Average Joes… The Brave Prophet

BraveProphet

So the Lord sent Nathan to David. When Nathan arrived he said, “There were two men in the same city, one rich, one poor. The rich man had a lot of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing—just one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised that lamb, and it grew up with him and his children. It would eat from his food and drink from his cup—even sleep in his arms! It was like a daughter to him. “Now a traveler came to visit the rich man, but he wasn’t willing to take anything from his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had arrived. Instead, he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the visitor.” David got very angry at the man, and he said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the one who did this is demonic! He must restore the ewe lamb seven times over because he did this and because he had no compassion.” “You are that man!” Nathan told David. “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: I anointed you king over Israel and delivered you from Saul’s power. I gave your master’s house to you and gave his wives into your embrace. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. If that was too little, I would have given even more. Why have you despised the Lord’s word by doing what is evil in his eyes? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and taken his wife as your own. You used the Ammonites to kill him. Because of that, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own, the sword will never leave your own house. “This is what the Lord says: I am making trouble come against you from inside your own family. Before your very eyes I will take your wives away and give them to your friend, and he will have sex with your wives in broad daylight. You did what you did secretly, but I will do what I am doing before all Israel in the light of day.” “I’ve sinned against the Lord!” David said to Nathan. “The Lord has removed your sin,” Nathan replied to David. “You won’t die. However, because you have utterly disrespected the Lord by doing this, the son born to you will definitely die.” Then Nathan went home (2 Samuel 12:1-15a, Common English Bible).

Sometimes, it would seem, some people just don’t use the good sense God gave them. Of all the people in Israel, how could he have ever thought he could get away with something like that? How could he even imagine that God would not know the extent of his sins? He of all people?

When the man was a young boy he had enough faith in God to know God was there. God was with him. He was so confident that God was present and that God would back him up that he stepped out on the battlefield, a boy inexperienced in the ways of combat, to fight a seasoned soldier of far superior skill and size. Really, who would do such a thing?

That day on the battlefield David defied all logic. I wasn’t there that day but I heard all about it. Everyone in Israel heard all about it. The giant Goliath was armed to the teeth and David steps out to fight him with no armor and armed with only a slingshot and a handful of rocks.

To do something like that you either have to be beyond what you might call certifiably insane. In my day we would have said he was possessed by a demon. Regardless of how you say it, he either had to be crazy or have a faith in God that would defy most of our understanding.

In my experiences with David, I had come to know that reality was in the second explanation. And really, who could argue otherwise. When David was anointed the first time he wasn’t even present when Samuel showed up and told David’s father Jesse that he had come to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king of Israel. Jesse got all of his sons together so Samuel could select God’s choice from among the group. Jesse got all the sons together that is, except David. David was the youngest of all Jesse’s sons and at the time Samuel arrived David was out in the field tending to the sheep.

It was OK though, or at least that is what Jesse and even Samuel thought. Surely God would Eliab or Abinadab or one of the others, there were, after all, seven sons that were older than David. When Jesse presented his oldest son, Eliab, Samuel knew this good looking young man was who God would pick. But, as it would turn out, Samuel was wrong. He saw only the outside while God looked on the heart.

In turn, Jesse presented each of his seven oldest sons to Samuel. God rejected each of the seven. None were who God wanted to be king. So, Samuel asked Jesse if these were all of the sons. Jesse told him no and that David was in the field. Samuel immediately had someone go to bring David back. With the presentation of David, God had found a king and Samuel anointed him.

It would be quite some time before David would actually become king. There was already someone else sitting on the throne. David waited patiently for God’s time. During the wait, there was incident after incident where David’s life was in jeopardy and each time God was with him and each time God brought him through.

That was then. We suddenly reached a point where it would seem that David’s faith faltered in the whole Bathsheba and Uriah business. He forgot about the presence of God. He forgot that God could and would see all the things he was doing. And, while he was forgetting that God does see all, he also seemed to have forgotten at least two of the commandments of God.

It is a painful awareness for me that the King’s first mistake was allowing himself to get distracted by not being where he was supposed to be, doing the thing he was supposed to be doing. It can easily happen to all of us. In David’s place, it was springtime, the time of year that kings go to battle. The King’s army was in the field, but David had stayed home for some reason. It was a critical lack of judgment on the part of the King.

David practiced a tradition among us Israelites. It was common for our homes to be built with an outdoor space on the roof. We often would go on to the roof to enjoy the cool evening breeze. Such is what David was doing when he spotted the beautiful young woman Bathsheba. This is when temptation set in. There is nothing wrong with David wandering on the roof of his home. Like I said, we all did that. But, when David spotted Bathsheba and inquired about her and learned she was another man’s wife, the wife of one of his soldiers, he owed it to himself, to the soldier Uriah, to Bathsheba and to God to just walk away. David did not walk away.

Temptation can come to any of us. The truly strong among us find a way to move forward and leave the temptation behind. At least at that moment, despite his reputation to the contrary, David was anything but strong.

He had Bathsheba brought to him. It isn’t really clear who had the idea for the affair. It is clear that at any time David could have taken control of the situation and brought it to an end. He did not.

Bathsheba became pregnant. That presented our King with a problem. Regardless of who had the idea, he had impregnated one of his soldier’s wives. That would not do. Though he and Bathsheba would both know David was the child’s father, David thought he could never admit as much. He believed there was a need to cover up his misdeeds.

David sent a message to his general, Joab, to send Uriah home. When Uriah arrived, David tried twice to get Uriah to go home and spend the night with his wife. Uriah lived as an honorable man and knew it would be wrong to spend the night with Bathsheba while the army was at war. He never went to his home.

Clearly, David had not accounted for Uriah’s honor. Equally clear, David’s original plan had failed. He needed a new plan and it did not take long for David’s new plan to take shape.

Now he would have Uriah return to the battlefield. He would carry a message back to Joab to put Uriah in the thick of the battle. Joab was to place him where fighting was the heaviest. Then Joab was to pull back the other soldiers so Uriah would be killed.

Joab was a good soldier. He followed his king’s orders. Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s soldiers, Bathsheba’s husband was killed.

Bathsheba followed the law and went into a period of mourning for her dead husband. When that time was over, David brought Bathsheba back to his home and he made her his wife.

And it is here that David began to believe, he had gotten away with his scheming and treachery. There was just one thing he forgot, the ever-present, watchful eye of the Lord.

What David did not know was, God had spoken to me, Nathan, with very specific instructions that I was to confront David over his sin, both his adultery with Bathsheba and his actions in trying to cover up his adultery and his involvement in the death of Uriah the Hittite.

Friends, that is a tall order. I am to confront the King and tell him that God is none too pleased by his actions. I don’t mind telling you, I was scared. People throughout history have died for doing such things. I was about ready to do the same thing a prophet who came after I did, run to Tarshish and avoid my Nineveh which was much closer to home. To put it bluntly, I was not very interested in telling the King he had done wrong in the eyes of God.

The night before do or die time I had a sleepless night. I was up, pacing the floor, probably keeping everyone else in the house awake too. I was trying to decide what exactly I should do. Assuming I went and didn’t try to run away from God, something I fully understood I could never do, you can’t outrun God, I had to have a course of action that the King either couldn’t or wouldn’t argue.

Think about it this way. The only people who knew for sure about the adultery were David, Bathsheba and me, and I only knew because God told me. I had no first-hand knowledge with which to confront a king. If David lied and said, “No I didn’t,” and Bathsheba went along with her husband, it looks like I am just trying to cause problems for the King and his wife. There was no one else to accuse or corroborate the story.

Then, as far as Uriah, he could say, “Yes, I sent Uriah to the front with instructions to place him where fighting was the heaviest. Yes, I knew that it might cause Uriah’s death. I sent him there because he was one of my best soldiers and I knew he would win the battle or die in the effort. Unfortunately, the latter was true. Uriah died but that happens. In war, good men die.”

It would be difficult, if not impossible to prove otherwise. I had to find a way to get the King to admit the truth. It was something he obviously didn’t want to do. He had gone to great lengths to keep the truth from coming to the surface.

Before the night ended, a sleepless night, a night of much prayer and pacing, I had an answer. I would do a bit of misdirection. It wasn’t a magic trick or anything. I know you sometimes hear the term related to magic but this was not to be magic. You also hear the term related to some kind of sports play. This was also not a game. God was not pleased with David and that displeasure put me in the cross-hairs. The King had gone to great lengths once to cover his sin. There was no reason to believe this would be any different.

I arrived at a story to tell the King. I am not so foolish as to believe this was a story of my own creation. During my hours of praying and pacing, I know without question that God gave me the story I was to share with David. Now it was my prayer that David would hear and repent.

I arrived at the palace the next morning and was shown into one of the sitting rooms for the King. I didn’t have to wait long before David came in. After exchanging pleasantries I began my story.

“There were two men in the same city, one rich, one poor. The rich man had a lot of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing—just one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised that lamb, and it grew up with him and his children. It would eat from his food and drink from his cup—even sleep in his arms! It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to visit the rich man, but he wasn’t willing to take anything from his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had arrived. Instead, he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the visitor.”

As I told the story there were many expressions that came across the King’s face, the last one being anger. David thought the man in the parable I told was a man, an actual one of David’s subjects. David began shouting, he wanted to know who the man was. He declared the man as the worst sort of evil, even as Satan incarnate. The King declared that the man would be forced to pay the poor man seven times the value of his little ewe lamb. All I had to do was to divulge the man’s identity.

I took a deep breath and said, “You are the man.” I continued. “This is what the Lord God of Israel says: I anointed you king over Israel and delivered you from Saul’s power. I gave your master’s house to you and gave his wives into your embrace. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. If that was too little, I would have given even more. Why have you despised the Lord’s word by doing what is evil in his eyes? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and taken his wife as your own. You used the Ammonites to kill him. Because of that, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own, the sword will never leave your own house.”

Now I was on a roll and couldn’t stop. “I am making trouble come against you from inside your own family. Before your very eyes I will take your wives away and give them to your friend, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did what you did secretly, but I will do what I am doing before all Israel in the light of day.”

Now I was finished. I stood there looking at David and waited for the worst. I don’t think I have ever been more afraid than I was at that moment. As I looked at him I could tell nothing by the look on his face. It was not that he had a blank look on his face, quite the contrary. As I looked into him I could see anger, fear, embarrassment and more. The question in my mind was, what emotion would be at the first of his response to me.

Much to my surprise, it was an even toned, calm, matter-of-fact statement. David said, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Wow! Was that going to be it? I stood there, probably giving the King a look that said I was flabbergasted. I am fully aware that things could have been much worse. I praise God that it was not.

Then I felt God leading me to speak again. God forgave David his sins but because David had totally disrespected God, God would take the child Bathsheba would give to him. When I finished that statement, I left and went home.

Word did reach me about how David responded. When the baby was born it became very sick. David fasted and prayed for the boy. He begged God to spare the boy’s life. David slept on the ground and completely denied himself anything of comfort. His servants feared for him and at least initially, they refused to tell him when the baby died. In the end, they did.

For his part, when the baby died, David allowed things to return to normal around him. David knew his actions now wouldn’t bring the child back.

Eventually, David and Bathsheba did have another baby, another son who was given the name Solomon. He would be David’s child who would succeed him on the throne. The story would continue after David through Solomon. And, in reality, the story now continues through you.

Bow Head

            The story of Nathan, David, and Bathsheba is a story of sin. There should never be a doubt about that. It is not really a story of adultery and murder, yes those are the sins David committed, but it is a story of sin all the same. You and I may not commit David’s sins. We don’t have to do so. We commit plenty on our own.

            But, this story is more than a story of sin. The lesson tells us the Lord removed David’s sin. The lesson further reminds us that God did bless David and Bathsheba with another son, Solomon.

            There is a word for all that. The word is grace. David committed terrible sin. But, if the Bible as a whole doesn’t say so, this story is very specific in its telling, that there is more grace in God than there is sin in us.

            I am convinced David’s sin was removed because he confessed that sin before Nathan and more importantly God. If we want to know the grace of God, we must be willing to confess our sins before the Lord. We are about to sing our closing him. This time is a good time to come before the altar, to come before God, to confess our sins and to find the grace of God for ourselves.

Author:

Spirita Spiro (Esperanza for "Spirit's Breath) is rather new in my life. But the blog is not. I began writing a blog several years ago. It lived under the title, "The Pastor Ponders." Over the years I have tried several different names and "The Pastor Ponders" always seemed to fit best. I am trying again with Spirita Spiro. For 27 years I was a full-time pastor in the United Methodist Church. This year, August 2018, I semi-retired (I can't actually retire quite yet) and began teaching social studies. It is something I have always wanted to do and if I was going to do this, I needed to make it sooner rather than later. So, I made the move. I thought with the career change there also needed to be a name change to the blog and other things, such as spiritual direction. Spirita Spiro is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. I live with my wife Cindy and our little dog in Lufkin, Texas. I spent the past 27 years as a full-time United Methodist pastor. Most recently I served as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sweeny, Texas. I have also served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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