This booklet of sermons can be downloaded here.David God’s Anointed King
David – God’s Anointed King
Before the sermons there are two sets of shorter notes on two of the stories about David which you probably know very well already. If you want to skip over these and go to the full sermons do jump to number 3.
1 God Looks at the Heart 1 Samuel 16:1-13
This story of how God led the prophet Samuel to anoint the shepherd boy David as the future king of his chosen people Israel is probably familiar to us. The central truth it reveals is important and enduring. Samuel thought he knew how to recognise God’s chosen one from among the sons of Jesse, but God had other ideas.
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7)
God knows us inside out. God looks into our innermost thoughts. God looks at the heart!
Psalm 139:1 Lord, you have examined me and you know me. 2 You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts. 3 You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions. 4 Even before I speak, you already know what I will say. GNB
We can’t deceive God. You can fool some of the people all of the time and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool God any of the time, not ever. What a man is on his knees before God is exactly what he is – no more, no less.
Psalm 51:6 Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. (GNB)
God demands truth and sincerity. The word sincere comes from two Latin words – sine and cera, meaning “without wax.” Years ago, a potter would often put his stamp on a pot or vase with the words sine cera. This meant that to his knowledge there was no flaw in that work. If a potter had cracked the vessel, he would carefully patch the flawed vase or bowl or statuette by filling in the crack with wax. Then he would glaze it over and sell it at a much lower price. But only flawless pieces of pottery would be given the stamp, sine cera, “without wax,” and they would be worth much more because of that.
We live in a world which considers honesty and integrity less important than popularity and success. Truth has become a very elastic thing. There is a famous quote ascribed both to Groucho Marx and to Sam Goldwyn, although in the interests of accuracy I have to reveal that nobody actually knows who it was who first said it. The quote goes, “The most important thing is honesty. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” That is the way the world thinks, certainly salesmen and politicians. But God thinks differently. The eighth and ninth commandments are very clear. No stealing No lying. Sadly, very many people only care about the unwritten 11th commandment, “Thou shalt not get caught!” But God looks at the heart.
There is a relatively new word which I can remember from when it entered our language in 1982 back when I was teaching people about computers. The acronym is WYSIWYG and it stands for “what you see is what you get.” In computing it means that what you see on your computer screen is exactly what will appear on your printer. But you can apply that word to people as well. WYSIWYG people are those rare individuals who are exactly what they appear to be, no more and no less. They are completely open and honest without a trace of deception. What you see is what you get. GOD wants us to be WYSIWYG Christians.
Or, to use a different word, God calls us to be TRANSPARENT CHRISTIANS, transparent people, transparently honest, with nothing hidden, nothing concealed, no trace of deceit or dishonesty. Totally sincere. No stealing. No lying. Transparent Christians.
God looks at the heart. Our lives are transparent to God. So our lives must also be transparent to the world. Jesus said, Simply let your `Yes’ be `Yes’, and your `No’, `No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37) Christians should be known for being completely honest and trustworthy. In God’s providence, he gives us other Christians to practice with by calling us to live lives which are transparent to each other in the church.
Church should be the place, or rather, the people who are the church should be the family where we learn to be completely honest with each other. Where we learn to open our lives and be vulnerable with each other. Where we learn to trust each other. God has given us each other so that we can practice being sincere and honest with each other –so we can learn integrity, openness, honesty, and vulnerability. Church is the community where we learn to be WYSIWYG Christians by watching WYSIWYG Christians. We become transparent Christians ourselves by sharing our lives with other transparent Christians. Like so many things, honesty and integrity are “better caught than taught”
We need to learn how to be genuine with each other. To learn how to be honest about our weaknesses and our failings with each other. We need to come to the point where we can be completely open without being scared that other Christians will kick us when we are down, and without being scared that other Christians will exploit our weaknesses and judge us or reject us. In all of this, of course, confidentiality is key. We need to be able to trust that the things we say will not be blabbed to other people we would never tell.
God is transforming Christians into the image of Christ, to be sincere, without hidden flaws, no imperfections, no pretending to be what we are not, no putting on a show. We can’t hide anything from God! God looks at the heart. And God demands that we present the same face to the whole world that we present to Him. God wants us to be, in front of our friends and family, God wants us to be in front of our neighbours and work colleagues, the same people that we are on our knees before Him. WYSIWYG people. Transparent people.
JESUS TAKE ME AS I AM, I can come no other way.
Take me deeper into You, Make my flesh life melt away.
Make me like a precious stone, Crystal clear and finely honed,
Life of Jesus shining through, Giving glory back to You.
2 David fights Goliath 1 Samuel 17:1-58
You will have heard many sermons on this very familiar story and this is not another. Rather it is an invitation to reflect on how we should interpret and apply narratives in the Old Testament to our own lives.
The story of David and Goliath is possibly the most well-known story from David’s life. But many Christians never think more deeply about it than the simple messages we hear as children. To interpret the Old Testament properly we need to consider how far and in what ways incidents in David’s life relate to our own lives today. With all the stories about David we must grapple with the problem of “historical peculiarity.” David was unique. His situation was very different to ours, 3000 years ago and thousands of miles away. He was no ordinary man but the greatest King ever! He was a Jew, not a Christian. The stories about David were told and written down precisely because they were unique! So how legitimate is it for us to expect the stories about David to have ANY application AT ALL to our Christian lives today?
David shares two attributes with us. He was a human being – so things he did as a human being may correspond with things we do. And although he often expressed his faith very differently, David was a man of faith who served the same unchanging God as we do, so sometimes it may be right to imitate his faith. But we need to recognise that the battle with Goliath was a unique historical event. On that occasion David was serving God as Israel’s future king. He was acting as Israel and God’s unique representative, which is something we never need to do! The protection and safety which David assumed God would give him and the victory he then claimed were a pivotal element in God’s plan of salvation for the whole of Israel. Similar situations do not usually arise in everyday life for us today!
So this story does teach us important things about faith and about how we should face the trials of life, but we need to be careful in our understanding. David’s faith assured him that God would keep him safe. But it is not legitimate for us to assume that God will protect us as Christians from any harm and danger. David was confident God would give him the victory over Goliath. But we are not always guaranteed victory or success in any situation, just because we are Christians.
There are all sorts of giants in the world – things which might make us anxious or afraid. This story gives us an inspiring example to follow, but it is not so much about courage as it is about faith. As we go into battle with giants in our lives there are three things to note from 1 Samuel 17.
1 David was trusting in God to protect him – not his own skill
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”
2 David’s primary concern was for God’s glory – not for earthly rewards (see verse 26).
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.
3 David was trusting in God to give him the victory – not in man-made weapons
47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
So what does the story of David defeating Goliath have to say to your life today?
3 David and Saul – loving our enemies 1 Samuel 24:1-22
In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus Christ says this:
Matthew 5:44 Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
There is no better example of obedience to these commands than today’s story of how David resisted the temptation to kill his enemy King Saul. We have heard the story of how the prophet Samuel had anointed David to become the next king of Israel to replace Saul. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” We heard how while still a young man David defeated the giant Goliath, the champion of the Philistines and so was entitled to claim all the rewards Saul had promised, including the hand of Saul’s daughter in marriage. This marriage would make David Saul’s heir and so give him a claim to the throne as the next King of Israel. But because Saul knew that God had appointed David to replace him as King, Saul became paranoid and insanely jealous of David. By this time Saul had already hatched half a dozen plots to kill David. He had slaughtered all the priests who had helped David by giving him food. And now we see Saul with a large army, vastly outnumbering David’s band of men, hunting for David out to kill him once again.
2 So Saul took three thousand chosen men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. 3 He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. 4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, `I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.'” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.
What would you do if you were David, and you were presented with such an opportunity to get Saul out of the way once and for all? There in the cave David faced the kind of temptations we sometimes face in life. The way David acted gives us all an example of how we should act when we face similar temptations.
TEMPTATION TO MAKE ALL HIS PROBLEMS GO AWAY
Many people in David’s situation would find many excuses to justify killing Saul. “It was just self-defence, because Saul was out to kill me.” “This is a God-given opportunity and I should take it.” Or even, “I’m just so tired of running and fighting Saul. This can end all of that now.” But David refused to make any such excuses, He showed a radical, obedient trust in God instead. Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rm 12:21).
David wasn’t storing up bitterness and anger in his heart towards Saul. Even as Saul made David’s life completely miserable, David kept taking it to the Lord, and he received the cleansing from the hurt and the bitterness and the anger that the Lord can give. If David had stored up bitterness and anger towards Saul, he probably wouldn’t have been able to resist the temptation to kill him at what seemed to be a “risk free” opportunity. What would you have done – your mortal enemy in your grasp? Another preacher has put it like this.
Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? There and then David could have gotten away with murder.
Consensus asks the question: Is it popular? All his men were ready to kill Saul!
But Conscience asks: Is it right? And David’s conscience said, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.”
Sometimes obeying God means we DON’T take the quick and easy way out. Sometimes obeying God means we DON’T do what anybody else would have done or what our friends are telling us to do, even if it is a hundred percent certain we could get away with it and nobody would ever know. Instead we should always do what our conscience tells us is right!
I don’t know anything about the kinds of problems you are facing in life at the moment. Maybe you have problems at home, with the family or with the neighbours. Maybe you have problems at work, or even with other people in the Church. Sometimes we see an easy way out, something which we could do which would make all our problems go away. It seems safe to do. Maybe our friends are encouraging us to do it. But we have to stop and listen to our conscience. Is it right? Is that what Jesus would do in my situation. Is that really what God wants me to do?
David resisted the temptation to make all his problems go away by doing something which was wrong – and we must do the same!
TEMPTATION TO TAKE REVENGE
David had every right to be angry at Saul. It would have been so easy to him to take his revenge there and then in that cave. Sometimes people hurt us. Sometimes people upset us, or make us scared. Sometimes it’s by accident. Sometimes it is deliberate. But them sometimes an opportunity comes along for us to hit back – to take our revenge. To hurt them or upset them or scare them.
The apostle Paul wrote this:
Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good
A thousand years earlier, David was already obeying what Paul would command. He had the opportunity for revenge and he didn’t take it! Instead David loved his enemy!
David resisted the temptation to take revenge, and we must do the same!
TEMPTATION TO TURN A BLIND EYE
David could have just let his men kill Saul for him
4 The men said, “This is the day the LORD spoke of when he said to you, `I will give your enemy into your hands. 6 He said to his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” 7 With these words David rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul.
David’s men were excited at the opportunity in front of them, and believed it was all a gift from God. They knew it was no coincidence that Saul came alone into that cave at that moment. So, they thought this was an opportunity from God to kill Saul. On a previous occasion, God had given David this promise, Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may to do him as it seems good to you. They believed that this was the fulfillment of the promise, and that David needed to seize the promise by faith and by the sword!
But David would not turn a blind eye and let his men kill Saul. Standing back and just letting somebody else do something which is wrong when we could have stopped them is as bad as doing it ourselves. “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” David resisted the temptation to turn a blind eye – and we must do the same!
TEMPTATION TO TAKE A SHORT CUT TO GOD’S PROMISE
David could so easily have said to himself, “It’s all right, because God promised me the throne anyway.” “It’s all right because I am in the right, and even Jonathan knows that I deserve the throne.” “This is a God-given opportunity and I should take it.”
God HAD rejected Saul as King and Samuel had told him so. David HAD been anointed King by Samuel the prophet. God HAD given David victory over Goliath and all the rewards of that. So what made David decide, “I won’t kill Saul; instead I will just cut off the corner of his robe”? He knew that God’s promise said, “You will inherit the throne of Israel.” He knew that Saul was standing in the way of that divine promise. But he also knew it was disobedient of him to kill Saul, because God put Saul in a position of authority, and it was God’s job to deal with Saul, and not David’s. David wanted the promise to be fulfilled, but he refused to try and fulfill God’s promise through an act of his own disobedience.
Sometimes, when people have received a promise from God, they can think they are justified in sinning as they pursue that promise. If we ever think we need to sin in order to receive God’s promise, we are always wrong.
We know God wants to bless us. But when we see a way to grab that blessing for ourselves, to do so is always sin. We should never do wrong to bring about right. The end NEVER justifies the means! God will fulfill His promises, but He will do it His way, and do it righteously. We need to be like Abraham, who obeyed God even when it seemed to be at the expense of God’s promise, willing to sacrifice Isaac. We need to be like Jesus, who in his temptations in the wilderness rejected Satan’s offer to give him all the kingdoms of the world, because that would have meant allegiance to the devil! (Luke 4:5-8).
David knew not only how wait on the Lord, and he also knew how to wait for the Lord. We wait on the Lord by prayer, looking for God to reveal his will to us.
Then we wait for the Lord by patience and submission, looking for God to act on our behalf! David was determined that when he sat on the throne of Israel, it wouldn’t be because he got Saul out of the way, but because God got Saul out of the way. He wanted God’s fingerprints on that work, not his own. David wanted the clean conscience that comes from knowing it was God’s work that had fulfilled God’s promises.
Somebody said, “We win most when we appear to have yielded most, and gain advantages by refusing to take them wrongfully. The man who can wait for God is a man of power.”
David resisted the TEMPTATION TO TAKE A SHORT CUT TO GOD’S PROMISE. And we must do the same.
So now let’s see how the story unfolds. No easy way to make his problems go away. No revenge. No turning a blind eye. No short cut to God’s promise. David didn’t kill Saul. He just cuts off the corner of Saul’s robe. And then we read,
David . . . went out of the cave: David took a big chance here, because he could have simply remained in hiding, secure in the fact that Saul had not found him. But he surrendered himself to Saul, because he saw the opportunity to show Saul what his intentions were.
David showed great submission to Saul: My lord the king . . . David stooped with his face to the earth and bowed twice. We might think that David had the right to come to Saul as an equal. “Well Saul, we’ve both been anointed to be king. You’ve got the throne right now, but I’ll have it some day and you know it. From one anointed man to another, look at how I just spared your life.” That wasn’t David’s attitude at all. Instead, he said: “Saul, you are the boss and I know it. I respect your place as my leader and as my king.”
When David stooped with his face to the earth and bowed twice he was showing great trust in God, because he was making himself completely vulnerable to Saul. Saul could have killed him very easily at that moment, but David trusted that if he did what was right before God, God would protect him and fulfill the promise.
And then David produced the corner of Saul’s robe. What was the significance of that? The robe is a picture of Saul’s royal authority. Back in 1 Samuel 15:27-28, the prophet Samuel has condemned Saul for his hard-hearted disobedience to God. Samuel announced that God had rejected Saul as king. In that encounter, in his distress Saul tried to keep Samuel from leaving, and grabbed his robe, and a portion of the prophet’s robe tore away. When Saul was left holding the torn piece of Samuel’s robe, Samuel said to him: The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. Now, David confronts Saul with the corner of HIS robe torn off. God’s message to Saul was loud and clear. “I am cutting away your royal authority.”
But David did not kill Saul! And he promises that he never will!
12 May the LORD judge between you and me. And may the LORD avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. 13 As the old saying goes, `From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.
The Living Bible translates this way Perhaps the Lord will kill you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you.
So Saul is brought to repentance. You are more righteous than I . . . you have dealt well with me . . . you did not kill me . . . the Lord reward you with good for what you have done to me this day: What a change of heart in Saul! Every change David could have hoped for in Saul has happened, and Saul really seems sincere about it (Saul lifted up his voice and wept). Saul’s heart was melted by the coals of kindness David heaped upon his head
Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. … 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Here is the victory that David gained over Saul on that day, not by treacherous stealth, or by brute force but a moral triumph. But the most important thing for us to learn is that David first gained the victory over himself, before he triumphed over Saul. David resisted the temptations to do wrong. He was not overcome by evil. Instead he “overcame evil with good.” David truly loved his enemy! And this story of David and Saul gives us a wonderful example of how we should do the same!
4 Best Friends – David and Jonathan 1 Samuel 20:1-42
Eleanor Rigby – picks up the rice in the church where a wedding had been, lives in a dream.
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for?
All the lonely people – where do they all come from? All the lonely people – where do they all belong?
Eleanor Rigby – died in the church and was buried along with her name. Nobody came.
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave. No-one was saved. All the lonely people – where do they all come from? All the lonely people – where do they all belong?
We live in a world of lonely people. It is partly down to the growth of towns and cities. People move to new places. We don’t live out our lives in the families and communities where we were born. We are all just anonymous members of “society”. Then there’s television and the internet and smartphones which encourage us to relax by ourselves being entertained instead of mixing with and talking to other people. Sociologists call these problems privatization. Family used to be defined as a group of people linked by biological relationships. Fifty years ago family was becoming a collection of individuals gathered around a television set. Twenty years ago family was turning into a set of bedrooms arranged around a fridge-freezer. Now for many people family means the group of people who share the same wifi code. It was fifty years ago that Lennon and McCartney pointed to the problems of “All the lonely people – where do they all come from? All the lonely people – where do they all belong?”
Our theme this morning is friendship. In the Bible there is no finer example of friendship than David and Jonathan – best of friends.
EVERYBODY NEEDS FRIENDS
David and Jonathan could have been enemies and rivals. Jonathan was the son of King Saul, the logical heir to the Kingdom of Israel. David was the shepherd boy who God had chosen and the prophet Samuel had anointed to actually become the next King of Israel. But they weren’t rivals. Instead they were best of friends. We can learn so much about friendship from the story we just read.
A FRIEND IS SOMEONE YOU CAN TURN TO IN TIMES OF TROUBLE (v. 1-23)
1 Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, ‘What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?’
BEST FRIENDS HELP EACH OTHER
4 Jonathan said to David, ‘Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.’
FRIENDS LOOK OUT FOR FRIENDS AND PROTECT FRIENDS like Jonathan protected David even though he was on the run from Saul.
12 Then Jonathan said to David, ‘I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favourably disposed towards you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father intends to harm you, may the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace.
A FRIEND IS SOMEONE WHO WILL STICK WITH YOU EVEN IF EVERYONE ELSE IS AGAINST YOU (v. 24 -34)
30 Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “(insult, insult) …. Now send someone to bring (David) to me, for he must die!’
32 ‘Why should he be put to death? What has he done?’ Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. … he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.
A FRIEND IS SOMEONE WHO WILL ALWAYS TELL YOU THE TRUTH (v. 35-42)
BEST FRIENDS MAKE A COMMITMENT TO HANG IN THERE (1 Samuel 20:42)
42 Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants for ever.”’
Everybody needs best friends like David and Jonathan. Everybody needs friends. Friends do things together and have fun together. Friends share with each other and help each other. Friends laugh together and cry together. Friends trust each other. A friend is someone that you can talk to and who listens to you. Friends are honest with each other and loyal to each other and keep confidences. Friends accept us for who we are. Friendship demands openness and honesty and authenticity. No masks, no cover ups, no facades. A friend is somebody with whom you dare to be yourself. Friends understand us and challenge us and stick by us in the good times and the bad times. Friends stick with you when all the world is against you.
Somebody has said, “Friends make the ordinary, running errands or eating lunch, extraordinarily fun. And good friends ease our pain and lighten our heavy load …. Not only are friends good for the soul but for the body as well. Friends help us ward off depression, boost our immune system, lower our cholesterol, increase the odds of surviving with coronary disease, and keep stress hormones in check. A half dozen top medical studies now bear this out. … You can extend your life expectancy by having the right kind of friends.”
Friendships can arise from common interests. Jobs or hobbies or sports or other pastimes. Friendships can also arise from common experiences. Just by living next door, or sharing holidays, or even by going through the same crisis together. No matter how a friendship begins, all friendships need effort and commitment and time. Friendships need trust and loyalty. Deep and lasting friendships can take years to build. The heart of friendship is communication. Talking about anything and everything and nothing. Even the most private of people need company sometimes – friends to talk to. No man, or woman, is an island.
God does not want people to be lonely. We were designed to have friends. Some people are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges. Friends need to be prepared to be open with each other and willing to be vulnerable to each other. Christians should be good at making friendships because we are already completely secure in the love God has for us. Sadly not all are. Indeed, sometimes we can be so busy doing “Christian things” that we don’t have time to make friends. Alexander McLaren once said, “Few of us have reached middle life who do not, looking back, see our track strewn with the gaunt skeletons of dead friendships.” Everybody needs friends. No man is an island.
CARING FOR OUR FRIENDS
1 Samuel 20:17 Jonathan made David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
1 Samuel 20:42 Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants for ever.”
David and Jonathan’s friendship was rooted in God. It had a spiritual dimension which brought them even closer than human friendships. That was why Jonathan was prepared to disobey his father Saul in order to help David when he needed help. We all need help sometimes and that is when we find out who our real friends are. John Lennon wrote “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.” Friends help each other. Sometimes we need help with practical things – DIY or mending the car or help with a lift or some babysitting. Sometimes we may need some advice or encouragement. Sometimes we need help with spiritual things. Somebody to explain something to us or pray for us. Somebody to support us and stand with us in the difficult times, in depression or in grief or in illness. Often all that most people need to cope in life is good friends. Most people welcome a helping hand and a listening ear and all of us need those kinds of friends.
A lot of my first book Making Disciples One-to-One was about “spiritual friendships” or “soul friends.” The wonderful Christians can support and encourage one another in their faith just by being friends. Here are some of the things I said in Part 2 of that book.
Christian friends help each other to understand the Bible and help us to make good choices in life. Friends are there to support each other and pray for each other in the difficult times. Friends help us keep going when we feel like giving up. Friends pray for one another and with one another.
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:19-20)
There are even greater blessings when friends pray together than when they pray separately.
In our friendships we can open up our lives to each other and in doing so we open ourselves up to God. Many Christians are afraid of doing this. I am afraid of letting other people see “the real me” because then they would realise (in the words of Michael Caine’s character in the film Educating Rita) “there is less to me than meets the eye”. But I really do need to let somebody else in on “the real me” because only then, when I am truly being myself, only then can God really begin to change me. Sharing emotions, sadness, anger, disappointment or discouragement with each other is the same as sharing these feelings with God. Because when we have poured out our heart to our friend, and we know our friend understands, then we can be assured that God also has heard and understood us.
In the battle against the world, the flesh and the devil, having a good Christian friend standing with us can make all the difference. Confessing our sins can help us deal with our temptations. James 5:16 makes this invitation. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. In the process of Christian holiness, turning away from sin and being transformed into the image of Christ, every Christian would benefit from having a friend to confess to. That friend can offer the blessing of declaring those sins forgiven.
God means us to live out our Christian lives with friends. Richard Foster has written, “None of us is supposed to live the Christian life alone. We gain help and strength from others.”
It is good to have committed friendships, and even covenants of friendship like David and Jonathan made. So we dedicate ourselves to our friends, make ourselves accountable to our friends, and “watch over” our friends to help each other follow Jesus better. As we do these things we can see Jesus in each other. The best way to learn to see Christ in others is to develop a close relationship with a Christian friend. Meeting with Christ in that friend is a wonderful way of experiencing the presence of Christ in ordinary everyday life. God gives us other Christians so that we can practise showing His kind of love. We can practise being Jesus with other people by being Jesus to our friends. We learn to forgive and accept strangers by learning to forgive and accept our friends.
For all these reasons it is good for Christians to have spiritual friendships – other Christians who help and support and encourage us in our faith.
OUR GREATEST FRIENDSHIP
One more question. Which is your most important friendship? We might think of our wives and husbands or children or dear friends we have known all our lives. But surely for Christians there is a friendship which is even more important than any of these. God called Abraham His Friend and the Bible tells us that God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend. Jesus said that His disciples are His friends.
Our most important friendship will be our relationship with God. And because we enjoy all the blessings of being God’s friends, we will want all our other friends to come to enjoy those blessings as well. More than that, God calls us to help other people to become his friends.
2 Corinthians 5 18 …. (God) through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. 19Our message is that God was making the whole human race his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.
This is the job that God has given all Christians to do, to help other people to become God’s friends.
20 Here we are, then, speaking for Christ, as though God himself were making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: let God change you from enemies into his friends!
God wants us to share the good news of Jesus with everybody we know. Friends at work. Friends along our street. Friends we meet through our hobbies and interests. Since Jesus is our most important friend, we will want to share Him with all our other friends. We can do this lovingly and sensitively, perhaps by sharing books and DVDs, By giving invitations to special events at church or passing them a copy of our outward-facing newsletter Haven News. By gossiping the gospel and simply chatting about Jesus. By praying for our friends that God will reveal Himself in their lives. Always talk to God about your friend before you talk to your friend about God. Then, one of the most important ways we can share our faith with our friends is what I call “linking the chain”. In other words, by introducing your not yet Christian friends to your Christian friends. Maybe even introduce your friend to your minister!
Christians have the best friend anybody could ever have in the Lord Jesus Christ. We should be able to show the world good examples of what it means to be true friends. We all need friends. And we should show God’s kind of love to our friends – that is our witness to the world.
5 Great David’s Greatest Son 2 Samuel 7:1-17
Pick the ten most important chapters in the whole of the Old Testament and 2 Samuel chapter 7 would be up there with the best of them. As far as the history of Israel is concerned, and indeed for the whole story of God’s cosmic masterplan of salvation, these promises which God made to David are more important than anything else which happened in David’s life. Afterwards, these verses are quoted and referred to more than almost any others, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. They tell us how God made a covenant with David the King which would shape history from that point forwards and forevermore.
A GREAT NAME 8-9
2 Samuel 7 8 ‘Now then, tell my servant David, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.
From his humble beginnings as a shepherd boy, David would indeed become one of the most significant figures in human history. His name would become great. But even here there is a hint that these promises may be pointing beyond David himself, the one who would have the greatest name of all, the name above all names. To the one who is truly King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
God had made covenants before, especially with the Patriarchs Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And then came the covenant with the nation of Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai, the Jewish Law. Very many of God’s promises had been wrapped up in the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey, a land of safety and peace. And these promises were renewed to David.
A LAND OF SAFETY AND FREEDOM 10-11
10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people shall not oppress them any more, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
This promise of a place for God’s chosen people simply repeats the promises that God had made to Abraham and also to the Israelites through Moses. It will be a place of security and freedom with no more conflict with wicked people. There will be no more battles with enemies. It will be place of and undisturbed rest and perfect peace. Home, sweet home. However this promise was not to be fulfilled in David’s lifetime, which would be full of battles and wars. The promise looks beyond David to one of his descendants who one day would bring that perfect peace to the Land and to the people of God. More than three centuries later the great prophets were still looking forward to that day of peace.
Jeremiah 33 14 ‘ “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will fulfil the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. 15 ‘ “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.”
And Isaiah even more was putting all his hopes in the coming of God’s chosen one, the Messiah.
Isaiah 9 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
These promises of the Messiah all built on God’s covenant with David which was God’s guarantee that one day a righteous king would come and bring God’s peace to a troubled world.
And the blessings God brings to His people are even greater than David could have imagined. The enemies attacking Israel were the surrounding nations. But in time God would bring rest from the greater enemies. The devil and all the powers of evil would be defeated. And the last enemy, death, would be vanquished forever. And God would give more wonderful peace than David could imagine, the peace of God which passes understanding. The peace which comes through a personal relationship with God. All these were part of God’s plan of salvation which would come to the world, not through David, but through
DAVID’S OFFSPRING 11-12
2 Samuel 7 11 …. ‘ “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 when your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.
From this moment in history forwards, all God’s promises are centred on an offspring of David. Some of the promises were fulfilled in his son Solomon who would build the great Temple in Jerusalem where God would be worshipped for centuries to come. But other promises would not be fulfilled until the Messiah came, God’s anointed, Great David’s Greatest Son. In his Kingdom, in his reign as King, He would bring
AN ETERNAL THRONE 13
2 Samuel 7 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.
This descendant of David would build a house which would not be material or physical but spiritual. And this descendant’s throne would not be limited by time but it would be eternal – he would reign for ever and ever!
PSALM 89 3 You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, 4 “I will establish your line for ever and make your throne firm through all generations.”
PSALM 45 6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom.
All these prophecies point to the truth that this eternal Kingdom would come not through David but through a descendant of David’s. John the Baptist’s father Zechariah prophesied this about Jesus:
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever;
his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32-33)
The crowds all recognized that Jesus was fulfilling all these promises as they welcomed him to Jerusalem.
Matthew 21 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’
But the Messiah would be even more than just a human descendant of David! He would be
GOD’S SON 14
2 Samuel 7 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son.
The relationship which Great David’s Greatest Son would be more special and more intimate than ever before. He would be God’s Son. And God would be His Father.
There are ten of the Psalms which together are described as the Royal Psalms because they focus on God’s chosen King. They are based on this covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7 and talk about David’s dynasty and his royal descendant who reigns over God’s people and inherits God’s promises. Together these Royal Psalms point forward to the Messiah. The first and the most obvious is Psalm 2.
Psalm 2 6 He says to them, “I have placed my king on my holy mountain of Zion.” 7I will announce what the Lord has promised. He said to me, “You are my son. Today I have become your father.
8 Ask me, and I will give the nations to you. All nations on earth will belong to you. ….
10 Kings, be wise! Rulers of the earth, be warned!
11 Serve the Lord and have respect for him. Serve him with joy and trembling.
Jews knew that Psalm 2 and the other Royal Psalms were looking beyond any earthly king and pointing forward to the Messiah. And the first Christians realised that all these promises were actually fulfilled in Jesus and proved by his glorious resurrection from the dead.
Acts 13: 32 ‘We tell you the good news: what God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:
‘ “You are my son; today I have become your father.”
34 God raised him from the dead so that he will never be subject to decay. As God has said,
‘ “I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.”
The whole nation of Israel had been described as God’s son. But this descendent of David would have a relationship with God which was far beyond the relationship which any human being had ever had with the Almighty and Eternal God. The Messiah would be the Son of God and God would be His Father, and he would inherit all the blessings promised to David.
SECURE IN GOD’S LOVE 15
2 Samuel 7 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.
You may have noticed that this covenant God makes with David is unconditional. Nothing in these promises God makes depends on the actions of David or of his descendants. The covenant rests entirely on God’s faithfulness and on the certainty that God will always keep His promises. God will never take his love away from this descendant of David’s. This reminds us that there is absolutely nothing we can ever do to earn or deserve God’s love and his grace and his forgiveness. But at the same time it is important to recognise that God’s faithfulness and loving-kindness deserve and demand a response from us. Because God loves us unconditionally, it is entirely right that we should love God unconditionally in return. We should respond with gratitude and obedience, dedicating our lives to worshipping and serving the God who has loved us so very much.
David’s son Solomon was the one God chose to build his Temple in Jerusalem, And Solomon understood the kind of response which God’s love and mercy deserve. In his prayer dedicating the Temple to God, this is how Solomon prayed.
2 Chronicles 6 16 ‘Now, Lord, the God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, “You shall never fail to have a successor to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your descendants are careful in all they do to walk before me according to my law, as you have done.” 17 And now, Lord, the God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David come true.
Solomon recognised that the right and proper way to respond to all God’s unconditional love for us is to be careful in all we do to walk before God according to His Law.
AN ETERNAL KINGDOM 16
16 Your house and your kingdom shall endure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.” ’
God’s covenant with David is eternal. It will last for ever and ever.
The blessings God promised would not just last for a generation or a lifetime or even just a century. God’s blessings would last far beyond the 3,000 years which have passed since God made these promises to David. They are indeed eternal, lasting longer than this world will endure and into the next world where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” God gives his people every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For ever. And ever. And ever!
With the benefit of hindsight we can see how all these wonderful promises were ultimately fulfilled in the birth, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how the angel announced the birth of Jesus to his mother Mary.
Luke 1 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’
All the wonderful blessings promised to David, and much much more, come to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. A great name – the name which is above all names. A land of safety and freedom and peace. All brought by David’s offspring, Great David’s Greatest Son reigning on an eternal throne. God’s Son, completely secure in God’s love, bringing all the blessings of an eternal kingdom to all who trust and follow Him.
Bow down and worship – for this is your God!
6 Holiness and joy – 2 Samuel 6
In five years of theological training, the most important truth I learned can be summed up in just 6 words
NOT EITHER OR BUT BOTH AND
What I mean is that many important issues of faith and Christian living have two extremes. Should prayer and worship have structure or are they better when they are spontaneous? Which is more important – to love God or to love our neighbour? Is everything in life predestined or do human beings genuinely have free will? Does Christian authority rest in the Bible as Protestants believe – or in the traditions of the church as Roman Catholics believe? Or more recently people have asked, does ultimate authority lie in the inspired word of God as fundamentalists believe or in the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit as some Pentecostals believe? In these and many other issues Christians have so often become polarised. One group defends one extreme and another the opposite extreme. Congregations split. Denominations split.
I am convinced that, very often, the truth is not a matter of EITHER OR, but of BOTH AND. To be faithful to Scripture we have to learn not to take one extreme or the other in most issues, but rather to look for a middle way which holds both opposing points of view in tension. So in prayer and worship I have learned to value both structure and spontaneity. We must love BOTH God AND our neighbour. The question is not pre-destination OR free will, but how can we keep in tension BOTH divine sovereignty AND human responsibility? We need BOTH church traditions AND sacred scriptures. And it is not a choice between Word and Spirit, we need BOTH Word AND Spirit.
One area where very may Christians are polarised is concerned with the character of God and our attitudes to God. Some Christians emphasise just how holy God is. They realise that such a holy and righteous God demands a response of awe and humility and repentance and commitment. At the opposite extreme are Christians who focus on the love of God. They are overjoyed at God’s mercy and grace. They emphasise intimacy with God.
This single chapter 2 Samuel 6 has things to say to every one of us, whatever aspect of God’s character dominates our thinking about God and our response to God. Whether we naturally respond more strongly to God’s holiness or God’s love, this passage will challenge us to realise that the issue is “not either or but both and.” Our God expects a response, not of holiness OR joy, but of holiness AND joy.
Because in a single chapter we have two very significant events.
GOD STRUCK UZZAH DOWN DEAD!
2 Samuel 6:6 ¶ When they came to the threshing-floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God. 8 Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah. 9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, “How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me?”
Here we have a chilling reminder of the HOLINESS of God!
The ark of God was the covenant box which carried amongst other things the tablets of stone on which God had written the 10 Commandments. All through the wilderness it has represented God’s presence in the middle of his chosen people. It brought peace and prosperity and victory in battle and David was determined to bring it up to Jerusalem. No one was allowed to touch the covenant box. It was to be carried by hand on poles or here on a cart. But never touched by human hands! But for the best of motives Uzzah reached out and touched the ark, and even so God was angry. Very angry. Uzzah was struck dead!
Here is a solemn warning for us. God doesn’t just demand our love. He demands our obedience. Our faithfulness in small things as well as big things. Obedience. No wonder David was humbled and afraid of the Lord!
There are similar warning passages elsewhere in Scripture.
2 Kings 2:23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” 24 He turned round, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.
Our God is a Holy God. Those who oppose or ridicule His messengers provoke God’s anger!
In the New Testament, Acts 5 tells us of the occasion when Ananias and Sapphira lie to the apostles about the money they are giving to the church.
Peter confronted Ananias, “You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
Then Peter challenged Saphira.
9 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
We may find it difficult to believe in a God who strikes sinners dead in such a dramatic fashion. How true is it that the church today emphasises God’s love and neglects God’s holiness?
Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard! Not surprising! What is surprising is how few Christians feel that kind of fear towards the God who is still as holy now as he was when he struck down Uzzah and Ananaias and Sapphira! Some Christians are so casual in their approach to God. Some show an intimacy which treads a fine line with irreverence.
In particular I am troubled by those Christians who say that God is so loving that he would never punish sinners. God is so loving that there cannot be a hell. God is so loving that everybody will be saved. People can only say that by ignoring the whole of the Old Testament and huge chunks of the New Testament as well. Because the Bible tells us on almost every page that God is a Holy God. As C.S.Lewis puts it in his Narnia books, “Aslan is no tame Lion”. Yes God is a God of love – indeed God IS love. But God is also the holy God of justice righteousness. We should approach God with awe and reverence and indeed fear! If you are one of those people who is so overwhelmed by God’s love for you that you are in danger of forgetting his Holiness, read these passages again tonight.
Hebrews 12:28f Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, or our “God is a consuming fire.”
So 2 Samuel 6 warns us of God’s holiness. But in the very same chapter we read something which strikes me as amazing given the context.
DAVID DANCED BEFORE THE LORD
12 .. David went down and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. 16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
We might expect Uzzah’s experience to have left the whole nation of Israel terrified for the rest of their lives. Instead only three months later we find David once again bringing the Ark of the Covenant to his capital city, celebrating and full of joy, dancing before the Lord in a way which even his wife Michal found embarrassing David, King of all Israel, leaping and dancing! Scandalous!!
But then perhaps what is more scandalous is how little joy some Christians find in their faith. How few Christians know how to really let their hair down and dance before the Lord!” Now that IS a scandal.
You see even though he was living under the Old Covenant before Jesus Christ came and died and rose again, David could be full of the joy of salvation. So he danced before the Lord! This passage reminds us that it is alright for God’s chosen people to get carried away in worship sometimes. God expects that. God isn’t angry! God is pleased!
David danced, like the scandalous over-the-top adoration of the woman who wasted a whole jar of precious perfume anointing Jesus, even letting down her hair to dry his feet.
Matt 26:10 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? It is a fine and beautiful thing that she has done for me. Wherever this gospel is preached all over the world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Like the widow who showed totally irresponsible generosity, yet was praised by Jesus.
Luke 21:1 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
David was dancing a sacred dance. He danced before the Lord – and wouldn’t let anybody, even his wife, stop him!!
GNB 21 David answered, “I was dancing to honour the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and his family to make me the leader of his people Israel. And I will go on dancing to honour the Lord!”
Dancing. Joy. Celebration. Here is surely the opposite extreme from the reaction that we would expect David to have after Uzzah is struck dead. But it is a challenge to all of us who find it difficult to express ourselves in worship. It may be embarrassing to some of us to find more than 20 references in the Bible to dancing as a part of God’s people worshipping. But the verses are there – I counted them all!!
Ps 30:11 You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy.
Ps 87:7 They dance and sing, “In Zion is the source of all our blessings.”
Ps 149:3 Praise his name with dancing; play drums and harps in praise of him.
Ps 150:4 Praise him with drums and dancing. Praise him with harps and flutes.
You know of course that Elf and Safety would deem it too dangerous for me to dance before the Lord, or indeed anywhere else. We just can’t get the insurance! But still the principle is there. We should all feel totally free to express our joy in the Lord all the time. To celebrate the incredible amazing love which God has shown to us in Jesus Christ. Just because we recognise and respect and stand in awe of the holiness of God, we should still express the joy of our salvation! Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we should rejoice and be glad, even in the midst of persecution. We should indeed “leap for joy.”
John Stott said that “the main mark of justified believers is joy.” Not gloominess!
God struck Uzzah dead. But David still danced before the Lord. Not either – or but both – and. Not holiness or love and joy. But BOTH holiness and love, holiness and joy!
7 The swamp of sin – David and Bathsheba 2 Samuel 11
I grew up rambling in the Peak District every week even through the winter and then in the Lake District every summer. The great danger walking in those beautiful places is peat bogs. It is a danger like quicksand or a swamp. On the first step you are up to your ankle in mud. With the next step you can be in up to your knees. If you get in up to your waist there is a risk that you will never be able to get out without help. With a peat bog, or in quicksand, dip your toe in and in the end it can drag you under!
In this chapter, we read how David became trapped in the swamp of sin. A downward spiral leading to adultery and even murder. Just count how many of the 10 commandments the great King David breaks in this story. And the sadness is that at each step David could have turned back, he could have climbed out of the swamp of sin. But he didn’t. Instead he chose to sink even deeper. The great preacher Campbell Morgan wrote, “In the whole of the Old Testament literature there is no chapter more tragic or full of solemn and searching warning than this.”
It all started with
Neglect of his responsibilities
1 ¶ In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. … But David remained in Jerusalem.
David had responsibilities – he should have been commanding his armies at the battle front. Instead he was “bunking off!” Most of us have quite enough things in life that we should be doing. Plenty of good wholesome things we could be doing! Perhaps the best advice for anyone about how to avoid sin is to say that we should simply keep busy doing what we ought to be doing. Then we wouldn’t have nearly so much time to get tempted! The devil finds work for idle hands. Or as the hymn writer Isaac Watts puts it: Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.
Wrong place wrong time
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.
David should have been away fighting. Instead he was at home, maybe feeling guilty, maybe just feeling bored. It may be true that the number one cause of sin is boredom. People look for excitement – and sin seems exciting. Mae West once said that when she was faced with a choice between two evils, she would always take the one she hadn’t tried yet. We all have this bias within us which drags us down to making the wrong choice. That’s what the Bible means by “original sin”.
Perhaps David was just on that roof to enjoy the view and saw more than he had bargained for. Perhaps he was out looking for excitement. Either way he should have been somewhere else! You know that line in the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” We can’t pray, “lead us not into temptation,” if we deliberately put ourselves into a place where we know we are going to be tempted.
There are places that Christians should NEVER go! Things Christians should never watch on TV. Books and magazines Christians should never read. Internet sites Christians should never visit! The evangelist Billy Sunday said that the problem is that people think of sin like a cream cake instead of like a rattlesnake, We have to take sin seriously. We must treat sin like a rattlesnake that will kill us, not a cream cake to be enjoyed, “naughty but nice!” We cannot pray, “lead us not into temptation,” if we deliberately put ourselves into a place where we know we are going to be tempted.
David should never have been up on that roof. But he was. Then came
The first temptation
From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful. As my friend the evangelist Ben Alexander puts it, David’s sin wasn’t in catching that first glimpse of a beautiful woman bathing. The sin came when he went back for his binoculars.
We live in a fallen world. We are surrounded by images and sounds which could lead a saint astray. Christians aren’t meant to hide ourselves away from the world. A famous speaker once said, “You don’t become holy by living in a hole.” We are meant to be the light of the world – salt and light in a corrupt and sinful generation.
There is not sin in catching a glimpse – as long as we were not out as a peeping tom looking for the glimpse. The sin comes in gluing our eyes on things we shouldn’t be looking like. The sin comes when we allow our imagination to dwell on things which aren’t helpful to us.
The Apostle Paul said to the Colossians 3:1 ¶ Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 5 ¶ Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
As Christians we belong to God. We are united with Christ. So we must fix our minds on things that will bring us closer to God, not things which will take us away from God.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.
There are so many good and beautiful things to think about – don’t get dragged down to the world’s level. “Don’t let the world around squeeze you into its own mould.”
Romans 12:1 ¶ Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.
David saw Bathsheba. He was tempted for a moment. He should have repented and turned back from sin there and then! But he didn’t. Instead he did what we sinful people so often do.
David pursued the temptation
3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
There goes the 10th Commandment!
17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”
Coveting. Wanting what isn’t ours! We sin in our hearts long before we sin with our bodies. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5:27 ¶ “You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Here David allowed his heart to dwell on Bathsheba. He finds out who she is. He begins to plot how to seduce her. He should have stopped there but he didn’t. He could have turned back. But instead,
David made an opportunity for sin.
4 Then David sent messengers to get her.
David did not have to do that. Until then, the sin had been in his mind and heart. Now he is actively seeking a way to bring his fantasies to reality. So many times we only fall into sin because we actively make and opportunity for the sin to happen. We are tempted. We could resist the temptation but instead we plot and plan until we have made a way for us to break any of the 10 commandments, just as long as we don’t break the 11th commandment of course, “Thou shalt not get caught.” But as soon as we think we can get away with it …..
“David sent messengers.” A word of warning to us men. Young men, old men. Women, girls and older women, enjoy attention. If we pay them attention they will often respond. Men, we have an absolute responsibility not to pay women inappropriate attention. But of course the same applies to women. Women, don’t pay inappropriate attention to men either. Because we are all, male and female, so easy to lead astray.
Back in the days when I was at London Bible College it was known to many as London Bridal College, because of the number of lady students there who had chosen to study there primarily because it was the perfect place to find a husband who was called to become a minister or a missionary. The then Principal Michael Griffiths had a very important rule he insisted on regarding relationships between students of different genders.
1 Timothy 5:2 Treat older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
Here is a rule which applies to ALL Christian men and women of any age. Unless that other person is your wife (or husband) or fiancé, treat them with the same love and affection as a sister or a mother (or brother or father) and no more! No inappropriate attention.
The world around is obsessed with dating and having affairs. Newspapers and soaps may centre around who is dating who and who is doing all kinds of other things with who! As just one example, there is apparently a so-called “reality” television show called “Love Island” where a bunch of strangers are put together on a tropical island to see who pairs up with who. I have never watched even a minute of Love Island and I never will. One of the things which tells me that it is not the kind of programme which Christians should be watching is a newspaper article I saw which reported that the producers of the show had instructed the contestants to have more sex, on camera, because the viewers were losing interest. That is the world in which we live. But as Christians God calls us to be different!
1 Timothy 5:2 Treat older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.
“Don’t let the world around squeeze you into its own mould.”!!!
Of course David wasn’t the only guilty party! Of course Bathsheba would be likely to go to David if he sent messengers for her. She was flattered! And she was bored too with her husband away at war. She was probably feeling neglected. She wasn’t forced to go – she chose to go. David invited, but she chose to say yes. Men are simple creatures – we are very easily led. Men can easily be tempted by what women wear and things woman say. Bathsheba should have known better than to be bathing on her rooftop in full view of the palace. She should have run inside as soon as she saw David admiring her. But instead she stayed because she enjoyed being admired. As a married woman Bathsheba should never have accepted that invitation to the palace for tea – she knew very well where it was leading!
So women, and men, DON’T lead each other into temptation!! In this story as in so many wrecked lives, the results were predictable and tragic.
- She came to him, and he slept with her.
Adultery – sex with somebody else’s wife or husband. Breaking the Seventh Commandment. “You shall not commit adultery.” Both David and Bathsheba were already married. The significant thing is they weren’t married to each other! Adultery is any form of sex with a person you aren’t married to! David and Bathsheba were just as guilty as each other!
But they got caught out! Bathsheba became pregnant. She knew David was the father and once he came back from war her husband Uriah would know he was not the father! So Bathsheba calls on David for help. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
Well she would wouldn’t she! And I suppose some people would think it’s to his credit that David didn’t just do what so many unintending fathers do and deny everything, leaving Bathsheba holding the baby. No, what he does is much worse.
David tries to cover their tracks
8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.” One sin leads to another, and another, and another, deeper and deeper into the swamp of sin. His first try doesn’t work so then
David tried to get Uriah drunk
13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
David thought that if he could get him drunk, Uriah would forget his responsibilities. I don’t believe that drinking alcohol is necessarily wrong. But the Bible makes very clear that getting drunk is ALWAYS wrong.
Galatians 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; … drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The danger and the sin in getting drunk is that the person loses self-control. And once they lose self-control, the opportunities for sin increase and their resistance to temptation vanishes. Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery.
There are two churches I know well where teenage girls, under-age girls, got pregnant. Christian girls, from Christian homes, younger than sixteen years old, who were already mothers when they took their GCSEs. In each case because they got drunk and did what they should not have done!
But David’s scheming doesn’t work. So he plots to murder Uriah.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so that he will be struck down and die.
Notice how David gets his minions to do his dirty work. All power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And David sinks here as low as anyone can get.
16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.
The sixth commandment – you shall not kill. All because David caught a glimpse of a beautiful woman having a bath. He ends up dragged deeper and deeper under the swamp of sin. Will you notice how at the end,
David pretends to be the good guy!
26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.
There’s no reason to suppose Bathsheba ever knew about the plot to kill Uriah. I believe she just accepted David’s kindness without realising it was David who had taken her husband from her in the first place.
And I bet David breathed a sigh of relief. His adultery remained hidden from the world. He had got away with adultery and even murder. But of course, none of us can get away with anything. God the judge of all is watching over us all! God isn’t mentioned at all in the whole story of David and Bathsheba, until the last verse where we read this.
But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.
No surprise there! We will see what God will do about David’s sin next week. But for today this whole chapter serves as a warning for us all. David gave in to sexual temptation. That might not be a problem we grapple with. But there are so many other areas of temptation we face. Greed. Selfishness. Pride. The temptation to do whatever we like and just ignore God. As with so many stories in the Old Testament,
1 Corinthians 10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Steer clear of the swamp of sin. Dip your toes in and it WILL drag you under and kill you!
8 You Are the Man! True Repentance 2 Samuel 12
We saw last week great King David himself sinking deeper and deeper in the swamp of sin. How neglecting his responsibilities, boredom and being in the wrong place at the wrong time led him into a temptation which ended in up in adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah. At the end of the story we read this.
2 Samuel 11:26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.
For most people for most of the time God leaves our sins unpunished in this life. We will only realise and face the Wrath of God at the last judgement. But God had more things He wanted to do through King David, and God had things He wanted to teach us from the fall and rise of Great King David. So this we read how God dealt with David and Bathsheba. We learn about God’s grace and mercy and in particular we learn from David about the nature of true repentance.
True repentance begins with
CONVICTION of sin
God in his mercy sends his prophet to confront David with his sin. The simple parable of the two men and the precious pet lamb which the rich man stole from the poor man.
4 “Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!
Have you ever had that kind of crushing experience. You’ve sinned, you’ve broken God’s commandments, you think you’ve got away with it and then… you find out you haven’t. Somebody knows. Or maybe it is not the voice of a prophet but the voice of the Holy Spirit who inspires every prophet, the Holy Spirit inside us doing his work in unbelievers as Jesus had promised.
John 16: 8 When the Counsellor comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sinand righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
The primary work of God the Holy Spirit in the lives of people who do not yet believe is to convict them of sin and bring them to true repentance. And the Spirit continues that work in the lives of believers, bringing us to true repentance as part of His work of purification, making us more like Jesus.
The first step in true repentance comes when we acknowledge from the depth of our hearts, “I am the man!”
It’s very easy for people (whether we are Christians or not) to acknowledge we are sinners. Prayers of confession are very easy to say, “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sin and wickedness. We have sinned against you and against our fellow men, in thought and word and deed, through ignorance and weakness and our own deliberate fault.” Those words are easy to say, they are nice and general, and theologically correct without being particularly personal. But if somebody comes up to us and calls us a “miserable sinner” to our face we would be very tempted to punch them on the nose. And if they say, “You are a miserable sinner because you did, this and this and this,” we would be very very uncomfortable.
True repentance begins with “You are the man!” With recognising whether that challenge comes from another person or from the voice of the Holy Spirit deep within that, yes, I am a sinner because of this and that and the other specific sins. Yes God is angry with ME because of THESE things! Yes, I need to repent. Even me! Especially me! “I am the man!” Conviction of sin.
Conviction of sin lead on to
CONFESSION of sin
Did you hear how David responded when Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”? God’s prophet, Nathan, showed great courage in saying such a thing to the great King of Israel. But David didn’t lock Nathan in prison or have him executed, as many kings might have done? David didn’t try to justify or excuse his sins. He does not attempt to present his actions as if they were good, or within his rights as a king. He does not protest his innocence.
David realised the sinfulness of his own sin. Far worse than stealing a pet lamb, he had stolen another man’s wife. In his reaction to Nathan’s parable, David as King had already pronounced the death sentence on David the adulterer and murderer.
2 Sam 12: 5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
David knows he can’t escape God’s wrath. He does the only thing he can do. He judges himself and he repents. He takes responsibility for his sin. David doesn’t presume on God’s grace. He doesn’t say, “God is good, He he’s bound to forgive me because of all my good deeds. No! David simply says, “I have sinned against the Lord!“
2 Sam 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
David confesses his sin. Very unusually we actually have the very text of David’s prayer of confession written for us in Psalm 51:
[For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.]
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. …
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Those are the very words David used when he confessed his sin to God. David mourned greatly because of his sin. He had a broken and crushed heart before God. David ‘s faith was not superficial but sincere. He had sunk into the swamp of sin – but he didn’t want to stay there. He begged God to get him out! That is true confession!!
And David showed God he was sincere in his repentance. David showed God and everybody else he meant business by praying and fasting. True confession is not always public. But if we mean business with God then our confession will sometimes be public. Certainly there would be greater blessing if we were to “confess our sins to one another and pray for one another” more often, as James 5:16 commands us.
Conviction and confession lead on to
CLEANSING from sin
So then, after David repented, what did God say to him through the mouth of the prophet Nathan? God did not tell him, “Go and do some more good works and I will erase your sins!”? No, God never says that!
2 Samuel 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
What amazing grace! What love! What mercy! We serve and worship a God who is not only a Holy God, a God of justice, but also a God of mercy and forgiveness and loving kindness. Praise the Lord!
Looking back on the whole experience, David could write the words of Psalm 32:
1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”- and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Conviction. Confession. Cleansing. Now, there are many who want the story to end here, with 2 Samuel 12:13: “The Lord has taken away your sin!” We love stories with perfect, happy endings. But this story also reminds us,
Sin has CONSEQUENCES
In real life, we can be forgiven for breaking the window, but we still have to sweep up the broken glass and repair the window. There are always consequences to our actions, and like it or not, we have to live on with those consequences, just as David did.
14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”
The tragic death of this innocent child points us to an important truth; our sin affects not only ourselves, but also the people around us. The long-reaching effects of one moment of sinful self-indulgence can be disastrous. In the moments of temptation, we seldom pause to take that fact into account. If only we could see the results of our actions in advance, we would say “no” to sin much more often. You may feel that it is unfair that David got away with his sin but that this child died. You are right. It is unfair. But sadly that is often how sin works. When people lie or steal, or do much worse, it is often the people around them who end up being hurt. Even when there is conviction and confession and cleansing, sin still has consequences.
But at the same time God’s grace is at work. He had plans for both David and Bathsheba. In God’s grace there is always hope of restoration.
2 Sam 12:24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; 25 and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.
Who would think that a relationship build on such a sin spoiled foundation could even survive, much less prosper? But God demonstrates His grace in the transformation of a relationship that had once brought even the condemnation of death. This relationship was not to become “healed but always deficient”. Through God’s grace they would become a “healed and holy household”. That marriage produced Solomon, the wisest man ever born. He succeeded his father as King, and Solomon, David and Bathsheba are named as ancestors of the Lord Jesus Christ. This restored, healed, sanctified marriage of David and Bathsheba bears both God’s hand and His blessing.
God never brings us condemnation without offering us grace and healing. Time and again the Bible says this – God wants to have an intimate relationship with each of us, and goes out of His way to invite us into that relationship. The whole point of Nathan’s parable was not to punish, David but to restore him, to bring him to repentance.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or where you’ve been — God’s healing, restoring grace is available for you, just like it was for David. All we have to do is be willing to face God — and ourselves — with the same painful honesty that was David’s first step toward rebuilding his life. Our lives can be healed, restored, and rebuilt, just like David’s was. It all began with Nathan’s words, “You are that man!” When we get to the point of admitting before God, “I am that man. I am that woman”, then God’s forgiveness and cleansing and restoration can be ours.
Conviction of sin – confession of sin – cleansing from sin. This is God’s grace. This is God’s mercy. If God can forgive David, he can forgive you and me. Deception. Adultery. Murder. However great the sin, God’s mercy is greater! IF we truly repent. When God convicts us of sin, if we confess our sin then God if faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered! Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit!” (Psa. 32:1,2)
9 David and Mephibosheth 2 Samuel 9:1-13
2 Samuel 9:1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
This lovely story of David and Mephibosheth was much loved and often preached on by ministers of a century ago. They often looked at the Old Testament through the eyes of the New Testament. They loved to find ways in which the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament. They called it the principle of Typology. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is One and the same as the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David. So they saw patterns (which they called “types”) in Old Testament events and characters which are fulfilled in New Testament events and characters (which they called the “anti-types”).
So preachers a century ago told their congregations that David is a “type” for Christ. And in this story David’s grace to Mephibosheth gives us a wonderful picture of God’s grace to us. David represents Christ and we are Mephibosheth.
- We are hiding, poor, weak, lame, and fearful before our King comes to us
- We are separated from our King because of our wicked ancestors
- We are separated from our King because of our deliberate actions
- We separated ourselves from the King because we didn’t know him or His love for us
- Our King sought us out before we sought Him
- The King’s kindness is extended to us for the sake of another
- The King’s kindness is based on covenant
- We must receive the King’s kindness in humility
- The King returns to us what we lost in hiding from Him
- The King returns to us more than what we lost in hiding from Him
- We have the privilege of dining at the King’s table
- We are received as sons at the King’s table, with access to the King and fellowship with Him
- We receive servants from the King
- The King’s honor does not immediately take away all our weakness and lameness, but it gives us a favor and standing that overcomes its sting and changes the way we think about ourselves
David represents Christ and we are Mephibosheth. Many preachers will preach it! This is all very well. If that is a blessing to you, great! But if that is what it is all about what does this passage really have to say to us? I prefer those preachers who tried to make the passage practical relevant and practical to their hearers. Those few preachers who saw that David’s grace to Mephibosheth is much more a pattern for us in serving and ministering to others. For me in this story, David gives us an example to follow – we are meant to be like David!
TWO REASONS WHY DAVID LOVED MEPHIBOSHETH
2 Sam 9:1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
David remembered his friendship with Jonathan. We thought before the summer about David and Jonathan and friendship. We thought about the importance of true friendships and caring for our friends, about hospitality and about sharing our faith with our friends. Here we see that true friendship will be forgiving, will be generous, will reach out and bless not only our friends but their families and their friends too.
Jonathan sent David a message which saved his life. David owed Jonathan a debt of friendship and he wanted to repay it. There is an example for us here not to take our friends for granted, but to reach out in love to them even across the generations. Here was Jonathan’s last surviving son Mephibosheth. To honour and remember his dearest friend Jonathan, David could show kindness to his son.
“A faithful friend is an image of God.” Christians should be known as people who know how to be good friends!
David kept his promise to Saul. We looked before the summer at the occasion when David spared Saul’s life when he could have murdered him in a cave.
1 Samuel 24:18 You have just now told me of the good you did to me; the LORD gave me into your hands, but you did not kill me. 19 When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the LORD reward you well for the way you treated me today. 20 I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. 21 Now swear to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” 22 So David gave his oath to Saul.
David had given Saul his word. So I believe at the back of David’s wish to find Saul’s descendents, as well as his friendship with Jonathan, David was motivated by his integrity. His wish to keep his promise to Saul. As well as being good friends, Christians should be known as people who keep their promises. As people who can be relied upon to do as they say they will.
Of course we always keep our promises – you will say. But let me share with you one painful lesson from my visits to Uganda. Sometimes in our English way of speaking if somebody asks us to do something, we will put off making a decision one way or the other. “We’ll see.” We reply. “I’ll let you know.” In Uganda that kind of talk is taken as a “yes”. Unless you say bluntly “no”, the African mindset takes anything else as a “yes.” Sometimes we are afraid to say no. Afraid of hurting somebody’s feelings. Afraid sometimes of making difficult decisions.
Christians should be known as people who keep their promises – and part of that is never to commit ourselves to something we are not certain we can do. Politicians are very good at hedging their bets – giving noncommittal answers. Jesus said, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” We Christians should be very careful always to do what we promise!
Whether David’s principle motivation was friendship for Jonathan or keeping his promise, this is still an inspiring and challenging story. There are at least
FOUR WAYS IN WHICH DAVID’S LOVE WAS REMARKABLE
1. REMARKABLE BECAUSE MEPHIBOSHETH WAS LAME
3 The king asked, “Is there no-one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” … 3 Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.” …13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet
In those days there was great prejudice against the disabled, the impoverished, the disadvantaged, the widows and orphans and blind and lame. Just as there is in many parts of society today, against AIDS victims and refugees and single parent families as well as those of different races and colours and religions and sexual orientations.
It is striking that three times when Mephibosheth is mentioned in 2 Samuel, his disability is also mentioned. It was significant that David should help somebody who was lame. Like David, we should look out for the poor, weak, lame, and hidden, and work at ways of blessing them. Christians should be known as those who welcome and care for other people who are different from us in some way.
2. REMARKABLE because MEPHIBOSHETH WAS DAVID’S RIVAL
Mephibosheth was Saul’s grandson. He was the last survivor of Saul’s house. This means that according to the prior dynasty of Saul, Mephibosheth had the right to the throne. He was a son of the first-born son of the king Jonathan, and other potential heirs were all dead. In a political sense David could have seen Mephibosheth as a rival or a threat. Mephibosheth was clearly in hiding or David wouldn’t have had to ask if any of Jonathan’s family were still alive. I am sure Mephibosheth was terrified when he appeared before David. Was this talk of “showing kindness for Jonathan’s sake” all just a trick by David to capture him and eliminate his last rival? The fact was, this was no trick, but genuine grace.
We thought about loving our enemies when read how David spared Saul’s life. We saw how David resisted the temptations to make all his problems go away by murdering Saul, to take revenge or take a short cut to God’s blessings. And here again we see David blessing his one remaining rival instead of taking revenge on him for all the hurt Saul had brought to David. David loving his enemies yet again.
Who are your rivals? In work? In family life? Among your neighbours? In the church? In this competitive age of yuppies and guppies there is so much rivalry for success and popularity and power. The pressure is on all of us from a very early age. Time and again the Bible warns us of the dangers of envy! 10th Commandment warns us, do not covet! “A person is truly great when he is not envious of his rival’s success.”
History tells of a statue that was erected to celebrate a famous victory in the ancient Olympic games.. It so aroused the envious hatred of the rivals that one of them sneaked out at night to topple the statue. He found it so heavy he had to put quite an effort into rocking it back and forth. When he finally got it to topple it fell the wrong way and crush him to death. That is what bitterness and envy and rivalry can lead to. Whoever your competitors or your rivals or even your enemies may be, the Bible teaches us not only that it is wrong to envy. This story reminds us that God also calls us to bless our rivals, to reach out in love towards them and to care for them!!
3. REMARKABLE BECAUSE OF EXCEPTIONAL GENEROSITY
Note how David gave Mephibosheth so much more than he could possibly have hoped for!
7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” ,,,
9 ¶ Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.
What an outstanding example of generosity! Like David, we should seek out our enemies and seek to bless them. And we should be sure to bless them much much more than they deserve, because that is how much God blesses us!
4. REMARKABLE BECAUSE DAVID TOOK THE INITIATIVE
David didn’t have to do anything for Mephibosheth. Most people had forgotten that he ever existed. David’s friends were glad that Saul and his descendents were off the scene forever. But David took the initiative.
2 Sam 9:1 ¶ David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
3 The king asked, “Is there no-one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
HERE is the heart of the story. To whom can I show GOD’S KINDNESS??
- Human love doesn’t stretch to the lame and disabled and disadvantaged – God’s kindness does!
- Human love doesn’t seek to bless and help our enemies and our rivals – God’s kindness does!
- Human love stops at meeting the needs of others – God’s kindness goes beyond that to give much, much more than we need or deserve!
- Human love helps family and friends – God’s kindness takes the initiative to reach out and seek and save even the lost and forgotten and hidden.
Here is the message of the story of David and Mephibosheth for us today. Is there anybody I could bless today? Is there anyone to whom I can show God’s kindness?
REFLECTION – Who does God want me to bless??