Thursday, August 23, 2012
David: Man After God's Own Heart??
2 Samuel 11-12
David was Israel's second and greatest king. All kings after him would be evaluated in the light of him. He is significant in the developing concept of a Messiah that would come and redeem not only Israel but the whole world. David is a special man in the Bible - in fact he is known as the Man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13.14)! I wish I was known as that. One observer comments "David is seen repeatedly as a gentle, forgiving servant . . . Instead of retaliating for undeserved threats, David responds with mercy . . . David reveals
himself as a deeply sensitive and expressive man of God. In times of trouble David rises above his inner fears and feelings of helplessness to express himself through poetic songs, known as psalms" (LaGard Smith, The Narrated Bible, p. 405). David was indeed a man who sought to serve his Lord but one wonders if we have truly seen and understood his story or have we white washed it?
TROUBLE IN DAVID'S HOUSE
Our meditation arises out of one of the most interesting sections of all the Bible. Second Samuel 9ff is full of suspense and intrigue. Murder and adultery. Rebellion and insurrection. A father fleeing the wrath of his son and a brother raping his sister. Yes, this is surely not a "boring" part of Scripture!
The Books of Samuel and Kings, which together with Joshua and Judges are really one larger work like Luke and Acts, were written during the time of the Exile to help the Israelites understand what went wrong in their country and explain WHY they are where they are at. It was a needed message. The writer lets the reader know that the dye of doom was cast from the very start. Even David, the Model King, had serious
sin in his life. Indeed the Historian devotes half of 2 Samuel to one single incident -- David's sin with Bathsheba and the impact of that sin on David's life and his house. This sin is so embarrassing that the Chronicler does not even mention it! Our author, whose purpose for writing is radically different than the Chronicler, wants us to see that the reason that David was the man after God's own heart was not because he never sinned or was without fault. Rather he is held up because he was willing to repent and humbly admit his sin. That is what the writer is hoping to convey to his audience in his day -- grace will come when we humbly acknowledge our sin -- grace is not dependent upon perfection just a humble heart. Thus David the one who humbly admits sin is the model for the Israelite in Exile ... the message is that 'our" Exile is the fall out of our sin as David's horrendous life was the fall out. BUT Yahweh will do for "us" what he already did for one equally full of sin.
Our story begins in 2 Sam. 11 where the Historian tells us "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" (v. 1). Already the author has given us a clue that something is wrong -- David has not done what kings do. He did not go out with his men to battle as was his habit, instead he let Joab, his general, lead the men. So David is in the city and not in the field, which leads to restlessness.
We are told that David had insomnia (for whatever reason) and went out for some fresh air. As he went out he spied a beautiful woman named Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. David knew this to be another man's wife (v.3) but was filled with corrosive lust anyway. So he abused his power and he sent orders for her anyway so he could have a fleeting moment of sinful pleasure. Little did he know his life, and family, would shake to its core from this moment of gratification for the rest of his life.
The author hardly spares any details in describing what comes next. Bathsheba became pregnant! She sent word to David (this is obviously some time later -- perhaps David thought he would never be found out).
What do you think the Man after God's own heart did? David did what most men that get caught do: he tried to conceal his sin with lies and cover up. He sent for Uriah. Gave him a supposed holiday pass in the hopes that he would party with his wife. But Uriah was a good soldier and refused to fall into David's scheme and instead slept on the king's door step (v.9).
After repeated attempts to break Uriah's honor -- including getting Uriah drunk -- David finally sent Uriah back to the front with a letter written by the king himself on directions for his own murder (vv. 14-15). So David has used another man's wife for his personal pleasure and gets caught. He now covers up his sins of lust, coveting and adultery with the sins of lying and premeditated murder. David broke nearly the entire Decalogue -- no wonder the Chronicler did not mention this episode in David's life! One almost wonders if he did this on the Sabbath!?
One thing we can learn from David is that sin begets sin and more sin. It becomes a vicious cycle that is so difficult to stop and most, if not all, are unable to. That is why Jesus Christ came. He came to rescue the Davids in this world and provide hope to the Bathshebas who are used up in other peoples webs of sin and deceit. Christ at the Cross broke the cycle of sin and gained victory and graciously gives that victory to us. Praise is due to Jesus!
Needless to say Uriah was murdered as David had plotted. This was premeditated murder in the first degree! And this is the man given the title "Man after God's own Heart." Shocking! But doesn't this give you a little hope? Look at what God did with with David, imagine what he can do with you and me if we allow him too.
In ch. 12 of 2 Sam. the prophet Nathan comes to the king and shares a parable with him about two men and a sheep:
"There were two men in a certain town, one rich and one poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him" (12. 1-4).
David, as king, had the job of protecting the poor and powerless (read Ps 72). His reaction to the story of Nathan shows that he took that task seriously. David's sense of justice had been aroused and Nathan quickly turns that on him and says "You are the man!" (v.7). Nathan has trapped David in his own conscience.
What happens next is important for the rest of the story in Samuel and the first 2 chapters of Kings. The Prophet pronounces four punishments on David for his sin:
1) he decreed the sword would not depart from David's house (12.10). Accordingly, Absalom killed Amnon his half brother (ch.13), Joab killed Absalom (ch.18) and Solomon (the offspring of David's crime) killed Adonijah (1 Kgs 2.13-25);
2) He announced that Yahweh would raise up evil against him out of his own house (12.11). Thus Amnon raped Tamar (ch.13), Absalom led a rebellion against his father (ch. 15), and Adonijah tried to seize the throne in David's old age (1 Kgs 1.5ff);
3) He stated that Yahweh would give David's wives to a neighbor of his, who would commit adultery with them publicly (12.11). So when Absalom seized the throne, on Ahithophel's advice he had sexual relations with his father's wives in the sight of all Israel (16.21-22);
4) He declared that the child born out of David's sin would die (12.14) and he did at seven days of age (12.16-18)
I would not want to grow up in David's family!! As you can see the rest of the narrative of Second Samuel is really about God's punishment for David's sin and it reads like a soap opera (which btw is also relevant to those in Exile). For a moment of pleasure David suffered a lifetime of hell! Do we do that same thing in our lives? Sin has built in consequences that we can not escape.
David was Israel at its best!! And this is the what the Best looks like!! What Hope is there for you or me if this is the best?
GRACE VISITS DAVID
The reason David is called "the Man after God's own heart" is not because he was perfect, flawless or obeyed God precisely. Rather he is given that title because he knew there was only one place to go after we mess up. He knew that even in our sin we must flee to the Lord. David confesses his sin saying "I have sinned against the Lord" (v. 13). The Lord who is rich in mercy forgives David of his sin, but he does not remove the consequences of his crimes against Uriah and Bathsheba. However, inspite of this sin, God says David was a man who had his kind of heart. That I find incredible. God made a promise to David that his throne would last forever because David sought him. This is demonstrated in these line. Feel the remorse of David:
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love [hesed];
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak . . .
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within
me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from
me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing
spirit, to sustain me." (Psalm 51. 1-4, 10-12).
David's attitude -- his humble heart -- more than anything separated him from his peers. He KNEW he was a sinner in the sight of God, most of us simply will not admit that. That is what opened him to God's infinite and marvelous grace.
This humility is perhaps the secret of understanding the gracious title given to David. Why? Because Jesus is the very revelation of God - and he "humbled himself." Like a slave he washed the disciples feet, Like a slave he gave up what was his for the sake of a humanity that would never - for the most part - believe. Like a slave he went to the Cross. He was known as the suffering servant. The essence of Jesus was his humility. David demonstrates the heart of God when he HUMBLES himself. He is the living example of the Scripture, "humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he WILL PICK YOU UP . . ."
God honored the sinful - that is Full of Sin - but humble David! Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of God's promise to David. The NT tells us that Christ sits on the throne of David ruling with justice and mercy. The story of David shows us that grace is for those who need it, not for those confident in their own righteousness.
King David's life in many ways reminds me of Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List. Here we see the aweful power sin really has. In the life of Schindler we confront the maddening contradictions of the sinful human dilemma just as we do in the life of David. Held hostage in a fallen world, caught in the clutches of the cruelty of Adolf Hitler and captured by his own sinfulness Schindler (and David) represent humanity's best efforts in the face of evil and sin. Schindler could use Jews as slaves to pad his own pocket but also help save 1200 from slaughter in Hitler's death machine. David could be a light to Israel, but neither were able to rescue themselves from life's corrosive and disrupting evil. Yet in spite of his moral flaws, David stands as an `angel' in the midst of despair by being the living demonstration of the marvel of grace in one man's life.
In one scene in the movie, Schindler is at Amon Goeth's villa in Poland and they have a discussion on power. Goeth says power is fear, the ability to take life and Schindler responded with the observation that that is not power at all. Power he said was the ability to punish people by taking their life, yet instead of taking it life is
granted or "pardon" as he put it. That is real power, the ability to forgive -- give life -- when it is not deserved. That is what God did for David. That is what God did for you and I through the Son of David who died to "pardon" us from our sin and give us life instead of death. God could have justly taken David out for his crime yet he forgave and called him "the Man after his own heart."
What do you think is the greater power, to take life ruthlessly or the power to pardon when it is not deserved in any way? How you answer that question reflects how you see yourself in relation to the Cross of the Son of David and your need of it. This is the power of this narrative of shameful power grabs, brutal lust, abuse of women, cold blooded murder, and unbelievable grace ... the Spirit has placed it here for us to ruminate upon.