s husband Uriah home from the battlefront to meet with him. After their meeting, he told him to go home. Uriah left, but he didn’t go home; instead, he slept at the palace entrance with David’s servants because he felt badly that he would be enjoying good food and time with his wife while his comrades were still fighting.
So needless to say, David’s scheme didn’t go according to plan. Uriah’s faithfulness to his king, country, and comrades made David’s LTNfaithfulness look even worse. David tried to get Uriah drunk and sent him home again. Even then, he wouldn’t go home. He once again slept outside with his servants. Uriah was a man who was faithful, honest, and true.
David’s plan came fully unraveled. He had provided Uriah with the opportunity to help him make things right, and he hadn’t taken it. David spiraled further down the path of deceit.
He sent Uriah back to the battle lines with a sealed letter to his general, Joab, which instructed him to place Uriah at the front of an attack and then pull back from him and leave him to die. Uriah carried the orders for his death to his general, and Joab carved out David’s orders flawlessly. Joab sent word to David of the next day’s battle and included in it a side note that Uriah the Hittite had fallen.
This is where the reading ends, but the story doesn’t, so let’s continue the story.
How did Bathsheba deal with all of this? She had to be aware of some of this. The timing of her husband’s death couldn’t just be a coincidence. How much she knew, we don’t know. But we know this, she spent time mourning Uriah’s death, but then he went to David and became his wife.
Was David convinced that they had gotten away with adultery and murder? He might have gotten away with it, but he couldn’t get away from it. Even though the people didn’t know, God knew.
And God knew that David was not in the right frame of mind, . David was lost. Sin was pulling him further and further from God.
But God didn’t leave David or Bathsheba to their own deceit. God sent the Prophet Nathan to confront David and call him to repent. When Nathan arrived at the palace, he didn’t hesitate to confront David and his sin.
He told David a story about a farmer who had but one little lamb unjustly taken from him by one who had many. David condemned the one who had stolen the lamb, and Nathan said to David, “You are the man ”
Nathan then explained to David some of the consequences of his actions and how his sin would infect his whole household. David saw his selfishness and his sin for what they were and confessed, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan responded, “The Lord has forgiven your sin. You are not going to die, BUT the son that is born to Bathsheba, he will die.”
Nathan speaks to David out of love, arid he speaks to him with God’s words, not his own, and he speaks in a way that David will hear and listen.
We must speak the same way to our friends or our loved ones when we see them in a bad situation. We must encourage them to look to God for help; we must be there to listen and support them and to help them fmd their way through their struggles and guide them on the right path.
And finally, this is where we also need to be like David — David hears Nathan & he confesses and repents and returns to being the Servant of God – the David of Righteousness.
David could have continued down the path — denied the wrong, it’s easy for someone in power to do, or even those of us who get lost in the maze of sin; and think we know the way out – we don’t need God’s help. Many kings or powerful people would have no trouble silencing the prophets that exposed them, David could have done the same — but he doesn’t — he confesses; he embraces the hard word, and admits his guilt.
This is why God forgives him – David is ready to let God lead him once again; David recognizes his straying from the Lord and knows he must pay the price for that sin – he doesn’t want to accept the consequences of losing his son, but he knows there are consequences.
And so, the child born to David and Bathsheba became very sick. David pleaded and prayed to the LORD to spare his son. He fasted, he spent days dressed in sackcloth laying on the ground. Guilt and remorse overwhelmed him.
Oh, how this would hurt Bathsheba. David was already responsible for the death of her husband, now her son. Then finally, on the seventh day, the child died.
The Bible tells us how David responded. As soon as he got word, David got up from the ground, cleaned himself up, ate, and worshiped God.
Bathsheba must have been filled with guilt. Her one night with the king had consequences spinning out of control. The man who loved her so faithfully was dead because of her. The baby in her arms, dead because of her.
I guess there’s another lesson here for us in the way David accepts God’s negative answer to his prayer. Sometimes people think God hasn’t answered their prayers because they didn’t get the outcome they were looking for, but in fact God has answered them, but with a “No.” And it’s as important that we accept those answers as it is that we thank him when he says “Yes.”
The story continues that David comforted his wife, and lay with her; God looked down upon them with favor for they had repented for their sins. Bathsheba bore him another son, Solomon, and the Lord loved him. There’s speculation that they gave him that name because the country was then at peace after many years of conflict. Others think it could have been something even more significant. When they looked at that child, they had peace with themselves and peace with God after all they had been through. This child gave them new hope and new life.
So how does something like this happen? How does a man of God change so quickly and sin so easily?
Well, like most sin, it happens little by little. It begins with a look that lingers, it involves the exercise of a little power, and it continues with a cover up, with a lie that grows and grows until murder is required to keep it quiet.
And here we come to another lesson that God wants us to learn from this passage. As so often happens, one man’s sin leads to much suffering for others.
In fact have you noticed how it’s often those other than the perpetrators who suffer the most. First it was Uriah who was killed, now it’s this new born child who’ll die, simply because of David’s uncontrolled lust for a beautiful woman and his inability to control his desires and resist temptation.
If we start to think our sin won’t matter, or that it’s only us who’ll be affected we need to stop and think. Every action we take has an effect on those around us, whether we realize it or not and even more so when what we’re doing is rebelling against the Lord.
When Paul and I had the youth group many, many years ago, we always taught the kids that “every action has a consequence, and you better be sure of the consequences before you act.” That’s the lesson I think we can take away from this story. There are so many consequences to what David did – he took advantage of his power and blatantly defied God and kept
compounding his sin with his actions of deceit and murder.
But we all know that David’s sin is great, but God’s mercy is greater. It isn’t that God has simply ignored David’s sin. Rather David has repented, has turned away from his evil behavior and God responds his repentance with forgiveness and mercy.
There may be times when you feel like you’ve let God down to such an extent that he’s turned his back on you. At that moment you need to remember this important lesson from David’s experience. God never forgets us. When we turn back to him in repentance, when we ask for forgiveness, intending to live a godly life again, God’s mercy reaches out to us with a message of love.
David is loved by the Lord. His new born son Solomon is loved by the Lord. David needs to know this, just as we need to know it. God’s judgement and mercy are never far apart, provided we truly repent as David did.
I can only imagine how David at the moment when Nathan approached him – feeling like he’s a total failure; feeling like God has abandoned him because of his gross sinfulness. But God hasn’t abandoned him. God continues to love him.
As Bathsheba held baby Solomon, she had peace from God,
No doubt, David and Bathsheba eventually recognized that the day that Nathan showed up with his rebuke was the best day of their lives. Even though it probably seemed like the worst day ever, they came to see that day as a gift from their loving God.
However, none of that would have happened if David didn’t come to realize his sin and repent and ask forgiveness. Repentance is not as much about the sin as it is about restoring relationship with God.
This story is so full of lessons to be learned, the layers of morals goes deep. Here are some of the ones I’ve discovered:
- First, secret sin will be found out. We all learn when we are children that secrets aren’t really secrets for very long, somehow someone always finds out, and sometimes when they’re revealed it’s not a good scenario.
Second, God will forgive anyone who repents. Asking for forgiveness is not always easy,. How many times have we injured another with our words or actions and feel totally justified at the time, but as we reflect on what we’ve done realize we were at fault and need to ask forgiveness. It’s not easy, but God teaches us it’s important if we are to be Christians. Amen.