The Fall of David

2 Samuel 11

David’s “great sin” was not simply having an affair with Bathsheba. It was compounded by murdering her husband. It was driven by covetousness. All that he had as king… and he wanted one more possession. 

The question I have on this story, along with Nathan’s rebuke, is this: Does David seem to “give up” after this? He is simply not the same king in the rest of the story.

Does he leave too much to “fate?”

Treating the Presence of God as Holy

2 Samuel 6

When David brought back the Ark to Jerusalem, he did what the Philistines had done years ago: he put it on a cart.

God had allowed the Philistines some “latitude” so the ark could get back to Israel. But for Israel, there were rules. They were to know better.

There are things that are “holy” and “sacred” that we, as the people of God, should treat differently. The world has no idea, but we need to understand that is the world. The Kingdom of God is not this world.

We spend too much time treating too many sacred things as “common” because we want to show the world “we’re just like you,” when we need to not worry about what the world thinks in some of these things and do what is “holy.”

Treat the presence of God as holy. 

The gods of war

2 Samuel

When David came into power, the kingdom was not united. He ruled in Hebron first, then power was consolidated.

It wasn’t consolidated through negotiation alone. It was war. It was civil war.

Part of the distaste for the “Old Testament God” is our own distaste for war.

I’m not a true pacifist, but I sympathize with those who articulate their position very well. But pacifism isn’t a hard reality even in our world. We can look with starry eyes at our own world and think we’re diminishing wars, so we look with a bit of disdain at the Old Testament and say, “Well, the God of the Old Testament is just too violent.”

And yet… the 20th Century gave us two world wars played out by major players of “developed” countries. The beginning of the 21st Century hasn’t fared much better. We are still a world torn up by war.

We can have a distaste for war and work like crazy for peace… and we should. Yet, we have the reality of war. It was part of the Old Testament world. It is part of our world. And God has not changed. Those are the realities we need to deal with in our theology.

 

David and the Temple

In 2 Samuel 7 David wanted to build the Lord a temple. He was living in a nice place, so he wanted to give God a worthy temple. You know, like every other god of every other nation. 

But Yahweh isn’t like every other God. He refused David’s request. He promised to allow David’s successor the opportunity, but he makes it clear all along this was not his request. God didn’t need the shrine.

In refusing David he makes something clear that serves as a reminder: We can’t make God’s name great.

We can boast in the Lord. We can praise the name of the Lord. We can tell others of his great name. But we can’t make his name great.

God alone makes HIS name great.

To demonstrate his power, and his utter lack of need for a national temple, he tells David to give up the idea, but Yahweh would instead make David’s name great. 

It is a good idea to remember WHO is God. We quite simply can NOT “do things” for God to make his name great. He doesn’t require us to make something extravagant for him so that “finally” his name is recognized. Then, in his wonderful power and mercy, he turns around and does something FOR US instead. 

This is the difference in our God. He does not demand what we need to do to “make him great.” He instead pours out his mercy and when our name is “made great,” we realize something very humbling: it’s not us. 

The Place of Grief

2 Samuel 1

I do not believe in reincarnation. But I’ve hedged my bets on this one. I put in a request just in case. 

I’ve asked God to bring me back as a black church choir director.

This is a request from years ago, when I learned so much about HOW to grieve from a couple of funerals at African American churches.

I was new into ministry, just out of college, and had come into a couple of situations that had rocked my very young world. The first one was watching a 15 year old girl literally die in front of my eyes. I followed the ambulance to the hospital and tried to be “pastoral,” as I found the mother in the waiting room. At that point it wasn’t confirmed the girl was dead, so I offered my prayers to mother, but had nothing else to say. I left quickly.

But the pictures in my head haunted me. I learned the next day she had passed away so I found out the time and place of the funeral and went. It was an African American church and it was my first experience at a funeral in a black church. The service went for hours. There was weeping, singing, laughter, joyous worship, loud grieving, all of it. All the emotions were laid out. Nothing was held back. Nothing was scripted. The musicians knew exactly what to do at the exact moment, it seemed, and never with any sheet music. Always on key. Always bringing the right emotion, it seemed.

The funeral helped me with my own shock and grief, even though I did not know the girl at all.

The second time I was at that same church for a funeral, the pastor knew me, as did the congregation. It was a couple of years later, and some friends we had that attended that church had lost their son. It turned out to be someone I knew vaguely from high school. He was only a couple of years older than me!

Again, the shock of mortality hit me. But I was friends with the parents as well, so I shared their grief.

This time when I went to the church, and it was packed out again, the ushers knew me. I was looking for a seat in the back and they said, “No pastor, we have your seat.”

They took me to the platform.

Knowing that African American churches honor their pastors by having them on the platform, I guessed I was simply sitting with the guest pastors. What I didn’t know what that when you sat up there at a funeral, you were expected to speak a few words. Fortunately, they started on the other end of the row. By the time the third man had stood up and gone to the pulpit I realized I was going to have to say something. 

I had nothing. I was 24 or 25. I had nothing. I meet twenty-somethings today who think they have all kinds of things to say. It’ll hit them in about ten years just how little they really had to offer. It’s just a matter of maturity and living some life, that’s all. But right then, in that moment, I knew my place. I had nothing. 

It would be great to say I just bowed my head and asked the Lord and he wondrously gave me the very words to say that spoke so deeply to the church… but I was so shook up I can only say I think I prayed… If I prayed, it was something like, “Dear God, how could you do this to me?” or something spiritual like that.

Mostly, it was, “Think of SOMETHING you idiot!

Suddenly I remembered a story. A few years before I had watched this documentary on great black gospel singers and they had interviewed Thomas Dorsey. (Not Tommy Dorsey, the big band leader.) Thomas Dorsey was a tremendous force in black gospel music and had written the legendary song, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” 

In the documentary they interviewed Dorsey and how that song came to be written. It was out of his own grief. He had lost his wife and baby and out of that grief this song came to him. It was a song of lament.

When it was my turn to stand and address the crowd, I looked at the parents and gave a few condolences, then began to tell Dorsey’s story. As I did, the organist began playing “Precious Lord.” Before long a few people near the organ were singing the verse. It began to crescendo, and I thankfully sat down as the congregation began singing out the entire song.

That is why I want to come back as a black church choir director. It was the ability to know what to do in the moment, unscripted. It was the ability to lead people in lament and rejoicing. It was the ability to lay all the emotions out and leave nothing hidden inside. Grieving is too important to leave it locked up.

That is the teaching of 2 Samuel 1:17-27. When you grieve, get it all out.

Don’t do the “white” thing of go to the funeral in the morning and go back to work in the afternoon. Don’t bottle this stuff up.

Loss hurts and it hurts deeply. It may hurt long.

Let it.

When we suffer deep loss, we suffer deeply. We cannot hide it. David let all his emotions fly. We need to learn this valuable lesson.