Now we're turning to 2 Samuel chapter 11, and we're looking at a massive subject tonight, and I feel the weight of it very much. I have to say to you that, out of all the messages that I have brought to you over the last two weekends, this is the one that I have felt of the greatest burden about. I trust that that burden will be indicated to you in the Spirit, but I believe and trust that God is going to do something tonight in all of our lives.
So we're turning to 2 Samuel chapter 11, and we can't read all of the verses, but we'll read verses 1 to 15 first of all in chapter 11: "And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house. And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house? And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing. And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house. And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die" - and the following verses account to that fact, but that is exactly what happened.
Then down to verse 26, please: "And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD". Verse 1 of chapter 12 then: "And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die".
Let us pray: O our God, I certainly am very glad that my sins, my iniquities and transgressions of Your law, are not recorded in black-and-white. Lord, we pray for understanding and grace as we come to the life of David, and look at this darkest point in his pilgrimage before You on this earth. Lord, help us not to be judgemental of him, but of ourselves. Help us, Lord, to judge ourselves that we may not be judged. Help us, O God, to have an understanding of how You view sin. Lord, we want more than just a mental understanding, we want to actually feel in emotions how You feel about our sin. But Lord, we need something more than even that, we need our wills to be affected by the power of the Holy Spirit to do that which is right, and to cease from doing that which is wrong in Your sight. O God, we need the power of the Holy Spirit now to breathe upon Your word, to come and meet with us in a very special way. I ask, Lord, that for those of us for whom this is a problem - whether we have fallen, that we might know the grace of God in forgiveness - if we have not fallen, that we might know the fear of the Lord to keep from sin - but all of us, Lord, that we will get a new vision of the holiness that the Lord our God requires of us and, praise Your holy name, the holiness that is available through the cross work and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit residing in us. May all of us, whatever our circumstances might be tonight, avail of that power that raised Christ from the dead. Hear us we pray, for it's in His name and for His sake we ask these things, Amen.
First Kings chapter 15 and verse 5 reads thus: 'David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save', or except, 'only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite' - the matter of Uriah the Hittite. When I read that verse again, I was reminded of what James the apostle says in relation to the tongue: 'Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!'. The fire of lust has kindled many a great inferno. David's son, speaking on the subject of adultery, says: 'Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?' - and Solomon had his fair share of sexual escapades. Father and son discovered from tragic experience that we, as fallen sinful human beings, are flammable - we are combustible! Sexual sin is one of our enemy's favourite and, it has to be said, most successful fiery darts, incendiary and explosive weapons that he launches at our souls to destroy us.
Now, biographically, this juncture finds David, it has to be said, at the pinnacle of his life and his reign. He has hit midlife without the crisis. It seems that he has everything: he is artistic, we know that from the Psalms; he is intelligent; he is wealthy; he has got charisma and popularity. He is a great man, he is a godly man, but we see from these two portions of Scripture how the mighty have fallen! We stand back and ask the question: 'How? How could this be?'.
Now, a superficial assessment of the whole issue would give a simple conclusion on the matter: one lustful second look leads to adultery, leading to murder, and then consequentially to a catalogue of moral catastrophe that spread through the whole of the Davidic dynasty. A lustful look leaving a filthy, bloody mess in its wake - but we must resist the temptation this evening of looking at this matter superficially. Paul, when he was preaching at Antioch, said that David was 'a man after God's own heart' - that is God's word, God's conclusion on this man! So we ought not for one moment to look down on this great King. What we ought to do is, as Paul exhorts us in Corinthians, 'Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall'. The reason why we should never look superficially at this matter is because few, if any, fall into such sin instantaneously. He certainly didn't wake up one day and say: 'Today I think I'll commit adultery and murder a man'. Usually there is a conscious or, for that matter, an unconscious progressive degeneration into sin - and such was the case for David, and I believe is the case for all of us.
Now I want to deal with this great fall under four headings. First of all: the conception of his sin. Secondly: the compounding consequences of his sin. Thirdly: the conviction of his sin. And finally: the confession of his sin. First of all we need to look at the conception of his sin, and it would be very easy to overlook this. You see, we've got to understand that there are certain contributory factors that made it easy for David to sin. We, therefore, should be warned ourselves of those factors. The first factor that is obvious was: David lost his sensitivity to sin. Now we have to go outside of these two portions of Scripture to see this, I want you to turn with me back in chapter 5 of 2 Samuel, 2 Samuel 5 verse 13 reads: 'And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David'. Now Deuteronomy 17 says clearly in God's law that it was forbidden for the monarch to take extra wives, it was a sin. Now what David did was perfectly legal in the land for an ordinary person, it was culturally acceptable to take concubines and extra wives - but it was against the principles of holiness that God had set down as He required of a King. But what I want you to understand is that David was effectively endorsing culturally acceptable sensuality, and that desensitised him to sin.
Someone put it like this: 'His progressive desensitisation to sin had a consequent inner descent from holiness'. He was embracing the moral norms of society that he was not allowed to touch as a King, but by making them acceptable personally to his own life he became desensitised to other sin, and it eventually brought forth birth in adultery. We all need to beware of accepting the norms of society, because if we do that it will contribute to an inner descent from holiness just like David's. Now, let me give you a number of examples and cut right to the chase, and I just want you to really think about this: indiscriminately watching hours of television will desensitise you to sin. Now you might think that you've just got into a time machine and gone back 50 years to when television came out, and preachers castigated it as the devil's horns and all the rest - but, you know, those boys weren't terribly far wrong, because the devil has a channel right into our homes. He is influencing our minds, not necessarily because the actual box in the corner is sinful in and of itself, but because we even as believers are indiscriminately allowing producers, directors, godless people to influence our values, our thought life, by just drinking it all in.
We also can desensitise ourselves to sin by engaging in and laughing at smut and innuendo in the office or the workplace. Drunkenness, now among Christians, is passed off as social drinking. We have become desensitised to sin. Business indiscretion is seen as being ducking and diving, getting ahead. Being economic with the truth when you're filling in your tax form, it's acceptable for some. Going a little further, physically, in courtship, more acceptable than it's ever been. We need to ask the question: how and why have we become desensitised to sin? Is it that we have, as God's people, embraced societal norms, thinking that we can handle it? David thought he could handle it: 'Top position in the land, a few more concubines and wives couldn't do much harm!', but it was the first step on a downward descent from the holiness that God required of a King. God's Word says that we are a kingdom of priests, and God expects more from us than what the world offers!
See something, secondly, that caused the conception of his sin - he not only lost his sensitivity, he lost his discipline. He relaxed from the rigours and the drilling of military discipline that he had known all his life. He should have been at battle, it is clear, but the last phrase of the first verse of chapter 11 says that he stayed in Jerusalem. Imagine, David was more in danger in Jerusalem than he was on the battlefield! Now, don't misunderstand me, there's nothing wrong with relaxation - and I intend, tonight, when I get home, to relax, and maybe even tomorrow a little bit if that's alright! But the danger comes when relaxation extends to our spiritual disciplines and life; because when we relax and let our guard down spiritually, then we are wide open to the devil, we become spiritually unguarded. This is effectively what David did, he laid aside, literally, his armour - Ephesians 6 tells us to put on the armour of God - and when we relax in our spiritual disciplines, that's effectively what we do: we lay aside our armour and give occasion to the devil.
Let me be more specific: how can we lose our discipline? Missing our times with God. Did you read God's word today? Did you pray today? I have to say to you that, from pastoral experience of talking to some numbers of folk with spiritual problems, I have learned to ask a very simple question quite quickly now: do you meet with God every day? Do you spend time with God every day? And more often than not they confess to me that they used to, but that has slipped - it's very elementary, isn't it? Yet it is essential that we meet with God, it's essential that we fellowship with God's people, it's essential that we meet around the Lord's Table and remember Him as He has commanded us. We need to be very careful of letting down our guard spiritually and losing our discipline.
I have to confess to you that, over the years, one of the biggest problems for me has been Saturday, where you seem to be doing not too bad from Sunday through to Friday, and then you tend to let your guard down on Saturday and relax a little bit - and more often than not, I would imagine, Saturday would be the day that we would miss our quiet time more than any other day in the week. Whether it's because we lie in, whether it's because we do social things with the family or whatever - none of those things, necessarily, are wrong, but what is wrong is if we let our guard down. Holidays can be another problem - originally that word was 'holy days', but holidays so often can be unholy days - not necessarily because we engage in overt sin, but we let our guard down, we lose our spiritual edge because we lose our discipline. We've got to understand that we may excuse that, and say: 'Well, I haven't done anything wrong, I've just not done the things I should have done over this fortnight' - but we are missing the point of how vulnerable we become to the enemy's advances!
David lost his sensitivity, he lost his discipline, but the conception of his sin also came because he lost his focus. Picture the scene: a twilight, humid evening. He glances out of his window and sees the curvaceous figure of a young woman bathing immodestly. The shadow and flicker of dusk made her even more attractive - verse two says at the very end that she was 'very beautiful to look upon'. Now, perhaps he couldn't help the first look, and we could sympathise with him on that in the society in which we live because we are bombarded on every hand with sensuality. It's used to sell ice cream and 4x4 jeeps - you name it! Sensuality, sex sells - and the advertisers know that, and they want to stir up lust within us to get us to buy. The first glance, perhaps, was unavoidable, but the second stare - that became David's problem - because in that second stare, he became a fixated voyeur. As one author puts it: 'David, who had been a man after God's own heart, became a dirty, leering old man. A lustful fixation came over him that would not be denied'.
David lost his focus, and we lose our focus simply by focusing on the wrong things. Now, I'm challenging you this evening, because we live in a visual society. We no longer live in the society of the written word, necessarily, but it is the celluloid, the digital society - everything is visual. What are you focusing on? When you're watching the television, and something comes on that you know is sinful - what do you do? Do you change the channel, or do you feed your lust? Have you become, have I become, so desensitised to sin that I can stand the name of the Lord being taken in vain, and sit through it all? Can I take pleasure in iniquity, thinking that it has no effect, no desensitising unholy influence on my spiritual life? If we think that, we are supremely naive! David Frost, who was no Bible teacher but a television presenter, said: 'Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home'.
He's right! But of course, it's far worse than that, the Internet age is well into its maturity - and whether you're in the dark about this, or in denial, porn and addiction to porn is at epidemic levels - not just in society, but in the church of Jesus Christ. Now the pre-Internet generation might be ignorant of all this, but you need to waken up. We're hearing a lot about pandemics, well, this is a pandemic. Porn is a 13.3 billion dollar industry. I'm led to believe that approximately 90% of Internet activity is pornographic in nature, and a recent anonymous survey was done in the United States among Christians - now, sit up and listen! Sixty percent of Christian men - 60%! - confessed anonymously to be addicted, 37% of pastors polled - 37% of pastors! - testified to being addicted. Now, men especially are tempted, and I'm no exception, but we are not even talking about temptation here, we're not talking about accidentally stumbling across something, we are talking about addiction. The women here tonight may be astounded to realise that 35% of the women polled also confessed to be addicted. Now, the young people, I'm sure, are sitting very politely tonight - but you know exactly what I'm talking about, and some of you, some of you are already addicted. This is the silent killer of spiritual life that no one is willing to stand up and confess, no one is willing to talk about, but the reality is: we are presently losing generations, losing generations of spirituality because of this epidemic. Parents, I say to you, I beg you: don't put a television in your child's bedroom, don't put a PC link to the Internet in your child's bedroom - because if I was 13 years of age, I know what I would have done. [See our article on Internet Safety for Christians, or download the PDF version).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: 'When lust takes control, at that moment God loses all reality' - did you hear that? 'When lust takes control, at that moment God loses all reality. Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God'. That's what happened David, he forgot all the psalms that he had composed, he forgot all his great prayers, prostrations and praise, his focus was lost from God and was now on this immodest form of a bathing woman. He did not keep the fear of God before his eyes, and so often we do not do the same. Psalm 16 says: 'I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved'. You see, we forget that God is there, we forget God is seeing, God is watching what we are watching, God witnesses what we are doing - that's why the Psalmist in another place, 101, said: 'I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes'; that's why Job said in Job 31 verse 1, 'I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?', or in another translation, 'Why should I lust after a girl?'. He lost his focus, and we're living in a generation that is crippled with voyeurism and doesn't even know it! I'll confess to you that it takes every spiritual sinew in my body and soul to fight it as well - but fight it we must!
He lost his sensitivity, he lost discipline, he lost his focus, and eventually he lost his mind - what do I mean? Well, he started to rationalise his sin. Psychologically all of us have to do that to sin. No one is ever forced to sin, you can't say: 'The devil made me do it'. He gave in to his curiosity, verse 3, David sent and enquired after the woman. Curiosity didn't just kill the cat, you know. I don't know what David thought, perhaps it was: 'Well, Uriah is gone, and Bathsheba is probably lonely - no one will ever find out'. But whatever he was thinking, he did exactly what all of us do when we sin: he rationalised it until he silenced his conscience and quashed his guilt. You do it: 'Once more, and God will forgive me anyway. I'm not hurting anyone, if anything I'm hurting myself perhaps, but no one else', or 'It's only a bit of fun', or 'How can something so pleasurable be so wrong?', or 'I'm in love, so it's okay!'. However much, I have found, I rationalise my sin, I can never seem to rationalise how I feel about my sin after the event. He lost his mind, and boy did he nearly lose his mind after his sin.
Fifthly, in this conception of his sin - he lost his sensitivity, his discipline, his focus, his mind - but he lost his purity, this man of God. Eskimos in North Alaska, until recently, lived in a world that, as about 500 years ago, they depended almost entirely on polar bears. They use the meet for their food, they use the fur for their clothes, they use the fat for cooking, they use the bones and the teeth for tools. They have an ingenious way of trapping the polar bear. What an Eskimo will do is, first of all he will kill a small animal, perhaps a seal. He will drag the trail of blood through the snow leading to one central location, and then he will freeze into the ice a double-edged knife that's about 2 feet long in its handle. He will place the carcass of the seal onto the blade. Eventually the polar bear will pick up the scent of the blood and follow the trail, and find fast food, an easy meal. The delicacy will be devoured very quickly, but the Eskimo was smart enough to know never to use a large animal, because he wants that bear to be incredibly hungry after eating the seal - just as some of you boys and girls like to take the cake spoon when mummy is baking and lick it - that's exactly what the polar bear does. He keeps licking the blade, and the phenomenon that is created is: the more he licks, the more blood he gets - but he is oblivious, because he's lost his mind in lust, he's oblivious to the fact that he has started to lick his own blood - and the lust for his own blood kills him! That is very similar to the fatal attraction of sexual sin.
Now come with me from the conception of David's sin - losing his sensitivity, his discipline, his focus, his mind and his purity - to the compounding consequences of his sin. This man of God, David, you've been learning all about him, this man becomes an adulterer, a liar, a schemer, a murderer. If ever there is an illustration of that wonderful little chorus that I find myself so often quoting these days, it's David. The chorus goes:
'Sin will take you farther than you want to go,
Slowly but wholly taking control.
Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay,
Sin will cost you far more than you want to pay'.
You see in David's life the compounding consequences of his sin. His adultery leads him to murder Uriah, put him at the forefront of the battle so that he'll be killed. Now, if you look at 2 Samuel 23, there is an illustrious list of David's mighty men, and we read in verse 39 of 2 Samuel 23 that one of David mighty warriors, one of his devoted servants, bodyguards, and defenders was none other than Uriah the Hittite. So, I suppose you could call this chap a friend, a devoted friend. We see what David did to him, it wasn't very friendly - he actually gets Uriah drunk in an attempt to get him to go down to his house, perhaps to sleep with his wife, so that the conception of the possible child may be perceived to be Uriah's. But though he gets Uriah drunk in verse 13 of chapter 11 of 2 Samuel, it says that even when he was full drunk, he wouldn't go down to his house while the warriors were out in battle. Someone has put it well: 'Uriah was a better man drunk than David was sober'. Do you see the compounding consequences of his sin?
Could I turn you, please, to the New Testament for a comment on this? First Thessalonians 4 verse 3 please, Paul says: 'For this is the will of God, even your sanctification', your holiness, 'that you should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel', that's your body, 'in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence', that's every type of wicked, sexually immoral act, 'even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond', or transgress, 'and defraud his brother in any matter'. You see, so often adultery, it's adultery with a friend, a family friend, a work colleague, even in the church of Jesus Christ, a brother or sister in the body - and we defraud, we rob our brother of a wife, or sister of a husband. Now please, look at the end of verse 6: 'The Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified' - the Lord is the avenger of such. This is the New Testament, let me remind you, this is the New Testament! The Lord is the avenger, 'For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness'.
Now David attempted to cover up his sin, we believe, for about a year - yes, David! The Psalmist, the man after God's own heart - don't criticise him! We're all potentially able to do this and more! From a human standpoint the plan seemed to work for David, but we read at the end of chapter 11 of 2 Samuel that God was displeased with what David had done. Furthermore, there were grave consequences when Nathan came to him. Look at chapter 12, please, and verses 10 through 12: 'Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun'. There are grave consequences to this sin.
Now, let me try and explain something to you this evening: there are governmental consequences for some, and many, of our sins that confession does not erase. I'll explain that in a moment or two, but let me show you it in David's life - from verse 15 of chapter 12 we see that the child that Bathsheba conceived from that adulterous act, that child fell sick and died as a judgement from God. From verse 15 of chapter 12 on, David begins to reap the harvest of sowing to his flesh. What we are seeing, as someone has put it, is 'The painful consequences of forgiven sin'. God was going to forgive David of his sin and - praise God - where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. But grace does not negate the governmental consequences of certain things that we do! Chapter 12 and verse 6, after Nathan related this parable - there was a poor man and he had a little ewe lamb, and he treated that ewe lamb like a member of his family. It ate from his table, it drank from his cup, it was like another child. There was a rich man in the town, and when a traveller came to visit the rich man, the custom was that they would kill a calf or a lamb - and, not wanting to take one of his own lambs, he went to the poor man who had only one lamb, and he took his and killed it, and he cooked it and he dressed it, and he fed his traveller with it. David immediately was aroused, his sense of justice, his conscience was pricked - and he said: 'That man shall surely die!'. In verse 6: 'He shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity'.
Now Exodus 22 and verse 1 says that if you stole a lamb, a sheep, you had to restore it fourfold. So what David was saying is, 'According to the law, God's law' - he knew God's law - 'he must restore that lamb fourfold'. Incidentally, remember that Zacchaeus, the little man who went up the tree to see Jesus, when Christ came to his house and he had faith in Him, believing for salvation - what did Zacchaeus say in the book of Luke? That he would restore fourfold all that he had stolen in taxes from the public, fourfold! David had to restore fourfold, governmentally before God, because of his sin - count with me: the baby died; his daughter Tamar was raped by her half brother, Amnon; three, Absalom rebelled against his father; four, Amnon was killed - fourfold. You would imagine that this would be enough to bring David to the point of conviction. A year without confession, suffering the consequences. For a year he had his sin and experienced the chastening hand of the Lord, and we read something of his experience in Psalm 32 - listen, verses 3 and 4: 'When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer'. Do you know what that is? Tough love! The chastening hand of God upon his son, the chastening hand of God upon his daughters! Thank God that He loves us enough to chasten us! Thank God that He loves us enough to rebuke us! Thank God that He loves us enough to convict us and not just let us go and be joined to our idols!
I've been meditating recently on a couple of verses in Psalm 119. One is verse 75: 'I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me'. Now we're all great at singing 'Great is Thy faithfulness', but we never seem to think of the faithfulness of God in our affliction. Oh yes, we think of Him being with us in our affliction, but God faithfully afflicting us - why? The same Psalm says in verse 71: 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes'. I have been convicted over my sin, I have been convicted over my thought life, my sight - and it's good, because chastening proves God's love for us, but it is our yielding to His chastening that proves our love for Him! Like the Holy Spirit, Nathan came as the prophet of God and appealed to David's conscience, and appealed to the expectations of God's law that were written on David's heart. That's what He would do to you - you know what you're involved in at this moment, it mightn't be a sexual sin at all, it might be a different form of immorality, it might be the very things that we've been talking about tonight - ranging from lust of the eye, which Christ says is adultery, to literal adultery and the breaking up of your family unit.
In chapter 12 and verse 5, David knew the judgement of stealing a lamb was death. It was the same for stealing another man's wife, but the great revelation moment was when Nathan, just like the Holy Spirit when we are convicted, Nathan said: 'Thou art the man' - it's you! How would he have felt? I know how I feel when God says to me: 'You're the man! Don't you talk to these folk here as if they're at fault, you're the man!'.
His conception of sin, the compounding consequences of his sin, the conviction of his sin led to the confession of his sin. In verse 13 of chapter 12: 'David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD' - and what a gracious, merciful, loving, kind God we have - Nathan at that moment said, 'The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die'. Grace! The penalty was death, and God wiped the penalty away - He didn't wipe out many of the consequences of the sin, but He wiped away the judgement, the guilt. But God's government - and this is what I want to labour tonight, because it has come very forcibly to my own heart tonight - the grace of God forgave his sin, but the government of God permitted him to reap what he had sowed. That is not in a way to make you feel bad tonight, but it's in order to waken us all up as Christians to the fact that we should never play fast and loose with sin, or be presumptuous with God, because it is a very serious thing. Hallelujah! All manner of sin and blasphemy may be forgiven of men! If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There's no reason for you to feel condemned, and if you have fallen in this sin - get up and be restored by the grace of God and go on! But you are the very person who should be up here tonight saying that there are certain consequences of sin that cannot be erased, that's why you ought to avoid it! That's why repentance and contrition is something that is meant to be daily in the life of the child of God - every day, getting before the cross in brokenness.
So let us close by reading Psalm 51, David's confession - and I only want to make a point or two as we go through it, just reading it. This was his prayer, and you can make it yours tonight, and I think all of us would need to - I certainly need to. Psalm 51:1: 'Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me'. Now note this verse: 'Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest'. Against Thee, and Thee only have I sinned - now he sinned against Bathsheba, he sinned against Uriah, he sinned against his mighty men, he sinned against Joab, he sinned against the people - but what is happening here at the moment of conviction in confession? He's getting his sin into focus, into perspective, that it's against God, and that's all that really matters! We look at the cross, and we see our blessed Saviour with our sin upon Him - and that should make us run a mile! But we run to sin.
I believe here is the reason why we don't give up our sins: we don't understand its seriousness in God's eyes - or, to put it another way, we do not fear the Lord. Now, you know I believe in grace, we looked at Mephibosheth last week, and God's grace is wonderful - but do you know something? Just an understanding of God's grace may not be rounded enough to keep you from sin, Proverbs 16 and verse 6 says: 'By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and', listen, 'by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil'. By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil! You say: 'That's the Old Testament' - well then, listen to the New Testament. Second Corinthians 7 verse 1: 'Dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God' - we have lost our fear of God! Our awe, our reverence, our respect for the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-holy, holy, holy God of grace.
Not only did he lose his fear, he had lost his joy - verse 8: 'Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice'. Verse 12: 'Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit'. There's a lot of miserable Christians about - do you have any here? It's often said that the backslider is the most miserable person on the earth, and that is true - they have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and gone back into the world - but do you know something? There's an old hymn and its truth has never been replaced, listen carefully:
'Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey'
Simply put, that means you cannot be happy if you will not be holy. Have you ever heard that one before? True happiness and satisfaction is found in holiness. Have you lost your joy? Is it because you've lost your sensitivity to sin? Finally, verse 13, and with this I close: 'Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee'. We lose our authority when we lose our integrity. We lose our power, when we lose the sense of the presence of God in our lives, that allows us to be fast and loose with sin, confession, and forgiveness. John Wesley said: 'Give me 100 men who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the gates of hell' - that's what God needs. God wants inward truth: 'My son, my daughter', God says to you tonight, 'Give Me thine heart'.
Let us pray. Now, I've intimated to you in my introduction that this has not been an easy message to preach. Listen, let's be real here tonight: if those statistics are right, and we have no reason to say that they are wrong, there are quite a number of people in this building affected by this issue tonight. You can smile, and chat, and laugh, and do all the things we normally do you afterwards which is fine - but if that is a cover-up of what is in your heart, you need help. There are those who can help you and will not condemn you. If you fall into any of these sins, there is forgiveness, there is restoration, and God can do mighty things. You're not finished with, God is not over with you - but you need to seek out the help, will you do that tonight? There is help, there is help - but you need to seek it out before you make a filthy, bloody mess of your life, your witness, and your family.
Let us pray: Father, I am unholy, impure, depraved in heart. I freely confess before You that I have sinned in many ways, in thought, in word, in deed. I, along with this company of people, need to constantly avail of grace and forgiveness - but Lord, deep within our souls there is a desire, if we are Yours - we trust that that desire is there - to be holy as You are holy, that's Your command to us: to have Your Son, by the Spirit, formed in us that we might live the Christ-life in the fruit of the Spirit. Lord, some folk, perhaps, are stuck in the mire of sin, habitual sin and don't know how to get out, don't know where to turn, are ashamed to seek out help, because they feel no one will understand. Lord, help them to understand that there are many others like them, and that there is help - but may they beware, O Father, of going much further, lest they consolidate their sin and compound it in a way that might be very difficult to remedy. Lord, help us we pray, in this society. We believe that it is possible, it is Your plan, to live holy, sanctified lives in a perverse and wicked generation. Lord, do whatever You want to do tonight, for Jesus' sake, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "David's Adultery - The Great Fall" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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