(124) Inscription 28: King David on Finishing Well
Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 28: King David on Finishing Well
2 Samuel 11-12
August 15, 2010
· Read key David stories (esp. Goliath and Bathsheba)
· 062, skim leftovers (esp. p. 1)
Scripture reading: 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-13 (Sarah Dunn)
Intro: Great vacation, missed all of you.
Q Little bit of trivia: Who was our first president?
It wasn’t George Washington, it was John Hanson, and there were six more that you have never heard of after him. George Washington was the first president under the Constitution.
· Similarly, David was not Israel’s first king, but they tried to forget about the first one, Saul.
He was their greatest king; he was the one who conquered Jerusalem and made it their capitol, he brought greater unity to the nation, defeated their enemies and gave them security, and expanded their borders.
But if you know his story at all, you know he has skeletons in his closet. Had he tried to get elected in modern America, he would be torn apart.
· Even if Bush stole the election and Obama not born here, what’s that compared to a murder to cover up an affair?
There is so much to say and learn from David’s life. Entire books have been written and long sermon series. I have one week, so I have to pick one theme to try to encapsulate it well:
· David’s life is a lesson that it is easier to start well than finish well.
David starts off great, has a huge moral failure, and never recovers. After his affair with Bathsheba, he is never the same, and his family is left in shambles.
· A great start is no guarantee of finishing well.
The message is especially poignant for me – here I am in my mid-30’s and life is going pretty well. My marriage is doing well, I love my job, I am closer to God than I have ever been. I feel like I am really getting a grip on things.
· I have to acknowledge the technical possibility of ending up like David, but it seems so unlikely.
Maybe you feel the same – you’ve weathered storms, struggled, stumbled, and by God’s grace come out on top. This feeling can come creeping in that we’re set – it can’t happen to you.
Here is something I want you to think about:
David became king at 30, and was at his peak spiritually and personally in his 30’s and 40’s. He was in probably around 50 when he had his affair.
Q Does that surprise you? Why?
At what age are we home free? When can we stop watching out for sin, especially in the post-Viagra age?
The sad thing about David is that his life burned brightly for the first 50 years, but smoldered for the last twenty. I don’t want that for me, and I don’t want that for you.
· I want us to finish like Billy Graham, 91 and serving Jesus.
So let’s look at David’s life, and see if we can build on his successes, and avoid his failures. Speaking very broadly, I think we can divide his life into four stages:
1. Faithfulness: A man after God’s own heart
From the very beginning, David is a man of faithfulness. David was known as a man after God’s own heart.
This phrase is used once, to contrast him to Saul, who looked good on the outside but wasn’t devoted to God inside. David was a man who wholeheartedly sought and followed God.
It’s significant that it occurs before he has done any of his impressive feats, before he fights Goliath, before he refuse to kill Saul. The only thing he’s done is write music – the Psalms.
· Psalms give us a unique look into David’s soul, what made him a man after God’ heart.
If the Psalms are any indicator (and they are), David was a man deeply in love with God. He firmly believed that God is good (Hebrew class: key tov):
Psalm 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
I love that wording – it’s like biting into a firm, ripe, juicy peach, and having the juice run down your face.
Psalm 16:2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing."
He knows that everything he wanted flowed from God.
NIV Psalm 63:1-3 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
David didn’t just believe that God existed, he didn’t consider him an important “part” of his life – God was his everything, God was his highest joy and his deepest meaning.
· I read these things and think, “I wish I felt that way – I know I should, and I want to, but I am not quite there.”
Like desiring your spouse, you can’t make will yourself desire God. As someone who’s trying, here’s how we cultivate a desire for God as our highest joy, to be a person after God’s heart:
1. Daily pray that God become your highest joy – don’t be surprised when find your priorities changing.
2. Immerse yourself in Psalms – most of the Bible tells you who God is and what to do, Psalms help you experience God.
2. Fearlessness: A man of courage and faith
From the time God calls David a man after his own heart and he is anointed king until he becomes king is many years (c. 15). In the meantime he gains quite a reputation for his fearlessness.
Story after story displays David’s courage – sneaking into Saul’s camp, fighting lions and bears, military victories. But the best known story of David’s life is when he fought Goliath.
The Philistines are attacking and oppressing the Israelites (BTW: they were Greeks). They were set against each other across a valley. At that time it was common for armies of appoint champions who would fight on behalf of the entire nation.
The idea was the battle was really between the nations’ gods, so the gods would fight through the champions. Of course it is easier to believe that if your champion is 9 feet tall.
David hears Goliath taunting Israel, and he is offended for God’s sake. He can’t believe the other Israelites are letting him defy his God, the God that he loves more than anything.
So David, a mere teenager, goes up against a giant, who is armed to the teeth. He refuse Saul’s armor and goes out with nothing but a staff and slingshot. That takes guts.
· After exchanging pleasantries, David kills him with one shot, cuts off his head with his own sword, and the good guys win.
That’s a great story, (perhaps we could have played “David and Goliath” at the camping trip). But how does it relate to our lives in 21st century America? A lot more that you realize.
Q Are you a courageous person? Have you asked yourself that?
Stop thinking about fighting bad guys or running into burning buildings. Those are displays of courage, but not ones that we need in our everyday life.
Here’s a different way to look at courage: It isn’t simply one of the virtues – it’s the point where all virtues are tested.
· Is love still love if you don’t stand by your friend that everyone else is tearing down?
· Is honesty still honesty if gives in when your boss want you to cheat the system?
· Is loyalty to God still loyalty when coworkers are misrepresenting God and you say nothing?
In everyday life, our godliness is tested time and time again when it becomes risky to do what’s right, when we risk humiliation, loss of friends, loss of a job.
· Courage is the strength to do what is right when the cost is highest and it matters the most.
Q That’s all well and good, but how find the courage to do what’s right?
What is David’s secret? “Feel the fear but saddle up anyway”? Not exactly. See if you can find it in what he said to Goliath:
1 Samuel 17:45-47 45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
Q Is this a story about courage or faith?
There is courage, and there is stupidity. For a teenager with a slingshot to go up alone against a giant in full gear isn’t courage, it’s can-I-have-your-iPod-when-you’re-dead stupidity.
· It’s about faith. David knew that he wasn’t alone, and that made all the difference.
In NY I saw a lot of bball, imagine if I was pulled into a game of 3 on 3 – I’d be a lot more confident if my teammates were LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
· What impresses me is not his courage, but his absolute faith in God and his willingness to act on it (the test of faith).
David isn’t trusting in his own ability, he trusts in God. You frequently see his absolute trust in God this in the Psalms:
Psalm 56:3-4 3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
These aren’t just pretty words, this is his life. David’s courage was driven by his faith in God. He knew that God was good, he knew God had promised to make him king, then he acted upon that knowledge.
Our personal giants
Q Know let’s get even more personal – what are the giants in your life?
We don’t have to fight any 9 foot monsters, but there are things in our life that are even more frightening us.
· Perhaps there’s a deep pain in your past that you hope will go away if you ignore it.
· Perhaps there is a person you need to confront, but you are too frightened.
· Maybe there is a sin that you are hiding, even though you need to confess it and be freed.
You look at these things, and they seem absolutely insurmountable. Given a choice between these and Goliath, many of us would choose Goliath. At least it will be over quickly!
Without courage, you’ll be defeated and hopeless, held back by fears and doubts. You’ll ignore, lie, pretend, avoid, shift blame, or a myriad of other things to protect yourself.
Q So how do you find the courage to do what you need to do?
Don’t try to muster up the courage – it hasn’t worked so far. Instead, follow David’s example: Focus on God and his faithfulness. Here is a psalm to get into your head:
Psalm 62:6-8 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
· Don’t try to build up your courage, work on trusting God!
First look your fears in the face (George Washington was known for his ability to do this).
Then, in prayer take your fears to God, repent for not trusting him to be with you and help you. Ask for his help and for faith in him, ask that he helps you lean into him.
· Ills: I frequently feel inadequate as a pastor; I have to face my fears and put my hope in God, not my own ability.
Not always happily ever after
Understand – your faith (and hence courage) isn’t that God will make everything turn out nice – sometimes Goliath gets us. We find courage in the knowledge that:
· ...God’s way is always best, even if it is hard and painful.
· ...he is always with us.
· ...he makes all things work out for our good (Rom. 8:28
I really wish I could stop here, with David as a man deeply devoted to God, a shining example of action and courage. That would be a happy ending.
But we all know that the story doesn’t stop here, it doesn’t have a happy ending, and this may be the part of the story we need the most.
3. Failures: A slow decline with a sudden drop off
After all this success, David’s life is marked with failures.
2 Samuel 11:1-5 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. 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, 3 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?” 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. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
This is a problem. So David gets her husband back in town from the battlefield, hoping they’ll sleep together and to cover it up. The problem is he does what was honorable by refusing to spend the night at home while his comrades are in battle.
· David arranges his murder then marries Bathsheba.
Q What happened? How did he go from “Apart from you I have no good thing” to getting a little action on the side?
I don’t ask out of morbid curiosity, but to avoid his fate. In a moment he shipwrecked his life, never to recover. The Bible doesn’t expressly tell us what happened, but gives us a hint:
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.
· The Bible doesn’t say why he stayed, but it disapproves.
He wasn’t doing what he was supposed to do – he was no longer the man of action and courage, but rather content to stay at home while his troops were off doing his job defending Israel.
Getting too comfortable
I think David simply had become too comfortable. He had a nice safe home, with good food, and a warm bed. He didn’t need to go to war. His army was powerful and his position was secure.
· It’s dangerous to get too comfortable.
Feeling too secure is frequently a prelude to disaster – we let our guard down, don’t try quite as hard.
· I did a lot of plays as a kid and learned the 2nd performance is cursed, because you ease up after opening night.
The hard times are the best times
We like being comfortable – it’s just so comfortable, like a your favorite sofa that is easy to get into but hard to get out of. What’s so bad about that?
Q When do you grow closest to God, when you are comfortable or uncomfortable?
When we are comfortable we develop that illusion that we self-dependent, that we don’t really need God.
Q Are you a little too comfortable? Is it time to ask God to shake things up a bit?
· Let me add that I have seen God’s work short-circuited many times by comfort that hid the pain.
Finally, we come to the last stage:
4. Fallout: A life devastated by regrets
We see the fallout that comes from David’s sin. First God sends Nathan to David to make him feel again.
· God won’t let you go without a fight: There are times that you need a Nathan.
· There are times that you are Nathan – that takes courage!
[Retell story] Fortunately for David and Nathan, David repents:
2 Samuel 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
The consequences of his sin lasted David’s lifetime. But God forgave David, slate wiped clean.
· But here is the really sad part: David did not act forgiven.
David lives the rest of his life as if God was still angry with him. He is filled with regrets and never recovers from his failures; he ceases to live an effective, vibrant life.
He is paralyzed by regrets, and still defined by his failures, to the point that a man once known for action becomes the poster boy for passiveness:
· Ammon and Tamar (Sneeze “Bathsheba”“At least I haven’t killed anyone, dad.”)
· Absalom and Ammon. (Murder? Been there, done that.)
· Absalom’s coup. (Contempt)
Q Was this passivity part of God’s judgment? If we commit a “big sins” are we condemned to sidelines the rest of our lives?
No – look at Paul and Peter, whose best ministry came after their big failures. But David allowed himself to be paralyzed by his guilt and his regrets.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? If you are in Christ, you are forgiven, not because of what you have done, but solely because of God’s grace.
· It’s ironic – David tried to cover his sins by killing Uriah, but 1,000 years later, Jesus willingly died to take them away.
This is the heart of the Gospel – God forgives us totally and completely. While there may be consequences, God is not angry with us, he loves and accepts us.
The trick is acting like we are forgiven. The enemy knows we are forgiven, but he would love to paralyze us and make us ineffective by making us feel unforgiving.
Q What is the best way to feel forgiven?
The good news is that God has given us a very simple way to take hold of our forgiveness and be freed of regrets. The bad news is it also takes courage: Confession.
· Sharing our failings and fears with our community is the most effective way to be freed of regrets.
To sum it all up: What phase are you at?
1. Is God calling you to faithfulness, to be a man after God’s own heart?
2. Is God calling to fearless and courage, to face some personal giants by, trusting wholeheartedly in God.
3. Are you in danger of failure? Are you too comfortable or drifting from God.
4. Are you dealing with fallout from sin, living with regrets? Do you need the community to help you feel and act forgiven?
Q & A
Call to Worship: Communion is a place for repentant people.