July 1, 2023

God's Not Finished

Welcome home to Grace, everybody. My name is Michael, and I get the joy of being your Outreach Pastor here at the church. As we go forward in this series that we've been in, I want to take you back to a really beautiful place in my own heart. It's a place that's really nostalgic for me, and that is my hometown in Columbus, Georgia. More specifically, I want to take you to this specific baseball field because it was on this field, in my hometown in Georgia, that I learned how to swing a bat and how to throw a baseball. It was on this baseball field that I was convinced that there was no one on that field that who the skill that I had, as a little guy. I knew that I was going to be God's next great gift to Major League Baseball when I became an adult.

But as anyone in the room knows, if you are a professional at anything, you know there's one thing that you need in order to be a pro, and it is one thing I did not have. That thing is talent. While I had all the heart, while I had all the skill in the world, the one thing that I, quite honestly, lacked in was talent. I loved to play baseball with all of them, and my family would be the first one to tell you that. oftentimes, I was just a clumsy, little kid who ran around those bases looking like someone who was being chased by something. More importantly, I ran around those bases looking a lot like this. I remember one time in particular. I was playing a baseball game with all of my buddies. We were playing for a state championship game, in front of hundreds of people, with all my best buddies in the stands. We had a fantastic time. What I lack in talent, I brought with grit, and I brought with heart.

So, as I got up to the bag, I grabbed that bat, and man, I gave it everything I had. I took off running after first base. As I ran after first base, I get to the base, I round it, and I start heading to second. But what happens is I trip over the first base bag, I stumble a couple steps, and I fall face first into the dirt. If you're wondering, I'm still seeing a counselor about it to this day. But as I laid there in the dirt, I had two options that came to my mind. One of them was a very rational option. I thought, “Hey, Michael, you could just get up, dust yourself off, and keep running the bases.”

But the more emotional option, which is the one that I actually went with was, “Michael, if you lay here really still, maybe no one will see what you just did.”

I wonder how many of us have had moments like that in our own lives. How many of us have had that moment that has defined who we've become, that moment that we have laid face first in the dirt in our own life? I wonder how many of us have these moments that we wish that we could relive and redo. It may have been when you got that divorce. It could have been when your child ran away from the Lord. There are a lot of moments that could define you. Whatever that moment might be for you, I just want you to take it and stick it in your back pocket for the next few minutes because, here in the next little bit, we're going to pull that back out, and I believe that if we let the full weight of this Scripture rest on us today, we're going to see that these are the moments of our lives that God does not want to use to define who we are. Rather, it's the moments of our lives that He wants to use to shape us into the image of His Son.

So, just for a moment, I want to pause because we like to always bring everybody up to speed with where we are in the series that we've been in. So, we're currently in a series called “Failure Figures.” Over the last few weeks, we've been looking at some of the Old Testament heroes of our faith, and we've been taking some deep dives into the low moments of their stories. We’re asking really challenging questions, like, “Why are these failure figures in the Bible?”

I think an even more important question that we've been asking is, “What does this mean for me? What am I supposed to learn from this?”

All of us have been looking at this same, common big idea, which is this: The failure of every Bible hero makes us realize that we are not enough on our own, and we need someone who’s greater. So, today, we're going to be looking at our final failure figure who I would argue is the titan of the Christian faith. This is the guy who is the poster child for faithfulness to God. If you were to pull out your computer, right now, and Google, “Who is the greatest follower of God to ever follow God, ever,” it would just be a big picture of this guy with a smile on his face. So, today we're going to be looking at David.

David had a massive upward trajectory of his life that only God could write. It starts right where Pastor Chris Pedro ended last week. In 1 Samuel 16, we see that David is plucked out of the field as the little shepherd boy, and he's anointed as the next king over all of Israel. Then we see, in 1 Samuel 17 — this is the story that we all probably know. It’s where David kills Goliath. In 1 Samuel 18, we see that David is appointed as the commander in Saul's army. Then in 2 Samuel 5, we see that David is officially appointed as the king over all of Israel. He has now stepped into his rightful position as the king of Israel. God said, “You are the one who is going to come and make all of these collections of tribes throughout all of Israel one unified nation under God.”

He has now stepped into that place. Then we see in 2 Samuel 7 where the Davidic Covenant is established with David. This is where the prophet Nathan comes to David, he's speaking for God, and he says, “Through your house, through your lineage, David, there is going to be a greater king still to come.”

What the prophet and God are doing here is they're foreshadowing that through the lineage of King David, we will, one day, have Jesus Christ. Then what we see in 2 Samuel 8-10 is just the ESPN highlight reel of David's life. Every enemy that he goes against, he defeats. He has a massive, massive success rate. David now stands on the top of His kingdom, and we get to, what all scholars would say is, the greatest failure of King David's life. If you know your Old Testament, you know that, today, we're going to be looking at 2 Samuel 11. This is the story of David and Bathsheba. This is a heavy, heavy Scripture that we're fixing to dig into, but I think it's important for us to not just read the text for what it's saying, but let the text read us. So, I would challenge all of us, as we're reading through it, to take just a few moments, from time to time, to ask, “What parts of David are in me?”

So, let's jump into this together. 2 Samuel 11:1. It says, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. […] But David remained in Jerusalem.”

So, let's hard pause right here because there's a lot just in this first verse. No one really knows why David is not the one leading his military out to battle. You can make a lot of arguments that maybe David just had a really bad night’s sleep the night before, and he wanted to take a break. You could probably make the argument, and I probably would agree with you if you said it, that David has just been so successful that he felt like he didn't need to go. But what we do know is that David sends his most trusted advisor, his most trusted general, Joab. It's presumed, at this point in David's life, that he's around 58 years old. He's had a massive success rate for much of his reign as king. He sends Joab. It's also important to add here that this would've been the first time in recorded Scripture that David was not the one who led his military out to battle. In all honesty, nobody knows.

What we do know is Hebrew scholar, Robert Alter, says this, and I think we could probably all agree: “David, now a sedentary king, has removed himself from the field of battle, and has endowed himself with a dangerous amount of leisure.”

So, as I read this text — here at Grace, we always want to be a church where we're not just putting our own thoughts onto text, but we want to make sure that we're letting it read us, as well. So, as I read this, the question that I often will ask myself is this: What are we doing right now that we need to stop doing, and what are we not doing that we need to start? Because if you're anything like me, I oftentimes can look at my calendar, at the end of a given week, and truly ask myself, “What did I accomplish for the Kingdom of God over the last seven days?”

I played golf with friends. I had some date nights with my wife. We had some time with our friends. We had all these great meetings and all these things, but did I actually accomplish anything for the kingdom? Did I actually push the name of Jesus forward this week or was my calendar just full of really busy stuff? We see this in the life of David because David is not doing the one thing that he was created to do. He was not leading his military out to battle. Here in the first verse is where everything begins to fall apart. He continues.

2 Samuel 11:2 says, “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, ‘Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’”

It's important to add some extra context to what's happening right here because, in other translations, when it says “one,” it says anything from “messenger” to “aid” to “slave” to “servant,” and all of it is pointing to that we have someone who's in lower position of David in the kingdom of Israel who's trying to come to David and say, “This is not just Bathsheba. This is the wife and the daughter of two of your most elite soldiers. This is somebody who’s close to you, David. You need to pivot. You need to pick up a hobby. You need to go do anything else.”

But David still presses on.

It says, “So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.’ So David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’”

What we're fixing to see here is David is doing everything he can to cover up the sin and the mistake that he just made. This is the first three times that he's going to attempt to just shove it under the rug. I wonder how many of us, when we make a mistake, do the exact same thing. So, David here is going to set a beautiful example for us of what to never do when you've made a mistake. It goes on.

It says, “And Uriah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.

When they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house,’ David says to Uriah, ‘Have you not come from a long journey? Why did you not go to your house?’”

Uriah, being a man of conviction and a man of integrity, says, “‘The ark of Israel and Judah dwells in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will do no such thing.’ Then David said to Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next.”

Here we see his second attempt to shove it under the rug.

It says, “And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.”

And then we see David say, “Okay, man. I tried. I just wanted to shove this under the rug. I wanted to just move on. Can we just press forward with life?”

None of that works, so David goes to the greatest extreme with his third attempt to cover it up.

It says, “In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he writes, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.’ And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. And Uriah the Hittite also died.”

“When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.”

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“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

There is a lot of weight to what we just read. It's a heavy text. The Bible can be kind of grimy at points, but I think that there are some special things here that we can learn for our own lives. So, for the next few minutes, we're just going to wade into these really murky waters and see what God wants to teach us from the life of David. The first thing is going to be this: We must remember that even in our lowest moment there's still a greater story being written, and we can trust the one who writes it. So, I want you to think back. Think back to earlier in our time together, that moment that comes to your mind. It may have been the moment that that job didn't work out, or maybe your relationship didn't work, or maybe there was a divorce that didn't go really well for you, or your finances run dry. Think back to that moment and bring it back to the forefront of your mind because we're going to spend some time there. We're going to do a little bit of work with it. That moment, for my wife and I, was this past February when we lost our baby boy at 39 weeks of pregnancy. I remember sitting in the hospital room that night, and I was asking a question of God that many of us have probably asked and said at one point of another.

“It’s not supposed to be this way. I'm not supposed to have to grieve my son. I'm not supposed to have to hold my wife's hand as she suffers, and there’s nothing that I can do about it. I'm not supposed to have to watch all of the other dads walk out with their babies in a car seat, but my son is in an urn. It's not supposed to be this way.”

I remember sitting with the Lord late one night in that hospital room, and as I laid there, I laid on that hospital couch — every dad in the room, your back just started aching a little bit, thinking about that couch. I was laying on that couch. As I laid there with tears just streaming down my face, I pleaded with God, “Would You just take me instead? If You are who You say You are, if You’re kind, if You’re generous, if You’re loving, if You’re good, if You are who You say You are, would You just take all the breath out of my body and put it in my son? Please?”

I laid on that couch, holding my wife's hand, and I tell you, I have never been so angry with the Lord. Why me? Why her? I sat in that space, and you may have been there before too, where you sit and feel, “God, what did I do to deserve this type of suffering? What did I do? God, did You just take a day off? What am I missing here? Why are we going through the things that we're going through?”

As I laid there, I remember God speaking to me. He said, “Michael, this is your valley of the shadow of death, but I'm not going to leave you here.”

I wonder how many of us need to hear that for our own lives today. How many of us need to hear that the thing that you're walking through, the valley that you're in today, is not where God is going to leave you? He's not done with you yet. As I laid there that night, I asked some really challenging questions of the Lord. You may be here with me. This was one of the questions I asked as I laid in that hospital room: “What do I do when my theology doesn't match with what I see? What do I do when, up to this point in my life, everything I knew about God, everything I knew about the Bible was in pieces on the floor? What do I do when the Bible says that you should honor your father and mother, but you grew up in an abusive household? What do you do when you open up your Bible and it says, ‘Train up your child in the way they should go, and when they're old, they won't depart from it,’ but my son is in an urn on the counter. What do you do when the Bible doesn't match your reality?”

I remember, a few weeks later, we laid in bed one night, and I was reminded that my greatest prayer for my child was that, when he was born, he would grow to be happy, healthy, and whole. What I get to tell you today is that prayer was answered. It was. It wasn't in the way that I thought it would, but it was answered because when my son opened up his eyes for the first time, the face that he got to see was Jesus. In that, he's happy, healthy, and whole.

So, what do we do when our theology doesn't match with what we see? What we do is hold on to hope. We hold on to hope. I hope, today, for the day that I get to walk into heaven and pick up my son again. I hope for the day when Jesus comes back, He wipes away all the tears from our eyes, all the mourning is gone, all the suffering is gone, and all the pain of this world is gone. I look forward to the day that I get to walk into heaven, and I get to hold my son and go, “Do you know what? All the suffering that I went through makes sense,” because the glory that is to be revealed to us does not compare to the suffering of this world. That's why we know that God knows the end of the story because that day, that beautiful day, will come.

The second thing is this: In order to turn to the next page in our own story, we have to learn to be honest about the pages of our past. We see in 2 Samuel 12 that David's life kind of falls apart. Everything gets really challenging.

The prophet comes to him, and he says this to him: “‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you so much more.’”

Here at Grace, we’re always going to read the Bible, not just read it and put our own thoughts into it. We're going to let it read us. So, as I read this for my own life, the question that I asked was, “How many times have we pursued so much more before we realize that nothing outside of Jesus can truly satisfy us? How many times have I pursued everything that the world has to offer when I realize that Jesus Christ is worth everything? It goes on in 2 Samuel 12:8.

“‘Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of your Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold,’”

This is the moment, Pastor Chris Pedro talked about last week, for all of us to pull out at the imaginary keyboard and play a really strong “dun, dun, dun” because God does not want us to miss whatever He’s fixing to say.

He says to David, “‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.’”

Then the prophet says something I would never want to hear said in my direction.

He says, “‘For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all of Israel and before the sun.’”

David says to Nathan, nearly a year after his suffering, a year after his sin, a year after covering it up, he finally says, “‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’”

Think back to that moment that we talked about, the moment in your life that has defined who you are. Because we see here that while David and Bathsheba, in that moment, was a very defining moment for his life, that was not the only defining moment that is in the story of David. Later on in 2 Samuel 12, we're going to see that David loses his firstborn son. David almost loses the throne to another son. David has a lot of really deep challenges that are going to pop up. Through the rest of David's life, we see death and loss all throughout Scripture. So, all of this makes me ask the question, “What are the moments in our lives that have marked us?”

Maybe it was the moment that you met Jesus. Maybe it was the moment that you got a divorce. Maybe it was the moment that you lost that job or had a tragedy. Good or bad, it’s that moment in your life that you could never forget, no matter how much you tried. My hope here for all of us — and I know our heart here at Grace — is that we would be a church where broken and hurting people can come into the doors of Grace, meet other broken and hurting people, and know that they are not going to be left where they are. We’re going to surround them and we're going to love on them. As my wife and I lost our son, and as we're going through the grief process of that, we had people show up at our front door. They said, “We’re going to love you. We're here. We're not going to press you forward quicker than you're ready to, but we're here. We're going to bring you a meal. We’re going to cut your grass. We're going to take care of you.”

I think that's the heart Jesus has for His Church, that His Church would be a place where people can come in and hear five of the most powerful words that I think can ever be said in the context of the local church. It’s this: “I am here for you. I'm here for you.”

I would go even farther to say, “I am here for you, and I'm not going to leave you.”

That's Jesus' heart for His bride, that we would continue to be a church where the broken and hurting can come in here, meet other broken and hurting people, and hear, “I'm here for you, and I'm not going anywhere.”

It’s because of that that we say number three: It’s because of the cross that we can be reminded that our failures do not define us. They refine us. That moment that comes to your mind, the moment of your life that you wish you could relive and redo, is not meant to define you, but it’s meant to refine you. We see that in David's life, scholars say that right after his sin with Bathsheba, he pens Psalm 51. When you read it out of context, it's a really pretty coffee cup scripture, but when you read it in context there, that he wrote this just after his sin with Bathsheba, it carries a different weight.

It says this: “Create in me a new heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”

David shows us something here. David could have easily been the guy who says, “Do you know what? I'm going to hang it up. I'm the guy who committed adultery with Bathsheba. I'm just going to be the guy who murdered Uriah. I'm just going to be the guy who has covered it up and done all these terrible things.”

But David shows us something here. These are the moments that we can come to the feet of Jesus and be reminded that who we are is not defined by what we've done, but by what Jesus did. It’s the cross of Jesus Christ that is the great justifier. It is the cross that gives us the ability to come in here as broken and hurting people and accept more broken and hurting people who come through the front doors of Grace. They can know that it is because of the cross that we all have equal playing ground at the feet of Jesus. No sin is bigger than somebody else's sin. No failure is bigger than anybody else's failure. It is because of the cross of Jesus Christ that we all have a seat at the table.

Number four: We must remember that when we are in Jesus, where we are is not the end of the story. What we see in the life of David is that the same God who was with David in 1 Samuel 16, and plucks him out of the crowd and says, “You are going to be the next king of Israel,” is the same God who meets David in his greatest failure in 2 Samuel 11. Even more than that, it’s the same God who will bring forth another son later on in 2 Samuel 12, and his name is going to be Solomon. Through him, the lineage of Jesus will continue. What’s beautiful the Hebrew root word for “Solomon” means “peace.” So, when you look at your circumstances, when you look at your situations, when you look at your valleys, as we all look at the sufferings and the struggles of our lives, you can ask the question, “Can I have peace?”

The answer is, when you are in Jesus, yes. There is peace to be had when you are in Jesus. The story doesn't end there because, all the way at the end of the entire Bible, Jesus Himself says, “I am the root and the offspring of David.”

So, what am I trying to communicate here? What I'm trying to communicate is this: God is not finished with you yet. The same thread that's woven throughout all of David's life, the same thread that's woven through all of our failure figures over the last few weeks, is being woven through our lives, too. The same God who was with us yesterday is going to be with us tomorrow. He rests with us today. He doesn't call us forward quicker than we're ready. He sits with us in our valley. What I learned out there on that baseball field in Georgia, I actually learned from my coach. As I laid there in the dirt telling myself, “Just stay still and maybe no one will see what you just did,” my coach comes running out to me, he sits next to me in the dirt, and he says, Michael, when you're ready, we're going to get up and keep moving.”

I don't know of a better picture of the heart of Jesus. He sits with us in our struggle. He sits with us in all the pains and the sufferings. He sits with us in our dirt, and He says, “I'm not going to push you farther than you're ready, but when you're ready, I'm here, and we're going to get up and keep moving.”

God knows that we're going to fall. He knows that we're going to have a lot of moments through life where we're going to sit down in the dirt and we're not going to want to get up, but the beauty of our Savior is that He does not condemn us when we fall. He delights in the fact that we attempted at all. All these failure figures show us something really beautiful. It shows us this: The failure of all of these failure figures shows us that no matter how deep the valley might be, now or in the future, Jesus loves you too much to leave you there.

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