July 23, 2015

Be careful what you pray for?

2 Samuel 11:1–12:31, 2 Peter 1:1–8, Psalm 139:1–24

The story of David and Bathsheba reads like a soap opera. David stayed home when his army went to war, saw a woman that fancied him, got her pregnant, and tried to get her warrior husband to go home and sleep with her. When he refused out of loyalty to his fellow soldiers still engaged in war, David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” (2 Samuel 11:14–15)

David sent the letter for this man’s destruction using the intended victim to deliver it! This shows how the power of lust and sin blinded his eyes and messed up his thinking. The next step was a bit more logical . . .  

“When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” (2 Samuel 11:26–27) He displeased the Lord? Duh!

But David was still in that “duh” state. How could he be approached? He was the king, after all. These days, counselors sometimes advise wives to use a story-telling technique with their husbands when they are oblivious to a problem. The story needs to parallel the problem, but somehow fit with what the problem-person does know. This way, he might “get it.” Nathan the prophet used this technique with David.

“And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

David had been a shepherd. He understood this story and his anger rose up against the man in the story. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” (2 Samuel 12:1–6)

Imagine his horror when Nathan told him he was that man! The story told in kindness by the prophet challenged this king and brought conviction and repentance. God spared his life, yet David’s story takes a turn for the worse from that point on. It went from victories to chaos. Some say this happened because of his adultery and manslaughter, but when I read today’s psalm, I wondered. These words were written by David:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23–24)

I don’t know when he wrote that, but I do know that God answers prayers like this. In fact, I’ve often told people that if you ask God to show you the sin in your life, you’d better brace yourself. His revelation might come through reading Scripture, but more often sin is revealed when the Lord takes His hand off and I begin to see what He has been so gracious to restrain. Without His hand on my life, I realize my capacity for evil.

Peter wrote that because of Jesus, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)

David was God’s man for his day, but he was still a sinner like everyone else. In a moment, God revealed the evil in him. David’s self-centeredness overwhelmed his desire to obey God.

From this story, many lessons unfold. I’m not to excuse myself from spiritual warfare or from being involved in the building of God’s kingdom. I can take a rest on my rooftop, but I need to stay away from temptation. When it does happen, I need to run to Jesus before my sinful desires lead me down that path to action and then destruction.

Because of Jesus, sin does not have to happen, but if it does, there is forgiveness in Him. Seeing my weaknesses is an unsettling and difficult experience, but God will use if for good. The good happens when I confess, am cleansed, and then set free from my sin so I can become more like Him.

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