Welcome to 2017 – may this year find each of us growing spiritually in new and deeper ways than every before.
When the prophet Nathan confronted King David for his sin with Bathsheba, one of the results that David would suffer because of it is found in 2 Samuel 12:10-11
Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord, Behold I will raise up evil against you from your own household…
In the next chapter, 2 Samuel 13, we find the prophet’s word coming to pass.
David’s son, Amnon, becomes infatuated with his half-sister, Tamar. Deciding he must have her, he lied to his father, tricked Tamar into being alone with him and then raped her. His lust then turned to hatred and he threw her out of his house. Two years later, Tamar’s brother, Absalom, killed Amnon to avenge his sister and David, father of all three of them, grieved profoundly for his children. What a sad state of affairs in the family!
Some would say that Nathan could well have returned and said to David: ‘I told you so.’ But I strongly doubt it for that is not God’s way. We know from Ezekiel 18:23 that God derives no pleasure from the death of the wicked but rather desires their repentance that they may live.
Others have used this situation as a springboard for reminding us that we are accountable for our sins. In other words, at the final judgment, neither Absalom or Amnon will be able to say to God, ‘If my father hadn’t committed adultery and murder, I wouldn’t be in this situation!‘ That won’t fly before the Throne of the Almighty!
Still others have pointed out that David was an imperfect father – as if there is any perfect father apart from God Himself. As he was a man after God’s own heart, the author of so many magnficent psalms and a forerunner of the Messiah, one would think he could have seen through the deception of Amnon, but he didn’t. However, that does not let Amnon, nor Absalom, off the hook! They will answer for their own sins.
The rise of modern psychology has yielded many benefits but also provided to the irresponsible a way of excuse. ‘It’s my parents’ fault I’m this way….’ or ‘if I’d had a better relationship with my teachers, I wouldn’t be this way…’ Wrong! You and you alone are responsible for your decisions. Excuses may work on the psychologist’s couch but it won’t work at the final judgment.
It is a mark of maturity to own one’s failures: face them, admit them, don’t whitewash them but repent and take steps to learn from them to become a better person. Failure doesn’t have to be final; our failures can become stepping stones to greatness – IF – and ONLY IF – we will humble ourselves to confess, repent and learn from our unholy behavior.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote: The heart is deceitful above all things an beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jer. 17:9 The worst deception is when we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re just fine when we’re far from it!
Sexual sins are not the only ‘fatal attraction.’ Money, prestige, ambition and power can also propel us into colossal moral failure.
The account of Amnon and Tamar shows us five ways of recognizing spiritual danger when it presents itself.
- Presumption – you presume that something is all right because it appeals to you. Amnon confused physical attraction with ‘love’. Because it ‘looks good’ doesn’t make it right. That, after all, was the downfall of Eve in the Garden of Eden.
- Preoccupation – having accepted the thought of what you want, you begin to entertain that thought until it becomes nearly or actually an obsession. That’s when self-discipline goes out the window. If you’re frustrated that a plan of yours is not working out, it just may be the kindness of God trying to keep you from doing something very foolish.
- Peer Pressure – choose your friends wisely. Amnon’s friend, Jonadab, encouraged Amnon to deceive his sister in order to get her to be alone with him. Some friend he was! Amnon welcomed the ‘peer pressure’ because it confirmed what he wanted. A faithful friend will lead you towards holiness, not away from it.
- Pretense – when you have to lie to get your way, it is always a huge warning that you’re on the wrong path. Jonadab said to Amnon: ‘Go to bed and pretend to be ill..’
- Pressure – once Tamar was in the room alone with him, Amnon exerted great pressure on her to sleep with him. He had no consideration for her feelings and any common sense he might have had went out the window when lust took over.
Truth and integrity always lead to freedom of spirit. Manipulating other people to satisfy one’s own desires is never OK. Only integrity of character frames godly and spiritually productive relationships.
May all of our relationships in this new year be characterized by the freedom that integrity brings.