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a sermon based on 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
by Rev. Thomas Hall

confronted.jpg (1559 bytes)Our first lesson triggers the imagination. Imagine that you are standing before a place somewhere deep down in your soul where the door is always locked and the shades always pulled. On the other side of the door is a small, lightless room. The room is carefully guarded that it allows only the rebreathing of expelled air. Whatever it is that we protect in that room keeps us from painful exposure and discovery. But what we protect in that room also keeps us from confession, forgiveness, and growth.

That’s where David finds himself-suffocating inside a room that holds dark secrets. A late afternoon. No one around. Nothing pressing to do. On top of a penthouse palace. A woman bathing. In the Hebrew language, the verbs tell the story: he saw, he sent, he took, he lay. No conversations. No hint of caring or affection, no hint of love-only lust. He knows that in his actions, he’s tossing the Torah aside like a worn-out tee shirt. Maybe David thinks he’s above the Law. After all, he’s king of the roost and nothing should be withheld from him-but even another person’s spouse? However he rationalizes his action, he commits a horrible abuse of power against one of his subjects. Could be labeled adultery or even worse-rape.

In what would later become a soap opera stock in trade plot, the woman gets pregnant, a scandal threatens to break open, and concealment is attempted. David tries to cover his tracks like a cat trying to hide its contents in the litter box. First he hatches an ingenious plan-a sleight of hand by trying to get the woman and her man together in bed. That failing, the king desperate to hide his secret orchestrates the man’s murder on the battlefield. As the dust settles, we see a woman pregnant with King David’s son who mourns her slain soldier-husband, Uriah the Faithful. We can imagine the funeral ending on Monday and David swooping down to court the woman on Friday. Soon she becomes the King’s Mrs.

That’s the secret. That’s what lies on the other side of David’s locked door deep down in his soul. He thinks that he’s weathered the storm. The press has all but forgotten the rumors and besides, the war with the Ammonites has grabbed the tabloid headlines. The womyn seems to be progressing fine in her pregnancy and David is probably marveling at how God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. The secrets are safe-no one had found out!

In her book Pigs at the Trough, Ariana Huffington describes the CEO’s of Enron, Adelphia, Conseco, Tyco, and World Com as they attempted to hide their insider loans. She also shows the heavy price that employees paid because of their greed. Our own religious institutions have done the same thing-even worse-by withholding information about pedophilic clergy. Secrets locked tight in little rooms eventually suffocate those who live those prisons. Whether we’re talking the street of dreams, religious places, or our own basements, the knee-jerk response to wrongs committed against God and others is to stumble down the long stairway that leads to the room that we keep under lock and key and there to deposit our secrets. As long as no one finds out the secret, David has gotten away with murder-literally.

He really could have gotten away with it except for an unknown pair of eyes that roams the universe watching us-including our deepest secret thoughts. These eyes saw the whole sordid affair. Saw the bedroom. Saw the lust. Saw the murder. Saw the cover up. Saw it all. And now the witness steps forward to blow the whistle. God who sees all sends Pastor Nathan into David’s soap opera life. The royal chaplain comes with a carefully rehearsed story. At first blush it’s just that-a story, gripping and entertaining. It’s one of those "once-upon-a-time" Disney flick stories. But not long into the telling the story takes a dark turn and David suddenly finds himself drawn into the drama.

The story has only two characters. The first guy mentioned is virtually passed over in a single breath: the guy was rich. Period. But the story really picks up steam with the other guy. He owns a female lamb and that little lamb lives a pampered life-it is the man’s valued property. The lamb is raised like a daughter; eats and drinks at the man’s table and sleeps on the man’s couch.

One day the rich man decides to fix lunch for his guest. "Ho hum," he yawns opening the freezer, "What’s for lunch? Sirloin? Filet Mignon? Salmon Steak?" Not that he couldn’t serve his guest the best money could buy because after all, we know he’s rich. "Well, I certainly don’t want to cut into my profit line of herds and flocks. What shall I do?" Then the rich guy happens to see the little sheep gamboling in the poor man’s yard. "Hmmm. I’m kinda hungry for lamb chops." So he just up and takes the poor man’s hand-fed lamb. That’s what kings do-they take. That’s what David did-he took. The rich guy takes this pet lamb and eats it for dinner. He takes what was not his and he treats it as if it were his own. In the Hebrew there is a connection between the rich guy and King David. One takes and "lies" with someone else’s spouse (what David did with Bathsheba) and the other takes and devours another’s deeply loved possession (what the rich guy did to the poor man). In both cases, Nathan embeds the subtle accusation that we’re talking about rape-taking, grabbing, forcing. .

We’ll never know how the story was supposed to end because David, so caught up in the parable, explodes in anger: "That guy should be lynched!" David’s outburst creates a crisis. How do you tell a King who’s going to hell in a hand basket that you’re talking about him and live to see your grand kids? The interruption brings on the moment of truth. Nathan steps up to the table, looks David in the eyes, and speaks the truth about David. "You are the one, David." In just four words Nathan smashes the locks off the King’s locked room and let’s the secrets come out.

Nathan has risked everything. He has risked his friendship. Risked his job. Risked the safety of his own life when he accused the King of his sins. Yet, that is the good news of this story-that God so loved that he confronted. In those four words, truth confronts power. He tells it like it is and tells it to David’s face-no matter how dire the consequences may be.

Doesn’t this story raise questions about the way we love people? About the quality of the love we claim to have and exercise as Christians? Do we love people enough to confront damaging, sinful, destructive behavior even at the risk of jeopardizing our relationship?

Bill Hybels, in his book Who You Are When No One’s Looking, says that we must hold a conviction when it comes to relationships. The conviction is this: that telling the truth must become more important to us than keeping the peace. [1] I need to admit right here and now that I’m a card-carrying, unionized, baptized member of the brotherhood of tender-hearted peace-keepers. Peace and harmony, I say. Maybe with enough "I’m okay, you’re okay," hugs, problems will work themselves out. So whether parenting or sitting around a table in a tense church committee meeting, I confess that I am anything but a confronter. Then I began to understand that sometimes avoiding the real issues in our marriages, in our congregations, in our families, and at the work place will only produce a counterfeit peace, not the real thing.

Hybels writes,

Everywhere I look I see people . . . precious people who really matter to God but who are running around and around in circles, dizzied by deception. I see married couples on the edge of serious trouble, young people pushing their luck to the limits, all kinds of people wandering aimlessly in the wastelands of destructive pleasure seeking. Too many of us who see these people destroying themselves we simply chew our nails and wring our hands, saying nothing because we do not understand tough love. [2]

Do we love enough to confront people, to look them in the eye and say, "I love you so much that . . .

I can’t stand silently by while you work yourself to death?

I’m not going to pretend to be happy while you ruin your body by eating wrong, never exercising, drinking too much or smoking?

I have to warn you that you won’t find what you’re looking for in bars?

I’m going to have to say you can’t stay in this position in my business any longer. It seems to be destroying you as a person, and I can’t let that happen? [3]

Not long ago a colleague of mine faced a very difficult pastoral situation in her parish. Just prior to her arrival, a prominent person in the community and one who served as her church’s music director and as a youth mentor made a very destructive and short-sighted decision. Her choice was to live with a man other than her husband but to continue her duties at the church as if nothing wrong had occurred. Such behavior deeply impacted the congregation-especially the youth group-and caused the church to lose credibility in the community. Yet, remarkably nothing was said, nothing was done.

My clergy friend agonized over the situation but knew what had to be done. My friend confronted her worship leader. "You have great value and worth before God," my friend began with a trembling voice, "and I value our friendship. But I am willing to jeopardize our friendship in an effort to speak the truth to you. You’re living with someone to whom you’re not married. In your present situation you have nothing to say to our youth. How can you lead us in worship when you are deliberately living a life that is displeasing to the God you worship? Most of all, your behavior is destroying you. We will help you, we will secure counseling for you. We want you to stay with us and receive ministry. But as of this moment you can longer serve as our worship director nor mentor our youth."

I would like to say that the risk brought this person closer to God and community. But I must be honest and say that she left the church and tried to wound the pastor and congregation on her way out. Yet my colleague discovered the truth: there are times when we must take that deep kind of risk: telling the truth.

When Nathan walked into the room that day, he recovered for David an awareness of God. He aroused David’s sense of sin and his still tender heart was roused. And you know the rest of the story. David prayed one of the most vulnerable, honest prayers that Scripture offers us:


Generous in love-God, give grace.

Huge in mercy-wipe out my bad record.

Scrub away my guilt,

Soak out my sins in your laundry.

I know how bad I’ve been;

My sins are staring me down.


You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve see it all,

Seen the full extent of my evil . . .

I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,

In the wrong since before I was born.

What you’re after is truth from the inside out.

Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,

Scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life,

Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,

Set these once-broken bones to dancing. [4]

God loves us too much to allow us to continue unchecked down a path of self-destruction or sin that impacts others. Can we do any less? Amen.


[1] Bill Hybels, Who You Are When No One’s Looking (InterVarsity Press, 1987), page 70.
[2] Ibid, page 70.
[3] Ibid, page 74.

[4] Psalm 51 from The Message (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002), page 975