This sermon was preached at Kerr Presbyterian Church on Sunday, July 25, 2021 by Rev. KJ Norris.
Today we entering in to one of the most difficult passages in our study of David. So far, David has been the hero: the mighty one who can defeat giants; the loving one who can show kindness even to his enemies; the faithful one who dances without abandon before the Lord and who will follow the Lord’s plans even when God says, “No.”
But today’s passage brings us to see another side of David. Honestly, it’s amazing that this story is recorded in the Bible at all. In many histories which were written around this time, the writers only told good stories about their kings. If they told the difficult stories, they might lose their heads so they pretty much only wrote down the good stuff. But today, we are reminded that the Scriptures are God’s story. And God tells the truth, even when it is hard. So let us take a deep breath (breathe). And enter in to this difficult tale.
2 Samuel 11:1-15
So, as you may have guessed from the Scripture reading, today’s sermon is on everyone’s least favorite topic: sin. How does sin happen? Can sin multiply? Don’t only bad people sin?
It’ll be so much fun: let’s dig in.
Okay, so, if you still have your Bible’s open, we are going to walk through this story step by step.
First, notice in verse 1 (read it).
David had been given a purpose from God: to be king. And if you remember way back when we started this series in June, the people had asked for a king, specifically naming that they wanted someone to go out and fight their battles for them.
Whether you agree with this job description or not—and remember, the prophet Samuel told the people it wasn’t a good job description—but never-the-less, David’s primary job is to protect the people. But now, David is older and wiser. He doesn’t need to prove himself as a mighty warrior; he’s been there; done that.
So, David sends out his troops and he stays home, living a life of leisure, resting on the couch while his troops fight in battle.
Because it is in the first verse I think that we are prone to miss it. But in reality, this action in itself is a huge sin:
- Paul says to Timothy, “Do not neglect your gift” (1 Tim 4:14)
- And Jesus gave us parables about people who are given gifts—some 5 talents, some 2, some 1—and they are told to use them. When the master returns and finds those who have used their talents, they are rewarded, but great judgement is given to those who have hidden their talents (Matthew 25:14ff).
- Sometimes we think that sin is just about acting in ways that are against God. These are called sins of commission and yes, that is one way to sin. But I would argue that most sins are actually sins of omission. We know that we are called to do something, but we don’t. We choose to simply not do what we know we should do. We choose to not pray. To not read Scripture. To not love one another.
David chooses to neglect his call. Instead of protecting the people, he simply sends others off to die and he stays at home in his slippers.
So, then what happens? Read verse 2.
Uh huh. We’ve heard this before. Remember the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are supposed to be tending the garden. Their job is to care for the earth and name the animals. But instead they start to fixate on a tree which God told them is not good for them. They examine the fruit: “the tree looks good for food, it’s a delight to the eyes, the tree was desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6, Pastor’s paraphrase).
Yep. A lot of us have gotten ourselves into trouble by looking at things that we know we should not have. We know that looking at certain images on the Internet leave us wanting people other than our spouse and harm the relationship with our family, but we justify it to ourselves: yeah, but God created human bodies. Aren’t they all good. It doesn’t hurt to just look.
Or we know that the doctor has told us we have to cut the sugar out of our diet, but we think: well, I’m just going to take a look at the pastries. They are so beautiful; it won’t hurt to just look.
Or yes, we love our houses and are content with our own lives, but then we go to someone else’s house and we just start to look around. Oh, well, that is a beautiful lamp. Sure, I just bought a lamp, but that lamp would really match my couch.
Again, it’s a little thing, right? Just looking. Look but don’t touch, we teach our children. But often looking is more than just looking. Often it is a form of coveting. That’s an old-timey word not heard much anymore but it’s the 10th Commandment. We are told to not look longingly at things that are not ours.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house nor your neighbor’s spouse nor your neighbor’s ox, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17, Pastor’s Paraphrase). Okay, I know, the ox thing is probably not a problem for most of us. But we get the idea. To look longingly at things that are not ours; at things we know we should not have; that in itself is sin.
And God doesn’t give us these rules to make us feel bad. God gives them to us for our own protection. When we admire the bodies of people who we do not know, as David did, we aren’t really seeing the whole person. We are not treating people as they really are; as children of God made in the very image of God. Instead, we are treating them as less than their worth deserves. And that injuries the image of God in them and in us.
And when we covet what other people have, it causes ingratitude in us for the things that we have been given. It leads us to feel mal-content. And God desires to bless us—to give every one of us good gifts—gifts of rain and the sun breaking through the clouds. Gifts of new mercy every morning. Gifts of laughter and opportunities to show kindness. We can easily become fixated on what other people have instead of the blessings all around us and that will only cause sorrow in our lives so God gives us a good commandment, helping us to know right from wrong, teaching us to not sin in that way.
But, David looks.
And it only gets worse from there.
Soon, David is bringing Bathsheba, willingly or not, into his bed chamber despite the fact that they are both married to other people. Breaking the 7th commandment, if you are keeping track, committing adultery.
Then David tries to cover it up by bringing Bathsheba’s husband home so that he will think he got her pregnant rather than David having to come clean about his sin.
And when the coverup doesn’t work, David finally decides to commit murder by military strategy. He has Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle so that he can marry Bathsheba and no one will ever know about his sin.
The whole thing is an absolute mess.
One sin leads to another, and leads to another. At first it seems like little tiny things we may not even count as sin. So what if David doesn’t go to battle? So what if David just takes a look? We might even say, so what if David sleeps with someone who isn’t his wife—that’s his business.
Then, maybe we even try to excuse: so what if David tries to cover it up? His a politician. All of them do that kind of stuff.
Can we go so far as to say, so what if someone dies in battle? It happens. A lot of people die in war.
Sin upon sin upon sin. Have you ever found yourself in a really big mess and just have no idea how you got there?
If we believe some talk radio hosts we start to think that sin is something that just certain people struggle with. There are those who would have us believe that certain actions are far worse than other actions. And that certain groups of people are the “sinners” and everyone else is not.
Or there are others who think sin is all about belief. If you believe certain things then you are in the category of “sinner” and if you believe other things than you are “saved” and thereby not a sinner.
But when we read Scripture, the whole of Scripture, we find that we cannot simply divide the world into two categories: those who sin and those who do not; those who believe right and those who do not. David was a faithful, loving, good human being who sinned. David was created in the very image of God and anointed to do God’s work on earth, to help build God’s kingdom come. And David sinned. Royally sinned. He broke most of the 10 commandments all in a couple of days.
Sin is not something that is “out there” that we need to keep away from. Sin is something that is “in here” in us—as Psalm 51 says, “My sin is ever before me…indeed I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:3, 5). And sin is in the world as in our recent study of Ephesians which reminded us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). In other words, sin lives in the very structures of our world, keeping people from being their best-selves. Often times we can’t even recognize sin because we are like fish swimming in water. We find ourselves justifying things that we know in our hearts are wrong because, well, that’s just the way it is. It’s the water we swim in.
But sin is not “someone else’s problem;” it is all of our problems. Each and every one of us. Even the best of us. Even David.
So, why is this story in Scripture?
Well, first of all, it reminds us that we are not invincible. Sure, many of us, just like David, have been walking with God for a long time. We love God. We come to church on Sundays. We give an abundance of offerings—we give of our time to God in daily devotions and by participating in worship. We give of our talents—by helping on volunteer days or serving on teams or on session. We give of our financial resources—putting aside a portion of our income every week for the work of the church.
We are on the Lord’s side. It’s easy to start thinking that way, isn’t it? I’ve got this god-thing figured out. I’m doing it right. And by extension, people who aren’t doing what I’m doing, they are doing it wrong.
But no. Today we are reminded that regardless of our age. Regardless of our relationship with God. Regardless of what we have done in the past or are doing in the present, we still sin.
In small ways and in large. By things that we fail to do as well as things that we do. By things that we fail to say as well as things that we do say.
We may not have sent someone off to get murdered lately, but we swim in the same sinful soup as David.
So…today is a cliff hanger. We are left in this moment with no good news. Our hero is fallen. It looks like he just might get away with his sin. And we are left recognizing that the world is broken, and so are we.
I’ve been praying about whether or not I can leave things here. Can I be fire-and-brimstone-pastor-kj. Can I leave us in the mess. In the soup. I really like sermons that end with Good News. I’m known for saying, “Friends, the Good News of the Gospel is this…” and for wrapping up sermons suggesting how we might live into God’s promises.
But today our Scripture doesn’t do that. So at the risk of this going into your list of least favorite sermons you’ve ever heard, I’m going to leave things here. In the mess. In the thick of it.
And you have to tune in next week for more of God’s story. Does God let sin lay? Does God not see evil? Does God allow sin to just take over in David’s life and in ours?
Until next time, let us pray.