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Showing posts with label Adultery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adultery. Show all posts

Monday, December 16, 2019

#4 Beautiful Bathsheba

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Today, I share the story of beautiful Bathsheba, the fourth of the only five women listed in Jesus royal lineage of over forty generations. And of the five women listed, Bathsheba is not even fully named. Some translations add her name in parentheses, but the original Greek literally says, "and David the king begat Solomon of her of Urias".  Oh Matthew! Can't you even say her name!  Beautiful Bathsheba!

Bathsheba's story is incredibly complicated and embarrassing.  It's the kind of tragic, awful affair that most people would rather not to talk about and just forget it ever happened. Certainly, it is not the kind of glorious tale one praises as a proud moment in your family history! And yet, Bathsheba is right there in the genealogy of Christ our Lord. Without this woman and the terrible thing that happened, Jesus would not be the man he was, because Bathsheba is his great, great, great… grandmother.  So what happened to beautiful Bathsheba?

2 Samuel 11:1
In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem

Note: There is trouble here. This is the time of year kings go to war, but David is in the city. For some reason, he is not acting like a king. Is he injured? Tired? Have pneumonia? Being lazy? We don't know for sure, but David's not acting like a king.

2 Samuel 11:2-3
Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”

Bathsheba's father was Eliam who was the son of Ahithophel.  Ahithophel was one of David's best royal advisers. A few years after David meets Bathsheba, Ahithophel will defect to David's son Absalom when Absalom leads a rebellion to overthrow David.

Rabbinic legend holds that Bathsheba's grandfather, Ahithophel, is the one who instigated Absalom to rebel against David. Though the Scripture does not say it, ancient Jewish rabbis taught that Ahithophel told Bathsheba to seduce David on purpose as part of his own plot to take over the kingdom. I think that's just wild speculation from the rabbis who try to make sense of why David, normally so faithful and righteous, would do something so terrible.  If anything, when Ahithophel rebels, it it is to pay David back for what we are about to see happen to Bathsheba. How would you feel if someone did the following to your granddaughter?
2 Samuel 11:4-6a
Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.”

Then David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” 

Uriah the Hittite
Uriah was Bathsheba's husband. He was also one of David's very best warriors (think Green Berets or Navy Seals).  Uriah was listed among the 37 best warriors in David's entire army--an army of tens of thousands of fighting soldiers. And Uriah was a Hittite, not a Hebrew. People often accuse God in the Old Testament and Israelites of being racists who hated foreigners, but that just wasn't true. We've already seen that Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth were non-Jewish foreigners God welcomed as part of His holy people, Israel.  Foreigners were always welcome if they worshiped God.  God told His people to look after the foreigners among them, because they were some of the most vulnerable in the community and God cared about them.  God frequently reminded the Israelites they had once been foreigners in foreign land and they ought to remember that and take care of the refugees among them.  It was false gods and idolatry and wicked religion that God rejected and called His people to reject. We see now that Uriah is a foreign minority living and fighting for God's people. 

Uriah's name itself means “Yahweh is my light”. Yahweh is the proper name of God, the name He revealed to Moses through the Burning Bush when He said, "Tell my people I AM has sent you."  Uriah was a convert to Judaism who worshiped the One True God and he was one of David's best and most loyal elite soldiers. And we shall now see how honorable was Uriah's character.

2 Samuel 11:6-11
Then David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent him to David. When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?” Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”

David figures he can cover this whole thing up if he can just get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba, but Uriah's honor and integrity is getting in the way. Oh the irony! David, supposedly a man after God's own heart, has lapsed in his own integrity and done a deplorable thing and he can't make it go away because his mighty man, Uriah, is too honorable!

2 Samuel 11:12-17
“Well, stay here today,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.

So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.

David has gone from bad to worse. Now, he has gone from adultery to lies and cover up and murder. If David were our president, the Congress would call for impeachment and the Senate would have to convict! He is guilty of high crimes against the Kingdom.  He has put his own interest ahead of the Kingdom of God he swore to defend, abused his power, and murdered Uriah (and several other soldiers needlessly died in the process).

2 Samuel 11:26-27
When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives. Then she gave birth to a son. But the Lord was displeased with what David had done.

There's a tremendous story in the next chapter of how God sends a prophet, Nathan, to rebuke and punish David. I encourage you to read it. I'm not going to include it, because it’s the story about how David was held accountable and how he repented.  But this morning, I’m telling the story of Bathsheba, not David. 

You see, that's the problem you run into with Bathsheba. She's just treated as a side character in all this. David's the King. Uriah's a mighty warrior. Nathan's a prophet. And most of the commentary and sermons and books you find about this whole story centers on all the men. There just isn't much information about Bathsheba the woman. Well, it's a man's world (or at least it was when 2 Samuel was written). 

I have so many questions about Bathsheba! Don't you? Like:  Was she a willing party to this whole thing or just a victim?  Now, I must make an important disclaimer.  We live in an era where we are finally beginning to recognize and expose the shameful, devastating hurt that has been done to so many women through sexual harassment, assault, and rape.  In this #metoo era, I recognize that I still don't understand all that women have been through over the years--even though I have a wife and two daughters, I don't know all that women go through.  I have read statistics as high as 1 in 3 women are sexually harassed in their lifetime and 1 in 5 will either be raped or face attempted raped.  There may be women reading this right now who have experienced sexual mistreatment.  And I hope you know I have a pastors heart (and also the heart of a father with two daughters).  I care about what you've experienced.  Can I have your permission to speak frankly? I don't have all the answers and I freely admit as a man I may in ignorance stick my foot in my mouth, but I speak with a sincere heart.  We've got to do better.  We've got to stop the mistreatment of women.  

When I read Bathsheba's story, one nagging thought comes to mind.  Bathsheba could be like Monica Lewinsky. You remember Monica Lewinsky?  She was the White House intern that had a sexual affair with President Bill Clinton back in the 1990s.  For many, Monica Lewinsky became the modern definition of a floozy.  Which begs the question: have we treated Monica Lewinsky fairly?  How about all these other women who are thrust into the public spotlight because they are victims who were sexually harassed or objectified or assaulted and suddenly their private lives are paraded out for public scrutiny and everyone’s talking about them.  It's like being assaulted all over again.  Put yourself in their shoes for a minute.  How would you feel?  

Here's the thing: People rarely ever really know the whole story about anything, but everyone forms an opinion. It's as if we cannot abide not knowing (or thinking we know) and so we’re compelled to construct our own conclusions—usually based on the most spurious of clues. We look at people's incredibly traumatic experiences that are as complex as a tangled ball of yarn, with threads of mistakes, victimization, causation, outside influences, happenstance, influences from the spiritual realm (both darkness and light) and we try to distill it all down to some simplistic, neatly tied bow that we can place on top of a Christmas present and says, "This is the story." It rarely works that way in real life. And not in God's story either, because God’s story in the Bible is REAL LIFE.  We may never know the WHOLE story of David and Bathsheba. Only God knows the TRUTH.  But we do know this, God embedded Bathsheba’s memory in Jesus’ royal lineage.  Whatever her virtues or failings may have been, God knows and He has kept her name for all to know for all time.

What we do know about Bathsheba is this:
First of all, she couldn't really say no to David.  David was the king.  What the king tells you to do, you do.  If he wanted to sleep with her, she couldn't say no.  It didn't matter if she was married.

Second, her husband was murdered.  That's terrible!

Third, Bathsheba got pregnant, gave birth, and the child died after seven days.  The Bible says the child’s death was punishment for David’s sin.  However, the baby’s death grieved Bathsheba too. (See 2 Samuel 12:24) I can't imagine the horror of carrying a child in your womb for nine months (especially if it was the result of forced sex) and then holding it in your arms for seven days and then watching it die.  And we don’t know if Bathsheba’s sex with David was consensual or forced.  And how would that effect the emotions? That's messed up!

We also know that Bathsheba became David's wife after her husband’s murder.  (Again, she couldn't really say no, could she? What the King says, you do.)  Maybe she was just making the best of her situation, like women have always had to do who lived in a male dominated world.  Maybe it was Bathsheba's plan all along (like the rabbis said).  The truth is, we don’t know.  Never the less, Bathsheba remained David’s loyal wife.  The first son died, but she had another son and named him Solomon, whom David promised would be heir to the royal throne.  Even though David had a least eight wives and had eighteen sons, Bathsheba managed to secure succession to the royal throne for her son, Solomon—an ascension that stood against all other rivals.  Furthermore, Bathsheba helped guide Solomon as he started as king.  Many believe Proverbs 31—that famous passage extolling the virtues of the ideal womanwas written by Solomon as he recalled he advice of his mother, Bathsheba.  There are certainly two pieces of advice toward the beginning of Proverbs 31 that seem like something Bathsheba would tell her son when he became king.

Proverbs 31:2-3
O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows, do not waste your strength on women,
    on those who ruin kings.

I encourage you to take some time to read 2 Samuel 12-20 of all the trouble David got into because of what he did to Bathsheba—pain, heartache, murder, wasted time and strength and resources of God’s Kingdom.  Think of your own lives today and walk in integrity.

But there is another bit of advice I think is even more relevant and likely to come from the mouth of Bathsheba, a woman trying to make her way in a man’s world where she had no power, no voice, no respect, no guarantee of justiceProverbs 31:8-9.

Proverbs 31:8-9
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.  Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

God can use anything in your life to accomplish his plans.  He can use your mistakes, your fears, your trauma, your sin.  God could even use an affair or a sexual assault to accomplish His plans.  That doesn’t mean we should go looking for these things.  Certainly not.  Who wants the pain and suffering and darkness and death that come from these evils?

No, we don’t go looking for them, but sometime these evils come and find us.  And if something like this has found you, I want you to know that God loves you.  God cares about you.  He knows the whole story.  And even if it feels like the world doesn’t understand or care or seek justice for you:
            GOD CARES.
                        GOD UNDERSTANDS.
                                    AND GOD WILL BRING JUSTICE as only God can.

And Jesus, the great, geat, great... grandson of beautiful Bathsheba is the answer.  He is the One who:
                    And in the end will MAKE ALL THINGS RIGHT!

He is the One who was born in a manger, but He is also the One we wait for who will come again to judge the living and the dead and make all things new.  Amen.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Seventh Commandment - Adultery

Exodus 20:14

            The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets by the very finger of God.  They were the general rules God gave the Israelites about how to be civilized as the newly formed community of God’s people.  Today, they continue to instruct us on how to live godly lives as a community of faith, enjoying the blessings of God’s people.  They also show us how we fall short and need God’s grace and forgiveness.  Do you know the Ten Commandments?  Can you fill in the blanks in the list below?            

The Ten Commandments:
1.     Do not _______ any God except the Lord.
2.     Do not ____ _____ of any kind.
3.     Do not ______ the ____ of the Lord.
4.     Remember to _______ the _______ ___ and keep it holy.
5.     Honor your ______ and ______.
6.     Do not ______.
7.     Do not commit ________.
8.     Do not _____.
9.     Do not _______ _______ against your neighbor.
10.  Do not _____.

How did you do?  Keep working on it until you have the Ten Commandments memorized. 

Today we will look at the Seventh Commandment as found in Exodus 20:14
14 “You must not commit adultery.”
It was about nine o’clock at night. A man dashed into the doctor’s office full of anxiety.  He explained to the doctor that he’d been a nervous wreck all day. The doctor, in his best professional manner, asked if anything had happened to upset him. "Well," the man answered, "there is this letter I received this morning." He showed the doctor a letter, which stated in part, "If you don’t stop running around with my wife, I’m going to blow your head off." The doctor answered, "Well, that’s a fairly simple matter. Why don’t you just stop running around with the man’s wife?”  "But, Doctor, the fool forgot to sign his name!"[i]
            Google defines adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.  Sex is a wonderful and powerful gift God gave His creation.  For humanity, it is meant to be enjoyed between a husband and wife within the safe bonds of a committed marriage relationship.  Sex within marriage is very good.  Besides the practical purpose of creating children, sexual union can be a deeply pleasurable experience that cements the bonds of intimacy between a husband and a wife.  In both the Old and New testaments, the Bible indicates sex is a way for two persons to become one.[ii] 
            Genesis 2:1 talks about the marriage union between a husband and wife.  It says, “…a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  It is a beautiful mystery how God can take a man and a woman and knit them together as one.  Often when I perform a wedding ceremony, couples will light a unity candle to symbolize this sacred union.  The flames of two separate candles are used to light one single flame, symbolizing the uniting of two people into one.  Once the flames of the two candles unite, they cannot be separated.  The light of the candles is combined; the chemical reactions of the flame are comingled.  It would be impossible to divide up the flames once united.  Even if you parted the flames into two separate candles again, each separate flame would contain elements of the other flame.  That is why divorce is so difficult and why Jesus cautioned against it.  You can never truly separate fully from your spouse—parts of them will always be comingled with you.  And sex is an important tool God gave a husband and wife to impart this beautiful and mysterious union.
            But like a river that leaves its banks and brings a devastating flood, sex becomes highly destructive when it leaves the safe boundaries of marriage.  When a spouse commits adultery, they unite themselves with another person besides their spouse.  Now dangerously outside the will of God, they have polluted their body and their marriage.  They have comingled with another outside of God’s plan.  Even if one spouse does not know that the other has cheated, there are now destructive forces loose in the marriage that will cause all kinds of damage to the unity of husband and wife.  Even in Old Testament times—when polygamous marriages with multiple wives and mistresses were common—it was the cause for great trouble and strife.  Why?  Because this is not God’s plan.  You don’t believe me?  Read in your Bible about some of those dysfunctional marriages.  Read about Abraham’s screwed up marriage to Sara and his mistress Hagar.  Read about Jacob and his two jealous wives Rachel and Leah.  Read about the downfall of wisest king in all history—Solomon—who was brought down and strayed from God because of his many wives and concubines.  Adultery will tear you apart, not to mention the destruction it will wreak on your spouse, your children, your family and friends, and even the person with whom you commit adultery.

More Than Just Sex
Somehow, I think everyone knows we should not commit adultery.  And yet surveys show that about 22% of married men and 14% of married women confidentially admit that they have strayed at least once in their marriage.  But…
Adultery is more than just sex.  Obviously, if you look at the statistics, you will notice men are more likely to cheat than women.  This may be because studies show men, in general, find the appeal of a physical, sexual affair more appealing than women.  On the other hand, women are generally more attracted by emotional stimuli.  When a woman cheats, it tends to be more about an emotional bond with another person.  Women tend to go for emotional affairs while men go more for a physical affair.
Whether you are a man or a woman, I must warn you that you can be involved in an emotional affair without ever having “sex.”  An emotional affair is when you bond emotionally with another person other than your spouse—especially a person of the opposite sex—in a way that should be reserved only for your spouse.  WebMD offers 7 signs you may have crossed the line into an emotional affair:[iii]
1.     You spend a lot of emotional energy on the person. “You end up sharing stuff that you don’t even share with your [spouse]--hopes and dreams, things that would actually connect you to your partner.”
2.     You dress up for that person.
3.     You make a point to find ways to spend time together, and that time becomes very important to you.
4.     You’d feel guilty if your [spouse] saw you together; you are doing things and saying things that you would never do or say in front of your spouse.
5.     You share your feelings of marital dissatisfaction.
6.     You’re keeping secret the amount of time you’re spending with the person (including emailing, calling, texting).
7.     You start to feel dependent on the emotional high that comes with the relationship.

You see, you can “commit adultery” without ever having sex.  Emotional adultery may be just dangerous as a sexual fling because it is driven by emotional bonds that are reserved only for one’s spouse.  Whether you are involved in a sexual affair or an emotional affair, I urge you in the name of the Lord to stop now!  Come talk with me about it so we can pray together and ask God to help you and begin the process of healing and accountability. 

Jesus’ Teaching about the Seventh Commandment
            But perhaps the most dangerous form of adultery today is adultery of the eyes.  Sex appeal is a powerful force that can be wielded to manipulate.  Our culture uses sex to sell everything from music to prescription drugs to hamburgers.  It is impossible to live in America without being inundated with sexualized images.
            In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus said, 27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
You cannot live in our country without seeing sexual images.  But as I think I heard Sara Brooker say once, “You can stop a bird from landing on your head, but you don’t have to let it make a nest there.”  We can’t help but see tempting sexual images, sexy women, or attractive men, but we don’t have to look twice or fantasize about them.  And yet that’s what most of us do.
The porn industry in the United States generates $13 billion every year.  Since the beginning of 2015, there have been over 1.3 billion internet searches for pornography.  64% of Christian Men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once per month.  It is no wonder that our ideas about sexuality, marriage, and homosexuality are so off track in America today.)  If you are looking at porn or lusting after women (or men), I urge you in the name of the Lord to stop now!  Come talk with me about it so we can pray together to ask God to help you and begin the process of healing and accountability. 

            Clearly, we are an adulterous people according to Christ who said, “…anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  So none of us can boast we are without sin.  Nor should we lie to ourselves and others that we are not as bad as some.  “For,” as James 2:10 says, “the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”  The Commandments and Jesus’ words prove that we are and adulterous people who desperately need God’s grace and forgiveness.
Sometimes in the church, we like to point the finger at others and say, “They are what’s wrong with the world.”  It feels so much better to point the finger at someone else.  Then we don’t have to look uncomfortably at our own failings.  The Truth is, we are what’s wrong with the world.  We are full of sin.  We need God’s grace and forgiveness.  We are in desperate need of God’s healing.  And lest we ever forget it, the Lord and His Commandments remind us.
That is the Bad News.  But the Good News is that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us.  Jesus came to save us.  For 1 John 1:9 says, "...if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."  Isn't it Good News to know Jesus will forgive us and wash us clean if we ask?
Won’t you come to the Lord today and ask His forgiveness.  Won’t you beg Him to wash you clean.  Won’t you let Him begin to heal your heart today.  Won’t you turn away from your sin and turn to the one who can fulfill your every need and desire.  Come to Jesus today.  He is your only hope.

[ii] Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 6:15