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"A Heart Like God’s: The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time"

II Samuel 11:1-27

Rev. Ron Holmes

September 26, 2004

Are you familiar with the name Freddy Adu? Freddy Adu is the 15 year old soccer phenom who broke new ground earlier in the year by signing a professional contract—at the age of 14 at the time—with DC United of the Major Soccer League. Obviously, Freddy Adu is an extraordinary athlete. Recently, however, Adumade the news because he was spotted drinking beer at a University of Maryland fraternity house party. To his credit, he was properly penitent about the mistake he’d made saying, "I made a bad choice, it won’t happen again," then added, "It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

We all can identify with that, can’t we? Not with the perspective of a 15 year old professional athlete, but with finding ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Recently, a columnist—whose name I don’t remember—wrote about the importance of saying "no," a lesson he’d learned from an elementary school teacher. The particular "no" he wished he had said was in response to his wife asking him to be the judge at a chili cook-off. Not exactly a life altering event, but in the column that had a humorous purpose to it, the author wrote about how some "no" responses would have been a life altering event. What if, he asked, Bill Clinton had said "no" when asked if he would like to meet the new intern? What if Martha Stewart had said "no" when told her stockbroker was on the phone? We could add our own scenarios. If only I had said "no" back when…fill in your own situation. Freddy Adu would probably like to have the opportunity back again to say "no" to the temptation of attending that party.

Professional athletes are particularly susceptible to temptations that place them in the wrong place at the wrong time because they have, as many have said, two particular vulnerabilities toward bad things happening in their lives—time and money.

The same could be said for kings. David has available to him, for better or worse, all the privileges of being king. To this point in the David story, he has handled that pretty well. But, here it catches up to him. David finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and events accelerate out of control from there.

To begin with, there ought to be a red flag going up for us when the narrator of this story from II Samuel tells us that it is springtime, the "time when kings go off to war," and David sends the Israelite army under the leadership of Joab out to fight the Ammonites but David doesn’t go with them. David remains in Jerusalem. From the very beginning of this story, David is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He should be with his army. Instead, while in Jerusalem spending a sleepless night, perhaps with thoughts about his army and where he should be, David gets up and paces around on the roof of his palace. David would have a pretty good view of the city from up there because the king’s palace would be at a high point in the city. It’s a second wrong place at the wrong time because the view affords David the temptation of spying on a woman bathing. Rather than moving on from that temptation, David lingers there in that wrong place at the wrong time and the seed of sin begins to take root in his mind. It’s the classic progression of sin—first, the thought of a wrongful action occurs to us, then the possibilities of acting on that thought are considered, and, finally, the action is taken. If only David had just said "no" to that temptation!

But, as we know, David doesn’t say "no." Rather, he exploits all the power his authority as king affords him and he has his way with Bathsheba. It’s a sordid story of voyeurism, lust, and rape. The only good thing to be said about it is that the very fact this story is included in the Bible speaks to the integrity of the Bible. One wants to edit this major flaw of David out of the story of David, but there it is, in all it’s sordidness and squalor.

And, like most sin does, it only gets worse. What David has controlled with all his power and authority as king over Israel now begins to tumble out of his control with Bathsheba’s message, "I am pregnant." Yet, like most people caught in sin, David still tries to control the situation. His solution to the problem? Bring Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, home from the battle—ironically, where David should be in the first place—and thereby create the explanation when Bathsheba’s pregnancy begins to show. Only Uriah doesn’t cooperate. Uriah’s honor and integrity stands in stark contrast to David’s dishonor and lack of integrity as Uriah refuses to enjoy the comforts of his home while his comrades in the army sleep in the fields of battle. And Uriah is not even an Israelite! He is a Hittite, a foreigner who had joined up with David during the time David wandered around the country fleeing from Saul and now remains as a mercenary soldier in David’s powerful army. How difficult it must have been for the storyteller to keep that truth in this story—the one who acts honorably is not the Israelite! Not even the Israelite King David’s attempt at getting Uriah drunk can cause the Hittite to act with dishonor! He still refuses to go to his home. So, David digs even deeper into the abyss of sin by plotting a way for Uriah to die in battle. In another irony, the unsuspecting Uriah carries his death sentence back to his commander, Joab. And so it is that Uriah is forced beyond his control into being in the wrong place at the wrong time, another irony in the story, as he is sent on a suicide mission and loses his life. Not only is David guilty of adultery, he is guilty of murder. Several counts of murder, actually, as other soldiers in the army are tragic pawns in the manipulations of David to be rid of Uriah—"some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite was dead."

The cavalier arrogance of David surfaces one last time as the messenger brings word of these events to David—an inexcusable tactical blunder by Joab that cost the lives of some soldiers, but the important message that included in the dead is Uriah the Hittite. To which David says to the messenger, "Tell Joab, ‘Don’t let this upset you,’" literally, "Don’t let this thing be evil in your eyes." "The sword devours one as well as another."

If the story ended there, we would have a story that appears to have David getting away with it. But, of course, the story doesn’t end there. For we are told that "the thing" David encouraged Joab to not see as evil in his eyes, was exactly that in the eyes of the Lord…evil. Like most sin, and our self-deluded perceptions of it in the midst of self-indulged actions, what we fail to see as evil remains, nonetheless, exactly that in the eyes of the Lord. And there will be consequences.

It’s a tragic and sordid story. But, I think it remains there in the Bible because God has valuable lessons for us to learn from it when we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

To begin with, we can learn from this story the importance of maintaining a regular, growing walk with the Lord. Up to this point in David’s story, David has pretty much acted with honor and integrity in all that he has done. As we have seen throughout this series on David, David’s close walk with the Lord filled him with confidence and integrity in all he did. Frequently, as David considers an action, it is said that "David inquired of the Lord," (cf. I Sam 23:2, 4), or the counsel of a prophet of the Lord is sought. But, here, in the 11th chapter of II Samuel, the Lord is conspicuously absent. Only at the very end of the chapter is the Lord mentioned, "But the thing David had done displeased the Lord." Or, literally, "the thing David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord." Appropriately, the Lord will have the final word about such an evil thing done in His sight.

A frequent subject in various periodicals designed for pastors and church leaders is the topic of pastors who have lost ministries because of some sinful act in their lives. Tragically, that is a frequent subject. The common denominator in all such articles is that the pastor became lax in his or her own communion with God through such spiritual disciplines as prayer, Bible study and accountability in small groups. Letting the urgency of events in their ministries push aside their own spiritual growth left them vulnerable to temptations. Without question, the same is true for everyone. Becoming lax in your communion with God leaves you susceptible to temptations and finding yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s true for David. Caught up, perhaps, in his own power, giddy with the flush of success, fooled by the thought that he’d finally arrived where God intended him to be, David fails to inquire of the Lord at this important moment in his life and he is left vulnerable to temptation. One major purpose to praying, studying the Bible and fellowshipping in a small group with other believers is that we would be less likely, then, to find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Second lesson, when you do find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time—get out of there! One wants to say to David, "Go back to bed! Walk to the other side of the roof and look out upon the city over there! But, don’t linger there at that place on the roof like some disgraceful peeping tom gawking at a woman bathing. Don’t inquire about who she is, David! Don’t summon her to your palace, don’t bring Uriah home from the battle, don’t write the order for Joab…stop, David!" When temptation crosses your path—and it will—don’t stand and linger. Flee!

In the middle of next month, I’ll be attending a conference in Chicago. I’ll be staying by myself in a hotel near the conference site. I’m not sure what kind of "in-house" movie opportunities the hotel offers, but I can tell you the first thing I’m going to check. If the option for "adult only" movies is there—and usually there is such an option—the first thing I’m going to do is put a block on it. I’d like to think I wouldn’t exercise the option of selecting such a movie in the first place, but I don’t even want the temptation available to me. I don’t want to find myself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When temptation crosses your path—run away from it. Let’s not have any such nonsense that it’s just an innocent lunch or dinner appointment with that secretary or co-worker, or an "innocent" flirtation, or my right to privacy to do as I please in the privacy of my home…or hotel room. Such nonsense deceives us and leads to us finding ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Take as your model here, Joseph, who runs away from the flirtations of his master, Pothiphar’s, wife and not David who lingers on that rooftop. Or, consider the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson in the quote on our bulletin cover, Call upon God, but row away from the rocks." Don’t flirt with the temptations that will come across your path, but rather do your part to stay out of the wrong places at the wrong times.

And finally, know that in those awful moments where we have given in to a temptation, know that with our repentance and asking for God’s forgiveness, God freely and graciously gives it. When David is confronted with his sin—in a masterful story told in the next chapter of II Samuel, chapter 12, when the prophet Nathan confronts David about the evil thing he had done—David recognizes his need to repent, to humble himself before Almighty God and ask for His forgiveness. Psalm 51 is the result. Turn with me to that for a moment, Psalm 51, page 889 in the pew Bible.

Psalm 51. Note first the heading, For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. It doesn’t pull any punches, does it? And neither does David in repenting and asking God to forgive him. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Familiar words at verse 10, Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. And so on through the Psalm. And David is forgiven. He remains king over Israel. The promise of a coming king to reign over Jerusalem forever remains in the Davidic line. That line even runs through Bathsheba who eventually gives birth to another son for David, a son named Solomon. The reality of what David has done can’t be totally eradicated—the sordid story remains in the Bible, the heading for Psalm 51 is still there…David’s adultery with Bathsheba…even in remembering the promise of a Davidic king to come there is a reminder of David’s sin in the genealogy of Matthew’s gospel…Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David, David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife—the reality of what David had done cannot be totally eradicated. But, God no longer sees David in those terms. He is forgiven, cleansed by the compassionate and loving grace of God, so that it can still be said of David that he is "a man after God’s own heart." Here, David is your model to follow. When the evil of your actions confront you, repent of those actions and humbly ask God to forgive you—knowing that God is compassionate and merciful and will forgive you.

Temptations in life will come. Those moments in life where we find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time will occur. But, those moments need not overwhelm us. Strengthened by a nurturing relationship with the Living God, we can minimize the frequency of such moments. Choosing to follow God’s standards for our lives and not the temporary pleasures of a worldly temptation that is ultimately destructive and life-destroying—consciously turning away, running away from such temptations can free us from suffering their destructive consequences. And repenting before God from those moments of weakness when we gave in—asking for God’s forgiveness and committing to turning away from such sin ever occurring again in our lives—can bring a fresh start with God, a heart made clean by His grace. Only then can it be said of us, that we, like David, are men and women after God’s own heart.


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