Week Commencing 19th August 2018
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on 2 Samuel 11-12, “The woman was very beautiful”
DAY 1: Read 2 Samuel 11:1-13
Well, what do you make of this sordid tale? This is the King God chose (1 Sam 16:1-13); the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14)!
Here is how one commentator captures the tone of the text (Brueggemann, quoted by DR Davis):
“The action is quick. The verbs rush as the passion of David rushed. He sent; he took; he lay (v4). The royal deed of self-indulgence does not take very long. There is no adornment to the action. The woman then gets some verbs: she returned, she conceived. The action is so stark. There is nothing but action. There is no conversation. There is no hint of caring, of affection, of love – only lust. David does not call her by name, does not even speak to her. At the end of the encourager, she is only ‘the woman’ (v5). The verb that finally counts is ‘conceived’. But the telling verb is ‘he took her’. “
The warning in this text reaches far beyond King David and touches all true followers of Jesus. How suddenly and fatally any of us can fall! Two lines from old hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” say it all: Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. If you respond to this thinking ‘Oh, but I could never…’, then you have already taken the first step in your fall. Don’t ever be surprised at what you are capable of. Make your prayer like the lyrics later in that same hymn: “O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be; Let that grace now, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to thee.”
DAY 2: Read 2 Samuel 11:14-27
At first, David is always in control. He saw, inquired, sent, took and copulated. But David cannot control Uriah. He wonders why Uriah is so allergic to supper, shower and sex and hears a reply that should have deeply challenged him. Finally, David tried to get him drink. He puts Uriah under the influence, but he not under his influence, for Uriah staggers out to bed down in the servant’s quarters again. When David hears that he did not go down to his house, and therefore there will be no way of explaining Bathsheba’s pregnancy, he will make Uriah carry his own death warrant under royal seal. Uriah must die, and Joab and the Ammonites will prove most accommodating! David has persevered and succeeded. Uriah did not go down to his house and Uriah is dead. David had arranged it all.
The unvarnished truth is that life for God’s people can be like this, even in the supposed kingdom of God. The kingdom is not safe even in David’s hands. It is only safe when Jesus Christ rules and will rule with justice and righteousness. Yet until Jesus publicly enforces that just regime at his second coming, it will not be unusual for God’s people to suffer even within (what claims to be) the kingdom of God. So in the church today, we tragically see leaders ruling with harshness and severity, crushing rather than comforting Christ’s flock, suffocating rather than sustaining!
DAY 3: Read 2 Samuel 12:1-15a
The final line in the previous chapter is dramatic in its effect: But the thing David had done displeased the Lord – or literally – ‘the thing David had done was evil in the sight of God’. Now look back to 11:25, because David had literally said to Joab – ‘Don’t let this thing be evil in your eyes’. David might take a casual view, but God will not brush it off! Note that the writer has simply given the account without any comment along the way. He has been silent about God. But this only serves to accentuate the lone statement of v27b. David has had his way without any interference – until he runs smack into the judgement of God. It was evil in God’s eyes. That’s what God thought of it! He may be silent, but he is not sightless! David may have Bathsheba’s flesh and Uriah’s blood, but he will have to face God’s eyes!
So, here in Ch 12, God and his word dominate – no longer David! We expect retribution, punishment and judgement and they are there, but we also see the theme of grace: God’s ‘something-for-nothing-when-we-don’t-deserve-anything’.
Grace starts in v1. God sent Nathan. David had been doing all the sending in ch 11. But God now swings into action and sends Nathan the prophet to David. This, in itself, is an action of grace – that God should send his prophet to call his King to repentance. God will not allow his servant to remain comfortable in sin but will ruthlessly expose his sin lest he settle down in it. You may succeed in unfaithfulness; but God will come after you. What immense and genuine comfort every servant of Christ should find in the opening words of Ch 12! Not that God’s pursuing grace is enjoyable. But what if grace did not pursue? What if God abandoned us when we succeed at sin?
Nathan’s strategy (God’s strategy) in telling this story is the godly scheming of grace that works around our resistance and causes us to switch the floodlights on our own darkness. Nathan suckered the king into the case, which David then, immediately, judged himself. “You are the man” is the punchline – and yes, it must have felt like a kick in the guts as David himself drew the parallels. Nathan did not accuse or harangue. He simply upped David’s blood pressure over that ruthless rich fellow and David then accused himself! DR Davis quotes Alexander Whyte:
“Nathan’s sword was within an inch of David’s conscience before David knew that Nathan had a sword. That is the holy craftiness of grace. If God determines to bring you back to repentance, what chance do you have against grace like that? Grace is far more than amazing; it’s smart.”
DAY 4: Read 2 Samuel 12:13-31
God sees the true significance of sin both in David and in us. If we can grasp that, perhaps we can begin to understand, the ‘fury of grace’. If David, a mere mortal sinner, has the moral capacity to fly into a rage over the rich man in Nathan’s story, how much more will God, over David’s deed? This is the gracious God who sends Nathan to David, and he is the furious God who is outraged because his servant has despised him. Part of God’s grace consists in his informing us of his fury. Grace is not niceness; otherwise (one is tempted to say), grace would no longer be grace. Remember the words of “Amazing Grace”? Twas grace that taught my heart to fear. Grace is not merely favour; it is also the fury that precedes the favour.
The law tells us what David deserved – death; but grace shows us what David received – forgiveness and commuting of the death sentence (v13b). Note first, David’s confession: ‘I have sinned against God’ (and see also, Psalm 51). To be the man after God’s own heart is not to be sinlessly perfect but to be, among other things, utterly submissive to the accusing word of God! Note second, David’s assurance: The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die (v13b). This was not what the law called for! Have we cheapened forgiveness? We pop in our penitence and out comes the assurance of pardon. We mumble through the confession at church – it’s all in the script – but it’s another thing for it to seize our mind and convulse our emotion! Friends, having a God who declares forgiveness, should make us shudder with joy! Third, note David’s substitute: because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die (v14). God forgives the guilt of sin but inflicts the consequences of sin. He cleanses sin’s defilement but may continue its discipline. For David, God’s forgiveness was both marvellous and costly – the child would die. It is as if the child will die in David’s place. Nathan had assured David that he would not die. But a death would occur. Remember that forgiveness is both free and costly. A son of David has been our substitute!
Doesn’t all this give hope to any fallen believer? You are conscious of your failures, repentant of your sins, yet have no grounds to expect mercy. But if you have grasped God’s grace, you will walk in hope. Such grace is not meant to excuse your sin – but it is meant to help you get beyond despair! By grace you have been saved! Thank you, Lord Jesus!
Reference: Commentary on 2 Samuel by Dale Ralph Davis.
(Some parts of these notes use Davis’ text word for word or are a summary of his text.)