Sunday’s messaage …
- Concluded with a bit of textual analysis of ancient Hebrew manuscripts Huh? Trust me, it worked and did so in a way that demonstrate how library-ish the bible is.
- Had a moment in the manuscript where I used “purposeful” rather than “intentional” because Brian Sigmon prefers it.
- Referenced the Carpenters, Cher, the return of Jesus, and my own Methodist tempter tantrum from days gone by.
- Used “Nathan” as a verb … as in “to Nathan” someone.
- Landed at this bottom line: You will either stand corrected or fall convicted.
In a little bit I am going to give you a choice between two options, and that choice is pretty stark, Option A and Option B, with not much gray space between them. Black. White. And not to overpromise and under-deliver or anything, but I believe how you decide in this choice may well do more for your career, your classes, your marriage, your LifeGroup, your faith than just about any other choice you make. Literally could make the difference between life & death, success & failure, favor & misery. Not quite heaven & hell serious choice, but not far behind.
But before I give you that choice, I need to tell you a story. And before I tell you the story, I got to tell you the story BEHIND the story. And the story BEHIND the story totally, 100%, completely deserves to be on Dateline, in the tabloids, or serving as Clickbait. Yeah, it’s a clickbait story with power, lust, sex, murder, mayhem, all of it.
Here’s the deal. When we get to 2 Samuel 11, King David is riding high. It’s about 1000 BC and is ruling over a unified kingdom of Israel. He has brought his A game to the military, to governing, to romance, to poetry, to songwriting, to all of it. In almost every way, the guy who was just a shepherd boy when he slew Goliath is now above. So you might wonder why a guy like THAT is in a series like THIS, called Bouncebackers. Why in the world would you need to bounce back when you are on top of the world a looking down on creation?
Well, it turns out that while David was on the top of the world, he looked down on a little more than creation. Early one evening he walks up to the roof of his palace and to his surprise – and, come on, guys, his delight – he sees into the house next door where a stunning woman named Bathsheba is in fact bathing. David looks … and looks … and concludes, “I must have that woman as my own.” So while her husband Uriah is away in battle, David SENDS word for her to come to him. You don’t say no to a King. They have relations. You can’t say no to a King. A couple of weeks later, Bathsheba sends David a message: I’m pregnant. No need for 1-800-WHO’S-YOUR-DADDY – that baby is David’s.
So the king makes a snap decision. He SENDS Uriah unprotected into the front lines of battle, ensuring his death, which, sure enough happens. Bathsheba is now free to marry. Which he does. The whole plan works to evil, wicked perfection. One of the true “ick” moments of Scripture; one of those places where you are so glad that the OT in particular DESCRIBES WHAT IT DOES NOT ENDORSE.
I realize in thinking about this story that when you feel entitled to your sin you believe you are immune to its consequence. And something about that intoxicating mix of power, prestige, persuasion seems to make so many men and even a few women feel exactly that way. That’s why you see similar scenarios happen to politicians, musicians, and athletes. Power & fame mix together & pretty soon ppl think they are entitled to more when they already have more than enough AND that they’re immune to consequences.
Well, God has to rid David of that sense of entitlement while also slapping the immunity out of him. And he has to do it REAL FAST. Because, because, because, in one of my favorite verses in Scripture, we see the narrator’s summary of the click bait story in 11:27c. God’s feelings about David’s Double Dip of adultery topped with murder:
But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
YA THINK?! I LOVE the Scripture! What incredible finesse! Perfect understatement! The same God who is a “consuming fire,” who is coming on the clouds with a vengeance, and here his anointed one abuses his power with Two of the Top Ten. You know God burned. And yet the narrator, knowing you’d raise an eyebrow, simply says “displeased.”
In fact, he is SO DISPLEASED that he SENT a message & a messenger. In his anger – more redemptive than punitive because it is this side of eternity – God sends Nathan, who is apparently in David’s Cabinet, respected but subordinate. Keep that in mind. Nathan has access but no authority. Proximity but no power. That matters, because as we’ve seen this Entitled King is above the law. So after God’s, ahem, displeasure, Nathan tells David a story that starts in 2 Samuel 12:1-4:
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup — GROSS! — and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
So it’s a story in which more than enough is not enough and the guy with MUCH MORE steals from the guy with less. The tale apparently speaks to David’s sense of right & wrong (at least as it applies to others) and I love the King’s response:
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Great! He burns with anger at a man who is not even real! He’s mad at a fictional character, oblivious to his own self-condemnation! Contrast that with the understatement of God’s displeasure with something that really happened and someone who really did it! Then David’s idea of punishment: Death! Pay 4x Over! Well, how can you pay 4x back if you’re dead, David? I dunno! I’m just mad!
Anyway, all that is but the prelude for the trap, the snare, the reveal by Nathan in 12:7a:
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!
Now: YOU ARE THE MAN! is the opposite of YOU DA MAN! Total opposite. One is desirable; the other is despicable. There are few more dramatic moments in the biblical library. Summoning his skill and his nerve, Nathan weaves his web and Davis steps right in it, both verbally and rhetorically. WHOMPP! Probably the bible’s best GOTCHA!
Then Nathan goes on in 12:7-8:
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
Why is more than enough never enough? Aaaah. You’ve probably realized that when you HAD IT ALL, you’re more likely to blow it than you are to savor it! I tell you this a lot but only because it’s true: we’re more vulnerable to self-destruction in times of prosperity than we are in adversity, because in prosperity we trust ourselves while in adversity our desperation drives us to God. Every time. Well, Nathan’s soliloquy closes with an ominous prediction in 12:10-12.
Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
And the bulk of 2 Samuel traces all the sad ways those prophetic words come to pass.
Now: here’s what you’ve got to remember. David is KING. He is entitled. Nathan is his underling. Disposable. Nathan has access but not authority; proximity but not power. So David could have very easily answered Nathan’s YOU ARE THE MAN & speech that followed in one of three ways: kill him, throw him in prison, or exile him to the Negev Desert. That’s what his peer kings would do; if David sent an email to the King of the Babylon, for example, and asked, “Peer to peer, what would you do?” the reply would be one of those three. Kill. Imprison. Banish. That’s expected. David is in a mess he has made, he needs a bounceback from a sub’s impertinence & most kings would harden hearts.
But David, apparently, is not most kings. Look at 12:13a, a moment that is in its own way as dramatic as 12:7:
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Whew. Death, prison, exile are all on the table, and he chooses to listen. He hears the truth and is convicted by it. He receives correction. From an UNDERLING! And submits to it. Here it is, because what is true for David’s bounce back is true for so many of you: You will either stand corrected or you’ll fall convicted. That’s it. That’s your choice. Allow a Nathan into your life, into your inner circle, into your psyche and you’ll stand corrected. Don’t, and you’ll fall convicted. Here’s why you’ll fall and here’s why it’s so vital and so inevitable:
Because 50% of the time or more that which we need to bounce back from is OUR FAULT. We’ve talked already in this series about things that AREN’T but today it’s the realization of just how often our mess is our doing. It’s the decision we mad, the temper we lost, the relationship we pursued, the substance we worshipped. And in those moments, worst of all we come to believe our own lies. To be influenced by our own rationalizations. And when we’re believing our lies and impressed with our own rationalizations, we need someone like this: AV Cher snap out of it! on Moonstruck. You will either stand corrected or you’ll fall convicted.
And your Nathan can come, almost by definition, from surprising places. I remember that time 10+ years where I wasn’t happy about some of the things the UMC was doing in this part of town and I started whining. Me? Yes! Me! Not getting enough love and protection so started stomping my feet with the UMC hierarchy. Don’t mess with Texas! But then a colleague of mine, WHOSE CHURCH WASN’T SO BIG!, pulled me aside and said calmly, “You’re being a jerk.” Whew! Small church guy, who do you think you are? Praise God, I heard my Nathan, STOOD CORRECTED, stopped my tirade & didn’t fall convicted.
And … you? Especially if you are in a position of authority at work, on the team, at school, here, who has your permission to tell you hard truths? Who is your Nathan? Who notices that you are most vulnerable to grab MORE when you already have TOO MUCH? Who has permission to Nathan you? To ensure REFRAIN in your life? It could be parents. It could be a sibling. It could be someone in your LifeGroup. It could even be a boss. It could be that pastor of LifeGroup leader who keeps insisting that the key to your dilemma is your ultimate surrender to Jesus Christ. The idea is that all of you who need bouncing back from a self-made mess will likely need the advice & wisdom of an outside voice. And YOU need to be mature enough, wise enough, in enough of a living relationship with Jesus Christ, to receive & internalize it! You will either stand corrected or you’ll fall convicted.
Nathan ignorers are in trouble. Most of you have probably heard of Gen George Custer & his last stand. What you may not know is that for weeks his advisers told him NOT to attack the Cheyenne & the Sioux at LBH. Wouldn’t be prudent. But he had a battle to win and a name to make! And the result. Not just his last stand but that of close to 300 soldiers with him. And at the end of the battle some of the N-A warriors leaned over Custer’s corpse, took an awl, and punctured his ear drum. Why? So that in Custer’s next life he would listen to advice better than he had in this one. You will either stand corrected or you’ll fall convicted.
Don’t land there, fallen in a field of your own ignored advice. Instead, be purposeful in looking for inspired wisdom from unexpected sources. Because look at what happens when David doesn’t kill, imprison, or exile but LISTENS:
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
The same Lord who has been SENDING all over this story, in a way that marvelously anticipates what Jesus does on the cross, now SENDS the sin away. There will be consequences, yes, but not everlasting guilt. That’s been taken away, sent running by the Lord. Whoooo! That’s forgiveness! Impossible without the kind of humility that empowers an adulto-murderer to You will either stand corrected or you’ll fall convicted.
It’s so interesting. In the ancient manuscripts (AV) on which the OT was written, the scribes would often leave a gap after 12:13a. Why? In part to leave a little suspense for the reader. But more because that’s where they liked to fill in the words of Psalm 51, a song written (it’s a library that converses with itself!) by David in the aftermath of having the delusion of his immunity crushed by the wisdom of his Nathan. Let’s recite that “gap” Psalm now:
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.
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.