7th Sunday after Pentacost
2 Samuel 11:1-17
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me, so was David’s prayer and our prayer is the same, “Create in us a pure heart that we might live before you in faithfulness and purity.” In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,
1960 was certainly not the highest time of morality in America, but being about 50 years ago it serves as sort of a benchmark for certain facts and statistics to show how fast immorality is growing in America. Today the American divorce rate is about twice what it was in 1960. Between 1960 and 2010, the number of couples who live together (have a sexual relationship) without the commitment of marriage has increase 17 fold. Couples who live together (having a sexual relationship) before marriage have a 50% higher risk of divorce than any couple of any background who do not live together before marriage. 40 – 50% or 1 in 2 of recent marriages will end in separation or divorce before the death of one of the spouses. In 2010 40.8% of all births in America were to unwed mothers, so about 4 out of every 10 children born. The effects of sexual immorality in our world are staggering. These facts are simply scratching the surface. There is a host of other problems our world is battling: Internet pornography is a 4.9 billion dollar industry, every second in the U.S. $3,000 is spent on pornography and 30,000 people are viewing it. And what about all the impure thoughts, emotions, desires that people have? And who could possibly calculate everything behind these statistics: the pain, the hurt, the scars, of broken couples, broken lives, broken relationships, the negative emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical consequences, but even more the damage it does to children and families.
God commands that the sexual relationship exist only within the bounds of a marriage between a man and a woman and that there be no hint of sexual immorality. And, think about it, what do a husband and wife vow in marriage? In the traditional vow of marriage the husband and wife promise each other, “I promise to be faithful to you for as long as we both shall live.” Marriage is really to be the embodiment of what it means to be faithful, for marriage when it functions as God intended it, is to provide an awesome illustration of the relationship between Jesus at the Church. Will Jesus ever cheat on His people? Will Jesus ever walk away from His people? No way! So just as Jesus would never cheat on His people and would never walk away from his people, so the husband and wife ought never to cheat on or leave each other. Just as Jesus is always faithful to His people, the husband and wife are to be always faithful to each other. Part of the reason that the marriage bond is so important is that it is meant to reflect the awesome relationship between Jesus and the Church.
And so, if we’re not faithful in marriage, if we don’t keep ourselves pure, if husbands aren’t properly loving their wives, if wives aren’t properly respecting their husbands, if husbands and wives are unfaithful to each other, then we’re really making God look bad. But, when we live purely, when husbands love their wives, when wives respect their husbands, when both are faithful to each other, our lives provide an awesome picture of God’s love for His people. Our respect for God’s design for marriage provides an awesome illustration of God’s faithfulness. So, when others see us they are drawn to our faithful God.
But what a mess we so often make of God’s designs for marriage, for sex, for purity, for faithfulness. And we see it in this account of David. David, remember, is described as a “man after God’s own heart” and is listed in the book of Hebrews as a “hero of faith.” But how tragically we see him fall into impurity here! In a way this account is frightening to us because it shows us just how vulnerable each one of us is. God doesn’t hide the sins of His great men and women in the Bible but He wants us to be warned and instructed by them.
First, it seems to start out rather small, doesn’t it? David was at probably the highpoint in his life. He was secured as King, living in a cedar palace in Jerusalem, his army had won some great victories in battle, the Lord had given him rest from his enemies. But it is at this point that he’s especially vulnerable. Sometimes the most dangerous times in our lives, the times when we are most vulnerable to sin and temptation, are the times when everything seems to be goin our way. When we’re struggling and barely holding on, we can’t help but be focused on God. It’s when life is good that we are most prone to fall, just like David. And it starts our small. Did you notice what the first verse said? “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war….But David remained in in Jerusalem.” Why does God mention that little detail? Is it perhaps to show us that David wasn’t being faithful? Sure David probably could have reasoned any number of things: Joab is a competent general, Joab is capable of leading the army, if he goes, I can get some other things done here in Jerusalem. But it was the king’s job to lead the army into battle. So, we learn something, unfaithfulness in the “small” things leads to unfaithfulness in the “big” things.
So David, with far too much time on his hands, was perhaps bored, perhaps he couldn’t sleep, looking for some excitement and he goes out and gazes over his city and sure enough what does he see? A beautiful woman bathing. His sin began in his heart as he lusted after her and forgot his devotion to God. That’s always where sin begins: in the heart. All of a sudden this sin, this lust, this adultery, this impurity became more important to David than God. And that’s what’s at the heart of every temptation to sin. In the moment we think we need to secure something for ourselves, something we don’t already have, something we feel we need in order to be happy. No longer was God enough for David, he needed something more, something else, something different a moment of sinful pleasure.
And then what began as a seemingly small unfaithfulness in not leading his troops in battle snowballed into what? Lust, coveting another man’s wife, the wife of one of his best soldiers, then even after being warned that she’s the wife of Uriah the Hittite he commits adultery with her, she becomes pregnant and he could have stopped this roller coaster of sin by going before his nation and saying, “I want you all to know the truth, I have sinned” confessed his sin, sought God’s forgiveness, trusted in God’s help to get him through the consequences of his sin. But instead? He brings Uriah home, pretends to be interested in the battle – talk about a hypocrite! – ends up getting Uriah drunk, sends Uriah back to battle with his own death sentence, involves Joab in his sin, and has Uriah murdered. How was David unfaithful? He was unfaithful to Bathsheba, unfaithful to Uriah, unfaithful to his army, to Joab, but most of all unfaithful to God. And where did it all start? It all started because David wasn’t faithful in the “small” things. If he’d been out with his army he wouldn’t have faced the temptation to be unfaithful in all those areas. Wow!
The warning for us is clear: the devil will try to get us to be unfaithful in the small things of life. He knows that sin begets sin. Sin leads to more sin. He’ll whisper in our ears things like: “It’s okay, just take a little peak at that website or that magazine, no one will notice.” “It’s okay to go to the beach and look at the people there and lust a bit.” “It’s ok to read that novel or watch that movie or show that degrades sex and marriage.” When the devil whispers those things, remember David! Remember how the small unfaithfulness led to all kinds of other things. The devil loves to get us caught in the moment and get us to forget about the long term consequences of our actions. What’s even more scary is that David sinned simply because he could, he was the king.
And of course, you and I have been unfaithful to God in all sorts of other ways. We’ve been unfaithful in giving our whole selves, our whole lives to God, we’ve been unfaithful in giving ourselves to our spouses and loving them completely unselfishly, we’ve been unfaithful in keeping our thoughts, words, and actions pure.
And what’s at stake? Just where we’ll spend eternity! What’s at stake is whether we go to heaven or go to hell! As we look at David in this account, his eternal destiny was in terrible danger! If he hadn’t fallen into unbelief, he was certainly in grave danger of doing so! Would that affair have been worth it if he had ended up in hell?!? Would his unfaithfulness have been worth it if he had ended up in eternal damnation?!? Whenever you and I are unfaithful, we put ourselves into the danger of being sent to hell forever.
And so what do we do? Try harder to be more faithful to God? Try harder to live more purely? What about all our impurity and unfaithfulness in the past? Can we make up for that? Can we live purely as God wants? Remember God’s standard: complete perfection. But we’ve failed!
And so it becomes vitally clear that we need to understand how salvation works. Salvation is God’s work, not ours. We get to go to heaven not because WE have been faithful and pure, but because GOD has been faithful and pure. God loved us with the ultimate faithful love: “This is love. Not that we loved God, but that HE LOVED US, and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Jesus lived His life in complete faithfulness to God and to His fellow human beings. He lived in a completely and perfectly purely. He never gave in to any of the devil’s “whispers.” Faithfully He followed His Father’s will – even though it was painful – and He went to the cross. And all for what purpose?
To save you!!! To save me!!! God’s faithful love accomplished that!
And God doesn’t stop there. God continues to love you and me faithfully, day by day. Yes, we mess it up over and over again. Yes, we fail.
But God doesn’t stop loving us! God continues to open the Word to us, continues to assure us that our sins are forgiven. God continues to remind us of our baptisms, when He placed His name upon us. God continues to come to us in the Lord’s Supper, giving us His true body and blood. He continues to faithfully give us opportunities to hear the Word, to study it, to grow in it. HE is faithful! He is ALWAYS faithful! He will NEVER be unfaithful! Ultimately, our salvation depends on that faithful love of God for us!
And, that faithful love of God in turn inspires us to be faithful. That faithful love of God inspires us to be faithful to our spouse, to be faithful to our fellow human beings, to live in a way that’s pure in our thoughts, words, and actions. That faithful love of God strengthens us to say “no” to the devil’s whisperings. That faithful love of God gives us confidence to face all of life, and to know that our eternal life is sure.
And so we’ll do our best! No, not because it earns us anything, but because we want to say “thank you” to the God who has faithfully loved us! And when we fail? We’ll continue to cling to the faithful love of God, for God is faithful! Amen.