If I’m not careful this series is going to turn into a 15-parter, so I better start winding this thing up over the next couple of weeks. Sorry, this one is going to be a little longer than usual. I thought about making it into two posts, but it just flows better as one, so it’s a double issue, two for the price of one!
As we have discovered, the Bible gives us plenty of examples of those who are remembered for great faith, but not without failure, and in some cases great failure. There were detours, wrong turns, and bad decisions along the way, but ultimately their faith was not totally derailed or destroyed. By faith and with God’s help they managed to get things back on track.
“12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13 NIV
“Working out our salvation” is hard work. It’s painful. It can be downright exhausting, even frightening. That’s why Paul tells us in Galatians 6:9 to ”not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” The key to our survival is perseverance and endurance. We need to be prepared for the long haul. It’s a marathon.
God’s salvation that we’re supposed to be “working out” is a three-step process: Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. Justification occurs when we make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, we believe. Our profession is followed by confession. We confess and repent of our sins. if we’re sincere then we are forgiven, but it doesn’t end there. This is just the beginning. Glorification comes later when we get to “reap the harvest” of our faithfulness to God, but there is a big “if” in there, “IF we don’t give up.” We have to endure the other phase of salvation, the “in between” phase called Sanctification, which involves cleansing, purification, and sin removal. It lasts a lifetime. Our goal is to become “holy as He (God) is holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45,20:26; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
Sanctification or “becoming holy” is the really hard part, the “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” part. It’s the part that we all struggle with and grow weary of doing, so that’s why it’s important for us to learn something from those who have already been through it. That’s why we’re studying about Noah, Rahab, Abraham, Paul, etc., not to pick on them or judge them, but to remember how hard it is, to learn from their mistakes, to know that we’re not alone in our struggle, and to understand that God can take our worst moments and turn them around. He can save us!
David is another great Biblical example for us to study, and another one of my favorite illustrations for what God can do. We all know that he defeated Goliath, became king of Israel, and possessed many admirable qualities. He’s a giant in the faith community, but there is some “in between” stuff that taints his legacy. However, there is one element to his character that kept him on the path of righteousness. Although his transgressions are almost as legendary as his accomplishments and the consequences for his sins severe, he managed to find his way to the finish line of faith because of one thing. Before we get to David and that “one thing”, we need a little background, so let’s fast track through a little Jewish history.
Israel finally makes it to the promised land and possess it through Joshua’s leadership, but it’s a challenge to maintain there hold over it because of all the other inhabitants of the land, mainly the Canaanites and Philistines. Israel is in a constant state of conflict. Even though Israel is a nation of people, they have no king. God is their king. There are several “Judges” or leaders that the Lord appoints to watch over and rescue Israel from its enemies, 12 in all: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. That’s all covered in the book of Judges. If we skip the book of Ruth, which happened during the time of the judges, we come to 1st & 2nd Samuel where David’s story is told.
During this time Israel decides they need a king like all the other nations around them. God’s not crazy about the idea, but he allows them to have one. His only condition is that whoever rules over Israel has to be “a man after His (God’s) own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), one who has a heart for God, who desires to please the Lord, and obey His commands.
Israel’s first king, Saul, is a disaster, a trainwreck. The Lord eventually rejects him, but until another king is anointed Saul will stay in power. Samuel, a Levite priest, whom God has chosen to help with the whole royal selection process, including Saul, is directed by the Lord to the house of Jessie in Bethlehem to anoint a new king. Jessie has 8 sons and Samuel is impressed with what he sees, but the Lord tells Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV) Remember, “the Lord looks at the heart”, it’s the key to this whole series.
As 7 of the brothers were presented to Samuel, the Lord rejects each one as the future king of Israel. Then Samuel asks, “Are these all the sons you have?” To which Jessie replies, “There is still the youngest. He is tending the sheep.” (16:11) So, they send for David, and it says that “he was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” (16:12).However, it’s nearly 15 years between the time that David is anointed king and actually became king. Remember Saul is still king and he’s not ready to give it up. He eventually grows jealous of David’s accomplishments, popularity, and spends the next 15 years trying to kill him. It basically turns into a civil war between the two, which David wins.
Once, David is king everything is great. He conquers Jerusalem, brings back the Ark of the Covenant that had been lost to the Philistines, has multiple victories over surrounding enemies, and establishes Israel’s foothold in the region and identity as a nation for the first time. The golden age of Israel begins. David does it the right way. God is pleased. Life is good. BUT!!! One spring evening, David gets out of bed on goes on the roof of his palace. Maybe he can’t sleep and needs to get some fresh air. While he’s up there he sees a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing. Whoops! “Cover your eyes David, think holy thoughts, and go back to bed! RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!”
At this point David hasn’t done anything wrong. How was he supposed to know a beautiful women would be bathing on the roof? Maybe roof bathing was a thing back then, but he could have closed-covered his eyes and walked away. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do that. Instead of resisting the temptation he sends for her, sleeps with her, and she gets pregnant. Oh, I forgot to share that she’s married and so is David. Bathsheba’s husband Uriah is a soldier in David’s army. Since it’s still early in the pregnancy David tries to fix it by getting Uriah to stay home for a few days instead of returning to military duty. He also gets Uriah drunk hoping that he will go home and sleep with his wife, then maybe Uriah will think the child is his, but Uriah doesn’t go home or sleep with this wife.
David could have stopped here, owned up to the mistake, and confessed his sin, but he makes the situation much worse by sending Uriah to the front of Israel’s current battle with the Ammonites at Rabbah. He sends Uriah into the heart of the fighting on purpose so he will be killed, which he is. So, in one chapter David has committed adultery, murder, and covered it up.
Apparently, David thinks that he’s gotten away with it. He moves Bathsheba into the palace, marries her, and the child is born. But he’s caught totally off guard in 2 Samuel 12 when the Lord sends Nathan, the prophet, to confront David and expose his sin. Nathan begins the conversation with a heart wrenching story of a rich man who steals something precious from a poor man. David is so enraged that he demands the rich man must die for his crime. Nathan responds, “You are the man!” David IS the rich man in Nathan’s story. Nathan drops a bombshell on David. I can only imagine the cold chill that went down David’s spine when he realized his sins were exposed.
David’s sin won’t go unpunished. The consequences are severe and far reaching. Nathan tells David that “by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.” (2 Samuel 12:14 NIV) Not only will David lose his son, but his kingdom and family will eventually suffer because of his sin. So, how does David react when his sins are exposed? Does he get defensive and make excuses like Saul, his predecessor? Does he deny it?
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” 2 Samuel 12:14 NIV
His confession of guilt is immediate, and God forgives Him. What a minute? Hold the phone! How could God forgive him so quickly? What are we not seeing here and what was that “one thing” about David that enabled God to forgive him?
I’m sure there was a lot more dialogue in this conversation than we’re seeing, but we get a picture of David’s state of mind after this incident in Psalms 32 and 51, so please read them. David wasn’t just a king and warrior. He was also a musician and poet. It is believed that he wrote 74 or more of the chapters in the book of Psalms. As we read David’s Psalms, especially Psalms 32 and 51 we discover his deep love for the Lord and his deep remorse for his sins. Much later the Apostle Paul says, “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22 NIV)
In this case, it’s obvious that David didn’t do “everything” the Lord wanted him to do. There is no excuse for what David did, and God was not lenient with him. David didn’t get off scot-free. He paid dearly for his transgressions, but the “one thing” that David possessed, the “one thing” that saved him and enabled God to forgive him was a true heart for God. David was “a man after God’s own heart”. He truly loved the Lord despite his imperfections. God knew David’s heart. Remember, “the Lord looks at the heart”.
How many of us can say that we have done “everything” that the Lord wanted us to do? Like David, we are not immune to temptation and the lure of sin. Remember it is “common to mankind”. Everyone experiences it. The process of sanctification or “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” is painful and exhausting. There are times when we all fail and fall short of God’s glory. It might be easy to judge the sins of others, but we are all guilty by comparison. James, one of Jesus’ brothers, said, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10 NIV) In Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell”…“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:21-22 & 27-28 NIV)
Again, I’m sorry I went a little long with this one, but this is so important for our faith journey. God is seeking people that are “after his own heart”. Even though we miss the target time and time again, God really is what we’re aiming for. He’s what we’re really after, seeking, and chasing. We aren’t entitled to anything, but if we come to God humbly with a “broken spirit and contrite (remorseful) heart”, He will not despise, reject, or turn away from us. This is the key that unlocks God’s salvation and forgiveness. Okay, I’m going to shut up now and let David finish this.
“14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:14-17 NIV
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC