The Sword will never leave your house.
The story has turned. Up to this point 1 and 2 Samuel have seen David grow in power and in greatness. But because of what David did with Bathsheba and Uriah, things have changed.
Clearly last week's pericope and this week's are interdependent. The evil actions that David performed are what cause Nathan to bring a message, and what a masterpiece of prophecy he brings.
Nathan may be aware of the fate that others have faced when they brought bad news to the King. He may also be aware that reprimanding someone right after they have done something wrong, often falls on deaf ears. We read of Uriah's death and of Bathsheba's mourning. It is only after she has mourned that David takes her as a wife. Then she has their son. After all these things, when the Holy Spirit may have had time to hound David, when the action is not so near, then Nathan comes and brings a word from the Lord.
There could be a lesson in that for us preachers. Sometimes we may too hasty in bringing a word from the Lord. A correct word brought at a wrong time could be as ineffective as a wrong word. Tactical patience is not the same as conflict avoidance.
When Nathan does come to bring a message, instead of speaking directly, Nathan tells a story which may or may not be true. He appeals to David's role as a king who judges cases. Nathan paints a picture not just of a robbery, but of a crude man who acts unnecessarily evil.
In his commentary on 2 Samuel Robert Barron notes "Nathan composes his story in such a way that it touches on the reality of David's story with unnerving accuracy." The language in verse 3 carries with it not only images of parental love, but is meant as a double entendre for sexual intimacy.
The accuracy of the story should have given Nathan away, but instead it riles up David's anger and he issues two punishments for the rich man: He should be killed, and he should be forced to give back four times what he had stolen.
This double punishment further reveals the connections between the rich man and David. David has cited the punishment for theft, which was paying back four times what had been taken. While the Law contains no mention of execution for larceny, it does point to death as the appropriate punishment for adultery. David has rightly condemned both the rich man and himself.
The ancients noticed this. Augustine says, "To cut away the diseased tissue in David's heart and to heal the wound there, Nathan used David's tongue as the knife." Upon issuing the judgment, Nathan then says, "You are the man." The rest of the punishment follows. David has mistaken his power as something that he earned of his own right. He has forgotten that God gifted David everything. David is no self-made man. He only used what God had given him.
There is in this then two potential preaching points. On the one hand, David's fall stands as an archetype for original sin. Why is it that David, the man after God's own heart, fall? The best explanation is original sin. David, like all human beings, had a heart turned inward. Augustine called this incurvatus in se, turned inward on one's self. David had attempted to hide his acts, and he may have thought that he had gotten away with his sin. Uriah was dead, he was married to Bathsheba, no one knew. David had been able, as the king, to orchestrate events such that no one could stand against him. He was king.
Nathan's words remind David, that though David is king, David is not God. David's sins of sloth, lust, rape, deception, murder, and mass murder can be detailed as such, but they all connect to that original sin of a heart turned inward. They all happened because of David's idolatry wherein he thinks that because he is King, God will not give him a reckoning.
This could lead to another preaching point on worship. For while we are in the grips of original sin, we know that we are released from it when we offer praise to God. Barron says, "Authentic worship is the most centrifugal act possible." While we may think that a contrite heart is the first sign of a repentant heart, worship reveals a heart that is continually repentant. Whenever we praise God, we are moving away from ourselves by giving God all glory and honor which is rightfully due God. In a sense then, because of Jesus, worship is the antidote to a heart turned inward.
Yet this is not the full story of this passage. For David's punishment will be great. Nathan's prophesy foretells next week's passage. In 2 Samuel 18 we will see how Absalom attempts to usurp his Father's throne. Absalom commits a great many other sins against David which won't be covered if you follow the lectionary. These can be mentioned next week as well. Suffice it to say that the troubles for David's lineage don't end with Absalom. Solomon will have his failures, Reheboam and Jereboam will have theirs. The list can go on and on. In fact, the sword which will never depart David's house, lasts until Jesus, the Son of David assumes the throne. But even then, His throne was a cross. And on the cross the sword comes to an end when the Son of David answers the crucifiers with forgiveness. Jesus knew that "All who take the sword will perish by the sword." Jesus, in conquering death, also conquers the sword. Certainly there is a sermon here.
Yet there is at least one more sermon that could be preached from this passage, and that could build off of God's retribution. David has thought that he is self articulating. He has thwarted God's sovereignty. Sure David was king, but God is the true king. Had David been able to see the example of Christ, perhaps he could have repented and been brought too new life. Perhaps David could have been the one to say, "And it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me."
This is, of course, only capable in a sanctified person. Only once we have put to death the misdeeds of the body and arisen to newness of life in Christ can we say that we no longer live. By this Paul does not mean "negation of an individual's peculiar and distinctive personality but rather the raising up and transfiguring of that personality." Those who wish to follow Jesus must, like David, confess that they have sinned against the Lord, but this is not a one time affair. They confess again and again. Wesley was correct in saying that the One Thing Needful was the restoration of the image of God, but where Wesleyans often go awry is in thinking that the restoration prevents further confession.
The lives of the saints reveal that a holy life is not one whereby we blind ourselves to our sins in order to say that we are spotless. Instead "The saint orders his or her life toward the light of God, and this orientation brings the imperfections of the soul more readily to view… on the other hand, those who blithely report that all is well with themselves are, almost perforce, looking away from God."
This Sunday, may we not look away. May we not hide hinder our praise because we believe we are unworthy. May we not pretend that we can hide our sins, but may we let God expose them, lay them bare so that we might be set free. So that we can say in all honesty, that we are filled with the Spirit. For then, we need not sin. After all, the sinful nature and the Spirit cannot coexist. May the God of peace who has ended the sword use a scalpel to excise your sins, that you may walk in the light of the Lord, knowing that the holy life is a life of repentance and a life of praise.
1. Robert Barron. 2 Samuel Brazos Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2015), 108. 2. Barron, 109.
3. Barron, 112.
4. Matt. 26:52 . 5. Gal. 2:20. 6. Barron, 110.
7. Ibid, 111.