The Wages of Sin/February 4, 2018

Lincoln Second Baptist
Feb. 4, 2018

The Wages of Sin

2 Samuel 12:1-10 (NIV)
1  The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.
2  The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,
3  but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4  "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."
5  David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die!
6  He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."
7  Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
8  I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
9  Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
10  Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'

Recently, on Wednesday mornings and evenings, we have been engaged in a Bible study on the book of Romans.  The gist of the study is that God has taken us from bad news to good news through his infinite grace and mercy. Paul, the writer of that book, walks a very narrow tightrope between the devastation of sin, and the mercy and forgiveness of grace.  For some participating in that study, it might be hard to fathom the words of Paul as he speaks of the destruction and the effects of sin on human life and existence.  Because those people might have the idea that God’s grace means leniency and apathy on the part of God.  They may believe, that because God loves us so much, then he probably doesn’t care that much that we sin.  Like a lenient parent, God should just look the other way when we sin against his laws and precepts.

The study might be difficult for people on the other side who say that God is a god of wrath and he isn’t going to put up with sin, no matter what.  Bad people should just pack their bags and head straight to hell.  I used an example on Wednesday of Manuel Noriega.  Remember him?  Once a U.S. ally and CIA asset, he became a brutally repressive dictator in the years before he was ousted from power, accused of ordering the murder of his opponents and turning Panama into a haven for drug cartels.  In 1990, while in prison, he accepted Christ.  He was baptized in a courthouse surrounded by a dozen guards.The media speculated that he may have had this public conversion in order to gain public sympathy and further distance himself from the drug cartels that were after him.  I’ve heard Christians make the same kind of comments about notorious converts.

So I just illustrated two extremes.  Those who see God as permissive and ok with our sin, and those who want bad people to die and go to hell.  The gospel is neither of these.  Neither of these are good news.  We see that illustrated in Today’s text.   King David is the ultimate hero of modern Israel, just as he was in the time of Christ and the time of ancient Israel.  David ruled about 1000 B.C. in a time known as the Golden Age of Israel.  He is such a significant biblical person that 62 chapters of the Old Testament are devoted to telling his story.  And not only that, there are more than 50 references to him in the New Testament, by far more than any other biblical character, except Jesus.

There are stories of how he was chosen as a boy tending his father’s sheep.  We see tales of slaying the giant Goliath with a slingshot.   Then there are heart wrenching stories of being pursued by King Saul and nearly killed when Saul tried to pin him against the wall with a spear.   We see the wonderful story about returning from battle with the Ark of the Covenant, and as they entered the city, he stripped down to his undergarments or maybe he was naked, and he danced with joy for the Lord.

Nevertheless, this great man after God’s own heart committed a series of terrible sins that led to terrible consequences.  David was home from battle and was walking on the rooftop of his palace late at night, and he looked down and saw below him, a lovely woman bathing on a rooftop. 

He wanted her.  As the king, he easily justified his actions and he took her to be his mistress.   But he wanted to keep her.  Before he could do that, he needed to get rid of her husband, so he called upon her husband Uriah the Hittite to take up a position on the front lines of battle where his fight would likely be death.  As he had hoped, Uriah was killed and that paved the way for Bathsheba to become David’s wife.  

We ask the question, “How could the man after God’s own heart, go down this path of evil?”   Several things happened in David’s mind.   First, he was bored and idle.  It customary for a king to go into battle with his troops.  David stayed behind.  Maybe he was tired.  Maybe he was resting on his greatness as the king.  Maybe he was becoming lax in his leadership and leaving it to his generals. It was during that time of hiatus that he looked down and saw Bathsheba.  Idleness will often put us in a position of weakness and moral failure. 

Several years ago, I was at a pastor’s conference where the speaker introduced us to the problem of pornography.  The speaker used an acronym of HALT.  People are most susceptible to pornography and other addictions when they are experiencing these four scenarios.   HUNGRY.  ANGRY.  LONELY.  TIRED.

See, those are the times where we are our weakest, and most susceptible to temptation.  The hunger may not be just food.  We may be hungry for companionship or recognition.  We might be feeling left out and insecure. 

We know that when we are angry, we aren’t always rational.  In fact, when we are angry or hurt, we quite often justify our actions thinking, “I’m so angry, I need some kind of release.  I deserve it.”  So the alcoholic goes for a bottle.  The drug addict goes for a crack pipe or syringe.  The pornography addict goes for the computer screen. 

David may have been in that sort of state, but I think there are at least three things that brought him to that place of weakness.  The first problem I have already mentioned, and that is his IDLENESS.  He was bored.  So he saw Bathsheba as something to fill his temporary need in his idleness.

The second is that David felt ENTITLED.  Feelings of entitlement are almost always a recipe for disaster.  When you say, “I deserve a new wardrobe”, then your credit card will suffer.  When you say, “I deserve a special meal”, if we say it often enough, it affects the waistline. 

Feeling entitled will often get us into trouble.  Dave Ramsey, the financial Peace University guru answers his callers on the radio show when they ask, “How are you?”, he replies, “Better than I deserve.”  I like that response.

In reality, we don’t want what we really deserve.  However, we have this delusional thought that we deserve a lot more than we do.  It usually gets us into trouble.  David thought, “I’m the king and I lead this great nation, I deserve that woman.”  

The third thing he did was to demand GRATIFICATION.  Hollywood and the music industry are full of people who expect gratification because they feel they are special and deserving of gratification.  Now, after several months of accusations, firings, sexual assault charges and running away in shame – we can see the real results of this expectation of immediate gratification.David went as far as to have her husband killed in battle so that he could have what he wanted.  So after all this happened, God sends a prophet to have a chat with David.   Nathan tells David a story. 
1 "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.
2  The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,
3  but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4  "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."

This story really upset David.  “Who would do such a thing?”  David said the man who did this should die.  He said the poor man should have been paid back four times the value of that lamp. Nathan very calmly responded to David:  “You are the man.” How many times in our own sin, we are busy pointing at other people’s sin.  How many times do we fail to see our own transgressions because we are so focused on someone else’s sin that we think is far worse than our own.

 How many times do the words of Nathan echo in our own conscience when we are busy condemning someone else? We also find that in any story of a downward spiral into sin followed by God’s redemptive grace – it is going to be a story of bad news and good news.  We rarely come out of those situations unscathed.  David paid dearly for his sin.  Bathsheba became pregnant and that baby died in infancy.  Nathan the prophet not only predicted that, but he predicted that Israel would always be in a state of war throughout David’s reign.   Nathan predicted that their own wives will be raped in broad daylight.  Nathan said, “What you did in secret, I will do before Israel.”  And Tamar was raped by Amnon.   Nathan also told him that his family would rise up against him.   

What a price to pay!  Sin has consequences.  So often, people caught in poverty got there because of a series of sins and mistakes made over one, two and three generations.  In this story of David’s sin, we also see God’s grace at work.  There was a high price to pay, but David was fully forgiven by God . 

We wonder, “why do people have to suffer, even though they have been forgiven.”    Think of the ongoing suffering of the loss that Uriah’s family had to face.  Think of the boundaries that were crossed by David that affected the whole nation and how there are bound to be consequences.  In the midst of that, God meets us where we are and he restores us, just as he did David. 

As we go to the table today, we see another cause and affect brought on by sin.  Because of our sin -- yours and mine – God released his only son to come to earth and die like a common thief on a cruel cross.  There was a price to be paid for sin in David’s time, and there was the ultimate price to be paid when God’s own son was nailed to the cross.   Let’s reflect on that today as we go to the table.  AMEN