I have a couple of scars from years past. One is on my right wrist and another is on my left hand. The one on my wrist came from an accident when I was in the 5th grade and the one on my hand came from doing something stupid when I was in college.
Scars, certainly the one on my hand, can remind us of the consequences of our actions. The failures we endure in life leave scars, but they are the type of scars that are not seen. They are the psychological scars and the scars upon our souls, and for every external scar, there are numerous internal scars.
This morning, we come to the second of three messages on the theme of failure – Failure Isn’t Fatal. The truth is that while failure isn’t fatal, sometimes it can come pretty close. Last week we talked about Peter and some of his failures, and it was an encouraging message about a couple of realities – that everyone fails, that we need to give others and ourselves a break when it comes to failure, and that grace always triumphs over failure.
Today’s message reminds us of some of the more difficult aspects of failure; primarily, the consequences of our failures. I really do believe in grace and that we need to extend grace to one another, but grace does not automatically erase the consequences of our failures.
Living as we do in the digital age, sometimes our failures are compounded by public exposure. At a time when so much is posted online with little or no thought given to the consequences of those postings, a person’s actions can follow them in a very public manner for the rest of their life. I read an article last week about the damage done to people’s lives because their failures had been caught on camera and posted online. In Luke 8:17 Jesus says, for there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. I think that was a prophecy about the coming of Facebook and Youtube!The best advice I can give is this – think about what you are either doing or about to do, and be aware about what will happen if your actions come to light and how those actions may affect you even years down the road.
This morning we will consider the consequences of failure through the life of David, the great king of Israel. David is one of the most fascinating characters in the entire Bible. A great warrior, poet, musician, and leader, David was also a very flawed man. There are many stories of David in the Bible – his life is covered in greater detail than almost any other Biblical character – and many of the stories reveal the deep flaws of his life in all their painful details.
The most notorious failure of David was his affair with Bathsheeba, and this morning we will read the passage where the prophet Nathan confronts David about that tragic episode. Nathan does so in a brilliant way, as he tells a parable that enrages David because of the story’s injustice. Once David is drawn in to the story, Nathan springs the trap on him and reveals that the story is about David, his failure, and the terrible consequences of that failure.
1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.
2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,
3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die!
6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you.
Wow. That is such a powerful scene, and poor David didn’t see it coming. At the moment when Nathan raises his finger and says to David You are the man! it must have hit David like a ton of bricks. All his tragic and treacherous plans had been revealed. His failure had become public, and the attendant shame and consequences had come down upon David’s head.
This morning I want to talk about the consequences of failure in relation to David’s family – those under his own roof; his people – those under his leadership; and his spiritual life – his relationship to God.
The consequences of failure for David’s family.
I have a couple of jokes that I often repeat, and one of them is this – there is good news and bad news about living away from your family, as I have done for so many years. The bad news is, you are away from your family. The good news is, you are away from your family.
Family is not always easy, is it? To live in a family requires patience, love, and grace. And then some more patience, love, and grace.
For all of David’s success in other areas of his life – and David certainly had his share of success as well as failure – David was not very successful in his family life. David’s family life was riddled with failure, especially regarding his son Absalom. We don’t have time to go into all the details of the story, so I will encourage you to read II Samuel 13:1-18:33.
David and Absalom had a terrible falling out as a result of a tragic event that took place between David’s daughter Tamar and her half-brother Amnon. David’s failure to act upon the situation led to Absalom eventually wresting control of the kingdom for a time from his father. It’s not as though David could not do something related to the situation with his daughter Tamar and his son Amnon. He was, after all, the king – he was the law. And yet he did not do anything.
In the battle that ensued between their soldiers, Absalom was killed, even though David had instructed his men not to harm Absalom. When David learned of the death of his son, he uttered the painful lament that resonates across the centuries – O my son, Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Samuel 18:33).
You cannot control everything that happens to your family. There are going to be moments of crisis that come along and they are not your fault and you cannot prevent them. Having said that, you don’t need to create any more crises than life manages to create for you.
Every one of us – every single one of us, without exception – has something we are dragging around with us that took place within our family that could have been prevented, but wasn’t, and it follows us around and shapes us for years and years. Please understand that I am not trying to make you feel guilty. If you are a parent, you already feel guilty; that’s just one of the realities with which parents live. What I am saying is this – David contributed, sometimes by his actions and sometimes by his lack of action, situations in the life of his family that had very real consequences for them. It is incombent upon us to think very carefully about our actions and the consequences they have upon our family. What we do can and will impact our spouse, our children, and our extended family for years to come.
Absalom died without ever having reconciled with his father. I have seen too many families with fractured relationships and years pass and reconciliation never comes. When someone dies, it’s too late. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If someone needs to take the first step toward reconciliation, be that person. If it is spurned and turned away, you can have the peace of knowing you did your part. You might not be able to fix everything that is broken, but you can do what you can do.
The consequences of failure for those under David’s leadership.
I am aware of the fact that my actions affect other people. If you are in a leadership position you have to think about how your actions affect the lives of other people, and as the minister of this congregation I do think about that. A lot. We have seen far too many failings on the part of leaders and I do not want to be one more name on that list.
David was a lot of things. He was a rock star of his day. He was a poet and musician. He was a warrior and larger than life personality. He was the king who really elevated the nation of Israel to a completely different level. He was also a hypocrite, a scoundrel, and a murderer. Though he did not draw the sword to plunge into the victim, he hatched the plan, gave the order, and set it into motion.
One of the problems David suffered was an entitlement mentality. We often talk about an entitlement mentality among the poor, and unfortunately so, but David is an example of an entitlement mentality among the rich and powerful, who are used to getting whatever they want. David was the king, and what the king wants, the king gets. David wanted the wife of another man, so he took her. When his actions threatened to become public knowledge, he hatched the plan to kill Uriah, Bathsheeba’s husband.
The actions of David had far-reaching consequences upon others, and not just his own family and immediate circle. The actions of David had implications and consequences for the entire nation in that historical moment and beyond. It’s rather amazing to think that in the entire history of the nation of Israel, it was under the reign of David and Solomon, the second and third kings, when the nation reached its peak, and it arguably never reached that height again, and some of the failure to do so can be traced to the failures of David.
David’s example of leadership weighed upon Solomon, who conscripted his people into harsh labor and subjected them to punishing tax levels, causing the kingdom to break apart at his death.
That’s a really big weight of responsibility to place upon anyone, but it’s there. It’s tough to be a leader, and let me add this – everyone is a leader somewhere. It might be on a large-scale level or only in a circle of a few people, but everyone must remember that their failures have consequences for other.
The consequences of failure for David’s own spiritual life.
The failures of David can be traced in concentric circles. Starting from the circle furthest out we find the consequences for the entire nation of Israel, both in the time of David and for centuries after. The next circle in is that of David’s family, and the terrible consequences they suffered. The inner circle is David himself, and the consequences that failure had for David.
One of the consequences was the fact that David was not the one to build the Temple. It was the great desire of David to build the Temple, as the Tabernacle was still in use. The Tabernacle was the portable tent that was used during the generation of wandering in the wilderness. When David had established the kingdom his plan was to build the Temple. David observed that he was living in splendor but the worship of was taking place in a tent – 1 After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent” (II Samuel 7:1-2). God’s answer, however, was that David was not the one to build the Temple; that task would fall to David’s son, Solomon –
6 Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel.
7 David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God.
8 But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight.
9 But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign.
10 He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever (1 Chronicles 22:6-10).
It was a crushing disappointment for David that he was not the one to build the Temple, but it was a consequence of his failures.
In spite of David’s failures, it is important to note that his life is not defined by those failures. Though he had some big, tough failures to overcome – and he did not overcome all of them – David’s life is summed up in the book of Acts with this statement – God testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.” (Acts 13:22). The Bible gives that assessment of only one person – David.
Far be it from me to argue with God’s assessment of David, but that sounds a bit debatable to me. David’s heart was not always reflective of God’s heart, and he did not always do what God wanted him to do. The point is, God still saw the good in David, and in a way, it’s scandalous that he did. Plenty of people were hurt by David’s failures, but God saw that good.
No matter what our failures, God always sees the good in us, even if it is scandalous to others that he does. When others want to remind you of your failures and when they want to lord them over you, remember that God sees the good in you. Let those scars of failure heal!