Sender or Sent?
Preached by Jason Abbott
This morning I’m going to preach on an affair that took place long, long ago. Yet, similar accounts are readily available today. Sadly the narrative about David and Bathsheba has stood the test of time in terms of relevance. Each and every one of us can call to mind leaders who’ve succumbed to the temptations of their power and fallen from grace.
In just the last week, a similar story emerged in the world of college football. There, the head coach of the University of Mississippi was asked to resign his post when phone records linked him to an escort service. He was an outspoken believer. He was tremendously successful as a coach—beating Alabama two years straight. He had prominence. He had influence. But, in the end, it wasn’t enough for him. And now a family and a career and the reputation of Christ have all been wounded because of his sensual greed. (Sounds a lot like David, doesn’t it.)
Friends, this morning we have something to learn from this ancient narrative about an affair and its costs. It details how dangerous and deadly sin is—one leads to another and then to another as the perpetrator of the sin tries to cover his tracks. It shows us how quickly our hearts can become callous. Indeed, we can learn a lot from this text.
So let’s read it and then pray for God’s guidance as we dig into it.
2 Samuel 11:1-13
1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
As we look at this passage, we want to consider the kind of sender David is. In short, when David calls the shots in these verses, who’s he serving by sending? Who’s being helped? And after we take a look at that, we want to remind ourselves of why God originally sent David to Israel. In other words, we must ask ourselves: Why did God make David king? Why was he sent by God?
So let’s look at each in turn.
1. David as Sender (vv. 1-13)
When reading good literature, it’s important to pay attention to repetitions—either repetitions of words or themes. For instance, as you read The Great Gatsby, you’ll find many places where eye glasses are emphasized by the novel’s narrator. In each instance, through these repetitions, readers are called to pay close attention or “see” what takes place. These repetitions with spectacles are clues to dig deeper into the details of the passage and to ask: What’s being communicated here?
So too, when we read the Bible, we must pay attention to repetitions.
In today’s passage, there is an extraordinary amount of sending taking place. Let me show you what I mean.
- Verse 1—In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel [to battle].
- Verse 3—David sent and inquired about the woman [who was bathing].
- Verse 4—So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.
- Verse 5—[She] conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
- Verse 6—So David sent word to Joab, Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.
- Verse 8—Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house. . .” He’s hoping Uriah will sleep with Bathsheba.
- Verse 12—David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back…” intending, of course, to have him killed in battle.
Now that’s a lot of sending in just thirteen verses. But, if we follow the text on from here, we find many more repetitions of it—namely in verses 14, 18, 22, and 27. Thus, wouldn’t you agree that our author wants us to understand something in relationship to all this sending? But, what is it?
Well, our narrator sets us up with a big clue in the very first verse of the text. Something’s rotten in the state of Israel. Someone’s rotten in the city of Jerusalem. Look at that verse with me. The author couldn’t make it any clearer.
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem (v. 1).
Notice two details that are shared (or really a repetition of the same detail). What happens in the spring of the year? Well, that’s when kings go out to battle with their troops. But David sent Joab, who alone put a beating on the Ammonites. Then, however, if you didn’t put two and two together, our narrator just comes out and says it. David wasn’t there. He was kicking back in Jerusalem.
Yet, perhaps you think, Well that’s how it works. A king sits in his palace while his generals fight his battles. However, that wasn’t how it typically worked in the ancient Near East. Kings were expected to lead their troops out to battle. They were expected to lead by example, not send others to take their place.1 Friends, David is heading south—and fast!
- He stays when he should have gone.
- He looks at and lusts after a woman who’s not his wife.
- He does the ancient Near Eastern version of Facebook stalking Bathsheba when he sends messengers to inquire about her.
- He allows lust to consume him and uses his power to take her for a night.
- He tries to cover his sin by deceit when he calls Uriah home from battle.
- And, he resorts to murder when his initial cover up fails.
This is the downward spiral of David’s sending and sinning. And it’s ugly! In fact, it is reminiscent of Saul in 1 Samuel—sitting on his rump sending spears sailing at people, or sitting under a tree and sending for priests who’ve crossed him in order to have them slaughtered before him. Like Saul, David heaps sin upon sin. David is rotten.
And yet, friends, isn’t this heaping of sin upon sin common with us as well? Don’t we do this too?
How many of us sin in some way and then begin telling lies to cover it up? How many of us imagine what it might be like to be married to this or that person then begin putting ourselves in situations to “meet” and “talk” with that person? How many times does that sin turn into an emotional or even a physical affair—destroying a family or even two?
We, like David, are very capable of and even prone to heaping sin upon sin. This is the nature of sin. It’s like an addictive drug that convinces us to try a little and, then, a little more and, still, a little more until it rules over us.
Friends, David no longer rules in this passage. Rather, David’s sin rules him, and it rules Israel. An army is deprived of its commander because of David’s sin. Bathsheba has her privacy invaded, and her body violated because of David’s sin. Uriah is robbed of both his wife and his life because of David’s sin. When David (with Joab) conspired to murder Uriah, there were most certainly innocent fathers and sons, husbands and brothers who died too . . . all because of David’s sin.
Simply put, Israel suffered because of David’s sin!
And as with David’s sin, we must realize that our sins don’t simply harm us. Our sins harm others too. They spawn collateral damage. Those who love us suffer and those who work with us suffer and those we sin against suffer.
Don’t live under the delusion that your sins are harmless. All sin is deadly! The Bible clearly tells us sin results in death. One sin brings the sentence of death. Thus, we all need a Savior—thanks be to God for Jesus Christ!
Well, let’s move now briefly to our final point.
2. David as Sent (2 Samuel 5:12)
We’ve been steadily preaching through the book of 2 Samuel this summer. So, it was just a few weeks ago that we were in 2 Samuel chapter 5. In that chapter, we find a drastically different picture of David. There he’s not a callous sender—ordering people around for pleasure. Rather, he’s a cautious and prayerful servant of God—being sent by God for God’s purposes.
And what exactly were God’s purposes for sending David to be the king? Look at what the author tells us.
And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel (v. 12).
God created David to be a king. God gave David a heart after his own heart. God provided for David during his long and difficult path to the throne of Israel—through Goliath and Saul and a civil war and countless other trials and tribulations. God was always there. God was always faithful. His purpose for David was clear. David knew it—he knew that God had made him king in order to bless his people. That’s why he was sent.
And yet somewhere along the way, David decided he was the one sending—not God. He became prayer-less and reckless. David stopped looking to his Maker for his direction—for his sending purposes. Therefore, instead of blessing Israel, David (at least here) has become a curse to Israel.
Now we’ll see next week how God kindly calls David to account for his sin, and, wisely, David repents and is forgiven. Yet, this sin has lingering consequences during the rest of David’s reign. Things can’t and don’t simply go back to normal. David doesn’t just go back to normal. In fact, I would argue he’s a mere shadow, following this incident, of the king he was before it.
And, in the face of such a stark reality, in light of the lingering consequences of David’s (and our!) sinful choices, it would be easy to despair and lose hope—like we’ve mucked it up so very badly that all is ruined. This is, however, precisely where God graciously and powerfully acts on our behalf. This is precisely the point at which the gospel meets us in the Old Testament—because we’re reminded here that David was never actually to be our hope! Or, to say it another way:
- Your husband or your wife was never actually to be your hope.
- Having successful children was never actually to be your hope.
- Having a great career was never actually to be your hope.
Friends, all David’s sinful sending, in this passage, would become precisely what God would use to actually send us hope. You see, God took the evil purposes of David, and he turned the tables with them. He repurposed them to bring us hope and to bring us salvation. In the 1st chapter of the 1st book of the New Testament, Matthew makes this gospel connection for us. Let me close by reading it:
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ. . . Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah . . . and Judah the father of Perez… and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah (vv. 1-6).
Friends, I don’t know what damage your sin has caused you or others, but I do know there’s hope in Jesus Christ for you. God was pleased to send him to save us; was pleased to offer him as the sacrifice for our sin and hate; and is pleased to forgive us when we trust in Christ.
Trust in Christ Jesus today! Amen.