The Bethlehem Murderer
"Jesse generated David, the king, and David generated Solomon out of the one who belonged to Uriah." (Matthew 1:6)
The town southwest of Dallas where Mary and I have lived since 1973 is now called Midlothian, The Southern Star. With people moving in every day, our Economic Development Committee wants all those folks living up in the Big City to know that our sleepy small town is now wide awake. Why they didn't take my suggestion to call it Midlothian, The Home of Bonnie and Clyde?
When Mary and I moved here, our old Texas friends loved to point to the old wood house across the railroad tracks and say, "You know why Bonnie and Clyde robbed the banks all around but never Midlothian? Because you don't steal in your hometown."
Of course, I'm kidding about my suggestion. No one names their city after a murderer! Then why is Bethlehem called "The City of David?"
If you've read a Children's Bible Story Book, then you know the story of David and Goliath and maybe even how David united Israel and set up his kingdom in Jerusalem. What you might not have studied carefully is that at the height of his power, David stole the wife of one of his loyal soldiers, impregnated her, tried to cover it up by bringing her husband home from active duty to sleep with her. And when Uriah wouldn't go home while his men were in the field, David had him carry a sealed letter containing his death sentence.
After the murder, David waited the appropriate time for Bathsheba to mourn, and then played the role of the gallant comforter as he married her and they looked forward to the birth of the baby.
The writer of 2 Samuel, like every good story teller, tells all this straight up without throwing in his moralizing comments. But when he gets to the end of this scandalous episode, he just can't help it, "But the thing David had done displeased the Lord." (2 Samuel 11:27)
Adultery, lies, murder, and cover ups -- God hates the whole evil mess and He will judge. As a preacher, I can spend the rest of 2 Samuel using David to warn against moral failure, failure even worse than General David Petraeus’ Paula Broadwell adultery. Moralistic preaching portrays David as the godly man who lost it all because of one naked woman taking a bath. But is this the whole story? Is it the heart of the story?
The real climax of the story of David's fall comes when Nathan the prophet puts his finger in the murderer’s face and says, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:7). In a spilt second, David decided whether he would be like Saul who blamed everyone else for his sin, or whether he would accept his guilt and the consequences of his adultery and murder. David's words reveal his decision and what was at the core of his heart, "I have sinned against the Lord."
2 Samuel does tell of the hard times David lived because of his sin, but if we conclude that God labels him as a bad character in His story of redemption, we will completely miss the point of the text. After David's death in a personal revelation to Solomon, God presented His evaluation of David's life. "And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life." (1 Kings 3:14).
How can God tell Solomon that David, the lying, adulterous, murderer, was a man who walked in obedience, or the Apostle Paul in the New Testament affirm God’s testimony when he quotes, “David… ‘a man after God's own heart; he will do everything I want him to do?’" (Acts 13:22) How? Because David had a greater Son.
Jesus, the Son of David, came, was born in Bethlehem. God took the birthplace of an adulterous murderer, and made it the place where the One Who could forgive us of every sin was placed in a manger. And that's why Matthew, the tax collector, places King David in the messianic line of Jesus. Calvary does justly cover it all.
Lord, use David's sin to warn me against lust that leads to adultery and anger that leads to murder. Help me to help others see how the unanswered questions about your justice in forgiving David in your Old Testament story are finally answered in the New Testament at the cross. Thank you that David and Uriah walk in heaven today, and that not even Uriah disputes your justice in declaring that Calvary covers it all!
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