David’s Breaking Bad

“…but the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
(2 Sam 11:27)

In my preparation for this Sunday’s sermon on David and Bathsheba (2 Sam 11), I am developing a thought on how in this infamous story David violated all of the Ten Commandments.  I probably won’t have the time in my sermon this week to give you the full details, so I thought I would lay it out for you here.

Here’s a summary of the story: In 2 Samuel 11, we read that in the springtime, when the kings would lead their armies out to war, David sent out the troops, but stayed at home, reclining on his couch in the cool of the day.  While there, he saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof (a rather suspicious place to put a bath tub), and David sent for her, slept with her, and Bathsheba was pregnant.  Immediately, David sent for Bathsheba’s husband to come home from battle, and tried to get him to spend some “quality time” with his wife.  When Uriah refused because of his loyalty to his fellow soldiers, David sent Uriah back to the front with orders that would get him killed in battle. It is a sordid tale, and extremely shocking coming from someone who, up to this point, has always been described as having a heart for God.

So how did David break all 10 Commandments in this one story?  Let’s look at them in reverse order:

Thou Shall Not Covet – This one is easy to see.  David saw Bathsheba bathing, and he wanted what he saw.  He was not satisfied with all that he already had, with all that God had given.  He saw, he desired, and his desire sprang into action.

Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness – Again, this one is clear.  In order to cover up his first sin with Bathsheba, he brings Uriah home under false pretenses.  David tries to get Uriah to break his own code of honor and sleep with his wife while his fellow men are at war.  When that didn’t work, he made Uriah carry the orders that would lead to his own death.  David didn’t even think twice about using deception and lies to cover his sin.

Thou Shall Not Steal – Hello!  He took his neighbor’s wife!

Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery – That is what took place here.  Today, we have a lot of euphemisms to help soften the blow: an “affair,” a “dalliance,” “living together,” a “fling.”  Let’s be clear. Scripture is quite clear that the gift of sexual expression is reserved for man and woman in marriage (Heb 13:4; 1 Cor 7:1-40), and anything outside of the bond of marriage is called sin, either adultery or fornication.  David committed adultery. There is no two ways around it.

Thou Shall Not Kill – Not only did Uriah die in David’s cover up, so did all the other soldiers who stormed the walls in battle. The blood of Uriah and all the soldiers lost that day was on David’s hands.

Honor thy Father and Mother – Now you may be thinking, this is a stretch, but keep in mind, the fifth commandment deals with our relationships with those in authority over us and those who serve under us.  The Westminster Larger Catechism is fantastic in its teaching here:

“It is required of superiors, according to the power they receive from God… to bless their inferiors… protecting and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body; and, by grace, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God.”

David pretty much botched that one too.

Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it HolyNow the mother and father thing was a stretch, but this is way out there, we are not told it was a Sabbath day. Patience, I don’t think it’s that big of a leap. Remember, keeping the Sabbath means to set the Sabbath day aside as a day of rest, but that also requires that the rest of the week be spent in fruitful labor.  Where was David in this story? On the roof, resting on his couch.  Where was he supposed to be? Leading the nation of Israel in battle. This whole mess started because David neglected his responsibilities.

Thou Shall Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain – To take God’s name in vain is to make it the name of God meaningless and empty. David was known as God’s anointed, and if this was how God’s anointed was going to act, what does that say of God?

Thou Shall Not Make Any Graven Image – Granted, David did not make a little golden idol to put on his mantle to worship. He didn’t need to. David twisted and contorted the revelation of a holy and just God, a powerful and present God, to be something much more manageable. David’s god that day was a god would couldn’t see, a god who wouldn’t act. Only by forgetting who God really is, only by creating a god of our own choosing, can we go forward boldly into such sin.

Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me – That afternoon, on his roof, that beautiful woman became more to David than the very glory of God Himself. He gave up everything to have her. Is that not worship? Is not adultery, at its heart, an expression of idolatry?

James 2:10 teaches “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” David sinned fantastically, and in one sin, he broke all of God’s commandments.  And he was called a man after God’s own heart.

If we are honest, we must acknowledge that every sin, even our own, is a fantastic and radical rebellion from God’s will. There are, of course, varying degrees of the severity of our sins, but each sin is an affront to the majesty and holiness of God, and the wages of sin is death.

The good news, and there is good news, is that Jesus came to save sinners. This depravity our hearts is not a shock to our Savior, this is why he came. He came to redeem us from captivity to sin, to destroy the power of sin and death in us, to bring the grace and forgiveness of God through His atoning sacrifice.  All those who trust and believe in Christ find forgiveness, and are given His Holy Spirit that we might grow in grace as we walk with the Lord. Remembering the severity of our sins should not drive us to despair. No.  It should drive us to the cross where we find our sins have been forgiven and we are at peace with God.

SDG

A Knowledge that Puffs Up

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
(Eph 3:20–21)

Recently I’ve been doing some “brushing up” on my studies of Reformed Theology.  I came to the realization that it had been 14 years since Seminary;14 years since I had seriously sat down and written out my understanding of key theological doctrines, with Biblical and Confessional references.  Over that time in ministry, I have picked up various habits and views along the way, some Biblical, some simply pragmatic.

And so I started reading and writing.  I wanted to keep my studies limited to a particular branch of Reformed Theology, and so I committed to just reading the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.  I’ve been exploring doctrines such as the Authority of the Word of God, Covenantal Theology, Election and Free Will, Justification and Saving Faith, the Sacraments, and the End Times (millennialism).  I’ve been pouring over several resources that, I’ll have to admit, have sat on my shelf gathering dust this past decade and a half: Charles Hodges’ Systematic Theology, G.I. Williamson’s Westminster Confession of Faith Study Guide, and some even found some great online resources at www.reformation21.org.

Through this course of study, I realized some pretty telling things.  First, going to a “prestigious” seminary doesn’t ensure a “prestigious” education.  I will readily admit that the quality of and educational experience is just as much the responsibility of the student, and I am thankful for the time I spent at Princeton Theological Seminary. It was a great experience that taught me to think theologically.  My only frustration is this: Has Princeton forgotten its past, or is it trying to deny it?  Just looking at the reading lists for my theology courses (yes, I still have them): great theologians from Princeton such as Hodge and Alexander are never once assigned.  The only reading from Jonathon Edwards, yes The Jonathon Edwards, was a chapter on “Natural Theology.”  The Puritans were completely ignored, Owens, Baxter, Flavel, Sibbes.  I am grateful for my experience there, but also grateful that I have had reading groups over the years that have helped point me in the right direction for my growth in Reformed Theology.

Ok – sorry – I hadn’t intended this to become a rant – on to other things.

The other thing I realized is that, for me anyway, the study of theology oftentimes awakens in me an idolatrous desire for approval.  Let me unpack that.  As a Pastor, I am called to defend the faith and preach the gospel.  I must be led by and lead others to the truth of God as revealed in Scripture. To teach something other than God’s revealed truth is to be “the blind leading the blind,” or worse, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and I know I will be held accountable for every word.

What I realized, in the midst of all my studies and writing, I was writing to please men, to please myself, rather than to bring glory to God. I find that there is in me a craving to be seen as “orthodox.” I long for the approval of others, to be sought out, for it to be said of me, He was a good teacher who really knew his stuff.” In these moments I am seeking a knowledge that puffs up (1 Cor 8:1).

This is not what the study of theology ought to do.  I shared a couple of months ago that all theology must be doxological – that is, it should lead to the praise and glory of God – or else it is of no use whatsoever. All knowledge of God, right knowledge of Him, will lead us to praise.  When we study God’s work of Creation we are led to praise Him for His power, wisdom, providence, and sovereign reign over all things seen and unseen.  When we study the Covenants, we are led to praise God that He would make a way for us to know Him. When we study God’s eternal decrees of salvation in Jesus Christ and our security in Him, we are led to give all praise and glory to God all that He has done for us.  When we study the Sacraments, we come to praise God for His promises signified and sealed and for His Spirit that makes those promises real in our lives.

From an earlier post –

All theology should produce a humble and gracious response of love.  If you study this Golden Chain, or the 5 Points of Calvinism, or any other theology for that matter, and come away with an air of superiority and self-righteousness, you have completely missed the point.  If your theology leads you to sit in judgment of others who are lost in sin rather than compelling you to demonstrate for all to see the very grace, mercy, and love of God that delivered you from sin and death, then your theology is of no use to you, to the world, and does not bring God glory. The theology of the church does not exist to puff up the pride of man, but to exalt and glorify God.

If ever your studies about God lead you to think how great you are, or diminish the glory of God, you’ve got it wrong and need to start over at the beginning.

So let me give you this encouragement.  Keep studying.  You may not be moved to pour into the depths of the Reformed Faith, but we are all called to be students of the word, to continue to know and love God more. Keep reading.  Keep learning.  Keep growing.  But do not study, read, learn and grow just so you can saw to everyone else, “Look how much I know!”  Let your studies, your reading, your learning, your growth lead you to a fuller and richer love of God and a greater understanding of His glory and a desire to worship and praise Him in all you do.

Sola Deo Gloria!