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Sunday, May 25, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?"

“Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?”
The LORD Is My Rock: The Message of 2 Samuel
May 25, 2014 :: 2 Samuel 13:1-39

Last week, we read about David’s Scandal and saw both the deadly seriousness of sin and the magnificent amazingness of grace.

If we had put King David up on a pedestal, he took a dive off of it last Sunday. David  lusted. He enticed. He committed adultery. He lied to Bathesheba’s husband Uriah, and then he had Uriah killed. And he tried to cover up the whole scandal.

But it didn’t stay covered. Thankfully, when he was confronted, David confessed and repented and was forgiven–the magnificent amazingness of grace.

But God said in 2 Samuel 12, verse 10, “[T]he sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”

And that sword struck, just as God said it would. The sword struck down David and Bathsheba’s first son.

And it will continue to strike.

I almost titled this sermon, “The Sword Strikes Again.”

Because that’s what we’re going to be reading about for the next several weeks. We’re going to see how the sword divides David’s family and brings misery upon his head.

I’m afraid that we’re going to be further disappointed with David after today.

This chapter is not one of the highlights of David’s life and reign.

In fact, it’s one of the worst moments in his whole story.

It’s not so much about his own sin but about the sins of his children, which are no small thing.

This is a story that I’d rather not read to you and that I’d rather not preach to you.

It’s a sordid story. It’s a profoundly sad story about yucky, repugnant, disgusting sin that I find no pleasure in reading or preaching about.

And yet, this is God’s Word. And all of “Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that [we] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Including this chapter.

And this chapter is the next chapter, so we’re not going to skip it today.

Here’s the title that I ended up picking, “Why Is This Sordid Story in the Bible?”

That’s a really good question anytime when you’re trying to figure what the Bible passage you’re studying means and how to apply it.

Ask yourself, “Why is THIS story in my Bible?” And often when you get that answer, you know what it’s about and how it could apply to your life.

Cody is going to preach again for me on June 29th, and that’s the key question that he should ask of the passage he’s going to preach for us. Why is this particular passage in the Bible?

But it’s really a question that you really feel when the story is seamy and ugly and yucky like this one is.  Why is this sordid story in my Bible?

Why do I have to read it? Why did God include this stuff? I don’t want to read about this!

This isn’t the only story that feels like that–we experienced it back in the book of Judges, too. And there are many more.

So it’s a good question to ask as we read 2 Samuel chapter 13. Also known as the rape of Tamar.

Here’s how we’re going to approach it. We’re going to pray first, and then I’ll read the chapter too you pointing out features in the story as we go, and then I’ve got, at the end, four big reasons why this sordid story is in your Bibles. I’m sure there are more, but these are four that I see and want to press home on our hearts.

2 Samuel 13, verse 1.

“In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.” Stop there for just a second.

You can see from the first verse that there’s going to be trouble. And it’s trouble with the next generation.

David has been, a we’ve said, unwise and married multiple wives and had multiple children. In one sense, that’s a blessing. Fruitfulness!  Growth!

But wherever you have polygamy in the Bible, you have trouble. And David has this sword of consequences that won’t depart from his house, as well.

So, you’ve got a next generation that is going to be a problem.

All three of the people mentioned in the first verse are children of David. Amnon who is apparently the firstborn and the current heir to the throne.  Tamar, his half-sister, a daughter of David who is the full sister to Absalom, a dashing young man who is also the son of David.

The next several chapters are going to be about this son named Absalom. We will get tired of hearing his name in the next month.

But the story starts by focusing the camera on his half-brother, the crown prince, Amnon.

And Amnon has a problem. He’s in love (or so he thinks) but the object of his love is unattainable. It’s his half-sister. V.2

“Amnon became frustrated to the point of illness on account of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.”

You can already tell that there is something messed up in this story. Tamar is a virgin, protectively kept separate from the others and out of his reach.

And it’s driving Amnon crazy, sick-crazy that he can’t do anything to her.  That’s actually a good translation. Amnon is sick. He’s a probably a spoiled brat, and his glands are bigger than his brain. V.3

“Now Amnon had a friend [a companion] named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David's brother. [A cousin, then.] Jonadab was a very shrewd man. [Watch out for shrewd men.] He asked Amnon, ‘Why do you, the king's son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won't you tell me?’ Amnon said to him, ‘I'm in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister.’

[And Jonadab should have right then gone to get a psychologist! But instead, he says, V.5]

‘Go to bed and pretend to be ill,’ Jonadab said. ‘When your father comes to see you, say to him, 'I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.'’

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.’

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: ‘Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.’ So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat. ‘Send everyone out of here,’ Amnon said. So everyone left him.”

Now, you and I can see where this is heading, but I don’t think Tamar could. And I doubt that David could have forseen this one. He just thought that Amnon was sick. He was duped by all the “sister” talk and didn’t see how lustful Amnon was.

He’s got her in his home. He’s dismissed the servants. V.10

“Then Amnon said to Tamar, ‘Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.’ And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.’”

“‘Don't, my brother!’ she said to him. ‘Don't force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don't do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.’”

She puts up a good fight and offers good arguments.

“No, please! This would be incest. The pagans may do it, but the LORD’s people should not! It’s wicked! It’s wrong.  And it would bring disgrace on me. And it would make you disgraceful, Amnon. You would be a Nabal, a wicked fool in Israel.  Talk to Dad. He’ll let us get married if you want me so badly.”

By the way, I don’t know if that’s true or not.  David apparently was a bit of push-over in this phase in his life. So he might have given in to that request, but it’s doubtful. I think she’s just grabbing at any straw to stop him from doing what he’s planning to do. But nothing works. V.14

“But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, ‘Get up and get out!’

‘No!’ she said to him. ‘Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.’ But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, ‘Get this woman out of here and bolt the door after her.’

So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing a richly ornamented robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore.

Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.”

I don’t have to tell you that this is bad.

It’s bad.

Tamar owned a coat of many colors. Same words as what Joseph was given.

And on this day, she ripped it to shreds herself and put ashes on her head and ran screaming and crying from her “brother” Amnon to her brother Absalom. V.20

“Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet now, my sister; he is your brother. Don't take this thing to heart.’ And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's house, a desolate woman.”

Her life had been wrecked ... by someone who should have been protective over her.

And what kind of counsel was that from her brother Absalom?  “He’s your brother. Don’t take it to heart?”  He’s clueless as to what to say to her.  And so, apparently, is her father. V.21

“When King David heard all this, he was furious.” ...

And? ...

No actions.  David is furious and passive.

Perhaps he’s unable to bring justice to his son because he’s ashamed of his own example in the sexual arena. “Who am I to judge?”

Well, you’re the king. You’re their Dad. You’ve got to! But he doesn’t. And so Absalom’s rage grows. V.22

“Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.”

And nothing happens!  No justice comes!  No action is taken.  Absalom just stews about it for 2 years and never speaks to Amnon. And then he gets an idea. V.23

“Two years later, when Absalom's sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king's sons to come there. Absalom went to the king and said, ‘Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his officials please join me?’

[He’s hoping David will say, “No,” thinking that he’s just being polite. And David bites. V.25]

‘No, my son,’ the king replied. ‘All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.’ Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go, but gave him his blessing.

Then Absalom said, ‘If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.’ The king [suspicious?] asked him, ‘Why should he go with you?’

But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king's sons.

Absalom [who knows how to get things done] ordered his men, ‘Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, 'Strike Amnon down,' then kill him. Don't be afraid. Have not I given you this order? Be strong and brave.’ [A wicked thing to say.]

So Absalom's men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. [Murdered at a family gathering!] Then all the king's sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.

While they were on their way, the report came to David: ‘Absalom has struck down all the king's sons; not one of them is left.’ The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his servants stood by with their clothes torn.

But Jonadab [there he is again] son of Shimeah, David's brother, said, ‘My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom's expressed intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. My lord the king should not be concerned about the report that all the king's sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.’

Meanwhile, Absalom had fled. Now the man standing watch looked up and saw many people on the road west of him, coming down the side of the hill. The watchman went and told the king, ‘I see men in the direction of Horonaim, on the side of the hill.’

Jonadab said to the king, ‘See, the king's sons are here; it has happened just as your servant said.’ As he finished speaking, the king's sons came in, wailing loudly. The king, too, and all his servants wept very bitterly.

Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned for his son every day. After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years. And the spirit of the king longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon's death.”

Now, what we just read there is key to understanding what’s going to happen next in the story. Absalom was special to David.  Amnon was, too, I’m sure. But he was dead. And David was consoled about him–he had been a rapist, after all. So, it’s not  wrong for him to die.
But David really misses Absalom.

Even though Absalom has lied to him and manipulated him and killed, murdered, his firstborn son!

David misses him. “The spirit of the king longed to go to Absalom.”

So, that’s the story.

You’re probably sorry right now that you came to church this Sunday!

Rape and murder.

Raped sister, murdered brother.

What a great family.

Why is this sordid story in our Bibles?

If you read through the Bible each year, why do you have to read 2 Samuel 13? Why can’t we skip this? Why can’t we do without it?

It’s disturbing. It’s troubling. It’s no fun. It’s not positive and encouraging.

And God isn’t even mentioned once in the whole chapter!

Why is this sordid story in the Bible?

Let me give you four reasons.

#1. BECAUSE THE BIBLE IS ABOUT REALITY.

And this stuff was real and is real.

This did happen. It is history. And it’s the kind of thing that does happen in our world today.

Our world is profoundly broken, and the Bible understands that.

Things like rape and murder happen in real life, and the Bible doesn’t sugarcoat that and pretend that it doesn’t.

Some people think that the Bible is a bunch of nice little fairy tales.

You know who believes that? People who haven’t read it.

The Bible is full of sin, and shame, and brokenness and things being all messed up.

And it doesn’t sugercoat its heroes either!

David does not have a halo.

I’m so thankful that Bible is about reality, the way things really are.

It describes the world is really like, what people are really like. And that’s not always happy or fun. Sometimes, it’s profoundly sad. But that’s life!

I don’t want a book that says that it explains life that doesn’t understand how terrible life in our fallen world with fallen people can really be.

We need that. We need a big dose of reality.

Because we’ll only understand the good news if we get the whole story, the bad news first.

Now, I want us to look squarely into the face of the reality of this sin of this chapter.

There are four men in this chapter, and they all fall very far short of what they ought to be and to do.

Amnon.  The reality of his sin is that he is driven by lust. His “love” for Tamar is little more than glandular passion.  And he’s driven by a twisted desire to control. And he uses violence to get what he wants.

That’s evil.

Let’s just say that. What Amnon did was wicked.

Jonadab.  He might be worse than Amnon. He didn’t follow his glands, he schemed a way for Amnon to do it.

He doesn’t seem to have any conscience.  One author I read said that Jonadab had “wisdom but no conscience.” He was smart. He was shrewed.  But he was wicked.

He could show you the way to get what you want. But he never said whether or not you ought to want that thing.

Do you know anyone like that? A schemer?  A plotter? A guy who knows how to get things done, even things that should never be done?

The Bible knows that Jonadabs exist. They’re real.

Or look at Absalom. Here is was a man who allowed himself to be filled with hate. Hate to the degree that he murdered his own brother.

That wasn’t justice. That was revenge.

Smart guy. He gets away with it, for the time being...

But a hate filled guy. Do you know anyone like that? The Bible knows that they exists and tells us that they are there in reality. The Bible is about reality.

And then there’s David.  David is furious but passive.  He feels the right thing. It is right to be furious about sexual assault!

But he doesn’t allow his righteous anger to move him into action.

And that’s wrong, too.

David becomes like Eli here in this story.

Remember Eli?  An okay priest but a terrible dad.  He didn’t do anything to discipline his children, and so he had to share in the consequences.

That’s wrong.

The Bible calls it like it is. Sin is sin, and it’s bad.

And it has consequences. That’s point #2.

This sordid story is in our Bibles....

#2. BECAUSE THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES.

Remember what we read on Mother’s Day?

Galatians 6? “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

Remember, this is happening to David’s family because of what David did to and with Bathsheba and to her husband Uriah.

“The sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”

These are consequences for those sins.

Sins are not little isolated things that don’t affect anything else.

They are significant, and they bring consequences.

Even for those that are forgiven!  Like David.

I was telling this illustration at prayer meeting on Wednesday.

When I was younger, I used to drive my Dad's copper-toned 1982 Chevy Citation with a sun-roof.

Woo!  Was that sweet ride?!  That little Citation had pick-up.  I should have had more traffic citations in that Citation than I did.

Well, it had 99,999 miles on it and then it flipped over to...what?

It's a 1982.  What did it flip over to?

Zero!  The odometer only went up to 99,999.

So, the odometer said that the car been forgiven.  Nothing on the odometer!

A clean slate. Forgiven!  Perfect.  Miles free.

But, were there still the marks of 100,000 miles on that little car?

There sure were.  And no-matter what the odometer said, there were still natural consequences that we had to accept.

It's the same in our lives.  We can be forgiven our sins where it's most important–by the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

But we still often have to accept some of the consequences of those sins in our lives.

Are you living with consequences?

Are you facing a temptation and need to be reminded that if you give in there will be consequences?

This sordid story is here to remind us that sin is no small thing, no insignificant thing.

More than that. Number three.

This sordid story is in our Bibles:

#3. BECAUSE THE BIBLE GIVES A VOICE TO THE VICTIMIZED.

We might not like to hear or see what a victim of sexual assault goes through, but God made sure that there was at least one story told in His Word so that victims will know that they are not alone.

And that God knows about it and cares.

And that God says that sexual abuse is wicked and wrong.

The statistics say that one in four women and one in six men have been or will be the victim of sexual assault in their lifetimes (Rid of My Disgrace, pg. 37).

So that means that several of us in this room have been sinned against in a similar way to Tamar.

Aren’t you glad, if you have to go through that in your life, that the Bible knows that it exists and names it and calls it what it is: a heinous sin?

And more than one third of all sexual attacks come from family members, too.

This chapter gives a voice to the victimized.

Tamar is the only person in this story who does what she should.

And at least part of the reason why her story is here is to say to you ladies, “It’s not your fault.”

Don’t believe the lies that your abuser told you.
Don’t believe that you are the problem if you’ve been raped.
Don’t believe that you are damaged goods, no longer good for anything but more abuse.

Seek help. Speak up. Report the abuse. Get assistance.

The Bible gives you a voice.

Here’s some more homework for you this week. This afternoon, read Psalm 10 through the eyes of a victim.
It’s about how perpetrators think and act...and what they have coming for them if they do not repent.

I’m not glad that Tamar had to go through what she went through. But I am glad it’s in our Bibles so that if precious people like you have to go through it, too, she’s there to tell you that you are not alone, and that it’s not your fault.

And that there is grace to cover your disgrace.

Because our Lord Jesus Christ knows all about disgrace.

He knows all about shame.

Nobody was ever shamed like Jesus was.

Nobody ever had shame placed upon Him like Jesus did.

And He went through that for us to lift off and wash clean the shame that others have put on us.

He doesn’t just forgive us of our sins at the Cross. He bore our shame and lifts it off of us. He gives us a new ornamented robe that is not torn. A new identity to live out of.

He accepts us. He receives us. He loves us. We are not damaged goods to Him.

We are the apple of His eye.

You are, if you are in Christ, the apple of His eye.

One more and then we’re done.

Why is this sordid story in our Bibles?

#4. BECAUSE THE BIBLE REMINDS US THAT OUR LORD IS SOVEREIGN OVER EVERYTHING.

Now, why do I say that?

Do you remember when we started that I said that the LORD is never named in chapter 13?

Thirty-nine verses and none of them contain the name of God.

So, is God absent in this chapter?  Has he gone on a vacation?

Is he taking a moment to collect Himself?

I’m sure that’s how it felt to Tamar.

But you and I know better. We know that this the sword striking this family.

We know it’s the sword of the Lord.

We know that it is consequences for David’s sin.

God is sovereign over this. It fits, somehow, into His plan.

He doesn’t like the part of the plan. He hates Amnon’s lustful violence. He hates Jonadab’s cold-blooded scheming. He hates Absalom’s murderous rage.  He hates David’s cowardly passivity.

But none of that is outside of His sovereignty.

Somehow, I don’t pretend to know how, God uses even our sinful choices to effect His sovereign purposes in the world!

It’s mysterious, but true. And I find it incredibly comforting.

Like Joseph telling his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.”

This sordid story is in the Bible to remind me that God is sovereign over all of the sordid stories and is working them together for our good and for His glory.

How do I know that’s true?

Because of the most sordid story ever.

The most perfect person who ever lived was crucified.

He was innocent. He was holy. He was good. All good.

And they killed him. They shamed Him publically and they put Him to death.

And that most sordid story ever was part of God’s plan.

The early church said in Acts 4, “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.”

Our Lord is sovereign over everything! Even over the worst sins ever committed.

So, if you are being sinned against, take heart. God hates that sin, but it’s not out of His grasp.

If you belong to Jesus, you are in His grasp, no matter what happens to you.

And He will love you forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

All of this will be made right and worked together for your eternal good and joy.

Trust Jesus and believe in His Lordship over the story of your life.

Because chapter 13 is not the end of the story. Revelation 22 is the end of the story!

And I’ve read the end of the story–God wins! And so do we!


***

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

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