Monday, August 13, 2012

Being like David: Repentance

2 Samuel 11:26-27, 12:1-13 Oh how our hero has fallen! He rose so far, he had done so many things right but our hero has also, at this point done so many things wrong, last week with Heather you went over the series of poor choices David made that lead him to the situation he is in this morning. It all began with him failing to do the one thing that the people wanted a king for in the first place. When the people came to God at the beginning of 1 Samuel begging for a king they told God they needed a king so a king can lead them in Battle. Last week’s passage began with David staying home allowing someone else to lead his armies in battle. That is how it began but it ended with murder. (Kind of ironic how not going to war leads David to murder.) Our passage this morning begins after the adultery, after the pregnancy, the dishonesty and attempts at coercion, and after the murder. In fact our passage begins with the “wife of Uriah” (not once in this passage does she get called by her own name) lamenting in the proper manner for her husband and then David attempting to make this whole situation “right” by marrying her, and then seeming to believe that he can just go on with life from there. Add her as his seventh wife; take her and her unborn child into his household. Whew, dodged that bullet. All is well. But all is not well. He has done a serious of very sinful things. He watched a married woman bath, he called her to him, he committed adultery with her. She turns up pregnant. He attempted to trick Uriah, her husband into believing the child was his, when that did not work he had Uriah murdered. When Uriah’s murder is reported to him by Joab, he actually tells Joab to not let this seem like evil in Joab’s sight. It is almost as if, if he declares that it is not evil it will not be evil. Then when the dust has settled and the mourning period is over, David takes Uriah’s wife as his wife! And he goes on with his life. All is good. He might have gone on with his life thinking that the whole thing worked out pretty well, but then God sends the prophet Nathan to him with a story. We all like stories. Learning from stories is an age old tradition. In fact we are participating in this tradition by going over theses Biblical stories about David and seeing what God has for us to learn from them. Nathan comes to David with a story to teach David a lesson. And since David spent his early years with sheep, the story is about a beloved lamb. When I was a teenager, my mother had a friend who had a small family farm. They had horses, which the mother used to teach horse riding lessons to earn money. They also had a cow once a year, a lamb once a year and several goats that reproduced twice year. The children would play with these animals, feed them, clean up after them take care of them watch them grow. All their animals had names and all of their food had names. They always knew who they sold and who they ate. As a young teen it was the first time I was really confronted with the fact that meat did not naturally grow on Styrofoam packaging with cellophane wrappings. It might sound cruel to eat an animal who had a name but these children understood that animals were raised for meat and were fun while they were alive and were yummy when they were dead. In the story that Nathan tells, there is a man and his family who have a ewe lamb. This little lamb, which this family had, was not just another lamb among large herd they were preparing to eat or sell to be eaten. This is the only lamb of a poor family and was treated as one of the family. It was a pet lamb that was apparently, unlike the “pets” the family I knew, was not meant to be eating. It was kept, and cherished. Well this family had a rich neighbor who one day, when a visitor came to town decided that he did not want to kill one of the many sheep in his large herd for dinner for his guest, but would instead steal the beloved lamb of this family, kill it and eat it. What a horrible thing to do! It was unfair, unkind and just wrong! I can understand how this family and this man felt. When I was 5 years old we had a stray kitten who came to live in our yard. It was beautiful. It was orange and it was fluffy. She was friendly and sweet tempered. She let me pick her up and play with her, and you know do all the things a 5 year old wants to do with a kitten that most kittens won’t let children do to them. My mom gave me permission to feed her and take care of her. I named her Cattie. Soon she took up residence in our dog’s house. Our dog refused to ever go in her dog house, but the cat seemed to love it in there. She and the dog would play together in the yard. In fact she rarely left our yard, she was our cat and we were her family. She was the kind of cat who would cuddle with me and play with me. She was loved by everyone in the family. At this time my mother had just recently had my baby sister and was busy with the new baby, but she intended when things settled down to get the cat her shots and bring her in the house, but until then she wanted the cat to stay outside so as to not bring her potential germs into the house with the new baby. Before my mother could do this though our neighbor’s parents came to visit. They kept their RV in the neighbor’s drive for about a week. We would often see them talking to Cattie through the fence, and reaching over to pet her. And then one morning the RV was gone and the cat was gone as well. We inquired of our neighbors and they told us that their parents took her home with them because she needed a home. WHAT? She had a home! She was ours. They had to reach over our fence to take her. We were devastated. They took our cat. They took my cat. I loved that cat. And someone just decided to take her home with them without even asking. I guess from David’s reaction to Nathan’s story that he had loved a lamb or two in his days as a shepherd. He probably knew what it was like to nurture and care for an animal in such a way that it became more than just another animal but became a beloved pet. When told this story David declares that not only should the rich man have to pay fourfold back to the poor man and his family but he should be put to death! You don’t take another man’s beloved animal! And the Nathan goes in for the punch and tells David that he is the rich man in this story. He took Uriah’s wife for his own and David may think he has gotten away with it but God knows what he has done. In fact God is taking this as personal offense. God does not simply see this action as a sin against Uriah, which most certainly it is, but God sees this as an offense against God. God had anointed David king, saved him from the hand of Saul who wanted to kill him, gave him a kingdom, a house and many wives and God would have continued to bless David. But David has returned God’s kindness and provision with evil. Where God has worked to spare David’s life, David has murdered Uriah, where God has blessed David with wives; David goes and takes another man’s wife for himself. The consequences for David’s actions will match the sins committed, David has killed Uriah with the swords of the Ammonites and therefore there will be killing in his own household, David has taken his neighbor’s wife and therefore his wives will be taken by his neighbor; seems just and fair. When confronted with his own sin, David realizes the extent of his own sins and repents before God of all that he has done. He realizes that he has not merely sinned against Uriah or Uriah’s wife, but he has sinned against God. And he seems to truly be repentant of what he has done, so God forgives him. That is it. David repents and God forgives him; nothing more nothing less. Our modern sense of justice is almost offended by how easy it is. David says, he has sinned and God puts David’s sin away. We can only assume that David seeks to remedy the problems in his life, in how he is living and his ways of thinking that have brought him to this place. We know after the death of the child the wife of Uriah bore to him, he once again did as a good king should and lead the armies in battle when they went out against the ammonites. After the conclusion of these events in his life, David works to be a better person, a better king and to do what is right and good in the sight of the God. The death of the child and many of the issues David has within his family are seen as part of the consequences of David’s sinful actions. The natural consequences of David’s sin aside and the ongoing issues in his family life. The amazing thing about this passage is that David repents and God forgives him and then both he and God move on from there. David had done so much. He had failed God, he had failed Uriah, he had disrespected Uriah’s wife, he had allowed his power and privileged to blind his judgment and give him the idea that he had rights that were not his, allowed him to see himself above other men and beyond the taint of evil. But when confronted with the reality of his sin and the extent to which he had fallen into evil, he repented, he turned to God and God forgave him. This is good news! Good news for me and for you. Many of us will probably never commit adultery in our lives, most of us will probably never murder somebody, we may look lustfully at someone else’s spouse, we may misuse those around us, we may allow power and prestige to blind our judgment or any number of other sins, failings, and wrong doings. The fact of the matter is that most of us in our lives, in our Christian walks will be less than God’s best for us, we will not love God with our whole hearts, we will not always love our neighbors, in fact we might even treat any number of the people we encounter from day to day, people we meet in passing as well as those we hold dear, with something less than the respect and loving kindness they deserve. We will fail God and one another in many ways between now and when we find ourselves on the other side of eternity. We will sin; we will do evil in the sight of the Lord. But the good news is that God forgives! And God does not expect much from us. God simply expects forgiveness and then allows us to start fresh, anew to work with God to live right, to love God to love one another as we should. We will have to deal with the consequences of the poor and sinful choices we have made, but with God we can start over. Our relationship with God can be restored. We can repent and we will be forgiven! This is a glorious thing.