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Nov 22, 2015

Storm Recovery

Storm Recovery

Passage: 2 Samuel 1:1-24:25

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: The Story

Keywords: absalom, bathsheba, david, discipline, recovery, sin, success, life storms


King David's last half of his life is filled with storms, many of his own making by his own failures. This message looks at what to do with life's storms and how we can still develop a heart for God in the midst of the storms. It's not the nature of the storms that determine our success but the nature of our responses to the storms.


Storm Recovery

2nd Samuel

November 22, 2015

WOW, it’s been a rough week in Spokane, hasn’t it?  Anyone still without power? 

Stats on Spokane Windstorm 2015:  206,000 without power in the Spokane area alone; 3 deaths; 70 mph winds; up to 90 & 100 in the mountains. Biggest storm on record (60% more outages than Ice Storm 1996).

Our family was talking around the table one night last week about what going through something like this…or Ice Storm 1996…or Mt. St. Helens in May of 1980… does to you even spiritually. Did you find it making any kind of impact on you and your walk with God? 

Life has plenty of storms…and when they hit, we all need storm recovery.  Today’s text is the entire book of 2nd Samuel.  The book opens with David lamenting Saul’s and his son Jonathan’s, death. Though David is God’s anointed replacement to the throne, it takes a couple of years for David to unite Judah and the other tribes of Israel behind him as some from Saul’s household just can’t seem to curb their hunger for power.  Battles rage but David never succumbs to the urge of revenge killings.  Rather, he grieves every death in Saul’s household. 

            By chapter 5, David is 30 years old. He becomes king over all the tribes of Israel in a kingship that will last for 40 years.   He attacks and takes the fortress called Zion from the Jebusites. We know it as Jerusalem and to this day it is contested as the capital of Israel.

            David builds himself a wonderful palace there in Jerusalem and takes numerous wives and concubines (contrary to God’s instruction).  He continues to war against the pagan Canaanite nations of the Ammonites and Philistines, all with great success. 

            But after the wars settle down and David has time to think about the future of the nation, he calls Nathan the prophet in 2 Samuel 7.  And he proposes that they build a Temple for the Lord God there in Jerusalem.  Nathan seems to think it a good idea on the surface and agrees with David. 

But that very night, the word of the Lord came to Nathan.  God reminds Nathan that He has never asked for a “house” or “temple” to dwell in.  But he recognizes that David’s heart to do just that is truly an amazing expression of worship and love.

            So God promises David some things of His own.  He informs him that David will not be the one to build the Temple, but rather a son he will have.  It will happen after David dies.  But more importantly, this son of David will be a man of peace, not war, as David is.  God will treat him like a son, punishing him “with a rod wielded by men” when he does wrong (7:14).  Then he closes his message to David with these words in 2 Samuel 7:15, 16:

            “But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you.  Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” 

            Obviously, with the perspective we have of some 3,000 years, we know that God had something in mind that neither Nathan nor David could see—an eternal kingdom that would endure forever whose throne would be occupied by the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Lord. 

            Regardless of whether David caught all the nuances of this prophecy, it is a promise to him that completely overwhelms him.  God has promised him something no one else on earth had received.  The text (7:18) tells us

            “Then King David went in and sat before the Lord…”  The rest of the chapter is a prayer of total gratitude to God for all God had done in David’s life…and all He had promised to do.  Rather than be upset that he doesn’t get to do his favorite building project, he simply sits in the presence of the Lord and basks in God’s goodness. 

APP: On this Thanksgiving week where we have extra time to contemplate the blessings of God, maybe the best thing we could do is just sit in the presence of the Lord and be grateful.  Maybe we should all write a Psalm of thanksgiving to our God.  Wouldn’t that be a family heirloom to pass down to future generations?  Maybe that should become a family tradition we each establish—looking back over the past year and writing down our words of gratitude?  Why not?  I challenge you!

There is another thing David challenges us on.  God hadn’t told anyone to build a Temple.  But as David looked at his own projects and work, his own house and kingdom, his love for God stirred him to just want to do something beyond the norm.  His heart started dreaming about how to honor God in a greater way than all of his exploits to date had done. 

APP:  Are we willing to think BIG with our spiritual vision?  Are we not only willing but desirous to think of something God hasn’t commanded us to do but which will honor Him and show Him off in this world? 

God loves “sanctified dreaming” like that. 

  • He loves it when a lower-middle class boy from and obscure Southern California family dreams big enough to start a movement in Central America that would eventually reach thousands of unreached languages all over the world. Cameron Townsend, the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and JAARS aviation dared to dream about how God needed to be glorified among the unreached tribes of the world.  And millions of people have come to Christ as a result. (That’s why some of you are at Moody Aviation studying missions.)
  • God loves it when an obscure shoe cobbler in London named William Carey dreamt big about changing the face of India, a nation now with over 1.2 billion people in it.
  • God loved it when a young man in his 20s whose claim to fame was starting a candy company in Southern California, dreamt big about the need for the Gospel to penetrate college campuses all over the world. Now, some 60 years later, there are over 25,000 CRU workers in over 190 countries of the world. 

Maybe it’s time we spent more time dreaming bigger.  Maybe it’s about your family.  Maybe it’s about our city?  Maybe it’s about our region of the world…or something that will impact the whole world

The dream God gives you may never be actually realized in your lifetime.  David’s wasn’t.  But he dared to put the wheels into motion of something that would bring great glory to God for generations.  Don’t think God won’t do it with you.  When His glory is our passion, no telling what will happen. 

Now we come to the second half of the book of 2nd Samuel.  It’s also the second half of David’s reign as king.  He’s now in his 50s.  The Kingdom of Israel is solidly established. David is parenting adolescent children in his royal line. Everything looks pretty good.  But under the surface, his soul is changing…and it’s in the wrong direction. 

In 2 Samuel 11 we’re introduced to David’s first really public failure.  It actually started very privately—a private evening stroll…from a private rooftop voyeuristic view…a neighbor’s private bath…and a private neighborly inquiry…a private personal summons…then a private extramarital affair… followed by a private pregnancy test…with a private cover-up plan.  Truly a storm is brewing. 

There is SO much in this chapter of David’s life that cries out to us to take note and learn from.  David has, by this time, taken at least 7 wives that we know of by name.  

(Michael, Sual’s daughter, Ahinoam of Jezreel, Abigail the Carmel, Maachah the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, and, Bath-shua (Bathsheba) the daughter of Ammiel.)  He also has unnamed and unnumbered concubines.  But all that is not enough for his sexual appetites. 

However, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, we’ll probably have to acknowledge that this whole episode with neighbor Bathsheba is a lot deeper than just a sexual attraction and hunger. If we’re honest, what most people are looking for in a sexual relationship is not primarily the satisfying of sexual urges.  It’s more often about the yearning for personal intimacy that God has placed in the human heart.

David didn’t need another sexual partner.  But I’m guessing he was still searching for soul partners.  And I’m not at all convinced that was anybody’s fault but David’s. 

If we look at David’s personal relationships from his family of origin relationships with his brothers to his many wives to the stories of how he related to his children as they became adults, one has to conclude that there were not a lot of healthy, happy snapshots of intimacy in this man’s life.  From being the happy wilderness shepherd as a boy to being the powerful king of a nation, David seems to be a man whose only really healthy human relationship happened with a man 25 years his senior, Jonathan, for a brief period of time in his late teens and early 20s.  That relationship was then cut short by King Saul’s insanity and Johnathan’s untimely death in battle. 

But let’s not lose the forest for the trees.  What I want you to see in the latter part of David’s life is that recovery from life’s storms, whether storms of our own making or other people, depends more upon the nature of our response rather than the nature of the storm.  That’s really good news…especially for those of us who are really good at making creating our own storms! J

So let’s chart those storms in David’s life as well as his responses.  Clearly, the latter storms of David’s life were largely self-inflicted.  Much of what he had to go through was a result of his own poor choices and sins. 

APP:  Funny how some of life is like that! While the early trials David faced were the result of Saul’s sins and God’s sovereign design, the latter ones were mostly the result of David’s sin and God’s resulting discipline.  Being able to discern the difference will make a huge difference in our ability to both weather life’s storms and recover from them.  

            So the first of these latter-year storms that David brought on himself was a real category-5 hurricane.  (By the way, what we experienced this week in our wind storm wouldn’t even be classified as a Category 1 hurricane.  Winds have to be between 74-95 mph to reach that designation.  You have to be double that to reach a category 5 (158+mph winds).  Those kinds of winds literally destroy everything in its path.)

            While David’s lust and resultant affair with Bathsheba were the first real sustained winds of sin’s destruction we see evidenced in David’s life, those winds just kept building as time went on.  What started as a one-night stand soon increased into a massive game of deception and death.  Bathsheba’s husband is summoned from the war front and encouraged to go spend the night with his wife.  Instead, he displays the heart his commander-in-chief should have had when he says this in response to David’s questioning the next day as to why he didn’t go to his wife the night before:  2 Samuel 11:11—

            Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

Wow!  If that wasn’t a slap in the face to King David, I don’t know what would have worked.  Uriah, a non-Jewish neighbor to the king, reminds the king that their behavior must be influenced by the presence of God in their midst (ark) and the sacrifices God’s people are making in His service.  David seems unfazed.  Rather than repent, he re-doubles his efforts to hid his sin by getting Uriah drunk that night and sending him home to his wife. 

Problem was, he didn’t go home.  He repeated his allegiance to God and His people of the day before by spending another night with the soldiers rather than his wife.  You can really tell how deep a person’s convictions actually are when, despite being drunk, they do the right thing.  Here is a real man of integrity. 

So David ratchets up his sin another level.  He sends a sealed message to his lead general…by way of Uriah himself… to put Uriah in the hottest part of the battle and then to pull back the supporting troops so that Uriah gets killed by the enemy.  To everyone who doesn’t know better, it will look like an innocent tactical mistake with tragic consequences.  To anyone who did know better, it was flat out arranged murder. 

Eight months later, the recently remarried widow of Uriah gives birth to a son and David gives a sigh of relief.  It looks like the whole episode has been, shall we say, “put to bed” (pun intended)?  J  Then comes the commentary in 2 Samuel 11:27—“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” 

Just last week we were reminded about the truth that people look on the outward appearance of things/people but God looks on the heart.  That’s good news…as long as our hearts are good.  But when our hearts turn dark and do what displeases God, He still measures things by the heart rather than appearances.  And he loves us enough to not let us keep walking in darkness.  Instead, he will always and eventually shine some form of His light on our darkness.  And how we respond to that light will determine whether there is recovery or not.  Because it’s not our failings that define us but our responses to them. 

God sends to David an old, trusted friend, the prophet Nathan.  David already accepted God’s word through Nathan that he would not be the one to build the Temple.  And David responded admirably to that disappointment by turning to praise and worship.  Now Nathan returns as a story-teller who is about to deliver a life-altering rebuke.  He proceeds to tell David a shepherd story that connects with David’s sense of justice at about every level possible.  Here’s the story, found in 2 Samuel 12.

“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Here is the power of telling a story that awakens the best elements and emotions of someone.  Nathan knows David has a shepherd’s heart despite the terrible evil he has been guilty of.  He knows he is a man…a king… who wants justice to reign in his country.  So he tells a story that hooks the best instincts and parts of David’s character at a deep emotional level.  And then he delivers the knock-out punch.

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

Notice how Nathan, not once but twice, states that David’s sin was primarily, preeminently and personally an attitude and action of despising God and His word.  This is the hard and painful truth about our sins as the people of God:  no matter how much it might look to us and others like our sins are against people, sin is always against God.  And sin is always a despising of God and His word. 

Despise”…that’s a strong word.  I mean, I may have ignored…or forgotten…or discounted God’s commands when I sin. But “despise” God’s word and God himself?  Come on.  Give me a break!  Everyone messes up now and then. 

The problem with discounting sin is that doing so discounts the only God who can save us from that sin.  The first step in storm recovery is not to discount what we’ve done.  And what we do every time we sin is to despise God and despise His word. 

This reality ought to change forever the way the church responds to first our own sins and then the sins of others.  When I am convinced that my sin, whatever it is, is really just evidence of how I despise God and His word, it will change how I repent…and it will change how I call others to repentance.  When I see myself as that kind of sinner, there is no more room for a critical, judgmental heart towards others.  Yes, there is room for a strong, bold and gripping confrontation of fellow sinners like Nathan did.  But there will also be a humble realization that my own sin is just as despising of God as my neighbor’s sin. 

APP:  Is God trying to point out a sin you are trying to cover up or keep hidden?  It’s not enough to just say, “O.K., I agree it is sin.”  Real repentance sees every sin as God sees it—despising of God himself and his precious, powerful word. God help us to see the gravity of our sins so that we can really embrace the greatness of our Savior. 

  • Is God asking you to humbly call a brother or sister to repentence?

God’s rebuke through Nathan is not quite over.  It concludes with these words:

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

Our “secret sins” will always have more public consequences.  Maybe it will just be your wife or husband who knows.  Maybe just your family or boss.  Maybe just a few fellow Christians.  Or maybe the whole church…or community…or country.  The greater your sphere of influence, the greater will be the knowledge…and the damage.  That’s one of those “laws of the harvest” in which God will not be mocked, (Gal. 6:7).

But it is at this point and every point after we sin that determines the extent of our recovery.  The story…the sin…has already happened.  Not it’s time for the clean-up recovery. 

Here is how it started in David’s life.

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

            I’ve always puzzled at why God would take the life of an innocent little baby boy if, in fact, He had forgiven David.  But when you stop to think about this, it’s really the Gospel that is being told here.  Truth is, “The wages of sin is [always] death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Sin has always required the death of an innocent…an innocent lamb or goat or bird.  May God was preaching yet again the Gospel of Christ—that the innocent Son of God…the offspring of David…would one day give his life to atone for our sins.  I’m not suggesting that David and Bathsheba’s son died for their sins.  But I am suggesting that God was making it painfully evident that sin always leads to death and that only the death of THE Innocent Son of David to come, Jesus, would ever take away the sin of the world. 

APP:  Have you come to grips with that reality in your own experience?  Have you acknowledged that it was your sin that nailed Jesus to the cross and resulted in his death? Have you owned your sin as a symbol of how you despise God.  And have you embraced the resurrection life of God by receiving Jesus Christ as your own Savior and Lord?

This part of David’s story ends with their baby son getting sick and David fasting for the 7 days it took for the child to die.  He is so evidently distraught by what his actions have brought about that his own servants are afraid to tell him when the child actually dies because they fear the truth may push him over the edge.  But instead of jumping off the roof of the palace in despair, this is what happens. 

20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

Having poured out his heart to God…and having been handed an answer that no parent ever wants to get…David submits to the discipline of God and moves forward in humbled worship. 

It’s not our failures that define us; it’s our responses to those failures. 

All this is more than confusing to his servants.  The passage records, 21 “His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

            All of us are going to have to experience some unpleasant consequences of our sins.  The good news is that those consequences will not be eternal nor will they be all that our sins deserve.  But they will leave us changed and they will not always be what we had hoped for, even in the grace of God.  But part of our recovery will depend on our ability to leave all that with God and continue moving forward in worship and relationship with God.  It’s not our failures that define us in God’s family; it’s our responses to those failures that refine us. 

            David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba had, sadly, an effect upon his family that he never intended nor foresaw.  Actually, I should probably say that unresolved issues of his sin with Bathsheba had effects in his family he never intended nor foresaw. 

            In chapter 13 of 2nd Samuel we have the sordid story of Amnon, one of David’s many sons, committing incest with his half-sister, Tamar, a daughter of David.  Welcome to some of the challenges of polygamous families!  Well, Tamar’s full-blooded brother is Absalom.  When Absalom finds out what Amnon had done to his sister, he takes her into his home and cares for her “as a desolate woman” (13:20).  He also nurses a grudge…for 2 years two years in which his father does nothing.

            The text makes it very clear that King David knew about what had happened.  2 Samuel 13:22 says, “When King David heard all this, he was furious.”  But that is apparently the only thing he did for two years…get really, really mad. Righteous anger without righteous action is simply injustice.

            Why his anger was as far as his sense of justice went as head of his household, we can only guess.  But I tend to believe that this is one of the reasons the sins of the fathers tend to be visited upon their children and children’s children.  When we allow our past sins to silence…or neuter…or mute our present and future opposition to sin, Satan has won another battle God never intended him to get.  Rather than look his son Amnon in the eye and rebuke him for his sexual sin, this father allowed his own past failure in sexual sin to silence God’s voice through him. That’s simply handing Satan another victory he doesn’t deserve.

APP:  Parents, fellow believers, leaders—we must not let past sins silence our voice or resolve against present and future sin in any realm of influence God has given us.  Every one of God’s kids fails, sometimes spectacularly, even after we’re saved.  Some fail sexually. Don’t let that keep you from telling your brothers and sisters, your own children why they can do better. Don’t go silent about the ongoing pain your sin has required you to walk through. 

Sharing honestly about our own failures at the appropriate time and speaking with the voice of experience is the least we can do to help the next generation break the chains of generational sin that afflict every family… and often the church.

David’s storm continues to build.  Absalom, Amnon’s half-brother, nurses his grudge on behalf of his sister, Tamar, for 2 long years. When David refuses to do anything meaningful, Absalom sets a trap and kills Amnon in the presence of all his brothers…and then flees the county…for some 3 years.  After those 3 years in exile, David finally allows Absalom to return to Jerusalem.  But it is another 2 years until David even invites him to see him again.  For five years David refused contact with his murderous son.  It appears that his previous sin of murder has rendered him powerless in addressing his own son Absalom’s sin of murder. 

And the storm keeps building.  This disastrous pattern of family relationships…or lack thereof… eventually leads to a royal coup by Absalom.  David retreated behind his own shame and the palace walls giving the usurper, Absalom, all the opportunity he needs to steal the hearts of the people. For 4 long years, Absalom’s popularity grows while David’s wanes.  Finally Absalom strikes and David’s whole family and court is forced to flee for their lives. But within a few weeks the rebellion is crushed and Absalom, another son of David, is dead. 

            Despite all the pain and heartaches David endured, he always kept coming back to God.  Rather than getting bitter or angry or discouraged about the discipline of God, David faces the consequences of his sin with humility and dignity.  Through every painful chapter, David chooses to press into God.  And every time he does, God meets him afresh. 

APP:  This is the challenge for every one of us in every one of our life storms.  Whether the storm is of our own making because of our sin or whether it is due to someone else’s sin, God wants to meet us right there…IN the storm…and bring recovery only He can bring.  Remember, recovery depends more on the nature of our response to God than the nature of the storm itself. 

            What was the storm that you are still reeling from today and needing recovery in?  God wants to meet you in it.

What is the storm you are having a hard time standing fast in right now?  God wants to be your rock and recovery. 

Every one of us can be a man or woman after God’s own heart.  It depends on how we respond to God more than it depends on the storm itself. 

As I read the very words of King David himself, listen to how the heart of a man who is “all in” with God handles the pain and betrayal and disappointments of life while holding fast to God.

2 Samuel 22:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
    from violent people you save me.

4 “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and have been saved from my enemies.
5 The waves of death swirled about me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
6 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me.

7 “In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I called out to my God.

17From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came to his ears.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.
You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low.

29 You, Lord, are my lamp;
    the Lord turns my darkness into light.
30 With your help I can advance against a troop;
    with my God I can scale a wall.

31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?
33 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.

PRAY…for hearts that always look to God for storm recovery.