Anchoring the Ship: Repentance 2 Samuel 11, 26-12-13

We have been watching “From out of Nowhere” stories these last 14 days on our televisions at the London Olympics.  Aly Raisman two gold medals, the Mexican soccer team defeating Brazil, and David Boudia winning gold in the 10-meter platform Saturday by beating the favorite, reigning world champ Qiu Bo, who had to settle for the silver, and Britain’s Tom Daley, the local hero who was thrilled to win the bronze.

David meteoric rise was marked by slaying Goliath, making friends with Jonathan, winning battles, playing a successful game of hide and seek of with Saul.  A fast rise can sometimes lead to a fast fall and the writer in 2 Samuel 11 foreshadows this plotline with in the first line.  How you start a story makes all the difference.  Dickens in The Tale of Two Cities wrote: “It was the best of the times; it was the worst of times.”  The opening sentence in this text sets the story up:  “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.”  We are reading of the beginning of the downfall.

The difference in the two books of Samuel is like reading David’s press release in the first, and reading a transcript of David being exposed on 60 Minutes in the second.  In the 2nd book David is king and Saul and Jonathan are now dead and there is nothing else for David to do or accomplish except for some royal sending.  So, David sends everyone off to war and doesn’t go himself  He is like partners who send junior partners to handle grunt work; figuring they have earned the right.  King David’s propensity to send others, puts him out of touch with the thrill of facing Goliaths; for the power to send can be intoxicating.

David reaches the point where there is no longer anyone else to send; so he fills his well-earned time off by creating a scenario that gives him the rush of sending.  After sending everyone off to war, he sends for Bathsheba because he is looking for action, regardless of her feelings.  She comes; they lay together for a short afternoon.  It is over.  He sends her home.  She’s gone.  End of story.

That is till Bathsheba does some sending herself.  Verse five says, “The woman conceived; and sent and told David, I am pregnant’”.  Ordinarily you don’t tell a king anything and you should not expect a reply.  Kings do the sending and telling.  In one foolish afternoon, during a fevered fit of passion David’s world is changed and would never be the same.

David doesn’t see his demise coming; after all, he is the king.  So, David does more sending.  He sends word to Bathsheba’s husband, a general in his army that he wants him to come home.  He wants it to appear Uriah is the father of the child.  (The bible reads like a soap opera when you become pious enough to read it.)  Uriah will not come home while his comrades are risking their lives.  Uriah’s refusal causes David to send again.  This time he sends his five-star general Joab instructions to put Uriah in the front lines, so he might catch a stray arrow.  David hopes to make Uriah a casualty of war to end this mess of his own creating.  David’s plan works and Uriah is dead.  End of story?  I don’t think so.

Forever, humans have thought the only reality is the one we make and the only things that matter are the things we get caught doing.  Like many, David refuses to own up to his sin, and then he compounds his adultery with murder.  He reasons if he can’t be proven responsible, he is home free.  We’re not captains of own destiny who do not have to answer to anyone but ourselves.  We are created to relate to others and we are ruled by a higher law.  Our futile attempts to distance ourselves from others or to think we are above the law is as senseless as taking the day off breathing.

Anyone from any walk in life can get caught in the trap of trying to live up to the expectation of being better than others.  Instead of telling the truth we are no better than anyone else regardless who we are or how we’re behaving, we spend energy covering up inadequacies; till we grow weary being something we’re not.  Eventually, the fatigue causes us to sabotage ourselves to be free from the stress of the cover up.  Or, if we don’t self destruct, others find us out.  There’s no such thing as a good cover-up.

David’s story is our story. Some are hiding behind a secret and are exhausted.  Others have been found and are wondering if we will ever have life again.  This timeless story reminds us how devastating being found out can be.  Let’s see how David managed this dilemma common to all.

David is convinced his tracks are covered.  He sends for Bathsheba to become his wife.  She bears a son and all seems well.  No one lives their whole life on the rise.  David, “a man after God’s own heart,” is about to face the anguish of his failure and with waning energy.  David is about to be given the opportunity to take hold of the anchor of repentance.

Into David’s tightly controlled world, God sends the prophet, Nathan.  Nathan tells David a parable; suckering him into being a righteous judge in a case of a rich rancher and poor shepherd.  David knows what is right and he gives proper judgment.  It is easy to be sure what other people ought to do when they are wrong.  It is more difficult to see clearly when it is us who has stumbled.  David judges rightly who is wrong and how the wrong should be righted.  Then Nathan drops the other foot and says you are the man and you have been trying to live above the law-the jig is up.

This isn’t a story about what happens if we don’t do right.  It’s a story about an anchor in life that is unfamiliar in the 21st century, where calling a press conference and saying I am sorry gets our name out of the news cycle in a couple of days.  It’s easier to be the victim; deny we have done no wrong and blame someone else for our actions.  Taking hold of the necessary anchor of repentance means to be honest about who you are, humble enough to know you cannot do right without the help of God and others, and gracious enough to all others, knowing you are no better than they.

David repents upon learning he was found out.  It took a while, but he owns up.  He does what is hard for presidents, parents, pastors; he throws out the anchor of repentance, so he might hold onto life.  Repentance isn’t only hard to spell (Does it end with an ‘a’ or ‘e’?  It is harder to practice.)  When my family asked what I was preaching on this morning and I told them repentance they wondered if I was joking.  They are like everyone else who thinks repentance belongs in jail cells, revival tents and rehab centers.

Repentance belongs in all our lives if we are to be firmly anchored during the tests of life so we might be ready to turn from wrong to right or evil to good and still not lose hold of life.  We hold onto this anchor when old dreams are dashed, so new hopes not yet known can be realized.  We hold onto this anchor when we turn from our life of sending and controlling to a life of receiving and letting go, so we might be more dependent on others and a higher law rather than ourselves and our own rules.  The anchor of repentance liberates us to balance between freedom and accountability.

God is a pushover for repentance; David’s repentance triggers God’s repentance.  God isn’t a judge passing out prescribed sentences for a crime.  God’s heart is always willing to enter in the anguish of our pain that sin stirred and more ready than anyone to offer forgiveness.  God delights when we turn from our destructive ways, to new life in God and with others, though some effects of forgiven sin remain.  When we cast the anchor of repentance old ways die days by day, and life and laughter return moment by moment as we live before others and God in an attitude of repentance.

A church full of people who have anchored their lives to repentance, model God’s willingness to offer to forgiveness.  The more we treat each other as God has treated us, the better our mother ship is anchored.  So, may repentance be an anchor in our lives and in our church as we walk with each other; sailing into our future.  People of FUMC, Irving, it is an essential anchor as we sail together in these 21st century uncharted waters.

Published in: on August 12, 2012 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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