Not The Plan (Sermon)
2 Samuel 12:15-23
In our desperation, as we strive to be dependent on God, we learn more about ourselves and more about God, and this equips us to serve Him and others more effectively. In the last few weeks many of you have sacrificed (food, social media, TV, etc.) as we have fasted together as a church. You have denied yourself in some way to advance spiritually. We have denied ourselves as a church that we may show God our desperate need for Him to guide what we are doing here in Fuquay, at such a time as this, while struggle with temptation, while dealing with doubts and fighting fears, while wanting to run away, quit and throw in the towel! We exclaim: “There has got to be an easier way!” “This hurts!” “This doesn’t feel right!” “I don’t want to play anymore!”
Some of you, as you walked in, are saying: “Ok God, I’m giving you one more chance.” Right here, right now do something. Show me something or I’m done! Show me that you’re here, that you care, that you haven’t forgotten me, that you are going to do something. Give me a glimmer of hope! Please! I’m desperate!
Well, hang with me. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but you will be encouraged by the end. Today I want us to consider: What do you do when you don’t get what you have sacrificed for? You have strived to do the right things the right way but, it just hasn’t worked out.
Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima was chosen to light the Olympic flame for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Why him? In 2004 he was leading the Olympic marathon race, preparing to be the first Brazilian ever to win the Olympic marathon. But then at about mile 23 he was attacked by a spectator and briefly knocked off course. The race had been tight for the previous two hours, but the attack was enough to cost him the victory.
To his credit, he pressed on to the finish; however, he was overtaken by two other runners, and eventually came in third. He was honored to light the torch last year, not because he suffered a hardship, but because he refused to give up. Can you imagine running the rest of that race; already feeling so drained and now disheartened knowing that your chance at gold was gone? The hours of training, preparing, sacrificing. Hours seemingly wasted. Imagine what he had to give up just to compete at this level.
Not only did he endure the agony of running the marathon, he also suffered a surprising attack by a spectator as he was nearing the end. Totally unexpected, totally unfair, totally disheartening. For de Lima this was struggle piled on top of struggle! This was not how he dreamed or imagined it would be. When we sacrifice, when we pay a great price, we expect positive results and rewards of the effort spent. But are the results we imagine, the same as what is best for us?
I want to show you a small part of the story of a famous man, famous in the Bible anyway. His name is David. This well-known OT figure was: a musical genius, a giant slayer, a mighty warrior, and handsome! He had experienced a tot of success. He had a lot going for him. But things are not always as they seem on Facebook. Things are not always as they in public. There is usually more to the story. Behind closed doors, things are different. And that is the case with David.
Psalm 32:3-4 (ESV)—For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Sleepless nights, stomach in knots, no joy or relief. Why? What is bothering this guy who seems to have everything going for him?
If you have your Bible or electronic device, meet me at 2 Samuel 11. Before we get to our story, let's look at the backstory in 2 Samuel 11-12:15a. Here we discover a series of bad decisions by David.
David stays behind. Verse 1—the time when kings go out to battle—David sends Joab which seems harmless enough.
David slept in. Verse 2—It happened late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch—wasn’t where he was supposed to be and wasn’t do what he was supposed to be doing.
David took a lingering look. Verse 2—he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful—
David inquired. Verse 3—fact finding…who is she?
David sent for. Verse 4—sent messengers and took her—David is the king. He is powerful. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Where is his accountability partner? Who’s asking: “Is this a wise thing for you to do?”
David commits adultery. Verse 4—and he lay with her—short-term pleasure with long-term consequences.
Verse 5—David got a note: I am pregnant—not what he wanted to hear.
By the way—the penalty for adultery is death!
Now what? Scramble mode. David tries to manipulate and control the situation. He tries to bring Uriah home to be with Bathsheba. It doesn’t work. Then he plots to have him killed. That does work. Then he develops a cover up. He brings Bathsheba to his house after the appropriate time for mourning was over. It appears he is home free now, right?
2 Samuel 11:27 (ESV)—And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
God was watching and He was displeased. David is restless, but trying to move on. In 2 Samuel 12:1-15a we see: And the Lord sent Nathan to David—a prophet is coming with a word: You have sinned. There are consequences. In verse 8 there is a reminder of what God has done for David (His provision). In verse 9 there is a reminder of what David has done. He is exposed. Beginning in verse 10 Nathan lays out the consequences. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house. Verse 11—I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. Verse 12—you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun—sin is never secret.
Remember—the penalty for what David has done is death. In verse 13—David confesses and repents and receives merciful forgiveness. Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die…” Why does Nathan say that? Because the wages of sin is death! Romans 6:23—David deserved death for what he had done.
What are you carrying? What is weighing you down? What do you need to off-load? What do you need to confess?
2 Samuel 12:14—Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.
David receives mercy and forgiveness but, sin still has consequences.
The Rest of the Story…
2 Samuel 12:15—Nathan goes home…And the Lord afflicted the child…and he became sick—
2 Samuel 12:16-17—David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.
David is thinking what if God extends mercy again and desperately denies himself and pleads for his child.
2 Samuel 12:17—And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.
The staff is concerned. We have never seen David like this.
2 Samuel 12:18—On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.”
David is intense, urgent, and even desperate in his actions. So much so, his servants think he may be suicidal.
Note two things: One, forgiveness of sin doesn’t always remove the consequences of sin, often they remain. Two, God’s Word is true. What He said would happen, happened. But David sacrificed. He was urgent. He prayed. He fasted. But… What do you do when you don’t get what you have sacrificed for?
2 Samuel 12:19—But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead."
His efforts had failed. How does one move forward after experience tremendous disappointment and heartache?
2 Samuel 12:20—Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed clothes.
David got up and cleaned up. He moved forward. Faith is always forward oriented. Doesn’t mean that we don’t remember the past or our pain.
Scott Hafemann writes: “Faith looks forward, not backward, but it looks forward precisely because of what is behind it. The foundation and focus of our faith are, respectively, the provision and promises of God.[i]
David is preparing himself for a new life. This life would begin exactly where he found strength and success in his old life, in the presence of the Lord!
2 Samuel 12:20—And went into the house of the Lord and worshipped.
Wow! Could you do that after God did not give you what you wanted? Maybe thought you needed? Expected? Deserved? Especially when you have sacrificed for it?!!
2 Samuel 12:20—He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.
Notice David did not break his fast until he worshipped God. His hunger for God exceeded his desire for food. It seems like David is acting in reverse of the norms. He puzzles his servants and raises questions.
2 Samuel 12:21—22 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food?” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?”
David thought that maybe God’s sentence wasn’t His last word. Maybe God is stirring me to pray. Who knows, maybe God will extend grace. David’s assumptions regarding God is that He is a God of great grace!
Perhaps you have been there and realized your failures, shortcomings, and mistakes. Perhaps you have responded by repenting of your sins. Perhaps in a position with no reason to expect mercy or grace, much less favor from God. Perhaps wondering if you will live the rest of your days under the frown of God. Him just shaking His head at the thought of you.
2 Samuel 12:23—But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
The reality of mortality has set in, yet David is not without hope. A hint of hope. He is sad, but content. He will see his son again. David has learned that: NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU SACRIFICE, SIN HAS CONSEQUENCES. NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU SIN, GRACE PROVES GREATER.
Romans 5:19-21 (ESV)—For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Down the road in the future, another Son would be born. He would become a man. He would give His life for our sins so that we might live forever. But what about now? What about the mess I’m in? What do I do?
John Piper advises: “Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the loses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”
The Path Forward:
Luke 9:23 (ESV)—And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Deny yourself and live sacrificially and be others oriented.
Die to self. Take up your cross, daily.
Worship Him. Follow Him with all your heart.
This is what Jesus did for our benefit. We are to do it for the benefit of others. It requires a bit of desperation. How desperate are you? Is your connection with God an hour on Sunday check the box deal? Or is it more. It can be more. If you have encountered Jesus, now what? Our community needs a group of people that are desperate to bring that message to them, that are willing to sacrifice and go to great lengths to make it happen. Are you willing? After God has done the miraculous in you, He wants to do it through you.
Are you available? Just think about the impact of an individual fully available to God. Imagine a church that is desperate to know Him and serve Him.
Manuscript for sermon originally preached at Connect Church on 2/26/17.
[i]Scott Hafemann, The God of Promise and the Life of Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 108.