When I was first thinking about preaching a summer series on the life of David, I was really excited and eager to get started. I mean, we’re talking about one of the most recognizable names in the entire Bible and all of those great Old Testament stories about him.
Who doesn’t like the story of little David going out to fight the big bad giant Goliath with just a sling and some stones? Or the story of how God chose David to be the next king of Israel? Do you remember that story? It’s when Jesse’s sons were paraded in front of the prophet Samuel. And each of these sons looks like he would be the ideal king. But God instead chose the least likely of the sons. God chose little scrawny, David. That’s a great story, isn’t it? God doesn’t look on our outward appearance. He looks at what’s in our heart.
Or how about the story of brave David sneaking into the city of Jerusalem to take that city from the Jebusites and making it the capitol for a new united Israel? What an exciting story!
And then you have the story of David and Bathsheba, the R rated story in the bible. It has all the makings of a summer block buster movie. We tamed it down a little bit for our family friendly worship experience, but we did learn from that story that it is possible to resist temptation with the power of God’s grace, and if we do fall into temptation, that we can own up to our sins and receive forgiveness from God.
These are the stories that I was looking forward to during these summer months. But I didn’t expect this very sad and tragic story that we find in II Samuel chapter 18. I’m not sure that too many churches are focusing on this appointed scripture reading for today. I would venture to say that 99.9% of all preachers are preaching on one of the other scripture readings instead.
But that’s OK because if we want to really know who David was, we need to hear as many of these stories as possible. With just a few more Sundays to go on the life of David, we have this very, very, very sad story. We’ve already heard it read, but allow me to set the scene of what’s going on here. This is one of those stories that if taken out of context, we can easily miss the point.
On the surface, this sounds like a story in which we should feel really sorry for David. I mean, his son, Absalom has died in battle. And upon hearing this sad news, David weeps and cries out, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
At first glance, this appears to be a story in which we feel great sympathy for David and so we enter into his grief. And while there is that element to the story, it’s really much more complicated and tragic, I’m sorry to say.
This scripture reading is from II Samuel, chapter 18, but we need to go back to chapter 11, the story of David and Bathsheba and her husband Uriah to understand what’s going on. As you may remember, even though David was a tremendous leader for Israel, he did a terrible thing when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. After he discovered that she was pregnant, he had Uriah killed to cover up what he had done.
But then the prophet, Nathan confronted David about his sin and you may remember from last Sunday that he ended up repenting and receiving forgiveness from God. But even after David repented and received forgiveness, Nathan still told David that there would be consequences for his actions. And that’s important for us to remember whenever we sin and ask God for forgiveness. Admitting our sins and receiving God’s forgiveness is so central to our faith but the truth is that we also need to face the consequences from those sins.
The title I gave that sermon on David and Bathsheba was that famous line, “O, What a Tangled Web We Weave.” And from that point on, David experiences a very tangled web as a result of his sin, and David somehow manages to tangle things up even more.
We fast forward several years when Absalom, who was David and Bathsheba’s son is now an adult. Absalom finds out that his brother has sexually abused their sister, Tamar. Mysteriously, David does nothing to bring justice to Amnon who did this terrible thing. Absalom does the right thing by being there for his sister. But because his father, David does nothing about this, Absalom takes matters into his own hands and kills his brother, Amnon.
Absalom then flees Jerusalem and stays away from his father David for three years. David ends up forgiving Absalom for murdering his brother, Amnon and has him return to Jerusalem and they are reunited as father and son. But the story takes another tragic twist when Absalom undercuts David’s leadership to the point where he leaves Jerusalem and claims to be the true king of Israel. And now David has to flee Jerusalem for his life. The nation of Israel is now experiencing a civil war between David and his own son, Absalom.
Today’s scripture reading is when David’s men were finally able to track down Absalom and kill him in battle. To complicate matters, David’s own men are upset with him because while they are risking their lives and fighting for the unity of Israel, David’s heart isn’t with them since he’s more concerned about his son even though his son had betrayed him.
O, what a tangled web we weave. What a sad, sad story!
Part of me wants to throw up my arms and ask, “Lord, what can we possibly learn from this story?” One of the commentaries that I read about this chapter in II Samuel has this as the subtitle, “A Story in Which Everything is Wrong.” And that is so true.
In this story, everybody is angry at everybody else. David is angry at Absalom for betraying him. Absalom was angry at his father, David for not doing anything about Tamar’s rape. David’s fighting men are angry at David because it’s because of David’s mistakes that they have risked their lives to stop Absalom.
Everybody is angry at everybody and it can all be traced back to the consequences of David’s sin and David’s poor leadership in all of these events. And yet, we still remember David as a great leader of Israel and a man who was after God’s own heart. He’s still viewed as a great biblical hero.
But then I started thinking about other great biblical people and was reminded that they had feet of clay as well. Abraham left everything to follow God’s calling but he ended up doubting God and he lied to Pharaoh to protect his life.
Moses led the people of Israel to freedom but he sinned against God and didn’t even make it into the Promised Land.
Peter, probably the greatest of Jesus’ disciples, denied that he even knew Jesus.
The reason we have these flawed biblical heroes and these very painful and sad stories like the one for today, is to show how serious and detrimental sin can be. It’s like the biblical authors continually want to remind us of the consequences of sin.
As I think about this sad part of David’s life, I’m reminded of another David who I have known for many years. I always admired him. He was a great athlete and a very skilled carpenter, probably one of the strongest and toughest guys I have ever met.
But even with all of these great qualities, it always bothered me that David never attended church with his wife and children. Even when his children would sing in the children’s choir on a Sunday morning, he wouldn’t come. He kept God and the church at a distance, for some reason.
One day, I felt led to begin praying for David on a regular basis. Knowing that he didn’t believe in God and that as a carpenter he often worked outside on building projects, I prayed that David would be able to see God’s handiwork on those beautiful blue sky workdays. Even when I moved from that community, I continued to pray for David that he would know of God’s love for him and that God is real.
A few years later, his wife told me that he was now attending church with her and the family. I was so glad to hear this! This was an answer to prayer! And not only was he attending church, he was also leading a bible study in their home! He was also beginning to lead church mission trips in Africa and throughout our country to help with building projects.
But even with all of these wonderful changes in his life, there were signs that something wasn’t quite right, something from his past that was unresolved. To this day, I don’t know what demons David was battling against, but they were very, very real.
And he ended up making some really bad decisions. He started having an affair and when his wife finally heard about it, she was devastated. He quit attending church and slowly drifted away from his faith. In fact, he even said that he would never set foot in a church again. He and his wife divorced and from that point on, I kind of lost contact with David. That was several years ago.
And then back in 2011, I attended the wedding of his son, but David didn’t come. I discovered at the wedding that David, now in his early 60’s, was confined to a wheelchair and under hospice care. The family showed me a picture of David in a photo album at the wedding.
The day after the wedding, I received the sad news that David had died. It was like he gave everything he had so that he would live through his son’s wedding day, which amazingly, he was able to do in his very weakened state.
That’s a sad story, isn’t it? Kind of sad like the story from our scripture reading for today. We get these stories from time to time as we read through the bible. We can’t ignore them. They’re must be some purpose for stories like these or they wouldn’t be in the Bible.
If David did all of these bad things, why do we still remember him as a great biblical hero? Why would we spend a whole summer focusing on this one man from the Bible? These are the questions I’ve been wrestling with as I prepared for this message today.
It’s interesting that we still hold David in high regard. I think it’s because of at least two very important reasons. And the first reason is that even though David really messed up during this part of his life, that doesn’t take away from all of the good he did for God and for Israel.
And secondly, we remember David, not primarily for what he did or didn’t do, but because of the promise that God had made to him. And the promise was that it would be through David’s lineage, that a king, a messiah, would one day bring salvation to the world. Hundreds of years after the time of David, God sent us this Savior, and his name is Jesus.
And it’s through Jesus, that you and I are invited to receive salvation, forgiveness of our sins, and new life. God kept the promise that he made to David. Jesus wants to be our Lord and Savior. So our sad story today eventually has a very good ending.
Oh, and as for the story of the other David I was telling you about? When I heard that he had died, I found his obituary online. I was surprised to read that David’s funeral would be held in the church, the same church that he said he would never return to again.
The obituary said that David left this earth to be with the Lord on July 31st, 2011. It went on to say that his personal mission was to serve the Lord by going to Sierra Leone in Africa, South Dakota, Mississippi and Kentucky to build homes for those in need. As I read this, I realized that at some point, David had made peace with God.
And at the very bottom of the obituary, it said, “In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of David may be made to the Sierra Leone Water Drilling Fund being raised at the church.”
Thankfully, this is how I will remember David. He will always remind me that it’s never too late to make peace with God.
Just like another David we all know.
The Life of David: How Do You Want to Be Remembered
Small Group Questions
II Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
August 12, 2018
Last Sunday, the focus was on David’s sin by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed. Bathsheba gives birth to Absalom, David’s son. Absalom ends up killing his brother, Amnon for raping their sister, Tamar. He then claims to be the true King of Israel over his father, David! This family is a mess! Our story for today is also very tragic because David’s men kill Absalom and David grieves the loss of his son who had betrayed him.
Why do you think these kinds of very sad and tragic stories are included in the Bible?
We usually remember David as an incredible leader for Israel and the greatest king that Israel ever had but we often forget that he also had many flaws. As we are drawing near to the close of our summer series on the life of David, which story about David stands out for you the most? Here are a few we have looked at to this point: Trusting in God to face the giants in our lives. Seeking unity where there is division. Dancing and rejoicing for God’s many blessings.
Which story of David stands out for you the most? What comes to mind when you think of David?
How do you want people to remember you? What helps you to live in such a way that people are blessed and drawn closer to God?