Crime and Punishment (2018-0722)

. 5 min read

July 2018, Christ Mountain Top
the Psalm, Psalm 51.1-17
Luke 7.36-50
2 Samuel 11.1-27 and 12.1-14
Moment, UM ARMY video
Since I first began reading political news – and I
started early – I’ve seen stories of power, corruption, and sex. But David’s
story takes the cake.
To this point in the stories, we have been presented with
David the hero. Now we encounter David the tragic figure.
      In the
ancient Near East, kings were gods, or sons of the gods, and they had absolute
power. David forgets that for Israel, the LORD is King and that he himself is
under that authority. Instead of serving God and serving God’s people, David
serves his own selfish desires, compels Bathsheba to come to him, and
eventually adds her to his already large harem.
      In addition
to this essential failure, this idolatry, of David’s, he also fails to do the
work that he should be doing as king. The story tells us, up front, that this
is the season when the king should be at war. But he is not. Instead of
readiness for battle and for victory, he is bored, lacking focus, perhaps even
looking to make his own trouble. There’s a lesson in this for us: Be about your own business – most of us
have more to do than we can get around to doing.  If we’re busy with it, we’ll be less likely
to have the “idle hands” or the roaming eyes that get us into trouble.
      Then, David
does what many of us do when we find ourselves in trouble. He tries to cover it
up. First, by getting Uriah home to lie with his wife. But Uriah has too much
honor. He knows it is the season for war, so, unlike the king, he camps out.
Then David has “no choice” but to murder him, so he sends a note to his
favorite “fixer”, Joab. The lesson:
only lead to bigger problems
. “O, what a deadly web we
weave/When once we practice to deceive.” 
The way to freedom and forgiveness is to confess sin.
Nathan is the most courageous figure in the story! He
confronts a king who has already committed murder to keep his secret safe.  Nathan is a “court prophet”, a prophet who is
paid by the king. And we all know that purse strings can turn into puppet
strings. But Nathan chose to fear no one, to be a truly independent agent.
lesson for us in our struggle with sin: Respect, nurture, and promote persons who will hold you accountable.
Being surrounded by “yes men” who “rubber stamp” your every whim only serves to
enlarge the ego, fuel our fantasies, and design our destruction. The lack of
independent, honest assessment and accountability has doomed many good ideas
and good people.

Nathan confronts David with an ingenious story, one
designed to raise David’s anger, his natural sense of right and wrong. Then,
Nathan sets the hook and declares, “You are the man.” It is great
communication, perfect use of a story. It also reveals something about our
favorite hidden sins: They are often the same things, or parallel things, that
raise our ire, that make us indignant, that inspire our righteous anger towards
others. The lesson: The things that make
you angriest
tend to be extensions of your own sins. Pay attention to that
and you will be less angry with others and more conscious of your own hang-ups.
David, fortunately for him, for his soul, for his
rule, immediately comes clean before God and people. Nathan gives him the gift
of pardon, immediate and complete: “Now the LORD has put away your sin; you
shall not die” (2 Samuel 12.13). Nevertheless, sin still has natural consequences
even when we are forgiven. Nathan gives David a preview, and if we read further
in the story we learn the details. His son Amnon rapes his daughter Tamar.
Tamar’s brother Absalom murders his brother Amnon. Absalom rebels against his
father and as part of the takeover rapes ten of David’s concubines in broad
daylight on the palace roof – the same roof from which David had spied on
Bathsheba – a bold attempt to declare David impotent and no longer in charge.
Absalom dies in the rebellion. Later, close to David’s death, another son
attempts to upset David’s plan for succession and pays the price with his life.
As Nathan warns him, this single night of forbidden pleasure
has interest, compounding annually and paying a big dividend of trouble.
      Yet, we ask, what was the cost for one
night of private pleasure? It didn’t hurt anyone, did it? How often when we
think about sin do we think of such costs? How often when we are tempted do we
realize what sin can do? Our perspective of sexual sin is colored by the
television: a night of wonderful, beautiful passion. Very rarely do our
fantasies include the specter of sexually transmitted disease, children
conceived out of wedlock, divorce and child custody battles, or the long-term
emotional effect on our children.
      Very rarely when we are offered our first
smoke do we think about cancer. Very rarely when we are invited to get high do we
think about losing control of our lives. But even sin that doesn’t make the
typical list of public vices has a price. Pride destroys our capacity for
intimacy and sets us up against God, anger distracts us from our own problems
and drives away those we love, fear blinds us to truth and places false limits
on our potential?
      One more lesson: SIN COSTS TOO MUCH! Not one of us–not you, not me–can afford to
pay the price. SO DON’T DO IT! But how? 
We cannot simply appeal to willpower–we all find ourselves to be far
too weak. We need something more. We need someONE more. David prays, in his
confession psalm (Psalm 51),
in me a clean heart, O God,
put a new and right spirit within me.
David needed other people, like Nathan. We can’t recover, we can’t live clean,
without God and others. For these reasons, the twelve steps include a
significant focus on God and people as partners in our fight against sin. (Read
steps that begin in bold.)
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had
become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could
restore us to sanity.
a decision to turn our will
and our lives over to the
care of God as we understood Him.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
to God, to ourselves and to another
human being the exact
nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of
Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
Made a list of persons we had harmed, and became willing to
make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except
when to do so would injure them or others.
10.  Continued
to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11.  Sought through prayer and
meditation to improve our conscious contact with God

as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the
power to carry that out.
12.  Having
had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this
message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
all the tragedy in this story, all the bad news running in highlights and sound
bites, there is also incredibly good news. Forgiveness and redemption is given
by God. Out of all of this tragedy, an unforeseen good developed…. It was
through David and Bathsheba’s descendants that Jesus Christ was born. No matter
what we have done, no matter the troubles we have gotten ourselves in to, there
is nothing that cannot be redeemed by the grace of God in Christ.
      That’s why we’re here today – not because
we’re a bunch of perfect folks but because we know how desperately we need