Original post at http://jameyprickett.com/2014/09/14/sex-lives-and-second-chances/
“In the spring of the year” makes you think of birds singing, flowers bursting in color, and grass swaying in the breeze. It sounds like everything is good. And life was good. David had risen to power with strong support. He united a kingdom. The Philistine threat had weakened. The religious symbol that unified the people, the Ark of the Covenant, was taken up to Jerusalem. David had built a royal house for himself. “In the spring of the year” life was good.
“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle” tells more. It explains responsibility. It speaks of fulfilling your commitments. It asks, “Why are you being a couch potato and taking afternoon strolls when you suppose to be leading your army?”
“In the spring of the year,” when things are good and his army needs him, David stays behind. When kings go to battle, David sends Joab.
The story of David is one of the greatest tragedies ever written. A man “after God’s own heart,” is destroyed by listening to his own heart. Walking on the rooftop of his palace, David eyes Bathsheba. He desires her. What was to prevent the most powerful man in the land from satisfying his desire? It was spring, the time when kings go out to battle, and Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was off fighting David’s battles. David takes Uriah’s wife. “I am pregnant,” are the only words Bathsheba will speak.
To make it appear that Uriah was the father, David calls him home from battle. But Uriah the faithful warrior who refused to break the rules of warfare and go home to be with his wife, sleeps at the entrance of the king’s house. Uriah, the immigrant living in his adopted country, takes his faith in God and his allegiance to the king so serious that his fidelity throws a wrench in David’s plan.
Unaware that he is carrying his own death sentence, Uriah arrives back on the battlefield with a letter to the commander. The letter written by David encourages Joab to put Uriah right up on the enemies’ wall where death is certain.
It seems to be the perfect cover-up. But, we are told, “the thing David had done displeased Yahweh” (2 Samuel 11:27). The prophet Nathan comes to David with a tale of a rich man who took and slaughtered a poor man’s lamb. When David declares that such a man does not deserve to live, Nathan responds, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1-7).
A dagger through his guilty heart, David responds with shame. He confesses, “I have sinned against Yahweh” (2 Samuel 12:13). He would later pen, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit” (Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12).
David’s repentance, though heartfelt, could not free him from the fateful consequences. His lust and murder sets off a chain reaction that corrupts his own sons. When David dies it is not a heroic moment. The boy who showed us that Goliath could be killed with a single stone is the old man who dies cold and heartbroken in his royal palace.
Sex is power and power distorts our vision. Distorted sexual power tells us we are invincible. It says to us that no person is outside of our “possession.” When the Israelites asked for a king, Samuel warned them that the way of the king would be “taking” (I Samuel 8:10-18). He would take their sons and daughters. He would take their best grains and vegetables. He would take their land. From the security of his royal palace, David saw, he sent, and he took.
Adultery is about taking what we think will make us happy. Things are not the way we would like for them to be at home, not getting the affection we desire, or experiencing the passion that was once alive we start considering our options. We begin plotting alternatives. We launch into fantasies outside the promises of marriage. Adultery is selfishly ignoring our commitments. In our palaces of self-seeking passion, we build lies to protect us and construct elaborate ways to kill off marriages while attempting to make ourselves look blameless. We use the lives of other people as the bricks to our own defense.
Adultery becomes an issue in marriages when we use the wrong glue to hold the marriage together. For some, the glue that holds them together is nothing more than the law. Exodus 20:14, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” It seems pretty cut and dry. But anyone that has raised children knows that simply understanding the rules doesn’t mean they will always play by the rules. If we do not grasp the motive behind the law, we will have no motivation to follow the law. Knowing the law did not keep the Israelites from disobeying the law. They actually created ways to get around the law. The idea that marriages could be held together simply by a law was what the Pharisees were arguing when they came to Jesus inquiring about divorce. Jesus goes beyond the law found in Deuteronomy to the very purpose of God creating male and female.
The other misplaced glue in marriages is the concept of romantic love. Sexual appeal is referred to throughout scripture. The Song of Solomon is written from the viewpoint of romantic love. It was love at first sight for Isaac and Rebekah. Jacob worked for fourteen years to win the hand of Rachel. Romantic love is a strong desire that is important for marriages to last but it is not the glue that sustains. A man and a woman meet, fall in love, and, as long as love lasts, they stay married. But is it really fair to call it “love” so early? Can we really know it is love?
The glue that holds marriage together and keeps adultery at bay is the commitment to fidelity. We make the promise to love and cherish in marriage based on being a person committed to fidelity. It is hard to know what I am vowing when I say I will love, honor, and keep when I have never been in a relationship that demands such commitment. What I am saying is that I will commit to being the type of person who can make such promises. It is the commitment to fidelity that makes the vows made in marriage stick. It is our faithfulness that creates the type of environment where love, passion, and intimacy can thrive.
A forgiving attitude is needed for fidelity to succeed. God’s faithfulness to us always includes forgiveness. As followers of Jesus, we understand ourselves to be soaked in the forgiveness of God. Because we know of God’s forgiveness, we give the word that no wound to deep, pain to severe, or betrayal to distant that God’s light cannot touch.
The prophet Hosea demonstrates the story of God’s amazing grace by telling how God forgives the unfaithful Israelites. The journey of the Israelites with God is like a bride who continues to run off on her husband. God was ready to give up on the people, throw in the towel, walk away, and yet, God’s own forgiveness compels God to give the people another chance. It is as though God reminds God-self that they are “His” people, the ones God first loved. God says, “I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them…They will again live beneath my shadow, they will flourish like a garden; they will blossom like the vine…” (Hosea 14: 4,7).
Forgiveness is what allows us to move from a land of brokenness to a land of healing. Remembering that we are “forgiven people” is the power of our fidelity. Fidelity requires being a certain type of person. Being faithful in a throwaway culture requires forgiveness. Broken people create broken relationships. For any relationship to stand the test of time, fidelity and forgiveness must be forever linked. Forgiveness gives the courage to keep saying “yes” when everything around you says “no.” Fidelity is hard. Forgiveness is harder. But both are necessary if we are to discover love.
(Sermon preached at Liberty Hill UMC Canton, GA) (Text: II Samuel 11:1-5)