Scandal (2 Samuel 13)

Q “How do I balance knowing that I am forgiven with not excusing my sin because I have eternal life as a free gift?”

A “You don’t. Instead we need to know the difference between excusing sin and knowing that we are justified. I excuse sin because I think I have still got to carry the burden of guilt and shame. So I am tempted to try and minimise it. The gospel tells me that I don’t need to. God forgives me and calls me righteous. Jesus takes the burden of my guilt and shame on himself. This means I can be and must be completely honest about the full weight of sin, guilt and shame I carry.

That’s why 2 Samuel doesn’t back off from the full horror of David’s sin and its awful consequences.  That’s why we can step into this story even though it will be challenging and painful as our own hearts are revealed.

  1. We must confess our sin because it is serious and deadly

Sin starts in the mind and the heart – obsession for the unobtainable

–          We meet two of David’s sons Absalom and Amnon, focus is as much on their relationship as it is on Tamar.  Tamar is Absalom’s sister. Amnon is smitten with her.(v1)

–          Tamar is unattainable – she is his sister making any relationship incestuous.  Also, virgins had a specific status marked out by dress, probably separated out from the rest of the household. Amnon is obsessive about her (v2)

Do you see what is happening here? I risk falling into sin when I entertain temptation. I look to someone or something else and desire it, believing that I can only find true happiness if I have it.

Sin seeks out friends

–          Amnon’s cousin Jonadab is described as wise. The sense here is of a wise advisor rather than crafty or shrewd as some translations put it – but there are also maybe echoes of Genes 3 and the serpent.  There is also a strong question about Jonadab – is he using his wisdom for good -or to stir up trouble. Perhaps as a relative of the King as well he has his own ambitions? (v4-5)

We are good at that aren’t we.  Remember a few weeks back how Jonathan challenged us about where we go for advice. I think that quite often we show that we have already made the decision by who we go to. We look to them not to challenge us but to confirm what we are saying and doing is right.

Sin is deceitful

–          Amnon pretends to be sick and gets his dad to come and see him. He asks for his sister to come and make literally “heart cakes” or  “hearty food” – there seems to be a word play here. Is it a special or favourite dish, a meal to strengthen a  sick person or even love food? (v6)

Often the person I deceive the most is “me.” I convince myself that the thing isn’t that bad, that I can control my habit, that I won’t get caught.  That I really have no choice.

Sin is selfish and violent – it crushes and shames others

–          Amnon pretends to be sick and gets his dad to come and see him. He asks for his sister to come and make literally “heart cakes” or  “hearty food” – there seems to be a word play here. Is it a special or favourite dish, a meal to strengthen a  sick person or even love food? (v6)

–          David agrees – does he see this as completely innocent? Is he naïve or is he helpless in all this? (v7)

–          When Tamar comes to Amnon he continues the act. He watches her make the dough – and there’s a hint of voyeurism here (v8)

–          Amnon gets his servants to leave and then gets Tamar to come to him. He calls her to lie with him (v11). She refuses protesting that this is wicked and shameful (v12-13). A jarring point is the suggestion that the King will allow them to marry raising questions as to whether the incest laws are fully in force or whether this is a delaying tactic

–          Amnon forces her. Literally he “Laid her” – normally you lay with someone (v14)

–          Amnon’s lust turns to hate  (v14).  He orders her to get out.  (v15)

–          She again refuses -this is greater evil still because he will leave her as a defiled person unable to marry (v16)

–          He gets his servants to remove her “Throw this (woman) out!” -she is treated as worthless, used, finished with. She rips her robes, and goes away, crying, in grief (v16-18)

There is no victimless sin.  The obvious example is pornography. The women you watch are being controlled, manipulated, enslaved, abused for your pleasure.

I want to keep coming back to this because we cannot ignore it.  Some of you are looking at this Bible passage as victims.  Sexual harassment, assault and rape are sadly far too common. Perhaps like Tamar you have been carrying the shame of what someone else has done to you.  Tamar’s story appears desperate and hopeless.

Let me tell you another story.  There’s a lady who has been used and abused. She is seen as dirty, as every man’s property.  She probably had little choice in the matter but in the eyes of society she is the one to blame. She probably was asking for it. She probably enjoyed it. She was a temptress leading men astray.

The one day she meets Jesus. He doesn’t look down on her, he doesn’t judge her, he doesn’t look away and avoid eye contact. Nor does he try to take advantage of her. No, in this man she finds someone who offers compassion, healing, cleansing, forgiveness… and she is crying because she has met the one who offers hope and wholeness. She is wiping away the tears with her hair. She reaches down and finds her perfume jar and pours the ointment over him. A sweet fragrance fills the air. Of course all those men around are looking and muttering and sneering but she doesn’t hear them and she doesn’t care because it is Jesus’ words that matter:

He is telling them that she is forgiven, that she is loved and that what she has done is a welcome expression of her deep love.

Sin brings guilt and shame on myself

Tamar warns Amnon that what he is about to do will make him to be a wicked fool.  As I’ve hinted earlier, I suspect that the hatred and disgust Amnon targets at Tamar is as much about self-disgust, revulsion and shame.

Sin treats silence as permission

We’ve already seen how David complies with Amnon’s request. Later we see that Dav’d and Absalom’s responses

–          Absalom meets her. “Has Amnon been with you?” he asks(v20). It’s implicit that he knows.  Note that he is angry at the dishonour his brother has brought but no real sense of compassion/care for his sister. (v20)

–          David hears. He is angry but he does nothing  suggesting he is powerless. (v21) Absalom also does nothing at this stage.

–          Amnon thinks he has got away with it so much so that later on when he is invited to a party with Absalom, he genuinely thinks he is the guest of honour.

I want to make two important points here:

–          First there is a warning to all of us. Have we stayed silent because we did not want to be a busy-body or because we were afraid of someone’s reaction?  We may be giving someone a false sense of security. They may think they have permission to go on with their sinful behaviour.

–          Secondly, if you are assuming that because no-one has challenged you, that it is all okay. Don’t make that mistake. Just because they are giving you the benefit of the doubt, just because they are nervous about challenging you does not mean that it is okay.

Sin leads to death

Absalom waits two years and after sheep shearing invites his family to celebrate (v23-25)

The King cannot come so Absalom asks him to send Amnon (v26-27).  Note this mirrors Amnon’s request for Tamar. It is a similar trap and once again the King is made complicity by sending (note that word again!) his child

Absalom orders his men to get Amnon drunk and then to kill him (v28-29) note echoes here of David getting Uriah drunk

The other brothers flee. David hears but think they are all dead. Jonidab turns up on the scene again. He’s in the know. He tells David its okay, only Amnon is dead and gives the reason (v30-37)

Absalom flees into exile (v 37-39) -don’t forget that exile is itself form of death in the Bible.

We saw two weeks ago how sin kills love, relationships, gifting, hope. We also saw that sin kills because the penalty for sin is death

Which leads us to the second reason for confessing sin

  1. Confess your sin because God is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you

One of the consequences of David’s sin was that he was powerless to sort out the mess here.  David was a great king but he was imperfect. He was a sinner.

David’s descendent Jesus came to do what David could not do.  Jesus was completely obedient, righteous in every way.  When Jesus died on the Cross, he was dying in our place, the death we deserve.

In his death and resurrection, we receive justification. Justification means “Just as if I’d never sinned and just as if I’d kept God’s Law perfectly.”

Jesus takes away our sin, guilt and shame. Jesus gives us new life. Jesus declares us clean. Jesus makes us whole. Jesus gives us hope.

Next Steps

Very simply pray – it’s God we need to pray to:

  1. For some of you this will be the first time you’ve done this. Very simply ask God to forgive you your sin through Jesus. Tell him that you want him to be Lord of your life. Ask him to give you His Holy Spirit.
  2. If you are already trusting Jesus, know that you are already forgiven, clean, justified. You belong to him. He is never going to let you go. This means you can be completely honest with him about your sin, guilt and shame. As you pray, remember and remind yourself that you are a forgiven child of God. You belong to him. Thank him again for saving you. Tell him that you are sorry. Ask him to change you to be more like him
  3. Our confession is direct to God. We can speak straight to him. Some of you may find it helpful to talk and pray with someone else about things that have challenged you.
  4. Rooted Part 4 tonight will look at “How does all the mess get sorted out?”