November 12, 2006
"The Miss, The Kiss, The Mess, The Rest"
(2 Samuel 11:1-15)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
A few years back, I read about a group of three burglars in Vang, Norway, who tried to open a large safe in a small factory. They attached a small explosive device to the door of the safe and then hid in the next room until it went off. The explosion was so powerful that it demolished the whole building and left them buried under a pile of rubble.
The ironic thing about was, the safe had never held any money. The company money was kept in a cash box in an unlocked desk drawer. But what they did keep in the safe was the company's product, Nitroglycerine. (1)
I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when I first read that. I guess nature was just cleaning up the gene pool a little. Those poor guys, if you'll pardon the pun, didn't know how explosive the situation could be. This morning as we turn to the passage from 2 Samuel, you'll see that it's very similar to the story of the three burglars. Let's look at a brief portion of the story of David and Bathsheba.
2 Samuel 11:1-15 (NRSV)
 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
 It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful.
 David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, "This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite."
 So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house.
 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, "I am pregnant."
 So David sent word to Joab, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David.
 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going.
 Then David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house, and wash your feet." Uriah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king.
 But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.
 When they told David, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?"
 Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing."
 Then David said to Uriah, "Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day,
 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
 In the letter he wrote, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die."
You know, I doubt David knew what he was getting into or how explosive the situation he was creating could be. I don't think he realized how volatile his desire for Bathsheba was. But once the fuse of his lust was lit, David found himself buried under the rubble of the explosive consequences.
And what we wind up with is a story that will rival any Hollywood movie or daytime Soap. This story is filled with romance, passion, deceit, confrontation, court intrigue, misunderstanding, and murder.
Here's David, the charismatic Biblical hero and King of Israel. He was a child star who slung his way to fame and suffered the misbegotten wrath from a jealous King Saul. David was forced to take to the hills and become a Robin Hood type character who unified the small mercenary groups into one. David was favored by God and pulled off the coup of the century.
After Saul and his son Jonathan, who was David's best friend, died in battle, David is crowned king and unites the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, which had been fighting a bloody civil war for years. God, the people, fate, the stars - everything and everyone was on David's side.
And that brings us to The Miss. David has it all. He has fame and fortune, popularity, love, you name it, he has it. He's the King. And "it's good to be the King."
One day after a successful opening season at war, he's home, exhilarated by his success, riding on the crest of his popularity. He plans to jump right back into the middle of it as soon as he takes care of some of those kingly things they pay him to do. It's evening; he rises from a short nap and his eyes are drawn to a scene in a courtyard not too far away.
It's an innocent scene. One that probably took place 1,000 times before. A scene that took place in almost every courtyard of every house in Israel at the time. But only the King could look down from his palace into the courtyards of his people.
There in the courtyard was The Miss, Bathsheba, bathing with the shades up. We don't know a whole lot about Bathsheba except that she could have been Miss Israel 1000 BC.
And there she was, with nothing left to the imagination. She was Uriah the Hittite's wife. And Uriah was one of David's faithful warrior Lieutenants. So surely, David had seen her before. But probably never in the altogether. The minute he did, his eyes popped out; his tongue hit the floor. There was only one thing on his mind and it wasn't gin rummy.
And of course The Miss led to The Kiss. Now, if it had all ended at that moment, the Bible would be a couple of chapters shorter. If David would have said, "Hey, Lord. I'm not sure what's come over me, but I sure could use your help right now," things would have been different. David would have faced the temptation, overcome it and gone onto who knows what else.
One of the things we learn, here is that Temptation is NOT sin. REPEAT. Temptation is NOT sin. So many people think, "Well, I've already thought it. That's just as bad as doing it, so I might as well just go ahead and do it." That's defeatist.
It's NOT sinful to have temptations or to be tempted. Everybody is tempted, especially Christians. It comes with the territory. Even Jesus was tempted. But like Jesus, we don't have to give in.
Martin Luther put it this way: "You can't keep the bird from flying overhead, but you CAN keep them from nesting in your hair." In other words, you CAN say NO! to temptation.
You CAN say NO! to temptation. It's best to say NO! to temptation because temptation always invites us to take one step too far.
Some time back I read about a young man who was the very curious type. While vacationing at the Grand Canyon, he ignored the safety rails, actually climbed over them and stepped out on a ledge to get better pictures. Unfortunately, he took one step too far, the ledge gave way and he plummeted to his death.
We underestimate the power of temptation over us. We think we can always get back. That's what David did. Just one little desire. One step over the line, then jump back. He could have said NO!. He could have said, "I'm God's man, God's king and God's people don't act like that." He could have turned away from the window. Instead, he stepped over the line and the only place left to go was down. And he plummeted into sin.
And that's what caused The Mess. And what a mess it was. Daytime TV has nothing on this story. This is as sordid and conniving as any soap opera could ever hope to be. David has his fling and forgets about Bathsheba until the day the Western Union man delivers a telegram which reads, "Oops! He's gonna have your eyes."
This is where David muddies the water even further. David orders Uriah home on the pretense of needing first hand news from the war. David then tells Uriah to go see his wife, thinking that will cover everything up. But Uriah is one of those leaders who cares more about his troops than himself. His men didn't get to spend the night with their wives, so neither did he. David tries twice but to no avail. David's cover-up failed, just like most cover-ups. Somebody always finds out.
The next thing David does is send Uriah back to the war. And not just to any part of the war but right to the front lines, leading the charge in the worst skirmishes. And sure enough, Uriah falls to enemy fire and The Mess gets worse.
You see, David, in trying to cover-up his adultery compounded the The Mess by committing murder. David's once great life was suddenly a wreck. Maybe not on the outside. Nobody else knew, yet. But David did and it began to tear him apart. That's because that's what sin does to us. It eats away at us from the inside out. We run on fear not faith. Fear that we will get found out. Fear that we'll get caught. Fear that we'll have to suffer the consequences. Fear that we could never be forgiven.
A. And that leads us right to The Rest. And in my opinion, The Rest is the Best part of the story because the story isn't really about The Miss, The Kiss, or The Mess. It's about The Rest.
The picture we have of David in this chapter is not David the King, the hero, the boy wonder, the magnificent musician and poet. No the picture we have here of David is despicable. He's broken at least six of the Commandments. You want to slap him and say, "How could you be so stupid."
And you expect God to whack him up along side the head and boot him out on his backside. Nathan the prophet comes on the scene and confronts David. And you're thinking this is it. This is the beginning of the fireworks display. But then David does something completely unexpected.
David confessed to being the reason for the whole Mess. He confessed to Kissing the Miss and making a Mess. And The Best part, The Rest is God forgave David. Oh, David had to live with the consequences of his decisions.
They don't just disappear. God doesn't take them away. We have to deal with the consequences of our actions. If you break the law, you have to pay the penalty. If all God had wanted was justice. David would have been struck down and the story would have ended there.
B. But thanks be to God that God is a merciful God who can still use even the most broken life to bring glory to God. David and Bathsheba, though they had to live with the consequences of their behavior, confessed and repented of their sin and they were forgiven.
Why? To show just how powerful, loving, gracious and forgiving God truly is. My preaching professor in seminary, Dr Grady Hardin said, "God is always using sinners because there's no one else to use. Besides, then God gets all the credit."
A certain northern pastor's church was building an education wind and re-roofing the rest of the church. The company doing the insulation and roof work was the Grace Ice and Watershield Company. One day as he was puling into the parking lot, he noticed that most of the insulation had been installed and the roofing had begun. But what struck him was that every piece of insulation and every bit of roofing underlayment had the company name printed on it in huge letters. So as this preacher looked at his church al he could see was the word "GRACE" covering everything. GRACE, GRACE, GRACE, GRACE everywhere he looked. The church building was literally covered in GRACE. (2)
And you see, that's really The Rest. Because it's not just that church which is covered by grace. Every individual in the entire world is covered by grace. There is no one who is so bad, no one who is so perverted, no one who is so disillusioned or desperate that they cannot experience the Amazing Grace of God that we find in Jesus Christ.
The Rest for us is that God can take the worst situation possible and use it as a means to show the fullness of forgiveness and grace. One example of that is David and Bathsheba. God didn't want to lose the faith and creativity of the author of the Psalms. God didn't want to lose the leadership of the one who united the Kingdom. God didn't want to lose David, so God used Him. And God even used the despicable, conniving, sinful side of David as well. God forgave him as a lesson in grace.
And through the grace of God, the lineage of David was continued with Solomon. The kingdom grew in splendor and wisdom beyond compare. And God was both glorified and witnessed about.
But the lineage didn't end there. You see, two others who were heirs of David themselves, were married and had a child. A child who changed the world. A child who, Himself was a sign of God's grace. Their names were Mary and Joseph. Through the birth of Jesus, this same grace and forgiveness is offered to everyone in the world.
Like David and Bathsheba, we've all in a sense, Kissed The Miss and made a Mess. Our story lines are just as convoluted. We've felt the explosive nature and we know what it's like to be buried under the rubble of bad choices and disobedience. But the Good News is that's not where God wants you to stay.
The Son of God came so you could know The Rest. And be able to rest in Him by accepting the grace and forgiveness that He bought for us on the cross.
All any of us have to do is to want that Grace and accept the that Grace through what Jesus did for us on the cross. By accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, we experience forgiveness. And God's grace gets rid of the shame, makes us Clean and once again begins the process of perfecting us.
1. Amusing Grace, Seven Worlds Corporation. (Bible Illustrator for Windows)
2. "Preaching and Applying Truth," by Bob Russell, Preaching, July-August 2000, p. 12.
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