Burying Your Sin (II Samuel 11:6-27)
Topic: II Samuel Passage: 2 Samuel 11:6–11:27
Crying for a King
Burying Your Sin
II Samuel 11:6-27
November 10th, 2013
(One Lord: What is Man?)
In Psalm 119, verse 24, the writer confesses: Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors. Is that your confession this morning? Let's allow God's word to counsel us this morning as we return to our ongoing study of Samuel. Let's look together at II Samuel 11.
II. The Passage: “The Thing that David Had Done” (11:6-27)
You may remember from last week that the first five verses of this chapter have described an extremely sordid situation that any first-time reader of Samuel would not have expected. David, who was described by Samuel in I Samuel 13:14 as a man “after [God's] own heart”, this same David has committed adultery with the wife of one of His elite soldiers. While all the king's men were out fighting against the Ammonites on Israel's eastern border, David was in Jerusalem, defeated by his own lust.
But as verse 5 indicates, this incident of immorality and betrayal was far from over. The woman involved, Bathsheba, was now pregnant with David's child. What would the king do now...now that evidence of His sin was growing in Bathsheba's womb?
A. Attempting to Bury Sin (vs. 6-17)
Let's find out by looking together at verses 6-9...
1. Attempt #1: The Shovel (vs. 6-9)
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...[“I have wronged you, Uriah. I have violated your wife, and have sinned against heaven and against you. I am worthy only of death”....Sadly, that's not what happened, is it? No, look at the rest of verse 8...then David said to Uriah,] “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” 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.
After all the formalities, it doesn't take long for us to realize that David is attempting, not to reveal his sin, or explain his sin, or confess his sin...No, David is attempting to bury his sin. And as we see here, he is starting with what we might call a shovel. The easiest way to deal with the embryological evidence of his sin is to get Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife. That way, in nine months, the “Hittite” family is celebrating THEIR new addition...even if the baby looks a little bit like the king.
“Go down and wash your feet” may actually be euphemistic for go down and sleep with your wife, or it may simply be a way of saying, “Go home, relax...eat, drink, spend time with your family. Consider yourself on vacation, Uriah”. David even sends some kind of a gift to Uriah and Bathsheba, maybe some kind of gift basket to help create a celebratory mood. But what does Uriah do? He stays at the palace. He sleeps outside David's door, with the other servants and soldiers. The shovel is not working, is it? David's first attempt has failed.
2. Attempt #2: The Backhoe (vs. 10-13)
Look at what David does next in verses 10-13...
When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?”  Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell 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 not do this 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.  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.
So now we understand why Uriah did not go home and relax. Uriah will not do the very thing that David himself has done, the very thing that contributed to David's temptation. It's wartime, and Uriah will not act like it's peacetime. He will not relax at home when his comrades, when God's people are still on the battlefield.
So David, still driven by his desire to bury his sin, David gets rid of the shovel and brings in a backhoe...you know that piece of construction equipment with the big scoop on the back. What does David's 'backhoe' look like? It looks like a party with a lot of booze. So the king of Israel tries to deliberately get one of his soldiers drunk, in the hope that Uriah will loosen up and be less principled, and then go home and make love to his wife. As verse 13 describes, even when he is inebriated, Uriah is no less dedicated. Bathsheba is sleeping alone again tonight, for Uriah is still sleeping outside the king's door.
The backhoe is not working, is it? David's second attempt has failed.
3. Attempt #3: The Dynamite (vs. 14-17)
Look at what we read about David's third attempt in verses 14-17...
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah.  In the letter he wrote, “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. Uriah the Hittite also died.
As we can see from the passage, David's third attempt is the most despicable of all. He has made Uriah carry his own death sentence, even though Uriah has no idea what the letter contains. When the shovel fails, and the backhoe fails, it's time to bring in the dynamite.
But notice how Joab modifies and 'improves' David's plan. We already know Joab is a shrewd character who has no problem with killing. But it appears that Joab thinks David's plan is too clumsy, too obvious, too suspicious. It involves too many people as accomplices in Uriah's death. The better option is to send Uriah, with a number of other warriors, to a place where the best Ammonite warriors would be fighting, somewhere close to the walls of Rabbah, the Ammonite capital. And that's exactly what he does. And Joab's plan is successful. David's will has been done. Uriah is dead.
B. The Consequences of Burying Sin (vs. 18-27)
Now, as we've seen the first half of this chapter has dealt with David's sin, and his attempts to bury that sin. But having been successful at getting rid of Uriah, the author shifts now to the consequences of David's 'dynamite'. Look at verses 18-21...
1. The Consequences Communicated (vs. 18-21)
Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting.  And he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king,  then, if the king's anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall?  Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’”
It seems Joab is a tad bit concerned about how David will respond to his change of plans. In any other case, based on Israel's own history, it would be foolish for a general to send his soldiers so close to the walls of an enemy city in the midst of a battle. You see, Joab's version of the plan not only cost Uriah his life. Other soldiers were put in harm's way, other soldiers were killed in order to make the cover-up believable. When you choose to use dynamite carelessly, there will be collateral damage. But Joab is hoping that as long as Uriah is dead, David will ultimately be satisfied.
2. The Consequences Minimized (vs. 22-25)
Look at how the story continues in verses 22-25...
So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell.  The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate.  Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king's servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.”  David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”
So we get a little more information here about exactly HOW Uriah died at the hands of the archers. But Joab's risk pays off. Instead of being concerned about reckless tactics and dead Israelites, once he knows that Uriah is dead, David simply minimizes the losses. And so he sends the messenger back, communicating to Joab, saying “No big deal, Joab. That's what happens in a war. People die. Don't let it bother you. Keep going. Keep fighting.”
3. The Consequences Cry Out (vs. 26, 27)
But look at how the chapter concludes in verses 26 and 27...
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. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
Uriah has lost his life. An unknown number of other soldiers have died because of David's decision. And now the author reminds us about Bathsheba, who, in verse 26, is only referred to as “the wife of Uriah”. She is in mourning. And when the formal period of mourning finishes, David takes her as his own wife.
Do you see what David is doing here? He is tamping down the dirt. He is smoothing it out. He has, from his own warped perspective, successfully buried his sin. He gets the girl, the baby will be born, no questions asked, and the only one who would stand in his way is now dead. But in a chapter 27 verses long, there has been no mention of God...until now...until the very last verse.
You see, David has attempted to bury his sin, so that no one will ever find it. But how can you hide anything from God? The God who delighted in David's faith has seen David's wickedness. Literally in Hebrew, verse 27 reads, “The matter that David did was evil in the eyes of the Yahweh”.
David knew better, didn't he? He was the one who wrote in Psalm 32:5, I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
III. Is that a Shovel in Your Hand?
This morning, I believe if we are honest with ourselves, all of us know something about attempting to bury our sin. Think about it for a minute. No, your attempts to bury your sin might not look like David's attempts. But that certainly doesn't mean we cannot relate.
Some try to bury their sin by blaming everyone and everything else. Some try to bury their sin by distracting themselves with positive pursuits, maybe with a secret hope that the good will balance out the bad. Some try to bury their sin by minimizing their sin (“Oh, that's not a big deal. No one's perfect. That's just one of my 'pet' weaknesses. She pushed me too far.”). Some try to bury their sin by denying it's even sin (“Oh, come on. Can't you take a joke. We're just having fun. Those are just natural desires. Well, he won’t listen to me...etc, etc.).
Some try to bury their sin with religious formulas (“Oh yes, I've sinned. Better say the right prayers and be on my way”). And some…some try to bury their sin by taking their cues from David: they lie, they hide, they manipulate...they lash out.
Which of us really wants to look our sin square in the eyes and see the ugliness of our selfishness, our lust, our bitterness, our jealousy, our doubt, our hatred, our indifference, our laziness, our excuse-making, our contempt, our impatience, our pride? We are always tempted to look the other way. We are always tempted to bury our failures, our rebellion, our excesses. We are eager to tell ourselves and others that we are “okay”.
But through our passage this morning, I believe God wants to remind us of a few truths about trying to bury your sin. Think about this:
First, when you try to bury your sin, your digging usually puts others in danger. There are dangers when you are digging or blasting dirt and rock. Flying debris. Open ditches. Faulty tools. Like we've seen this morning, when you try to cover up, when you try to hide your sin, it will affect the people around you. We may blame others, or our denial may tempt us to be fake around others; or maybe irritable. Or like David, you may be tempted to do and say things in your relationships that you would normally never do...just to keep up appearance; just to avoid criticism; just to make your problem ‘go away’.
Second, when you try to bury your sin, YOU usually get even dirtier. Two things from our passage are striking: 1) David's desire to bury his sin led him down a very slippery slope of denial. What started out as giving one of his soldier a little “R&R” turned into David giving one of his soldiers a death sentence. Once you start down the road of burying sin, it can getting very ugly very quickly. But 2) did you notice that David was not even phased by Uriah's amazing loyalty and his military commitment? You would think David might be sobered by Uriah's response; that Uriah's faithfulness in wartime would shame David and his carelessness in wartime. But David seems callous; insensitive. That's what can happen to us when we are intent on burying, rather than facing our sin.
Third, when you try to bury your sin, there is One who plants a flag in every mound you make. Have you ever seen those tiny flags they put in the ground at a construction site? You know, the wire ones with a small orange flag? Those are used to mark where a plumbing line or an electrical line is buried. Did you know that God puts a flag in every mound you make? Every place you hide something, God knows exactly what it is and where it is. Denying or deflecting our guilt only hurts us, because even if you don't face it now, one day you will. David should have known that. What did he think God would do in response to the horrible offenses he was committing?
Maybe this morning you know you're being tempted to pick up that shovel. Maybe there is something eating at you right now. Or maybe you are tamping down the dirt and feeling pretty sure that no one will ever find out about what you did or what you said. Listen, apart from the grace of God, every time we try to bury our sin we are simply digging our own grave. But that's what sinners do. We try to conceal what God already knows, and we try to bury what will one day be exposed. We are extremely deceived.
There is only one hope for diggers like us. If you want to stop burying your sins, you have to buried with your sins. (2x) What? What is that supposed to mean?
It means that God does not want you to bury your sins. He wants you to bury yourself. He doesn’t want you to deny what you did. He wants you to deny yourself. Listen to how the Apostle Paul describes this…
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)
Your only, my only hope, is being buried with and dying with Jesus Christ. You see, David is the king that Israel needed at that time. He brought tremendous blessing to God’s people. But he wasn’t perfect. As we can see very clearly here, David was a broken, wretched, needy sinner like the rest of us. But the son of David, Jesus Christ, is the king we desperately need.
The passage this morning told us that David sinned and Uriah died. But the gospel, the good news tells us we sinned and Jesus died. The passage this morning told us that the king of Israel handed one of his own soldiers over to death in order to cover up his sins. But the gospel tells us that the King of Heaven has handed his own Son over to death in order to cover, to atone for our sins.
And because Jesus died in our place on that cross, we can come to Him in faith, with nothing but trust, and we can not only die with Him and be buried with Him…but we can also rise with Him… just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Isn’t that what all of us need this morning? Isn’t that what all of us need to go back to this morning? How can you find and/or experience newness of life? We need to first do the exact opposite of what David did in this passage: instead of hiding our sin (which we can’t do anyways), we need to hold it up before God. We need to acknowledge it. We need to confess it.
And we can do that because the gospel promises us forgiveness, not judgment. And because the gospel promises us eternal acceptance because of Jesus did, not rejection because of what we’ve done. God’s grace gives us the assurance, the confidence that we never again have to attempt to bury our sins. They’ve been dealt with, once and for all, on the cross!
We’ll talk more about that next week, but I pray that God will give all of us the grace and courage to look our failures, our transgressions, our stubbornness, our foolishness, our rebelliousness, our self-centeredness, our “I-know-better-than-God”-ness, to look our sin straight in the eyes with remorse and a desire to reject such things in light of the grace of God in Jesus.