Value #5: Walking in Faith
March 26, 2016 (Lent 4)
Rev. Fritz Nelson – First Presbyterian, Columbiana
Text: 2 Samuel 12:1-7, 13-14
For our scripture reading this morning we turn to the words told to King David by the prophet Nathan after David had lain with Bathsheba.
David initially sees Bathsheba from the roof of his palace. David is bored and restless, having stayed behind while his army is in the field. Bathsheba is the wife of Uriah, one of David’s best warriors. She is bathing. David watches with interest and falls into deep lust. He inquires as to who she is and, after learning that she is married to one of his top warriors, he sends for her. Lies with her. Impregnates her. Tries to cover up his tracks and, when that fails, orders his top general to purposefully loose a battle so that Uriah is killed. With the husband out of his way, David incorporates Bathsheba into the royal household.
And then the Lord sends Nathan to David …
As we read Nathan’s response to David, and in the silence that follows, think about a time when you have wandered from the path God lays out for us and what pulled you back.
In the world of kings, both ancient and modern, David’s behavior was perfectly normal. Everything and everyone belonged to the king. The king wants your wife, he gets your wife. The king wants your land, he gets your land. The king wants you dead, you die. The king wants your labor, your own fields lie fallow, your own family starves, while the king reaps unjust profits. It was good to be the king.
But David wasn’t just any king. He was God’s anointed, a man after God’s own heart, called to govern God’s people according to the laws God had given his people on the mountain in Sinai. Laws that prohibit idolatry, including – as Paul reminds us – the putting of personal passions before the law of God. Laws that prohibit adultery. Laws that prohibit the coveting of your neighbor’s (or your soldier’s) wife. Laws that prohibit murder. David may not answer to any other person in his kingdom, but he still answers to God. Through Nathan’s parable about a rich man, a poor man and the poor man’s lamb, through David’s own judgment upon the rich man, God holds David accountable.
In the discussion that produced our congregational values statement, one voice consistently reminded us of our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable before God; to examine ourselves against scripture, against the standards of our community, so we may live as people renewed in the image of our creator. Just because everybody does it, doesn’t mean we get to do it. Just because its business as usual doesn’t mean its how we should do business. We are God’s chosen ones. We are holy and beloved. And it should show in how we live, how we work and how we relate to one another.
Value #5 reminds us of our duty of accountability: We strive to walk in faith daily, encouraging and enhancing one another’s Christian growth.
David stumbles – plummets would be a better word – because he is bored and restless, yes – but also because he is so comfortable in his spiritual walk that he stops examining himself against God’s law and equates his desires with those of his Lord. It takes Nathan’s admonition to get David to recognize his guilt, repent of his sin, and return to divine community. Even then his sin has lasting consequences, affecting both his family and his kingdom for generations to come.
Before we close on this topic, just a brief note on how Nathan admonishes David. Admonishing kings is, of course, a tricky business. Just as David experienced no barriers in taking another man’s wife, he would experience no barriers in killing the prophet who told him he was wrong. But Nathan never tells David he’s wrong. He doesn’t argue with David, or fight with David or act condescending to David “out of love.” Nathan doesn’t appoint himself moral judge, jury and executioner, seeking to throw David out of the palace or have David killed. Instead Nathan tells a parable, and through the parable takes a spiritual journey with David. Through that spiritual journey, David comes to judge himself. As David realizes the depths of his sin, Nathan stands by, not to gloat but to forgive. And as the consequences of that sin continue to play out in David’s life, Nathan continues his role of supportive presence and spiritual guide.
During this lenten season we’ve been reciting Colossians 3 together and we’ll do that in a minute. Before we get there, I want to explain what is coming next.