2 Samuel 11
Today we conclude our series entitled “What If I Stumble?” Thinking from the perspective of a person of faith losing their way and desire a path back to God and the fellowship of believers…this question needs to be answered. Do we forgive? Do we offer restoration? Peter got some of that even after denying Christ 3 times. Samson got it with his last breath. Others died without knowing the redemption after falling – Judas Iscariot, Ananias and Sapphira. Others like Barnabas and Paul didn’t even sin against God or each other, just had a strong disagreement that some might take out of proportion. Today we look at a great model of leadership in the Faith. Believer in God and the mighty things He can do.
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, 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. 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. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”1 Samuel 17:34-37 NIV
Wow. Wouldn’t you line up to learn from that kind of leader? Well his story isn’t without some major stumbling. It involved a person named Uriah. I thought, “What might Uriah’s viewpoint have been of the last weeks of his life?” The following skit is the result of that question.
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“Dead Anonymous” a skit
Abraham: We’ve got a new member to the group. Would you please introduce yourself?
Uriah: Hi. My name’s Uriah…and I’m dead.
Group: Hi Uriah.
Uriah: This is my first time at this meeting because, well…I’ve never been dead before. I’m told sharing my story will help me process this, but I’m not sure. But I’m willing to try.
I was out in the battle camp with our commander Joab. Traditionally, our King, David, would have led us…but I’m sure he was very busy. Being king takes a lot of your time and energy. It’s a big job! Not just anyone can do it. I mean Saul tried to…but He was terrible, selfish and paranoid! In fact he tried to kill David several times. Oh, I admire King David so much. He has such integrity…did you know when he was being hunted by Saul, he could have killed Saul easily, but showed mercy and stayed his blade? So cool.
Long before that, when no one knew who he was, young David took down the champion of the Philistines with only a sling and some smooth stones. He led many other successful military campaigns like when he Defeated the King of Zobah. Not only was he a warrior and commander of armies, but also a protector of the defenseless. He brought Mephibosheth, the grandson of King Saul to Jerusalem. Mephibosheth…as you probably know, was a cripple and not able to provide for himself. King David gave him back his grandfather’s land. How kind and forgiving is King David!
He’s so kind and thoughtful…(Sniff Sniff) He even personally requested me for a special reconnaissance mission. I had been out in the battle camps. Under Joab’s directions, we “destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.” After what seemed to be a month or so out in the battle fields, a message reaches Commander Joab. He tells me the King has requested that I come back to Jerusalem and give an account of the war effort.
I’m excited! The King has called for me! I gather up my things and head to the palace. I don’t even stop off at home to see my wife. I knew if I did, that would make it more difficult to head back to the battlefields when this assignment was done.
I think maybe…I should have. It would have been my last chance to…but no matter. Such is war.
I am brought before the King and he greets me cordially and then I give him my full report.
I tell him how successful the campaign has been: We captured so much with only minimum loss of our troops. He seemed pleased. He dismissed me, instructing me to go home. He used a local romantic euphemism, telling me to go home and “wash my feet.” I knew he meant spend some quality time with my Mrs. But again, I couldn’t put her through me leaving again. I’m not sure I could leave her once more. And besides, all my comrades were out in the battle camps sleeping in tents. They didn’t get to come home to see their wives. I was no better than them. I would stay at the palace gates with the King’s servants.
I woke the next morning and to the King’s surprise, I was still around. He seemed displeased that I defied his orders. He didn’t stay mad for long because he invited me to stay a couple of days. We enjoyed a delicious meal together…I don’t remember what we had to eat, but there was a LOT of wine. I think I had a bit more than usual…because I don’t remember anything after that. The next day I headed back to the battlefields with a wicked headache and a note stuffed in my pocket, addressed to Joab. I still don’t know how that note got there.
I handed the note to Joab. He read it, then looked at me…they looked at the note, studying it. He checks the seal on it. It hadn’t been broken before. As If I’d open a letter from the King that wasn’t addressed to me! Puh-lease!
Joab wasted no time organizing our next plan of attack There had been some fierce defense by the Ammonites in a certain area, he called me and several others up to lead this dangerous mission. And it was dangerous. As we attempted to take on a heavily defended location, arrows began to reign down upon us. I looked to my right and then to my left. My fellow soldiers were falling. I knew I couldn’t turn back, I couldn’t run away. So I ran straight ahead. Into the barrage of arrows. “Thwick!” I heard their sickening sound. Fierce pain overtook me…but not for very long. Sounds of Battle cries ceased. I couldn’t hear arrows whizzing through the air. I opened my eyes.
And the next thing I know I’m looking around at all you here at Dead Anonymous.
Abraham: Thank you for sharing, Uriah. That was very brave.
Uriah: You’re welcome, Abraham. I hoped it would have helped someone.
Abraham: Rest assured, someone learned some very important lessons because of your death.
Has the thought ever occurred to you, “I wonder what went on in Uriah’s mind?” Well I did and that’s where that skit came from. Uriah exhibited all the qualities needed to be a good soldier and a good leader. He followed his commander’s orders, he thought of the other soldiers and their needs before he thought of his own, and he respectfully denied himself even at the risk of defying the King’s directions. Even when he is intoxicated he does not find his way home to the arms of his “loving” wife. He sleeps on a mat with the rest of David’s servants. He carries his own death warrant back with him to the battle field and he goes where Joab sends him, even if it seems they would not win. (I honestly believe he had great faith in Joab.) So he marches to his death with a heart full of integrity.
If that is in a nutshell who Uriah is portrayed to be, who is David in all this? Who is this King that people would and should die to defend? He turned out Not to be the David we thought we knew.
David was Not being Kingly
The first tip-off that something was ethically wrong about this story is when David did not go out to war during the time he should have.
“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.”2 Sam 11:1a NIV
This was an established pattern: In the spring, the kings go off to war. It doesn’t say, “In the spring when the kings send their proxies to lead campaigns of war.” Nope.
I’ve got a question for you: Have you ever found yourself in over your head, trapped by bad situations and bad ideas on all sides? It is probably because you aren’t where you should be.
I’m not sure how frequently this happens in your town or city, but imagine a teen getting bailed out by his father. Why was he arrested? He was caught at a party where alcohol was being served. On top of that, a fight broke out and now this young man has a record. All because he went somewhere he shouldn’t have been. He should have been home studying or hanging out with his friends in an environment that doesn’t lead itself to underaged drinking.
Similar stuff happens when people on parole think it’s ok to be near other people and places of illegal activities. They lose their parole and have to go back to jail, just because they chose to be in proximity to others of questionable moral integrity.
So it matters where we go…and where we stay. Take ministry, for example: you’ll never meet a more miserable person than the man or woman that has a call from God to go somewhere and doesn’t go!
Not only was it unusual for David not to go out to war with his men, it provided him an opportunity to be tempted into sin.
David was Not gentlemanly
He scopes out Bathsheba…while she’s ironically taking a “bath” (on her roof top?)
“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing.”2 Sam 11:2a & b NIV
Long story short, he takes her and sleeps with her. She becomes pregnant and soon afterwards, she lets him know it.
Perhaps you’ve got this all figured out, but it’s a mystery to me. Why did David pursue and desire Bathsheba? The scripture says “the woman was very beautiful” so he was attracted to her beauty, but he already had several wives. Why did he decide to make her his, even though she was already someone else’s wife? He was not a gentleman.
He valued his own desires for her over the sanctity of her and Uriah’s marriage vows. He was the King after all! Who can say no to the man in power?
I wonder how many people today, who have earned their way to the top in their professions, are faced with similar thoughts. “Who can say no to me?” Administrators, Fortune 500 CEOs, Politicians, and unfortunately I’ve got to toss pastors in there as well. Any of these people, whether they are male or female, can be tempted to use their position to get whatever they want…whatever their roving eyes see.
This is especially damaging in the Church. I use the word “Church” with a capital “c” as it’s “all christians everywhere” kind of church and not the Church of the Nazarene specifically. Corruption begins with not being where you ought to be and it moves to a place where one uses position to possess things and people…no matter the cost.
But the key factor to all of this is that David realizes he’s done wrong.
David chooses Not to Be Honest
Tries to get Her husband to come home and sleep with Bathsheba. David wants Uriah to believe he (Uriah) is the father of the child. This would seem to cover up their one night of fun with a lie – that Uriah was the daddy and not David.
But David’s plan backfires twice.
“9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.”2 Sam 11:9 NIV
He later succeeds at getting Uriah drunk, but Uriah still doesn’t head hom to Bathshebah. Even though he might not have been able to walk a straight line, Uriah stuck to his commitment – he wouldn’t go home…not while his men were out on the battlefields and the Ark was out in a tent.
So David’s attempt to let nature solve his dilemma doesn’t work as planned and he has to deal with the problem of Uriah. His solution is to make Bathshebah a widow.
At least he was honest with Joab. Joab, interestingly enough, doesn’t follow David’s orders word for word.
In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”2 Samuel 11:15 NIV
He puts more men at risk of death rather than outright sentencing Uriah to death. (Perhaps it was unlikely that the men would have withdrawn from Uriah’s side had Joab given the order.) But the result was the same. Uriah falls in battle and David has successfully conspired to commit murder.
Sometimes when leaders fall into temptation it starts with being in the wrong place. It can lead to putting your desires over the will and well-being of others, and as David showed – usually leads to some attempt to cover it all up. Think of every political scandal you’ve ever heard of in your life. No matter how young or old you are…it’s way too many! Leaders, people put in place that we look up to to guide us…they stumble and fall. It seems there are not many biographies written without Asterisks by their “leader” status. Because
Cheating Taints Victory.
In the wild world of sports, I remember the 1998 Home run competition between Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs. Sure there were a few others trying to keep up, but no one could. Mark and Sammy hit so many balls out of the park…drove in so many runs that season for their respective teams. It was a hay day for baseball. When the season ended McGwire came out on top with 70 Home runs to Sosa’s 66. But those tremendous feats of athleticism would be marred by controversy. It was discovered later that McGwire had used steroids off and on throughout his career. Just 5 years after he falls short to McGwire, Sosa embarrassingly broke a bat while swinging for the fences during a game. It’s discovered the bat has been modified or “corked” and was an illegal bat. He said it was only supposed to be used for practice and using it at the game was an accident. He was still suspended for 8 games and one has to wonder if he used modified bats in the Home run competition of ‘98.
Leadership comes with lots of responsibilities. People’s safety and future, the influence you wield over them, the power that they give to you…it’s important to be wise with it. David had been in the past.
But when he was NOT where he should be, he used his position to take what he wanted and went to any length to cover up his sinful, fallen behavior.
Ultimately, He stumbled and fell from his position of leadership. He was not acting with the integrity we saw in other areas of his story. But unlike Saul, David cries out to the Lord. He calls upon Him. Psalm 51
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 you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
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.Psalm 51:1-12 NIV
David does not continue in his sinful behaviors and all together bad examples of leadership.
What should I do…
- If I stumble and fall?
- If another person stumbles and falls?
- To help myself and others avoid falling?
If you should stumble and fall, stay down! I know…you weren’t expecting that were you? But stay down on your knees. Pray for forgiveness. Ask for a way to be restored. And unlike David’s Murder orders, don’t hide your sin. It didn’t just affect you and your relationship with God. It causes a rift with others who put their trust in you. How shaken Joab must have been to read those orders from David. Not only was it obviously murder, but it was also bad military stratey! He would get his men killed for nothing. So Pray for forgiveness and restoration.
If someone else stumbles and falls, make sure you have their ear. If you call them out on it, they won’t change if they don’t respect or trust your word on it. Nathan was a prophet sent by God. (Click Here to read 2 Sam 12) He was known to advise the King. He used his position to call David out for desiring and taking Uriah’s wife. David’s eyes were opened and he recognizes he can’t hide it any more. He certainly can’t conceal it from God.
What can you and I do to help others avoid stumbling and falling? Use whatever influence God has given you in a person’s life to encourage them to be in the right places. Do you know a recovering alcoholic? Ask them if they’ve been to a meeting lately or if they are part of a support group. Let them know you are praying for them. Invite them over to your home to hang out, have dinner – essentially provide a safe space where temptation to stumble and fall is greatly reduced.
If you fall, stay down in prayer.
If another falls, speak compassionate words of truth into their situation
And Provide another, safer option for those who might fall, supporting them in making good choices