Monday, October 21, 2013

Life of David - Lesson 28

A Major Blunder, an Attempted Cover-up, and a Murder Plot - 2 Samuel 11

Prayer: God we thank you that when your Word speaks of your people, of your chosen, that it is brutally honest.  We thank you that an imperfect fallen person was "just the right man" & "a man after God's own heart".  We're far from perfect, we need the encouragement that comes from knowing you use flawed people to do your will.  We're saddened by the failings of believers, and pray for the sanctification of your church.  Amen!

Quickly Form Groups:
1.  Talk about the types of sins that trap people - especially people in your generation, after some discussion pray for strength when facing temptation.

You may have already guessed which passage we're at in David's life.  Despite all the amazing Godly things David he is best known for this terrible episode in his life.  It's like we see on the evening news, it's the bad news that gets the most attention.  This passage saddens me, but at the same time encourages me - you see, despite David's failure (and this is a biggie) he's still the "man after God's own heart".

The Major Blunder:

2 Samuel 11:1 - It is Springtime in Israel, and the army has gone out to deal with the Ammonites once again (the same pesky group that started all the trouble in last week's passage).  Apparently David didn't feel like going, even though he could have, so we get the sense that he's decided to take it easy, to indulge himself & enjoy the many benefits of being king.  1 Corinthians 10:12  This should be a warning to us, it's usually when we start getting a little too "comfortable" in our salvation that we get tripped up - we're just not paying enough attention or getting lazy in our faith.

2 Samuel 11:2 - Red Alert! Red Alert! Warning! Danger!!  David is restless, has too much time on his hands & perhaps is a bit bored.  He decides to go for a walk out on the roof in the evening.  Sounds innocent enough, right?  Roofs in that area were flat & frequently were used as outdoor rooms.  Eastern palaces of that era typically had a king's bedchamber on the 2nd floor (for privacy), with a door that opened up onto a stretch of flat roof which had been furnished as a private area to relax, this is where we find David taking a late night stroll.  Perhaps he heard the splash of water & looked out over the edge of his roof to see who else was up & about that night, whatever the case he looked out & saw a woman bathing - a very beautiful woman.  

A couple things should get our attention here, this woman was not behaving in a modest way - as was the way of most Hebrew women.  A modest woman would not have bathed in a place where she could be observed, and this woman is in plain sight of the  king.  The other thing we should notice is that the scriptures call her very beautiful, not just beautiful, and the scriptures rarely include the word "very" so this is no exaggeration, she was a knock-out.  Was she hoping to be seen by the king?  It seems that this was the case.  It reminds me of the time Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to JFK, which raised eyebrows in that day - google it if you don't get the reference. 

2 Samuel 11:3-5 - Who is at fault here?  Both are at fault, she tempted & he gave into temptation - using his position as king as a means of manipulating the situation.   I want you to know that these few sentences probably took some time, there was time to make an inquiry & time to be introduced & time for the seduction to reach it's dreadful conclusion.  The note about purification is how we know that she was not already pregnant by Uriah, and that the child that resulted from their actions is indeed David's.

Uriah was one of David's mighty men, he was off at war, and while he was off at war his wife was at home tempting the king.  Uriah was a Hittite, a foreigner, who had become a Jew by choice - even taking on a Hebrew name, the fact that his home was in close proximity to the palace indicates that he may have been a man of high rank.  Bathsheba was also a foreigner by birth, a Gilonite, the daughter of another of David's mighty men.  I'm guessing Bathsheba may have been attracted to David for a while, she & her family may have been part of the band of misfits that had been traveling with David when still in the wilderness. (Both Uriah & Bathsheba's father Eliam are listed in 2 Samuel 24 as part of David's Mighty Men)

The Attempted Cover-up:

2 Samuel 11:6-9 - David has Uriah called back from the war under a pretense that he wanted to know how the war was going.  The fact that David's actions didn't arouse suspicion is another indication of Uriah's high standing among David's men.  David "plays nice" and tells Uriah to go home & relax for a while, and even sends a gift on to Uriah's home showing his favor.  David thinks his plan is going well but Uriah doesn't go home, instead he chooses to sleep at the entrance to the palace along with David's servants.

2 Samuel 11:10-11 - David discovers Uriah didn't go home and questions him, he wants to know why he didn't take the opportunity to rest well at home since he'd come from quite a distance.  Uriah's response tells us a lot about him, he's a man of honor.  Uriah wasn't going to go enjoy all the comforts of home while the rest of the army was off fighting.  Compare that to David's recent behavior, David chose to stay home and take it easy & even played around with another man's wife.  Uriah is demonstrating his camaraderie & solidarity with his fellow soldiers & refusing to enjoy his own home, bed, and wife.  A foreigner's devotion & honor has outshone that of the Hebrew king.

2 Samuel 11:12-13 - David hasn't given up trying to cover-up his actions, so he tries once more.  This time David gets Uriah drunk... but despite having too much to drink Uriah keeps his honor & once again sleeps with David's servants.  This cover-up attempt has failed, when the child Bathsheba is carrying is born Uriah will know it is not his.  This is a serious problem for both David & Bathsheba, Leviticus 20:10 & Deuteronomy 22:22, God's law prescribed serious consequences (the death penalty) for both of them.

The Murder Plot:

2 Samuel 11:14-17 - David is now taking desperate measures, he sends Uriah back to war with his own execution orders carried in his hand.  Did Joab know what was going on?  Did he suspect?  It is not known, but he knew his king had asked him to arrange for Uriah to die, and so he did as he was asked.

Uriah died a hero's death, and David - the man after God's own heart - is the villain.  Sometimes we think that because we're believers we aren't as evil as those in the world around us, that just isn't true!  We are all born with a sin nature, we all are fallen, none of us is any better or any more deserving; however, a heart that is passionate for God draws us to God, and it is by His goodness we are saved.  David still has a heart that is passionate for God, but he's lost his way.

2 Samuel 11:18-25 - The news comes by messenger that Uriah is dead, Joab is shrewd in how he has the message delivered so that David will know that the deed has been done but the messenger won't understand.  David sends a message back to the front indicating his understanding & instructing Joab to carry on.

2 Samuel 11:26-27 - Bathsheba observed the standard mourning period, this would have been about 7 days, then she is taken to the palace to become one of David's wives.  I wonder if there was any real love for her husband, she may have cared about him but it may have been an arranged marriage that wasn't satisfying, we just don't know.  In time the baby is born, a son.  This final attempt at a cover-up appears to have succeeded, but if it had we wouldn't have this passage recorded for historical posterity.  Even if David hadn't been found out by men his actions would have been known by God, he simply wasn't going to get away with murder.  God is displeased, and God is not going to let David keep his sins hidden, God is going to cleanse David once again.

When we sin we don't simply sin against other people, in fact it's not our actions against other people that carry the greatest consequences.  David reflecting back later on this episode wrote Psalm 51 (Psalm 51:4).

Closing Prayer:  Lord help us to diligently keep watch over our what we look at, what we listen to, what we read, what we think, what we say.  We ask that the power of the Holy Spirit would guard our hearts & minds.  Amen!

Quickly Form Groups Again:
2.  We know that any sin causes separation from God, but what is it about sexual sin that makes it so especially heinous?  Try to come up with verses to support your thoughts.
3.  What warnings would you give to a friend you discovered was being tempted in an area of sin?  How might you come along side to help?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Life of David - Lesson 27

When God's people are Misunderstood - 2 Samuel 10

Prayer: God we thank you for being our defender in a world that sometimes finds our very existence offensive.  We thank you that your love isn't based on what people think of us, but on your very nature instead.  Help us Lord to be willing to be uncomfortable for your name's sake. Amen!

Quickly Form Groups:
1. Briefly have each person share something about their lives that their non-believing friends don't "get", pray for each.

David is a good king, he's shown himself to be honorable & to be a man who keeps his promises - like we saw last time when he kept his promise to Jonathan to show kindness to Jonathan's family.  David was also the kind of king that wasn't ruthless to the other nations around him, he didn't go looking for a fight; in fact, he had good relations with the king of at least one of the surrounding nations - and that's where our passage begins.

2 Samuel 10:1-2a - We start with some sad news, a friend & ally of King David has died - someone who had shown kindness to King David.  David makes up his mind to show kindness to King Nahash's son & successor Hanun, so he sends a delegation to Hanun to express his sympathy.  This delegation was likely people from within David's royal court, trusted friends & advisors, and they most likely came bearing gifts.  This action on David's part shows his compassion but also his wisdom, he wants to keep peace with this neighboring nation, and that nation has a new king.

2 Samuel 10:2b-4 - What a shame, David's actions which were spurred on by his compassion are completely misunderstood.  The Ammonites have not been wise, surely there was a better way to guard themselves against a perceived threat, they could have simply turned the delegation away, instead they seem to be inviting trouble.  Let's take a look at what they did to David's men:
  • They shaved off half of each man's beard - Leviticus 19:27; Isaiah 7:20 - The beard of an Israelite man was symbolic of his relationship with God, their particular type of beard set them apart as God's chosen in a visible way.  In most Eastern cultures of that day a beard was only shaved off during times of deep mourning.  For the Jew, a beard being shaved or pulled off at someone else's hand was sometimes used a symbol of God's displeasure - showing that the people weren't really being God's people.  It could also be a sign of being cut off from God - Isaiah 50:6 - this prophecy was fulfilled by Christ, his own people rejected him as one of them & took away a symbol of him being a Jew - thus symbolically cutting him off; in addition, it was also symbolic of him being "cut off" from fellowship with the Father at the crucifixion.
  • They cut off their garments mid-buttock & sent them away like that - Wow, I can't imagine the humiliation this caused.  Being uncovered in this way is humiliating to anyone, but not only would it humiliate them they would be exposed as "different" since all Jewish males were circumcised (not practiced by any other cultures at this time).  This was a customary way, in that place & time, to treat prisoners of war...
2 Samuel 10:5 - How does David respond?  He sends messengers to greet his delegation & help them recover.  I'm guessing his messengers would have been sent with fresh garments for the delegation, though we don't know.  What we do know is that David set aside time for his men to recover, and a place for them to recover that had them hidden away - Jericho was still in ruins in David's day per the Lord's direction.  David showed compassion and did what he could to help them regain their dignity - remember these were members of David's royal court & likely also some of his dearest friends.  What I find equally interesting is what David doesn't do, he doesn't get ticked off and start a war, perhaps he considered that Hanun's grief may have blurred his judgement - just a thought, we really don't know.  David didn't retaliate - Roman's 12:19 which quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 - he let the offense go, leaving their fate in God's hands.

2 Samuel 10:6 - At this point the Ammonites realize that what they've done is going to cause problems in their relations with Israel - now that they've had some time to think through their actions.  I wonder if David's inaction, his lack of retaliation, is what caught their attention?  But they go from one foolish decision to another, instead of reaching out to broker peace they automatically assume that David is hatching some sort of big plan to do them in, and this new wrong assumption on their part leads them to start a war.  The Ammonites must have feared the strength of David's army, because they're not content to fight alone, they hire in additional forces to assist them: 20,000 Foot Soldiers (Aramean from Beth Rehob & Zobah), King Maacah & 1,000 of his men, 12,000 men from Tob - totaling 33,000 additional troops.

2 Samuel 10:7 - David now is forced into a war, why?  Because he wanted to show compassion to the son of a friend that died.  Have you ever been misunderstood?  I have been, I've been accused of some terrible things by people who didn't understand that I was acting out of kindness, care, or compassion - and it cuts deeply.  I've had people I thought were friends turn their backs on me, and undermine me (start a war of a different sort), because they were upset about something I'd done with good intentions.  Though times like these are painful, as believers we should expect this is we are openly living out our faith in front of our unbelieving friends - Luke 6:22.

2 Samuel 10:8-12 - The Ammonite troops formed lines in one area, near the entrance to their city, while their hired troops (Arameans) were in open country nearby.  I'm guessing the groups would have been relatively evenly split, if so the Ammonites would have been around 30,000-40,000 men strong.  The forces of Israel under Joab were right in the middle, not a good strategic position; however, Joab divides the forces between himself and his brother Abishai.  Joab took the more skilled troops with him, presumably to tackle the more skilled forces of the Arameans.  Abishai took the greater number of troops, though not as highly skilled, against the Ammonites.  The brothers agreed that if either struggled the other would come to help, but they knew that God was the one in control of their battle - their service under David had taught them well.

2 Samuel 10:13-14 - From our study of 2 Samuel 5 last Spring I told you that conservative estimates of the size of David's combined army (with the former army of Saul) would have been about 350,000 men at the time he became king over all Israel.  I'm guessing that these forces hadn't dwindled, but they may not have all been called out into this battle.  Needless to say, when the smaller group of David's forces head toward the Arameans they flee - likely they knew it would be a slaughter if they stayed put.  Once the Ammonites see their hired warriors have fled they also flee & take refuge in their city.  At that point Joab simply leads the troops back to Jerusalem, the conflict appears to have been settled - or has it?

2 Samuel 10:15-16 - Apparently the Arameans had their reputations in danger because they had fled from a battle that they'd been hired to fight.  The first time there had been 33,000 of the Aramean forces and that wasn't enough, so this time they brought a bunch of their countrymen from further away (from the other side of the Euphrates) to join their fight.

2 Samuel 10:17-19 & 1 Chronicles 19:18 - I don't like mosquitos, I'm allergic to them & get terrible hives when bitten, but even if it weren't for that I think they're pesky critters.  I really dislike them when they buzz my ears or fly into my eyes, I find this behavior  downright obnoxious!  I think that's how David was feeling about these Arameans, he'd swatted at them already trying to shoo them away, but they just aren't getting the message.  

This time David is responding in person, he leads the troops into battle & Israel is the victor (hmm, this was predictable).  David's men killed 7000 charioteers (the 700 in 2 Samuel is believed to be an ancient copyists error - 1 Chronicles is believed to have the correct number), as well as 40,000 foot soldiers.  Ok, do the math, that's 47,000 killed - and the first time they'd only come with 33,000 troops!

The Arameans got the picture, they weren't going to defeat David, so they brokered peace with Israel.  They also got wise about the Ammonites & wouldn't act as their hired guns anymore.  I'm guessing the Ammonites decided to just keep to themselves after this... my mental picture is of them cowering inside their city walls afraid to upset the neighboring kingdoms - after all they didn't want their beards cut off & their buttocks exposed.

Closing Prayer:  God we thank you that you are the defender of your people.  We know that when people come against us because of you that you are standing with us and for us, that is such a comfort.  We thank you for your word that shows us your faithfulness toward your people, a faithfulness that is seen by looking at how you have worked for the sake of your name's sake throughout history.  We thank you that you choose to work through us to continue to do your will in this world, help us to lean on you for the strength & courage to do what you ask.  Amen!

Quickly Form Groups Again:
2.  Share about a time when someone lashed out at you because they were suspicious of your intentions.  How did that impact you?  Have you specifically forgiven them?
3.  Share about a time when you felt God was fighting your battle on your behalf, giving you victory.  What did you learn from that?  How can you use your story to encourage others?