The title of today's sermon, you will note, is "Struck Down." A
Sunday School teacher finished telling her third and fourth grade
class the story of how the Egyptians were struck down as they
tried to cross the Red Sea in pursuit of the Israelites. She then
told them to paint a picture of the story with the paints and
sheet of paper she had given each one of them. As she moved around
the room she came upon a boy who was dabbing at the paper with a
dry brush. She asked him what the picture was. "That's a picture
of the Egyptians chasing the Jews through the Red Sea," he
answered. "Where is the sea?" the teacher asked. "Oh, that's
rolled back to let the Israelites through." "Where are the
Israelites?" the teacher asked further. "They've just gone
through," the boy said. "Well, where are the Egyptians, their
enemies?" "Oh, "replied the boy, "they'll be along in a minute."
I chose the topic 'struck down' because it's in the last line
of the reading from 2nd Samuel and most people take away a wrong
idea from the story because of it. The topic is really better
suited to a forum or Bible study, but I felt the Holy Spirit was
telling me not to let it go by. To try to say what I could in the
space of a sermon since many of you would never get to a Bible
study to discuss it. It's a great story-a wonderful lesson. It's
one of those moments of reckoning where one has some of their own
actions thrown in their face. They don't recognize the actions as
theirs, but they can recognize them in someone else and condemn
It took great courage for Nathan to confront King David. The
Lord told Nathan he had to confront David. So Nathan tells King
David a story, as though the heinous acts were those of another
man. But he is really recounting how David had a woman's husband,
one of his own soldiers, singled out to be killed in battle, so
David could then take the soldier's wife for his own, a woman whom
he had gotten pregnant while the soldier was fighting battles for
It's a powerful moment when David says the man in Nathan's
story deserved to die for what he did. And then Nathan says, "The
Lord says, 'You are the man!'"
It's a great lesson story for us all. We're so often ready to
condemn someone else for their actions, yet, if someone looked at
our lives, the actions and thoughts and words that aren't always
the most noble or compassionate, they could say to us, "You are
It's a great story for each of us in our own personal spiritual
growth as we might recognize how we have treated someone in less
than a Christian manner, and with none of the compassion and love
But it's the end of the story that I don't want you to
misunderstand. After David recognizes his evil deeds, and repents,
Nathan tells him that there are consequences to his actions. And
here's a really important point to understand. There are
consequences to EVERY action we take. There are beneficial
consequences and there are non-beneficial ones. But there is
always a consequence to everything we do.
The same is true about every word we speak. Words are spoken
out of thoughts and feelings. We know that there is energy created
because of actions as well as thought and feeling. Energy doesn't
stop; it keeps on going. It has an effect on more than just one
person or situation.
There are consequences to the energy we give off through our
words, thoughts, feelings, actions. So, Nathan tells King David
that there are consequences to his actions-severe negative ones.
He says to King David, "the child that is born to you shall die."
It is not the LORD who is taking the life of the child, rather, it
is David who set up a chain of events that is going to somehow
take the life of the child.
I'm telling you this to prepare you for the next line. I want
you to be clear that the death of the child that Nathan foretells
is as a result of a negative chain of events that David has set in
To give another example, when a business or corporation doesn't
follow guidelines and pollutes the ground water supply and the
toxic waste causes cancer in children who come in contact with the
water or ground where the toxic waste is, it is not GOD who is
causing this. People want to blame God. They want to say "How
could God let this happen to an innocent child?"
God is with us to help us get through all the negative
situations that we, as part of a sinful humanity, have to suffer.
Children and adults suffer negative consequences of what someone
has set in motion. God doesn't cause suffering, humans cause
suffering. Humans do terrible things to one another; do terrible
things to all parts of God creation.
We so often denounce what large corporations do. How they
pollute and pay a fine, but keep on polluting, keep on breaking
the rules that safeguard human beings from exposure to toxic
material. Or we denounce the government waste we see. But here's
an aha! Here's where Nathan can turn to each of US and say, what
rules are you breaking? How do YOU take care of the environment?
How do YOU make sure you aren't polluting? Do you do simple things
like recycle? We have every opportunity to recycle, yet how many
throw newspapers away? How many don't recycle every aluminum can
(cans that if you bring them here to Trinity and we recycle, we
send kids to camp on scholarships with that money)?
Those are "Nathan telling David" stories. We denounce someone
else, but are doing the very same thing in different ways in our
The point, remember, is that we are part of a sinful humanity,
and the sins of humanity produce consequences. Thus things happen
to us as a result of our own actions, thoughts, words, as well as
those of humanity of which we are a part. It is not GOD doing this
The last line of the story says, "The Lord struck the child
that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it became very ill."
First, knowing that GOD did not do this, knowing that God helps
us THROUGH the consequences we bring about ourselves or as part of
humanity, we then have to say, well what else could this sentence
Anytime you come across a line in Scripture that doesn't seem
like that of a loving God, you are right to question it. And if
you can't figure it out, talk to me.
Let me briefly try to help you understand what that line means.
The Israelites believed God was totally involved in their lives.
They did not see themselves as apart from God. With that kind of
connection, anything that happened in their lives, then, was
attributed to God.
As a people who believed in ONE God, they were years ahead of
the cultures that surrounded them. They were years ahead in their
theology, their knowledge and understanding of God. They developed
rules for living that were meant to benefit the people. One that
we see as primitive today was way ahead of the cultures that
surrounded them at the time. The rule "an eye for an eye; a tooth
for a tooth" meant that you could only do to someone what they did
to you. If they knocked out your tooth you couldn't maim them or
kill them. Today, there are still cultures that allow one to kill
someone in retaliation and revenge for the slightest offense.
Israel constantly was absorbing people from other cultures into
their own. They constantly had to fight off the desire to go back
to old ways. They still harbored old ideas in their mind about how
to treat people. So, we often see that they attribute the
slaughter of a town or people as God having told them to do it.
They believed that if they had this idea about winning a battle
and how to treat the vanquished, that it was God instructing them
because their lives were intimately intertwined with God.
But read the Psalms of David carefully. There are many that ask
God to do horrible things to his enemies. Even David, whom we
often put on a pedestal because of how God used him in spite of
all his faults and heinous actions, even David wasn't free of
It is important, however, to realize that it was David's
thinking, not that of God. It is wonderful that we have a written
record of how the people recognized God was so intimately involved
in their lives, but we must remember, also, that the Bible shows
us how God has to work through the evil deeds and intentions of
mankind to bring about a good thing. Because God has to work
through such tainted vessels as we humans, it often takes longer
to work out a good effect than if God were working with perfect
instruments (he created us a lot differently than what we have
turned ourselves into).
So, it isn't GOD who struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to
David. To the writer of the book of Samuel, it is the
understanding of the relationship the people experienced at that
time. They were still developing a theology, a knowledge of God,
an understanding of how God worked in their lives. As you read
through the Old Testament you can see how their relationship and
understanding of God was changing, growing.
It isn't till we get to the love and compassion of Jesus that
we have the opportunity to fully experience the love that is God;
the love that God has for us. Even today people who believe in
God, no matter what denomination, what faith, what religion, we
humans are still trying to fully understand what the love of God
means. We Christians have the experience of God in Christ Jesus.
Yet, we don't follow what Christ taught. We don't love as Christ
asks us to love. We don't forgive as Christ asks us. We harbor
thoughts of hate and revenge, especially toward enemies. Yet
that's not the way Jesus tells us to think about our enemies.
So, again, we can be brought to a "Nathan telling David" place
in our own lives. We want other countries and people to be like
us. And just what part of 'us' is that? The part that won't
forgive? The part that seeks revenge? The part that takes joy in
seeing someone put to death? The part that takes advantage of the
poor? The part that allows wealthy cheaters to get off free while
those folks like us bear the burden of their having cheated?
I mean it can go on and on. So, is it GOD who is making people
starve? Is it GOD who is making people poor? Is it GOD who is
reeking disease after disease upon people?
NO. God loves us and wants only the best for us. God helps us
through the incredible messes we have made and continue to make.
God gives us opportunity after opportunity to make the best of the
havoc we have caused in our own lives as consequences of our own
actions or the consequences of a sinful humanity (which are the
result of listening to the Devil, letting the Devil turn our head
so that we take our eyes off Jesus and turn from the power of the
Holy Spirit and do things on our own).
When the Bible relates that God struck down a child, or God
ravaged a people in war, remember, the Bible shows us how the
people of God understood their relationship to God. God was not
something apart from their thinking. They saw themselves as chosen
by God, guided by God. So, to them, what they did was sanctioned
by God. That's the way they saw it. That was how they understood
God. And as you read the Bible, you can see that their
understanding developed, and prophets showed how they could
develop it even more but they failed. But the prophets laid it out
as to the kind of God their God was-a God who wanted people to act
justly and love mercy, which was a far cry from where they started
in their understanding.
And then along came Jesus and humans had a chance to make huge
strides in their spiritual growth and relationship with God. But
we still struggle today to follow Jesus' teachings, Jesus way. It
seems we'd rather listen to the Devil and lose our focus and
revert to old ways of doing things, old understandings of God: a
God that tells us to seek revenge; a God that tells us we don't
have to love our enemies; a God that tells us we don't have to
care what happens to others as a result of our actions. Well,
folks, if that's what we want to listen to, be aware that it ain't
God, that's the Devil turning our heads from a focus on Jesus and
us denying the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
God does not strike down out of anger or revenge. That's petty.
That's the way of humans. God is love and acts out of love. And if
we humans acted out of love for one another, the consequences of
our thoughts, words, and actions and those of humanity would make
this a very different world. So, we need to start with our own
selves. Clean up our own individual acts. Love is what will change
the world, and any change in the world begins with you and me,
right here and now as we live out our lives truly striving to
follow what Jesus taught. He told us that we would do even greater
things than he did as we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit.
Imagine. Greater things. You and me. Each of us can make a
difference. Jesus showed us the way. Let us be courageous and
loving and follow it. Amen.