Sunday, May 18, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "David's Scandal"

“David’s Scandal”
The LORD Is My Rock: The Message of 2 Samuel
May 18, 2014 :: 2 Samuel 11:1-12:31

I have some bad news for you today.

Up until now, David has been, if not perfect, he’s been quite ideal. The ideal king.

We’ve had several weeks here on the rule of king David, what his kingdom was like. How he finally got to the top after years of being chased and harassed.  And how good a king he was.

Last time we were in 2 Samuel together, we saw that David’s rule was marked by kindness. By hesed, right?

Well, I have bad news for you. Most of you knew that this day was coming. I’ve tried to hint at it from time to time.

David was, actually, far from perfect.

Today’s message is entitled, “David’s Scandal.”

Because at the height of his kingly power, David abused his kingly power. And then he tried to cover it up. And he did even worse than that.

Our “great hero,” King David was the perpetrator of a great scandal.

And there is no getting around it. There is no excuse for it. There is no defense for it. There is nothing good about it.

Except ... what God does with it and what we can learn about God from it.

David’s Scandal.

Now, this is a classic story full of awesome storytelling.

My job is mainly to show you what is there and get out of the way.

Because the story says it all.

So, we’re only going to have two points this morning.

Two things we’re going to see about David’s Scandal.  And the first is:


2 Samuel chapter 11, verse 1.

“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. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” Stop there for a second.

Remember the Ammonites? They’re the ones that David had tried to show hesed to last chapter but instead had shamed the Israelites?

Well, it’s now spring time, probably a year since that happened, it’s the end of their rainy season so the roads are dry enough for the armies to move, and David sends General Joab and “the whole Israelite army” to destroy the Ammonites and sack their capital city of Rabbah.

Sounds good. Only one problem.

David stayed home.

We aren’t told why, but it’s clearly a mistake.

Perhaps he was being lazy. Perhaps his men had persuaded him to stay away from battle.

Anyway about it, he wasn’t where he should be.

And that’s something to keep in mind when fighting temptation. Don’t go where you aren’t supposed to be. Don’t stay where you aren’t supposed to be.

Folks, that includes places online, not just palaces in Jerusalem. V.2

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’”

And it should have stopped there. But it didn’t. V.4

“Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home.”

This is the start of David’s scandal.

As far as we know, this was the only time David had committed adultery.

But once is way too much.

David saw this woman bathing. We’d like to know more about Bathsheba’s part in this. Was she somewhere she shouldn’t be? Was she undressed?

Was she showing off her beautiful body on the ancient equivalent of Facebook?

Or was she doing nothing wrong, but David had a vantage point that he used in a way that he shouldn’t? We don’t know.

The storyteller isn’t telling us Bathsheba’s story.  He’s telling us David’s story. David’s sin.

David did what he shouldn’t have. And he misused his kingly power.

And he knew what he was doing. He was stealing the wife of one of his mighty warriors.
But nobody had to know!

Bathsheba, however, was ovulating at the time. V.5

“The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant.’”

And so the cover-up begins. David gets worried. V.6

“So David sent this word to Joab: ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent him to David. [Notice this word “sent.” It’s the key word in these two chapters. It’s a power-word. David keeps sending and using his power to send in the wrong way. ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’]  When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. [How wicked this is. He’s talking to the guy right there in his house.]

Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’ [Get comfortable!] So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him.

But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master's servants and did not go down to his house.

[It’s not working. Uriah has to go home so that he sleeps with his wife. So the baby will not be a scandal. V.10]

When David was told, ‘Uriah did not go home,’ he asked him, ‘Haven't you just come from a distance? Why didn't you go home?’ Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!’”

Does he know?  Does he suspect?

The story doesn’t give us any reason to think so.

He’s just a fine upstanding man who has become an Israelite warrior. He was born a Hittite, but now he’s married into Israel and lives in Israel and fights for Israel.

And Israel’s king has sinned against him.

And Israel’s king is getting desperate. V.12

“Then David said to him, ‘Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David's invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master's servants; he did not go home.”

In this story, even when he is drunk, Uriah is more honorable than David is when he is sober.

And it gets worse. Much worse. V.14

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, ‘Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.’ [What do you think Joab thought when he got that letter?]

So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David's army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.

Joab sent David a full account of the battle. He instructed the messenger: ‘When you have finished giving the king this account of the battle, the king's anger may flare up, and he may ask you, 'Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn't you know they would shoot arrows from the wall? Who killed Abimelech son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn't a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you get so close to the wall?' If he asks you this, then say to him, 'Also, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.'’

[It looks like Joab improved on the David’s plan and had even more men killed so that it didn’t look like Uriah had been singled out. V.22]

“The messenger set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say. The messenger said to David, ‘The men overpowered us and came out against us in the open, but we drove them back to the entrance to the city gate. Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king's men died. Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.’

David told the messenger, ‘Say this to Joab: 'Don't let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. [No big deal.] Press the attack against the city and destroy it.' Say this to encourage Joab.’

When Uriah's wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”

Literally, “It was evil in the LORD’s sight.”

It looked like David had gotten away with it.

But God saw.

How many of the ten commandments has David now broken in this scandal?

Bearing false witness.
Coveting his neighbor’s wife.
At least.

And David just bottles it up and pretends that it didn’t happen.

We don’t know how many people knew.  Joab knew.

David’s servants had to know.

Maybe everybody was whispering about it.

It was less than 9 months after Uriah died that Bathsheba had David’s little boy.

It was a scandal.

It was a shame.

It was sin.

“But the thing David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.”

Now, who is going to stand up to David?

David has abused his kingly power. He has acted like he can do whatever he wants.

Chapter 12, verse 1.

“The LORD sent Nathan to David.”

Ah. Somebody else is doing the “sending” now.

Remember Nathan from chapter 7?  Nathan was the prophet who told David that everything he was doing was good. Nathan was the prophet who told David that God was promising to build a house for him. Nathan was the prophet who told David that God was going to bless David’s name and make him great and give him a dynasty that would be forever.

Now, he bears a different message.

And brings it to a story.

This is a masterful way of confronting sin. One that all of us, especially parents, should sit up and notice. V.1 again.

“The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, ‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other 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. [Aww.] 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.’

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’

Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!”

You see what Nathan did there?

He showed David his sin by telling him about someone else’s.

And David’s sense of justice then was acute.

He could see the sin of others, but he needed to be shown his own sin.

“You are the man!”

And then Nathan unleashes God’s condemnation on David. He takes him to the heart of the deadly seriousness of sin. V.7

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'

‘This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'’” Stop there.

Do you see how serious sin is?

The strongest, most bitter words in this whole story are in verse 10.  “You despised me.”

That’s what this scandal revealed.  David had not just sinned against Uriah or against Bathsheba or against Joab or against his army or against his nation.

He had sinned against them. He had offended and hurt them with his actions.

But even more importantly, he had sinned against God.

Sin is an offense against God.

Sin is treachery.

Sin is treason.

Sin is irrational. It’s crazy!

That’s what God is saying through Nathan. “I gave you everything you have and it was all good. And if you wanted more, all you had to do was ask.

And what do you do instead? You take what is not yours!”

Sin is an irrational devaluing of God and His good gifts.

It’s dissatisfaction with God!

It’s stupid.

Sin is stupid.

And it’s deadly.

The wages of sin is death.

David’s sin led to Uriah’s death and those other soldiers’.

And it earned death for him.  He deserved it.

Now, before we get too far up on our own high horses, and jump into condemnation of David, we need to remind ourselves that this sin is in our hearts, as well.

We, here, are all sinners, too.

We may not have killed anyone or stolen a spouse, but we may have.

And the Lord Jesus says that if we have hated someone or called them “you fool,” we have killed them in our hearts.

And the Lord Jesus says that if we have lusted after someone, we have committed adultery with them in our hearts.

David’s scandal is in our hearts.

It’s our scandal, too.

And there’s no excuse for it.

And it isn’t excused.

There are terrible consequences that come from it.

Our sins do not just affect us but also the people around us.

A sword would cut into David’s household.  That great household that God had promised would receive the slice of God’s own sword of judgment.


“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’”

David admits his sin. He recognizes it. He owns it.

David shows here that he is a man after God’s own heart.

His confession is simple, but it’s real.

He’s so not like Saul.  Remember how Saul would make excuses and try to get out of it. And agree that it was bad but try, but then say, “But we can fix it, right?” (Arnold, 534).

But King David is cut to the heart and is truly repentant and doesn’t expect anything from it. He just agrees with Nathan.

“I have sinned against the LORD.”

This afternoon, read Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 to find out more about what David felt and learned from this time in his life.  He understood the deadly seriousness of his sin.

And that’s why Nathan’s next words are so amazing. V.13

“Nathan replied, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.’”

The second thing we’re going to learn from David’s scandal is:


The magnificent amazingness of God’s grace.

Nathan said, “The LORD has taken away your sin.” You are not going to get the death that you deserve.

Don’t think that excuses David’s sin. It doesn’t.

David isn’t getting away with it.

God isn’t saying, “It’s no big deal.”

God has said, “It is a big deal,” but He’s taking that big deal away.

How can He do that?

We know the answer to that now in ways that David couldn’t fathom.

We know that it comes through the Cross of Jesus.

The Savior nailed to the tree.

That’s what it took for our sins to be taken away.

Someone to die in our place.

What the sacrifices of the Old Testament prefigured, foreshadowed, and pointed to.

“You are not going to die.” Because someone is going to die for you.

That’s grace.

And it’s amazing.

Would I do it like this?

No. But I’m not God. (And everybody said, “Amen!”)

David is forgiven for his scandal.

There are consequences, however. It will change everybody’s life and make it so much harder. V.14

“But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.’ After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. On the seventh day the child died. David's servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, ‘While the child was still living, we spoke to David but he would not listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.’ David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘he is dead.’

Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

His servants asked him, ‘Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!’ [Aren’t you going to grieve?]

He answered, ‘While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, 'Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.' [I know that the LORD is gracious! He’s that kind of God! But this time, He said, “No.”] But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.’

Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.”

Don’t think that David got off easy.

I’m sure he’d rather that he died than his son.

And this is just the beginning of David’s troubles. This book is going to be depressing again and again for the next 9 chapters.

Even when we are forgiven, our sins will most often still lead to consequences.

But don’t miss the amazing grace.

David and Bathsheba have another son.

In fact, Chronicles tells us they have four more sons.

But this one is special. He is named Solomon, and the LORD loves him.

And one day he’s going to take David’s place.

The son of David and Bathsheba!

And remember the Ammonites? David deserves to lose to them. V.26

“Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, ‘I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.’ [In other words, “Get yourself over here where you belong. You get a second chance to do what you were supposed to be doing. Do your job. V.29]

So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. He took the crown from the head of their king–its weight was a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones–and it was placed on David's head. He took a great quantity of plunder from the city and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. He did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then David and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.”

When he should have been dead.

We need to see how deadly serious is our sin so that we can clearly see how amazing is God’s grace!

Sin is an offense against God.
Sin is treachery.
Sin is treason.
It’s crazy! It’s stupid.
It’s an irrational devaluing of God and His good gifts.

And yet God can forgive it because of Jesus.

God’s grace is so amazing.


Messages in This Series
00. "How the Mighty Have Fallen!"
01. King David
02. David's Kingdom
03. The Right Way to Worship
04. "I Will Build a House for You."
05. The Rule of King David
06. David's Scandal