Many people have one defining moment in their lives. Ashley Smith had two. Perhaps you remember the story from March of 2005, when Brian Nichols took Ashley Smith hostage in her apartment after allegedly killing four people – three in an Atlanta courthouse. For seven hours, Smith, a widowed single mom, talked to Nichols about her faith, her addiction to crystal meth, and the young daughter she was struggling to regain custody of. She also read to Nichols from Pastor Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life.
Today, Smith is drug-free, reunited with her daughter, and rededicated to her Christian faith. She believes it was God who helped her survive not only the encounter with Nichols, but also her addiction. She has a new book coming out entitled, “Unlikely Angel,” which tells about her hostage ordeal and her recovery.
Ashley Smith really was an unlikely angel, because she was addicted to drugs at the time of this encounter. While Nichols was in her apartment, she gave him some crystal meth. But when he asked her to take some too, she declined for the first time.
Her life was a mess after her husband had been killed some time earlier. That was her first defining moment. After that she spiraled into more drug use, and eventually lost custody of her daughter.
But this day when Brian Nichols was in her apartment was the second defining moment for her. She turned from drugs, turned to God for help, talked Brian Nichols into giving himself up and her life was transformed.
The first defining moment led her to drug addiction; the second defining moment led her out of drug addiction. Today she frequently speaks to Christian groups about her two defining moments.
Defining moments are sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Perhaps a positive defining moment would be when someone wins the lottery, rescues someone from drowning, or writes the great American novel. But I suspect most defining moments are negative. The world will remember September 11, 2001 as one defining moment. President Richard Nixon will forever be remembered for the one defining moment when he was forced to resign as President. O. J. Simpson will not be remembered for his many achievements in football, but for the one defining moment of his trial for the death of his wife.
In the same way, King David of Israel had one defining moment. But today I want to ask, “What exactly was his defining moment?” For many people, the defining moment was his act of adultery. For those who study the passage more carefully, we will find that his defining moment was his repentance.
As our text for today begins, David is picking up the pieces of his adultery/rape/cover-up/murder. Uriah was killed on David’s orders. Bathsheba conducted a proper mourning for her husband. And now David sends for Bathsheba once again, but this time to take her for his wife.
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Notice that David has no intention of marrying her until he found out she was pregnant. To cover up his sordid affair, he felt he had to kill the husband. Now the cover up continues by his marrying the woman who is bearing his child. This seems to me to be an act of duty and not love. I suggested last week that this was not a relationship based on genuine emotions, but on lust and power.
The text notes that she bore him a son. We will learn later that this child dies, and that death is understood as the judgment of God on David.
Chapter 11 ends with a clear statement from God, “But the thing that David had done displeased Yahweh.” So God sends Nathan to confront David with his sin. But one has to be careful when confronting powerful people with their sins. Sometimes one has to be tactful to get a powerful person to see their own mistakes.
This is common sense. For example, the worse thing you can ever do to a liar is to call him a liar. You can call him a liar, but only in an indirect way. You might say, “Not everything he says has the ring of truth to it.” You might say, “The truth seldom escapes his lips.” But you never just call a liar a liar.
In the same way, Nathan doesn’t directly confront David with his sin. Instead, he tells a story which elicits the righteous indignation of David.
He tells of two men in a city. The one was rich and the other poor. The rich man has large flocks and herds, while the poor man has only one prized ewe lamb. The poor man loves this lamb so much that he treats it like his child. The lamb ate, drank, and slept with him. When a guest arrives at the rich man’s house, he was hesitant to kill one of his own animals. Instead, the rich man takes the poor man’s prized lamb and feeds it to his guest.
It really is a story of gross injustice. We are shocked by such a heartless act by the rich man. It is a story of the abuse of the power of the rich. David’s reaction is like our own. He is shocked and angry. He proclaims, “As Yahweh lives, the man who has done this is worthy to die! He shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity!”
The commentators point out that this was not a real-live case for David’s judgment. There are no names, places, witnesses or other petitioners involved. It is obviously a rhetorical device using a parable of injustice as a way of confronting David.
Nathan brings the matter to its dramatic conclusion by proclaiming, “You are the man!” David is the one who had much and took possession one who had little. David is the one who has exploited Uriah and is guilty of the injustice that David so roundly condemns.
This is a parable and not an allegory. The parable has a main point – that someone had committed an injustice. But we can see it is not an allegory because all of the points do not have parallels. Yes, Uriah had only one wife while David had many, which parallels nicely with the one lamb and the many. But in the parable it was the lamb who was killed. To be consistent to the parable, David would have slain Bathsheba. In David’s story, it was Uriah, the husband, who parallels the owner of the lamb who was killed. David’s story is “like” the parable in that David uses his position and wealth to “take” what belonged to another.
Next we find a prophetic oracle announcing the judgment of God. The message from God begins by recounting all that God had done for David: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that would have been too little, I would have added to you many more such things.”
God is presented as the giver, while David is the receiver. Surprisingly, God states a willingness to have given David even more, but now David has moved from merely receiving God’s good gifts to taking what he wants.
Next, God makes an accusation regarding David’s offenses: “Why have you despised the word of Yahweh, to do that which is evil in his sight? You have struck Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.”
Notice that David’s actions are seen here as despising the word of the Lord. And in verse ten, God follows up by saying, “Because you have despised me.” From God’s perspective, David’s sin was against God and not just against Uriah and Bathsheba.
It is a vivid reminder that God always seems to take the side of the oppressed and the poor. God’s attitude in 2 Samuel seems to be the same as the attitude of Jesus in his first sermon recorded in Luke 4. He quotes Isaiah saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim release to the captives, recovering of sight to the blind, to deliver those who are crushed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
And it is very interesting what God views as the sin of David. Most of us conclude that the sin of David was adultery. God does not mention that. I suggested last week that David actually raped Bathsheba. God doesn’t mention that either. And we all know that David did not actually lift his hand against Uriah. Instead he merely gave the order for his death. But listen to how God describes it in verse 9, “You have struck Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.” In God’s view, it was the murder that mattered, and God views it as if David had killed him with his own sword.
The announcement of God’s punishment is signaled with the “Now therefore…” in verse 10, “Now therefore the sword will never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife…. Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he will lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”
The violence David has done against Uriah and Bathsheba will be visited on David’s own family. As we continue reading the Bible, we will find that David’s family story is indeed a tragic and violent one. It includes the death of a child, an incestuous rape, a murder of revenge, a son’s armed rebellion, and that son’s ultimate death. And at one point, David’s son Absalom takes David’s wives and concubines in a tent on the palace roof.
In verse 13, we come at last to David’s response. He does not turn on Nathan or reject Nathan’s harsh words. He offers no alibis, no excuses, and no explanations. He does not assert his authority or attempt to justify himself.
He says simply, “I have sinned against Yahweh.” His confession is simple and direct. David has not lost the capacity to choose for the Lord.
Our passage concludes with Nathan saying to David, “Yahweh also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
Psalm 103 says, “Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness. He will not always accuse;
neither will he stay angry forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor repaid us for our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his loving kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Forgiveness means that God “has removed (our) transgressions from us.”
But God’s nevertheless still rings through this story. Nathan adds, “However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to Yahweh’s enemies to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” Then Nathan departed to his house.
David was forgiven by God, but he still reaped the consequences of his sin. What David has done cannot be undone. Life can be reclaimed and continue in the midst of the consequences of sin, but the tragic reverberations from David’s sin will continue to be felt in his family for generations.
We too can be forgiven, but we will still have to deal with the consequences of our actions. In God’s sight our sin may be removed as far as the east is from the west, but what is done cannot be undone.
So after reviewing this story again, I ask you, “What was David’s one defining moment?” Most people will say it was his adultery. Some would venture that it was the murder of Uriah. But God seemed to think it was his repentance. David is revered throughout the Bible and said to be a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
David will forever be remembered for these words of repentance and confession from Psalm 51:
“Have mercy on me, God, according to your loving kindness.
According to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. For I know my transgressions. My sin is constantly before me. Against you, and you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight; that you may be proved right when you speak, and justified when you judge…. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.”
That! That was David’s one defining moment! It was not his great failure; it was his great confession and repentance. The same can be true for us. Many of us struggle with our failures and have great difficulty getting over them. But if we learn from David, our one defining moment can be when we too proclaim, “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.”
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.
Copyright 2006, Dr. Mickey Anders. Used by permission.