2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27; 12:1-9; Psalm 51:1-9
(sermon note: 10-23 sermon note)
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, ‘This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ So David sent messengers to fetch her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.’
When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.
But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.’ Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’
Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment. Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about three men who died and went to heaven. St Peter asked the first man, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?” “Certainly not!” responded the man. “I loved my wife and was never unfaithful!” “Excellent,” replied St. Peter, “you get a Cadillac to drive around for all of eternity.” St. Peter moved on to the next man, “Have you ever cheated on your wife?” “Yes. I was weak. Please forgive me,” he sheepishly responded. “That’s not so bad. Here, you get a Buick to drive around in for all eternity.” Finally St. Peter asked the third man, “And have you ever cheated on your wife, sir?” “You kidding? At least a dozen times! What can I say…it was my one weakness.” “You should be ashamed of yourself! I’m sorry, but you will only have this bicycle to ride around on for all eternity.” A month passed. One day, the guy on the bicycle pulled up to the guy in the Cadillac at a traffic light and saw that he was just sitting there with his hands on his face, balling his eyes out. The guy on the bike leaned over and said, “Hey! What the heck could you possibly be crying about? You got this beautiful Cadillac to drive around in for all of eternity! Look at me, I’m stuck on this bike! What could you possibly be upset about?” Holding back tears, the man in the Cadillac muttered, “I just saw my wife on a pair of roller skates.”
While David wasn’t married at the time of his inappropriate relations with Bathsheba, he certainly did engage in adultery and deserved nothing more than a bicycle to ride around heaven on for all of eternity. Maybe even roller skates! Yet what does he get? A beautiful wife and a sickly child that would die shortly after birth. But his beautiful wife goes on to bear him another son named Solomon, arguably the wisest king to have ever lived. So how are we to rationalize this? Does adultery bear such fruit for all people and if so, why is it considered such a sin? More often than not, adultery doesn’t bear such fruit, only pain and heartbreak. Most adulterous relations tear apart families and give the false impression of stability to build a relationship on. The age-old adage stands true: once a cheater, always a cheater. How Bathsheba manages to stay faithful and committed to David is a mystery. Of course, it helped that he was a KING with exceptionally good looks and God’s favor! I suppose her faithfulness isn’t all that much of a mystery. What IS a mystery is why David chose Bathsheba of all women to marry and build a family with. Surely she had more than just her beauty to inspire his undivided devotion. A good sense of humor? A good conversationalist? Good connections? Anything other than beauty?! Alas, from what we have in scripture, it was entirely her beauty that wooed David’s affections. Go figure…
For David, a man unrivaled in battle and creatively gifted, who continually received God’s love and favor, his greatest weakness was one of lust. Many powerful men throughout history have been afflicted with such a weakness. It goes to show the power that women have, particularly beautiful women. Bathsheba’s beauty alone was enough for the powerful David to reveal his greatest weakness. And what a mess such a revelation made! Our reading only touched on it but Bathsheba’s husband was a commanding officer in David’s army. Rather than admitting he had impregnated Bethsheba, David cleverly had Bathesheba’s husband sent to the front lines of battle where he was killed. With the husband out of the way, David had no problem taking Bathsheba as his wife to raise their child together. Unfortunately, God didn’t allow for the sin to go unnoticed and the child died shortly after birth. And God had the prophet Nathan confront David about his son with great effect. David’s sin could no longer hide in the darkness and David was compelled to seek God’s forgiveness as we heard in the 51st psalm.
This was all to show that David wasn’t without weaknesses. No matter how powerful he became, no matter how much favor he received from God, David wasn’t beyond having weaknesses. And if someone as powerful as David wasn’t beyond having weaknesses, then those of us with a mere fraction of his power are sure to have weaknesses. Power doesn’t get rid of all weaknesses, it simply hides them better. Just as power can give the illusion of stability upon which relationships are built, power can also give the illusion of being without weakness. None of us is without weakness. We are all burdened with weaknesses, some greater than others. How we handle our weaknesses is what defines us. Do we act on our weaknesses as David did or do we subjugate them? Do we control them or do they control us? These are important questions to ask. What relationship do we have with our weaknesses? Well, just because we have them doesn’t mean we have to let them run our lives. No, we can let our strengths guide our lives instead. We can let the goodness within us guide how we go about living our lives. There is a goodness within each of us, a kindness, a graciousness, a compassion. There is a goodness that sees the weaknesses in others and forgives them.
Nathan confronted David about his sin and rather than judge him for it he allowed David to realize just how wrong his actions were. Nathan didn’t forgive David for his sin but he opened David to receive God’s forgiveness and sometimes that’s the best we can give each other. Nathan’s goodness was shown in opening David to seek God’s forgiveness. And what a gift to receive God’s forgiveness! Paul writes in his second letter to the Corinthians, “but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (12:9) Paul lays it out very plainly for us: God appreciates weakness because it allows him to show us grace and forgiveness. And for God, his greatest power is revealed in his grace. Indeed there IS great power in grace! When someone is woefully separated and adrift in this world, to reconnect with them through grace and forgiveness is the greatest gift you can give them! No one enjoys being separated and adrift. We all long to be connected and God connects to us even more in our weaknesses than in our strengths. Paul goes on to write, “therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (12:10) God connects to us through Christ in weakness. Don’t think our weaknesses separate us from God. They only bring us closer to him!
David may have beat himself up for his weakness but little did he know that God only got closer to him because of it. Of course, he needed to be reopened to receive God’s grace but that’s what good friends are for…or good prophets in his case. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (3:23) We all have weaknesses that separate us from God but thankfully He is a God of grace. What should separate us only brings us closer if we open ourselves to receive his grace. What an amazing God! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.