Warriors on Their Couches
Warriors on Their Couches
The account of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 begins this way:
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
David, the King and great warrior, stayed home on the couch.
I was once on a date with my high school girlfriend, driving my parents' orange Volkswagen minibus, when I pulled up behind a Jeep that was turning left. A guy in the back seat of the Jeep spoke to me in sign language. Fortunately, he used the only sign language I knew, so I spoke back in the same manner. It wasn't nice, what I said.
The Jeep started to follow us. We pulled up to a stop sign, and three guys jumped out of the Jeep and onto the bus, screaming and yelling. When I drove off, they got back in the Jeep and continued to follow us. I prayed franticallyin the silence of my own heart so Susan wouldn't hear"Jesus, please let my parents be home." It didn't work.
I pulled up in the driveway, and the Jeep screeched to a stop behind me. Three guys jumped out screaming, "Hey man, you flipped us off." One guy had a bat, another guy had nunchakus, and the third guy had a bag of lead shot. We negotiated for about 30 minutes on the lawn. Finally, they left with some comments regarding my masculinity, and I felt lower than scum. I was ashamed. I wanted to fight, to shame someone else in order to hide my shame. I wanted to fight, but I didn't want to lose.
As I reflected on that incidenthow they flipped me off, how they had their weapons handy, how they tried to make me madit occurred to me those guys were out looking for a fight. They were warriors looking for a war. Why is it that so many guys are just looking for war? Is it possible we were made to be warriors but that we don't know what the right war is?
There are several admirable qualities in a soldier: courage, strength, self-sacrifice, perseverance, and faithfulness. But those admirable qualities fade when we fight the wrong war.
A war worth fighting
In 2 Samuel 11, all of Israel, including the Ark of the Covenant, is at war. Everyone, that is, except David; he stays home. Israel was besieging Rabbah of the Ammonites, who were worshippers of Molech. The worship of Molech appears to have included cultic child prostitution and the sacrifice of children through fire. Rabbinic writers described a bronze statue in human form with the head of an ox. It was hollow and heated from below. Children were placed in the bronze statue where they were consumed as drums drowned out the sound of their screaming.
Most scholars think Molech means "King of Shame." In other words, Israel was battling the King of Shamea demonic principality that consumed human life. Jeremiah prophesied that one day Molech would be sent into exile, but that God would restore the fortunes of the Ammonites. You see, Israel really wasn't battling the Ammonites (flesh and blood). They were at war with Molech (the principality and power). The problem was, they couldn't extract Molech from the Ammonites.
We face a similar battle today. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12 that "We wrestle [battle] not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers, the world rulers of this present darkness, the spiritual host of wickedness in the heavenly places." We battle Satan, the Accuser. He sounds a lot like MolechKing of Shame. You were made to be a warrior, and this is the war worth fighting.
The danger of ignoring the war
In 2 Samuel 11:1, David was not fighting the King of Shame. David was a warrior who had lost his war and found his couch. In the following verse, David falls to temptation because he is not where he is supposed to be. He feels shame, but instead of fighting it, he tries to hide it. I suspect you know the story: David sends for Uriah and arranges for Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba, so the baby will appear to be Uriah's. However, Uriah refuses to sleep with his wife in his home because his fellow Israelites are sleeping in tents on the battlefield. That's how a warrior is supposed to behave. As a result, David feels more shame. He arranges for Uriah to be killed in battle against the Ammonites. He sacrifices Uriah to the King of Shame, then takes Bathsheba as his own. It would appear that Molech won. God's child, Uriah, is murdered. God's daughter, Bathsheba, is raped. God's son, David, is imprisoned in shame.
Just as Molech, King of Shame, seemed to defeat Israel, so also he rules in our country through adultery, divorce, abortion, and rape. And just as Molech won in Israel because David was not fighting God's war, so too he is winning here because we have failed to join the battle. If we're not battling for our Lord, we end up battling for Molech (King of Shame). Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me," and "He who does not gather, scatters." Bob Dylan puts it another way: "You're gonna have to serve somebody. Now, it might be the Devil or it might be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody."
Are you fighting for youself and your kingdom? Are you fighting to protect your dignity or cover your shame? If so, you're really fighting for Molech. Warriors without a war will be conscripted by someone or something. David was conscripted to conquer Bathsheba, consume Uriah, and battle his Maker for the throne. So it appears Molech wins.
In order to get David's attention, God sends Nathan the prophet. Nathan tells David a story in 2 Samuel 12:14 about a rich man who takes the lamb of a poor man in order to feed a guest in his home. The rich man desecrates and consumes the lamb. David becomes furious and pronounces a death sentence on the rich man. Nathan replies, "You are the man." In Nathan's story, Uriah is the poor man, David is the rich man, and Bathsheba is the lamb. Next Nathan prophesies over David in verses 1112 that David and his entire family will pay dearly for his sin. David's private life had a most powerful public impact.
God does not respect our right to privacy. Jesus said, "What you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops." God tells David that what he did in secret will happen to him for all Israel to see. It's almost as if God is saying, "David, my son, as you wounded me, so now your son will wound you." One of David's sons, Amnon, rapes one of David's daughters, Tamar. Another of David's sons, Absalom, murders Amnon to cover the shame. Then Absalom despises his father and overthrows David's rule just as David despised God and overthrew His rule. Then, to demonstrate his victory, Absalom has sex with ten of David's wives on the roof, before all Israel.
In verse 13, David acknowledges his sin, and Nathan assures him that he has been forgiven. Yet David will feel all of that pain nonetheless. What this teaches us is that pain isn't punishment, retribution, or even anger. It's discipline for the one the Lord loves. To know God's mercy, perhaps you have to see your sin and taste its pain. To know forgiveness, perhaps you have to know what you're forgiven of. Nathan says, "The Lord has put away your sin. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die." The son of David must die for David's sin.
Rejoining the battle
The Lord afflicted the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and he became sick. David prayed for his sick child and fasted for a full week until the child died. When he heard that the child had died, he arose, washed himself, and went to the temple to worship. Wouldn't you like to know what David said in worship that day? It appears we do. Psalm 51 was born from David's reflection on the death of his son. From that pain he wrote these beautiful words: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. Against you, you only have I sinned Create in me a clean heart, O God." The child dies, and David worships. His servants wonder at his behavior, so David explains, "Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."
The son of David dies, but the Lord is still gracious to David. Verse 24 says that David comforted his wife. This is a remarkable statement. First, notice that it says "his wife," and not "Uriah's wife," as it did before. Second, notice that David "comforted" Bathsheba. Before he "took" her. This time when they lay together, Bathsheba conceived a son whom they named Solomon, which means "peaceful." The Lord loved the child and sent a message by Nathan the prophet to call the child Jedidiah"beloved of the Lord." It is almost as if the Son of David rose from the dead. In a sense, Solomona "prince of peace" and "beloved of the Lord"is the fruit of David's confession. He is born right out of David's sin, sorrow, and shame. He is born out of the dominion of Molech.
Later, Solomon ascends to the throne and builds the temple. He accomplishes the greatest deeds in Israel's history. There were two sons of David in this story: one that bore David's sin and descended into Sheol, and a second that rose from David's ashes and built the house of God. The two sons of David are the one Son of David. His name is Jesus.
In the next paragraph of 2 Samuel, David defeats the Ammonites. But Molech is not yet defeated. Satan will not be defeated until Jesus (the Son of David) dies on the cross and descends into Sheol, bearing our sin and shame, and then rises victorious on the third day. Jesus Christ is our judgment, discipline, redemption, and sanctification, according to God's great mercy.
How do you battle the King of Shame? You can't. But God can, through his great mercy. Jesus, the Son of David, was born out of David's failure. He was born out of our failure. When we stop hiding our shame and guarding our shame, and surrender our shame to the Father, he kisses our wounds. Then he battles the King of Shame through us. Jesus is the Great Warrior, and his battle against evil is our great war. We battle the King of Shame by bearing witness to mercy, preaching the Gospel of grace, and offering the kiss of grace. It takes courage, strength, self-sacrifice, perseverance, and faithfulnessall the virtues of a warrior. Jesus gives you those virtues when you join his war.
You are a warrior, but have you found your war? Perhaps today the war has found you. You're not battling flesh and blood. You're not battling Republicans, Democrats, Iraq, or Iran. You're battling MolechSatan, the Accuserthe King of Shame. If you're not engaged in battle against him, you'll be conscripted in battle for him. We battle shame head on in mercy through Jesus. We tend to think of spiritual warfare as some strange little corner of the Christian life. Nospiritual warfare is the Christian life.
For the outline of this sermon, go to "Warriors on Their Couches."
Peter Hiett is pastor of The Sanctuary Downtown in Denver, Colorado, and author of