It was springtime…
King David of Jerusalem was at home enjoying the breeze and the view from the palace roof. A beautiful woman caught his eye. With this introduction, we might be expecting a love story. But a entirely different story develops.
We remember from last week that David’s setting his sights on a woman began a series of disastrous events in his life. David had the woman Bathsheba brought to his palace and afterward sent her away.
The situation became more complicated when she sends word to David that she is pregnant. David begins to scheme how he will resolve this dilemma. He sends for her husband Uriah who is a soldier on the battlefront. David tries in vain to get Uriah to spend his furlough with his wife Bathsheba but the loyal soldier refuses.
So David pursues a new plan: he will see that Bathsheba’s husband is killed in the next battle and then when Bathsheba is a widow, David will add her to his harem. The abuse, the deception, and the murder will be hidden away. David after all is king.
There is one person that questions David’s plan: his friend Nathan, the prophet. Nathan loved David enough to confront him.
Nathan speaks to his king in a manner that does not put David on the defensive. He tells David a story: a person of wealth needed a lamb for his banquet.
And even though the rich man had a flock of sheep, he chose to take the pet lamb of his neighbor to be slaughtered. (The pet lamb which was like a member of the family.) This lamb was served to the guests.
David is filled with disgust. What kind of person would do such a thing? To bring such heartache to his neighbor.
David is ready to punish the guilty party, the greedy person who had no pity. Who has done this thing?
And then Nathan delivers the blow: “You are the one. I’m talking about you. “
This becomes David’s moment of truth.
In our day, we would say that Nathan and David had a confrontation, an intervention.
Brad Lamm describes intervention as “interrupting self-destructive behaviors with love. We are reminding someone that we care, that we pay attention, and that we see them for what they really are.”
Nathan risked his standing with David in order to help the king. David had much power and status, but he had forgotten that he also had boundaries. God’s laws set limits for him as well as others.
Nathan also knew that David was a man of faith, one who searched for God, and desired to follow God’s ways. Nathan was not going to let David’s behavior go un noticed.
To intervene can be messy, and also scary because we don’t know the reaction of the other person. It involves talking honestly about things that may make us uneasy.
When we intervene, we are not condemning, or shaming, or embarrassing.
The goal is not to destroy, but to restore. Nathan wanted David to be the great leader that he believed he could be.
Pastor and we’ll now Christian author, Charles Swindoll commented that he would prefer to have a friend who cared more for his character than for his comfort. He said: “In your choice of friends, be certain that you have a few who care less for your comfort that they do for your character.”
Most of us want to make our friends comfortable. Few are good enough friends to overlook the comfort for the good of the character. And if you have some who care more for your character than your comfort, you are rich indeed, you are many times blessed.
Thank goodness for good doctors. A good doctor doesn’t say when she gets to an x-ray that looks questionable, “Oh.. we won’t worry about this one. This is a bad picture, Let’s talk good news today. Let’s go have lunch together.”
No, she snaps that x-ray on that screen and she says, “Just take a look at this. That doesn’t look good. We gotta do something about that.” And so it is with a spouse. And so it is with a parent. And so it must be with a friend.
How did David respond to the truth? Did he completely deny his behavior? Did he make excuses?
Did he put the blame on others? Did he downplay what had happened? Did he tell Nathan to mind his own business?
David offered no excuses, he didn’t try to explain away his actions. David offered a simple confession:
“I have sinned against the Lord.” In Psalm 51, (believed to have been written by David in the midst of this situation) we hear from David’s heart as he takes responsibility for all that has happened. David wants his life to be cleaned up, he wants to be a different person.
Nathan held a mirror up to David so that he could see himself, and he did not look away.
Virginia Satir, renown family therapist ,wrote: “Until we own all of who we are and what we have done- the good, the bad, the ugly – we can never be whole.”
David has come to a life changing moment and he accepts the truth about himself that he sees.
In recovery programs which use the 12 steps, some of the steps include:
Admitting to God, yourself, and another person the wrongs that you have done; asking God for help, and being ready to be transformed by his power. Even though David was not in a recovery group, this is the process that David is engaged.
Within our relationships, there are times when some one is like a Nathan to us, expressing their concerns about our behavior. And other times we also may be in a position to speak to a friend as a Nathan. We all have blind spots in looking at our actions.
As we speak to one another, the goal is always to restore and not tear down. It may take many encounters and consequences in our lives before the truth sinks in. Thank God for those who care, the Nathans who help us to see where our life is going.
A father was on a weekend retreat for men. Before he left home, his daughter had asked him why he yelled at Mommy so much. The dad had thought about his daughter’s words ever since.
During the retreat, he had a time of sharing with other men. He came to the harsh realization that he had higher expectations and was more short tempered and less forgiving with his wife than with anyone else.
He saw the pain that he was causing. With his friends’ support at the retreat, he committed himself to change his behavior with God’s help. And he promised to share what he realized with his wife.
In these times of intervention, there is a spiritual mirror so that we can see ourselves as we are.
There is also a window that reveals God’s grace and love for us, great mercy in the midst of failure!
Remember that David confessed his sins and he was forgiven.
Like us, David still had to deal with the consequences of his past actions. Nathan told him that “the sword shall never depart from your house” and that was the reality.
In David’s life, there would be violence and betrayal between him and his children. His quest for power and control were imitated by his sons and there was much heartache in David’s future.
Eugene Peterson wrote a book about David, “Leap over the Wall” and in it he writes that there is not much variation in sin. It is dull and repetitive. People have been doing the same kind of things for thousands of years.
The wrong that we do is basically our wanting to be in control of everything, regardless of what God might want for us, or how it affects others. But God’s grace and love, Peterson says, that is another story: it is rich, an endless variety, and can come in so many ways to save us!!
That is what David discovered. God is present when David’s life is out of control. God is there when Nathan helps David to see himself. God is present in David’s confession and in his yearning to be a new man. God’s faithfulness to David never falters.
God kept reminding David of his identity: a man whose heart was to be one with God’s.
God is present with us also in all our wanderings and our struggles.
May we too accept the truth in love about ourselves and also the abundant grace of God that brings us wholeness!
The Life of David: Seeing the Real You
Small Group Discussion Questions
II Samuel 11:26-12:13a
August 5, 2018
The story of David’s sin when he commited adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for Uriah to be killed in battle reminds us of the darker side that lurks inside each one of us. Fortunately, Nathan the prophet helped David to see that he had sinned against God.
Who are the “Nathans” in your life who care about you so much that they are willing to help you see the “real you?”
Psalm 51 is believed to have been a prayer of confession written by David as a result of his sin against Bathesheba and Uriah. This psalm invites us to reflect on our real selves and turn to God in repentance so that we can receive forgiveness. This psalm begins with an acknowledgment of God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy (v. 1), an admission of the sin (v. 3), a request to be forgiven (v. 7), and a desire to begin anew (v. 12.)
Which of these aspects of confession/forgiveness stand out for you as most important? Which ones are the most challenging?
It’s interesting that our monthly Sacrament of Holy Communion fell on the same day as this story of David’s realization of his sin. The bread and the juice remind us that even though we are sinners, Christ died for us and offers forgiveness and a new beginning.
In what ways does Holy Communion help you to see the “real you” and restore your joy (Psalm 51:12a)
Close your time by sharing in this traditional general prayer of confession:
Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.