“Rising Above the Crowd”
July 26, 2015
By John Partridge
2 Samuel 11:1-15
Have you ever had an absolutely phenomenal day? One of those days that sounds like something from the movies when they say things like “It’s my time to shine” or “Seize the day” or a day when you “stand above” or “stand out” from everyone else? But most often, when people rise above the crowd it is because they have prepared themselves for that moment. Our astronauts do some amazing things, but nearly all of them are the very best in their fields. Some of them are among the very finest pilots in the world and others hold doctorate degrees in science. They stand above the crowd because they have the chance to do amazing work, but also because they invested much of their lives to prepare themselves for just such an opportunity. Likewise, our Olympic athletes shine in front of an international audience, but they have spent years, and countless gallons of sweat, preparing for that moment. This morning we are going to read three scriptures in which we see three people prepare themselves to do something extraordinary. The first of these is David, who makes a series of choices that prepare him for disaster, the second is Jesus who prepares a miracle that reveals to the world who he really is, and the third is you.
We begin in 2 Samuel 11:1-15, where David makes a string of bad choices that will cause him, and Israel, incredible pain.
11:1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
In this passage we can clearly see that David, despite his allegiance to God, made choices that prepared him for moral failure. First, although it was traditional for kings to lead their armies, and although David had built his reputation as a warrior, on this particular occasion, when the army of Israel went out to do battle, David chose to abandon his duty and stay home. One evening he went out on the roof to stretch his legs, and probably to cool off. Since stone and brick buildings accumulate heat all day in the sun, David probably wanted to get outside where he could enjoy the evening breezes and, most likely, the palace roof offered the one of the coolest spots in the city. But while he was there, he witnesses someone else doing the same thing. One of his neighbors was enjoying a bath on her roof, and again, this was probably not unusual. What was unusual was that David not only saw, he looked… and he made the choice to keep on looking. Granted, David was a man and as a man, if your beautiful neighbor is taking a bath on her roof, it was probably hard not to notice, but David didn’t just look. David didn’t look away. David didn’t walk away. David didn’t even just enjoy the view and go back inside. Instead, David looked, watched, and lusted in his heart. David wanted her.
And so, David not only lusted, he acted on his lust, first by sending someone to find out who she was, second by sending messengers to get her and bring her to him, but then again by choosing to spend the night with her. When she turns up pregnant, David makes the choice to cover the whole thing up but that doesn’t work either because Uriah is more honorable and loyal than David expected, and, honestly, more loyal and honorable than David himself. David even allows Uriah to stay in town for several days, perhaps hoping that Uriah’s willpower will dissolve as he sleeps on the doorstep of the king only a few steps from his home and his beautiful wife. But Uriah will not dishonor his king or his brothers-in-arms and so David again chooses poorly and plots to have this honorable man murdered.
David made a great many poor choices and each one brought him one step closer to disaster. This series of choices is one that caused David, and all of Israel great pain, misery, and death. David’s choices led him to stand out from the crowd… for all the wrong reasons.
But fast forward to John 6:1-21, where we find the descendant of David, Jesus, fully prepared to do something totally amazing.
6:1 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), 2 and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near.
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
7 Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
By this time, Jesus was well into his three year ministry and had spent countless hours in prayer as well and much of his life in the synagogue. It is apparent from scripture that Jesus, and most of the disciples, would attend worship in the synagogue whenever they were able. This preparation brings Jesus to the side of a mountain where they were far from everything. There were no nearby towns, no handy fast food drive-thru’s, no food trucks or even a hot dog guy with a box around his neck. And so Jesus sets out to feed ten to fifteen thousand people (remember that our scripture said that there were five thousand men). Just to buy bread for so many people would take six months of wages and would only give a bite to each one. But Jesus forges ahead anyway. Jesus begins with one sack lunch from one small boy, five miniature barley bagels and two sardines. Not much. But Jesus takes this small offering, gives thanks for what the boy has offered to God, and passes them out to the crowd with each person taking as much as they wanted. And when everyone was finished and had eaten all that they wanted, they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. We should especially note that John says that the baskets were filled, not simply with leftover bread, but specifically leftover pieces from the five barley loaves. I think John wanted to be sure that everyone knew that there was not some other source of supply, people had not brought their own lunches, but that all of the people had eaten, and all of the baskets were filled from the remains of what the boy had given and which God had blessed.
Because of this great miracle, everyone knew that Jesus was sent by God.
Finally, in Ephesians 3:14-21, we hear the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote this prayer for the people of the church in Ephesus and, in effect, all of the followers of Jesus everywhere.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Here, Paul prays that God would strengthen his people through the power of the Spirit that lives within you. He prays that Christ might live in your hearts through faith and that each of you would be so rooted and established in love that you might fully understand how big, how great, and how powerful Christ’s love for you really is. Paul prays that you are filled with the fullness of God. That last part is a big deal. Paul prays that you (that we) would be filled with the fullness of God, but remember that little boy on the side of the mountain with Jesus. His sack lunch was filled with the fullness of his mother and that was enough to feed one little boy. But when that boy made the choice to give his lunch to Jesus, and when Jesus prayed that God would bless that sack lunch, it became not just filled with the fullness of his mother, but filled with the fullness of God. When that sack lunch was filled with the fullness of God, it not only fed that boy, but ten or fifteen thousand other people.
The fullness of God is often far more than it appears.
Something, or someone, that is filled with the fullness of God is capable of doing far more than they might appear from the outside. Someone that is filled with the fullness of God does not rely only upon their own strength and their own abilities but also on the strength and ability of the creator of the universe.
The choices that we make lead us to our destination.
If we make poor choices like David, we can choose our way into disaster, pain, suffering and death.
But if we make choices that lead us toward Jesus, if we make choices that allow us to be empowered by the Spirit of God and filled with the fullness of God, then God also gives us the ability to rise above the crowd as we do far more than we could ever ask or imagine.
Your “time to shine” may come after a lifetime of preparation and a lifetime of choices. Choices to pray, read scripture, attend church, to attend Bible study, to learn, to think, and to act like Jesus.
When that time comes, will you be ready?
What will you choose?