Toorak Uniting Church

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You are that man

2 Samuel 11: 26 – 12: 13a     John 6: 35
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
3 August 2003

Once again David thinks he's got it all sorted.
An Eastern King in his prime, he sends out his soldiers to go out and fight in Spring as is the custom of all the other kings surrounding him. And when he sees a woman he likes, he has a fling with her, regardless of the fact that she's another man's wife.
What's more, when he decides he wants her as his wife because she proves to be able to produce offspring, he has her husband put in the frontlines.
And when a great number of casualties are reported because his soldiers have been pushed too far forward into enemy territory, the fact that Uriah the Hittite is amongst the dead seems ample compensation for the loss of a few other lives.
Such a King has David become.
A ruthless Oriental potentate. He fights with his peers, he takes whatever he fancies and kills whoever happens to be in the way of fulfilling his desires.
And who would dare to tell him otherwise?
They would probably be risking their lives.

However, David has a friend. A very good friend whom he used to consult about every important step he'd take. David seems to have forgotten all about him in his haste to fulfil his desires. Or does David know all too well that this friend would not approve and does he hope the friend is not paying attention, or will look the other way for once and let him get away with what he's doing?
Come on God, you have to understand, I am an important King now, and that woman something I simply have to have.

The friend is not so easily sidetracked. He pays David a visit to berate him about his behaviour and confront him with the consequences that inevitably will follow from what he has done. No sweet talk, no grovelling before the great King as others have done, no resigned shrugs in the face of so much abuse of power, but the plain and hard to digest truth.
You are that man!
Only true friends can be that blunt and merciless when speaking their mind.

I don't know if you have such friends. I am lucky enough to have a few. People who will tell me to my face what they think, even if it is pretty horrible what they feel they have to say. Who won't sweet talk to me, who'll refuse to let me gloss over things that to their minds are not right.
Friends that you know will take you to task if need be, but whom you can trust to stay with you through thick and thin, warts and all.

God is such a friend. And in the person of Nathan his prophet he knocks on David's door to tell him a story. God, in the person of Nathan, comes to call David to account for what he has done. And makes him aware of the consequences.

David thought he had everything sorted. Loyal soldiers fighting his battles, following their leaders blindly too far into the enemy lines. A man killed for convenience sake, and a few others because they were in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Who cares? As long as the King lives and is happy!

Potentates like that are still rampant on this planet. People like King David who get intoxicated by their own power and think they can do what they like and get away with it. People whom nobody dares stand up to and tell off, because it would cost them their lives if they did. Not only in Iraq, but also in many places there are people who seem to be able to get away with anything, even murder, and other people who suffer because of it.

David however does not get away with it.
God stands up to him and gives him a piece of his mind.

You are that man!

There is no sweet talk here. No taking into account of circumstances. No excuses. Huge injustice has been done. David has failed as King to protect his people, David has failed as a man to control his urges, David has failed as a human being to show respect for what was most precious to another human being.

You've started something that will not stop says Nathan, the sword will now always be with you, because of this injustice. Because of your lack of respect for the lives of others, your own life will be under threat forever. This violence will breed violence, for many years to come.

And the child will die. There is no future for it.

And there will be fighting within your family, until the day of your death. Because you have failed to live the life of the Lord but have gone your own way. Now fear, suspicion and distrust have entered the ranks of your soldiers. "If he's done that to Uriah, what will he do to me?"
We see it happen time and again up and until in our times, fear and violence of the past coming to haunt those who've committed it.

David will try to turn the clock back, he prays and prays and prays for the life of the child that still has to be born. Throws himself on the ground, stops eating.
But it makes no difference.
The child dies and later another son will rise up against him. He will be fighting wars till his dying breath. And all of this because he has shown himself to be capable of calculated cruelty, ruthless killing, and the sacrificing of the lives of those most loyal to him, just because the fancy took him.

From a King that ruled with justice and care he's become an unpredictable potentate geared towards satisfying his lust. Some of that will always cling to him from now on, even if he tries his very best to change his life and not ever lapse into that kind of behaviour again.

We might wonder if God isn't being a bit harsh. Real love after all is hard to resist. Improper desires, sexual attraction, something that can be pretty hard to control. Poor David was having a hard time with Michal.
Maybe all that power did go to his head a bit, but boy, if you've just carved out a Kingdom for yourself, beaten all your enemies, started building a great city for a capital, we can all too easily understand how one would lose it, wouldn't we?

Power is seductive, and especially when you see what others get away with, the temptation can be pretty hard to resist satisfying your desires by bending the rules a little bit here and there. Especially when others go along with you and help with the covering up. And once you've started sacrificing some of the values you used to live with other casualties will follow more easily. And before you know it you are in a mess that will haunt you for years to come.

You are that man (or woman).

How do we prevent it from happening to us? Desire, temptation, excuses, self deception leading to deeds and consequences Nathan the prophet could come and take us to task for?

I don't think there is any way of avoiding it. We have our weaknesses, we are all susceptible to sin and all equipped with an enormous capacity for self-deception if it comes to covering up things we know we should not be doing. And we'll have to live with the consequences if we do, as David did.

However, we can put some effort into trying to live otherwise. To walk in the way of the Lord, to let him be our friend and be in constant communication with him about what we should or should not be doing.

Jesus uses the metaphor of the bread to explain this to his disciples: Eat me, drink me, let me become part of your life and things will be different. Your life will breed love and peace and justice and compassion when you focus on me and internalise what I have taught you and shown you.
If you focus your desires on me and what I lived and died for, they will be fulfilled, but without doing damage to others.

If your power is led by love and compassion that comes from within a heart that is looking towards God for its direction, good will come of it and you and others will prosper because of it. If not what others do but what God would want you to do reigns your decisions you will bring live and light to all that surrounds you.

To David and Bathseba another son is born. His name is Solomon. The wisest and most peaceful of all the Kings of Israel. God is great, because he replaces evil with good, supplants the seeds of violence with the fruits of peace. God takes David to task about what he has done. As a good friend he stands up to him and doesn't smooth over anything. But he stays with him, helps him bear the consequences and brings good out of evil for him.

God does that for us too. His son Jesus Christ died for our sins, to show that no consequences of any of our wrongdoing will ever be able to put an end to the love of our God and his power of redemption.

Amen.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2003


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