A Ministry of Truth

Series: How People Change

Sermon by David Felker on Sep 16, 2018

2 Samuel 12:1-15

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Please turn with me in your Bible to 2 Samuel chapter 12; 2 Samuel chapter 12. It begins on page 263 in the church Bible in front of you. We have been in a mini-series the last few weeks. You see the title in your bulletin, “How People Change.” We’re looking through the lens of the David story, looking through the lens of the David narrative in 1 and 2 Samuel at some of the things God uses to change David and some of the things He uses to change us, His people. And so two weeks ago we looked at David’s friendship with Jonathan. That was a life-changing friendship. David never would have made it without Jonathan. Last week we looked at 2 Samuel chapter 7, at the Davidic covenant, where God comes to David, He gives him these promises, and then He calls him to believe them and be changed by them. This evening we’re looking at 2 Samuel chapter 12 at David and Nathan.

Just before we jump in and read, something to consider. Just a few years ago, there were two sports stories that were separated by only five months and they became really some of the biggest human interest stories in that stretch of time where two college football coaches, Joe Paterno and Bobby Petrino, were fired - Paterno on November 9, 2011, and Petrino five months later on April 10, 2012. About a week before he died, Joe Paterno, known as JoePa, the most victorious football coach in Division One history, who was fired for covering up a child sex abuse scandal, about a week before he died he broke down sobbing to his family and he said to his son, Jay, "I have spent my whole life, I have spent my whole life trying to make my name mean something, and now it's gone." Bobby Petrino, one of the top football coaches in the country, lost his dream job at Arkansas after he was exposed. He was exposed following a motorcycle accident with his mistress on the back of the bike. And he said in an interview shortly after - some of you will remember this; I still remember the press conference when he's standing there with a neck brace and his face is cut up with scrapes all over his face. And he said, "How did I end up in this ditch? How did I end up in this ditch?"

I think it's always possible that there's someone here or that there's someone listening who's really living a parallel life, who's living a dangerous double life. And I share those two stories just to remind us that that doesn't ever end well. Proverbs chapter 6 verse 23 asks us, "Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned by it?" And of course that answer is, "No. You will be burned." That doesn't ever end well. Maybe your story, your shame, is smaller in reach, less public than Paterno, than Petrino, but it's none the less heavy. And you know the fatigue. You are tired because you know the fatigue of a double life and you've thought about leaving it all but you have a divided life, a divided heart. You're stuck and silent with your shadows and secrets and now it's time to come clean. Or maybe it's not a double life. I think for most of us we aren't there, but there's a spiritual slumber or there's a callousness with our sin. Or maybe there's a private sin and we've created these buffers, these parameters to keep it private. Or maybe we've lost our first love, Jesus Christ. And just Sunday after Sunday, we're posing, we're playing a game, we're pretending because there's something wrong in the innermost parts of our heart.

I think wherever you’re at tonight, like whatever those categories you land in, it would be God’s kindness, it would be God’s kindness to pursue you tonight and to expose you and to give you the courage to walk into the light. It would be God’s kindness. And so if you came here tonight feeling bruised, if you came here brought low by your sin, if you came here with a past and you long to be changed, you long to be different, to be ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, you want to be set free, you can’t clench your fist and change yourself though - what do you do? This passage is for you, 2 Samuel chapter 12, the story of David. And so before we jump in and read, let me pray for us. Let’s pray.

God of all grace, we pray that You would come after us tonight, that You would confront us where we need to be confronted, that You would cleanse us where we need to be cleansed, that You would comfort us and change us where we need it. We pray that You would uncover what is going on in our hearts and restore us back to You. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

2 Samuel chapter 12, beginning in verse 1. This is God’s Word:

"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.' Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and 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.' Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'' David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.' And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.' Then Nathan went to his house."

Amen. This is God’s Word.

Tonight we’re going to consider the folly and the friend and the fruit. And so the folly of David’s sin, the friend David needed, this friend who saved his life, and then the fruit of David’s repentance.

The Folly of David’s Sin

And so first we see the folly of David's sin. Of course, we're picking up in the middle of the narrative, in the middle of this story, and what a difference a few chapters make. If you turn back to chapter 9, you see the glorious story of Mephibosheth. It's a great Bible name, Mephibosheth. If you're a kid, say that name tonight five times as fast as you can - Mephibosheth; it's a great Bible name! It's one of the most glorious stories in the Bible where David, out of great love for Jonathan, where David, out of great commitment to his covenant with Jonathan - Jonathan said in 1 Samuel 20 verse 17, "Do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever." And David swore to that. And so we see in chapter 9 that he pursued Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth should have been an enemy of the state; he should have been an enemy of the state because he was Saul's grandson. Saul had over and over again tried to kill David, and so Mephibosheth was a potential rallying point for David's enemies. But David pursued him. David showered him with kindness, with hesed love, and he makes him an adopted son. And then he pours out his inheritance on him - all of Saul's land, all of Saul's possessions - "And you shall always eat at the king's table." It is a glorious story of David's love. It's a glorious picture, a glorious window into God's heart. God is the King who pursued people who weren't even looking for Him - His enemies. "While we were still enemies, Christ died for us." It's a glorious story. What a difference a few chapters make.

The Sin of David

It’s a familiar story in chapter 11. Look with me in chapter 11. It’s a familiar story when in verse 1, in the spring of the year after David has experienced - I think this is important - he’s experienced great success and there’s no real trial, there’s no real suffering in his life, we read that he remained in Jerusalem. So he remained in Jerusalem while, look at the text; you see in the text his nephew, Joab, the captain of his army, leads David’s men into battle. And so David has experienced success, there’s no real suffering in his life, he’s neglecting his responsibilities as king to protect the kingdom. And so there’s soul neglect, spiritual neglect at play, and he stays at the palace. And he sees a woman, Bathsheba, bathing in her rooftop and he brings her to his home and he impregnates her. And then instead of hearing the words - look at verse 5, she said, “I am pregnant” - instead of hearing those words and saying, “We must go to the priest. I must confess my sin. I must bring this into the light,” he lies and he hides and he covers it up. And he has her husband, Uriah the Hittite, one of his best and most loyal soldiers, killed in battle.

And so David is holding this deep and dark secret for at least nine months. Matthew Henry commented on David’s state in this time and says that, “During all that time it is certain that David penned no songs. His heart was out of tune and his soul like a tree that has life in the root only.” And so that is David’s life. I think one could only imagine the unrest, the insomnia, the instability and the terror of his soul. We have a little window, I think Psalm 32 provides a picture, David penned Psalm 32 after his confession - it provides a picture of what it was like for David to hang onto this sin. Psalm 32 verses 3 and 4 read, “When I kept silent, when I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me. My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” And so that is David’s life.

David’s Human-driven Manipulation

Tonight we're going to look at the aftermath. So what happens next? You see in verse 1 of our reading, "The Lord sent Nathan to David." If I've counted correctly, the verb, "sent," "The Lord sent Nathan to David," that verb appears only once in chapter 12, while it appears eleven times in chapter 11. So in chapter 11 verse 1, "David sent to Joab." In verse 3, "David sent and inquired about Bathsheba." In verse 4, "David sent messengers and took her." In verse 5, "She sent and told David I am pregnant." It appears two more times in verse 6, in verse 14, 18, 22, 25, and 27. What's the point? I think the point is that David is in the middle of it all, manipulating it. And in chapter 11 it's all human-driven.

I was listening to a sermon this week by Ralph Davis on this text, Old Testament commentator Ralph Davis, and he posed this question that I couldn’t get out of my head this week. He said, “What if the Lord abandoned us? What if the Lord abandoned us when we succeeded at sin?” What if the Lord abandoned us when we’re in the middle of it all, we’re manipulating it all, and we’re keeping the chaos at bay? What if the Lord abandoned us when we succeeded in our sin?

But God pursues David. Verse 1. He sent Nathan to David. He will not let David go. So He goes after him. His grace pursues him. He doesn’t give up on him. When David cannot and will not extract himself from this chaos, verse 1, “The Lord sent Nathan.” And so that’s the folly. That’s the folly of David’s sin.

The Friend

Second, we see this friend; we see the friend that the Lord sent to David. The friend that saved his life. "Nathan" in Hebrew means "a gift." Nathan was a gift to David. He tells this story to David in verses 1 to 4 of the rich man and the poor man. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; the poor man had one little lamb that he's cared for, that he's loved. The rich man takes the poor man's lamb to serve his own self-interest. David of course, in the parable, is the rich man who has everything. Uriah the Hittite, of course, is the poor man who has been robbed. And David, surely knowing as a shepherd what it was like to protect a vulnerable lamb, what's his response in verse 5? "The rich man deserves to die. He must pay it back four times." That's what Exodus says; that's what Leviticus says. He shall restore the lamb fourfold. And then the climax, verse 7 - Nathan says to David, "You are the man!" In other words, "You are the rich man!"

Now it’s possible that this is an actual case that Nathan brought before David. He seems, though, to do something subversive, something Jesus often does. He tells a parable. He tells a parable and then he puts the person in it. This story that Nathan tells David had a very precise purpose. It was to expose David’s heart and to show David what is true. We talked about friendship two weeks ago. This is the Biblical teaching on friendship. If you love someone, if you love someone, you will help them find their heart. If you love someone, you will help them find their heart.

There’s a great scene in a movie that came out a few years ago where the new king of Britain had a stammering problem. He couldn’t speak without a stutter. And he starts working with a speech therapist who becomes his friend. And this therapist keeps pushing in on his deepest insecurities. And in one session, he keeps pushing and he keeps pushing and he keeps pushing until the king finally says what he had been trying to get him to say. And the king says, “I have a voice! I have a voice!” And his friend the therapist says, “Yes, you do.”

That is like what happened with David here. His friend Nathan, the prophet of the Lord, went past his defenses and helped him hear his own voice. He helped him find his heart. And you need a friend like Nathan. And you need to be a friend like Nathan. Everyone in this room, you need a Nathan. Are you going to keep running from friends who love you because you are afraid, you are afraid to be confronted? You’re going to keep running from people who love you? Do you have a friend like this? We lose our hearts and we need friends who will help us find it. Psalm 19 verse 12, “Who can discern his own errors? Who can discern his own errors?” In other words, you cannot find your heart without a friend. You cannot see your life without a friend. You cannot hear your voice without a Nathan, without this gift.

I think we can learn something from the courage of Nathan here. Kings aren’t known to be the easiest to rebuke. It must have been tempting for Nathan to dodge this, to deflect this, to sidestep this, to stay away from this. David’s going to do what he wants to do. If David wants to change his mind, David can change his mind. David’s the king. Likewise, it is very easy to excuse yourself when you know, when you know that a friend needs the Word of the Lord. It takes courage when a friend is in a plane that’s crashing. It takes courage when they’re in a house that’s burning. It takes courage when, in terms of their decisions and their heart, that there’s a certain amount of blindness about their sin like with David here. Nathan takes his courage in his hands and with great care, with great wisdom - this is ministry of truth - he wounds, but to heal, to help his friend find his heart. So Nathan comes to David with the Word of the Lord.

The Consequences

In verses 10 to 12, Nathan goes into the consequences of David’s sin. These verses are a guide to the rest of the book. They inform the next eight chapters of 2 Samuel and appropriately they come with the sword which David used against Uriah. “The sword shall never depart from your house.” And then sex - “I will take your wives before your eyes and given them to your neighbor and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.” And so the sword and sex and then the really weighty one in verse 14. David, according to Old Testament law, deserved to die. So someone has to shed blood. And verse 14 tells us that it’s going to be David’s son. “Your child will die.”

Now you may be like me. You may hear that and you may think, “That’s really unfair. The child didn’t do anything wrong. It was David who did wrong.” And of course, you’re right. And that’s the point of the text. It should have been David. David should have received the sickness, the sickness unto death that the child received, but that’s the point of the text. You see, the child is a picture of Jesus who will be fully innocent who will bear the sins of all His people. So for your hardening and for your hiding, He has paid it. For your self-obsession, for your spiritual slumber, He’s paid for it. Your coldness and your callousness; your shadows and your secrets - He has paid for it.

Before moving on, one detail of this story that is moving to me, a detail that is maybe not as well known, we know that David and Bathsheba had several children. One of them was Solomon. Solomon, though, had a little brother. Solomon had a little brother. And guess what his name was. We’re told in 1 Chronicles chapter 3 verse 5, Solomon’s little brother’s name was Nathan. That’s beautiful to me. So that is David saying, “Nathan, you saved my life. You are a gift to me. I am a debtor to you. And my son’s name shall be called Nathan.”

The Fruit of David’s Repentance

And that leads us to the fruit; the fruit of David’s repentance. We read in verse 13 that David confesses his sin. He says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” You can notice the contrast between King Saul who, when confronted with his sin in 1 Samuel 15, he hardened his heart. Notice the contrast in King Saul and David here in verse 13. And don’t be fooled by the brevity. David penned two psalms after this confession - Psalm 32 which I referenced earlier, and Psalm 51. If you’ve got a Bible, let’s turn there together. There’s a sense in which we can’t look at 2 Samuel chapter 12 without also looking at Psalm 51.

David’s Greatest Victory

One of my favorite preachers, Joe Novenson, said that “If I were to ask you, ‘What is David’s greatest victory? What’s David’s greatest victory?’ that you would probably say David’s greatest victory was the giant. David’s greatest victory was taking down Goliath.” And Novenson said, “Psalm 51 is his greatest victory. This is the greatest victory of David, given to him by God, on the turf of his heart, over his sin and his past.” I want you to notice in Psalm 51 that David is confessing the truth. So he’s found his voice. He has heard his voice, he’s found his heart; he now sees himself clearly. In fact, notice the language. No less than eighteen times in this psalm, David is pleading with God; he’s begging God, “Have mercy on me. Purge me. Wash me. Cleanse me. Create in me. Uphold me. Sustain me. Deliver me.” This is a posture of need.

Turns to God

I want you to look just down at verses 7 to 12. All we can do is just skip a rock across this, but David turns to God. David focuses on his heart. And I want you to notice the movement of his prayer. He uses cleansing language and then he moves to restorative language and then to creation language in verse 10. And this is, I think, a great model for us in our repentance. So look at verse 7 at the cleansing language. David prays, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean.” So David knows that he needs inner cleansing, so he prays, “Be a priest to me. Sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on me to wash me, to make me clean, to make me whiter than snow. I can’t clean myself. Nothing but the blood of Jesus. No other solvent will do to cleanse me from all sin, to blot out all my iniquity.” This is cleansing language. So David is praying for the removal of his guilt. He’s praying for the obliteration of his record. He’s praying, “Make me clean.”

Restoration

And then in verse 8, this is restorative language. “Let me hear joy and gladness.” Verse 12, “Restore to me joy. Restore the joy of my salvation.” This is restorative language. I love this. So David - “God, You have removed by guilt. You have obliterated my record. You have washed me. You have made me clean. But God, let me hear that You’re not ashamed of me. Let me hear that You can have joy and gladness in me.” This is restorative language.

I’ve told this story before, but with my job here at the church over the years I’ve had the privilege of officiating a lot of weddings. And the closer you get to a wedding day, there is a bride’s schedule and there’s a groom’s schedule and they could not be more different. So as an example, I married my wife Lauren eight years ago outside Boulder, Colorado. And what does a bride think about the week of the wedding? “Did the photographer hear kind of what we’re thinking about this? Did so-and-so get a ride from the airport? Are the flowers set up in the way that we talked about that last time?” Those are the kinds of things that a bride is thinking about. I flew to Denver, Colorado on Monday and I played golf Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And when I’ve told this story before I joked that all I thought about was my wife, I thought about Lauren, and I thought about putting. So the illustration breaks down!

But what is Jesus thinking about? Hebrews chapter 12 verse 2, “For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.” What is the joy set before Jesus? It’s His Bride. He says, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Believer in Jesus, the Lord has removed your guilt, He has obliterated your record, He has washed you, He has robed you in righteousness, He has made you clean. But there is also a ring and a robe for you. There’s a calf being fattened for you. There’s a party set to start in your honor. There is joy and gladness in you. This is restorative language.

New Creation

Then David moves into creation language. He says in verse 10, “Create in me a clean heart.” This is the word Moses used in Genesis 1 for God’s creation of all things, to make light out of darkness, order out of chaos. And so David is praying, “Do that in me. Make me new. Don’t just make me clean; don’t just deal with my record. Don’t just have joy in me, but make Your passions and priorities my passions and my priorities. Change me from the inside out.” This is creation language. So we see the posture of a changed man.

Many of you have heard the story of Dwight Moody and his son. If you haven't, Dwight Moody was the great preacher and evangelist many years ago. Some of you have heard of the school that he started in Chicago, Moody Bible Institute. Dwight Moody was a very gifted minister, phenomenal in the ways that he preached and in the way that he led people to Christ. His son, Dwight Moody's son, in a book, tells his own story about how he became a Christian. And he says, "I didn't become a Christian because of my dad's eloquent preaching. I didn't become a Christian because he was so godly in his lifestyle. And I didn't become a Christian because his ministry reached thousands if not millions of people."

And he says in the book that he became a Christian because of an experience he had when he had a friend over. And he goes on to say that his dad, Dwight Moody, unjustly yelled at and rebuked him in front of his friend. And he sent him to his room and he sent the friend home. And the reality was that the son hadn’t done anything wrong, that Dwight Moody was inaccurate in his understanding. And so later that night, Dwight Moody realized that he had done, that he had unjustly rebuked his son, and so he went to his son’s room. His son acted like he was asleep. Dwight Moody knelt beside his bed and he wept and he begged God to be merciful to him and he repented. And Dwight Moody’s son said that as a result of that incident, of seeing his dad repent, that he became a Christian.

Whatever your sin, whatever your transgression, whatever your record, return to Him tonight. The Lord will show you His grace and He will change you and He will call you, “My beloved.” May it be so. Let me pray for us.

God of all grace, we pray that You will change us, that You won’t let us stay how we are, that You will break our bad love affairs and that You will shine the spotlight on Jesus. And we pray this in His name, amen.

© 2018 First Presbyterian Church.

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