All this summer I want to talk with you about prayer and the one thing I want to say about it is that the Bible holds up for us models of prayer. That’s what I have tried to say the last few weeks. We read the stories of the woman who sought to touch the hem of Jesus‘s garment and the man who came to get Jesus to come heal his daughter and they are models for prayer, just ask! just ask! We talked about how to pray for the nation and there David is the model, for God build David’s house. Last Sunday we read about the disciples whom Jesus sent out with nothing but a stick and they are models for prayer because it is not what we bring to the journey but what God gives along the way.
And today we read about this David and Bathsheba business.
2 Samuel 11-15
1 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. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
2 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. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents,[a] and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 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.”
Hmm! Well, it is getting a little harder, isn’t it. I guess I want to remind you that David has always been understood the be the author of the Psalms. In fact, if your Bible is like mine it says that the one we read, this fifteenth Psalm, is a Psalm of David.
1 LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the LORD;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
“O Lord, who shall sojourn in thy tent. Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He who walks blamelessly.” Hmm! Sort of lets David out, doesn’t it. And maybe the rest of us too, and at this point I think that I will worry about the rest of us more than about David. Well, let’s see what we can find in this story about David as a model for prayer.
You know, that’s a funny thing about the Bible. They never got it all cleaned up. Now David is the greatest hero, maybe next to Moses, in all the Bible. You would have thought they would have edited these stories and cut this one out. Not good for little children to hear. If they put in on TV you oughtn’t to watch such trash. Donald Wildmon would go wild over this one. Sort of reminds me of books that have been rushed into print without proper editing. We ought not say such things about David. But that’s a funny thing about the Bible. The issue in the Bible seems to be not so much whether you are a sinner but what you are
going to do about your sin. So maybe there is a model for prayer here.
How did David handle his sin? In the first place he tried to erase it, put things back the way they were. The idea was that if he could get Uriah to come home and go down to his house and spend the night he and Bathsheba could pretend that the baby was his. Who would be counting anyway. The problem was Uriah’s loyalty to the King. Stands in great contrast to the disloyalty of the King to Uriah, doesn’t it. Do you remember that Uriah was not even a Hebrew? He was Hittite. David even tried to get him drunk, but he slept all night at the door of the King. Pitiful!
It just never works to put things back the way they were. It can never be as if it had not been. Things are just not reversible. It doesn’t matter what has happened. Is it murder?
You can’t restore that life. Is it adultery? No way to put it back the way it was. Even theft. You can restore the property. The thief can pay back or pay compensation or pay some sort of punitive damages, but he can never be restored to that original state of innocence. A word said can never be unsaid. In the game of life a card laid is a card played. To put that in Biblical terms, when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Innocence God placed at the east gate two cherubim with flaming swords barring forever their return. But here is the good news, to walk blamelessly is not to return to innocence.
David’s second response is to cover it up. He sends Uriah back to the front line carrying the order for his death. “Put him in the front and then pull back so that he will be killed.” There
goes Uriah, loyal Uriah, secretly carrying in his messenger’s pouch his own death sentence. How could David? That’s the problem with a cover up. It always compounds the problem. Adultery turns into murder. The third rate burglary of the Watergate turns into the first rate cover up that brought down a whole administration and sent all those people to jail. Wouldn’t the truth have been a lot better? The problem is that at such times we seldom think of the truth. We more often think of how to explain it.
Do you suppose there was somebody whispering in David’s ear, “You’re the King aren’t you. You are entitled to any woman in the land. Soldiers always take a risk.” The problem with self justification is that it doesn’t work either. We always know in our hearts that it isn’t alright. But the good news is that to walk blamelessly does not require us to cover it up.
So let’s see, now, how is David a model for prayer. So far only in a negative sense. You see, we are talking about a prayer of confession here and David doesn’t get around to that until
next week’s lesson when Nathan says, “Thou art the man.” But I couldn’t wait until next week to tell you about this because there might be somebody here today who needs to hear about prayers of confession, who may have tried all the other possibilities and might not be here next week. Did you set the movie, “Moonstruck“? It is a Catholic confession. Loretta goes to the priest and she says the proper formula about “bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” “Yes, Loretta, what is your confession?” “It has been two months since my last confession and I slept with my fiance’s brother and I bounced a check at the bank, but I didn’t mean to.” “You didn’t mean to? Then that’s not a sin, but what was that in the middle? You shouldn’t do that, Loretta. Go and say two Rosaries.” Say two Rosaries? Is that going to make up for it? No, of course not, but walking blamelessly means putting it right with God. Walking blamelessly means being absolutely dependent not on self-justification but on God.
Let me see if I can illustrate that by talking about the Iranian airliner shot down by the ship in the Persian Gulf. One of the magazines described it as “when good people do bad
things.” It is hard not to call the death of 290 people a bad thing. The commander of the ship said so. He said that it was something he would have to live with for the rest of his life.
When I first heard the report it was Sunday after noon. We had sung “America” and “America the Beautiful” that morning in worship. Isn’t the fourth of July supposed to celebrate our innocence, our righteousness? “We shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” I said, as if we could go back and pretend that it hadn’t happened. “I wouldn’t put it past the Iranians to put 290 people on that airplane and deliberately send them out where
they would get shot down, just to provoke an incident,” I said next in some sort of strange attempt to cover the whole thing.
But it doesn’t work. Neither of those nor all the other reasons that we have thought of in the meantime will restore 290 lives lost. To walk blamelessly before God is to take
responsibility for our actions. It may be that there is a difference between responsibility and culpability here. To walk blamelessly is to be sorry for the result of our actions and to
say so and to know that God forgives sinners, and God puts it right because we never can.
So David is a model for prayer. The issue in the Bible is never whether you are blameless, but what you do with the whole thing. The Biblical model or confession is not to maintain our innocence nor to justify our actions. It is not even to list what we have done and left undone. We can blame ourselves. We can blame others. We can take the blame on ourselves from our friends or from the whole world. But only through faith in Christ can we
know that God doesn’t hold it against us. I had to tell you the rest of the story today. There might be someone who is here carrying around great blame today and might not make it back here next week.
Let me tell you, to walk blamelessly before God,… what a relief,… what a relief. – William C. Crouch
This sermon was preached by Bill Crouch on July 17, 1988 at First United Methodist Church in Denton, Texas. If you would like to receive notifications of new posting to Rumors of Angels, you can subscribe to this blog in the upper right corner of this page.