Samuel 12:20, "Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed
himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD,
and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required,
they set bread before him, and he did eat."
morning, our culture is quickly losing any hold on the idea of
situational acceptability. With the lines between proper and improper,
right and wrong, and good and evil being blurred, it is really quite
unsurprising that people would get hazy as well when something is
acceptable and when it is not. For example, the clothing choices that
people make today to wear - or not wear - in public defies any rational
thinking of common decency. About the only situation where such attire
would be suitable would seem to be the privacy of your own home. Terms
like business attire, "Sunday-go-meeting clothes," and formal wear have
either been lost in society's collective consciousness or are fading
fast. However, to the disciple of Christ, we need to remember that
while we are called upon to be faithful at all times, there are times in
our lives that require more of us than other times.
study verse is found in the midst of one of David's most troubling
times. He has by this time fallen prey to some of the consequences of
his adultery, falsehood, and murder in the matter of Uriah and his wife
Bathsheba. God has pronounced several evils upon David as a result of
this sinful conduct, and many of those consequences are lifelong.
Today, we see many soft-headed ideas from the Christian world, and two
of them are: 1. People should forgive and not make the person suffer
anymore, 2. What I do only hurts myself. Now, the second is a mindset
that comes from the particularly unstudied person that fails to see how
many times people either suffered or are punished for the sins of
others. Our verse comes on the heels of David learning that his
illegitimate son has died. That child died as a direct result of
David's sin with Bathsheba. That child's life was forfeit for what
another did. What we do most certainly affects far, far more people
than we possibly realize: both for good and evil.
first soft-headed idea needs a little space here before we get to
David's pattern in our verse. Many equate the idea of forgiveness with
the removal of consequences. Friends, those two things do not
necessarily align with each other, though they can. Consequences many
times remain even after forgiveness has been extended. For example, God
forgave David by the mouth of Nathan the prophet. Nathan tells him in
Verse 13 that God put away his sin, and as a result, he would not die -
though he deserved to as David himself declared in verse 6. God forgave
David. However, he still suffered for the rest of his life with the
sword never departing his house. His children still rose up against
him. His children still died. All of this came as a consequence of
what he did, yet God forgave him. I have known people that had a
night's worth of illicit behavior that today carry a disease in their
body that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. They are
truly sorry for what they did, and I have confidence that God has
granted the peace of forgiveness to their broken spirit. Yet, the
disease remains. Friends, consequences follow people even after
repentance and forgiveness are in force.
verse before us presents an interesting situation. David has been
fasting and praying to God for a while (the child died after 7 days of
the sickness, and we might infer from the reading of it that David was
doing this for almost the whole time). During this time, he is in
sackcloth and ashes, begging God to have mercy on his son. However,
after the child dies, the servants are afraid to tell David for fear
that what they have seen for days (prayer and fasting in the dirt) would
then swell into mortal heartbreak knowing that the child had passed
away. David discovers the truth through their change of behavior and
proceeds to go through the actions in our verse. And what an order they
might think - at least I would - that eating would be a high priority.
Having never fasted for anything near what might have been 7 days, I
would rather suspect from the back flips of my stomach eating would be a
good way to start. Yet, David understood what Job did, and that was
that God's word and service came before even our necessary food. (Job
23:12) Today, people are so self-centered that God gets "the leavings"
of our lives. Bible reading occurs at the end of the day - if at all -
once we have done all that we "had to do." Church service is something
that we attend if "nothing else is going on." One person even told me,
"If I have to miss from time to time, I think God will understand." One
of my former employers was trying to convince me of the need for me to
work a Sunday, "You go to church all the time. I think God will
understand if you have to miss this one time." My response did not
exactly excite him, "I have to work far, far more days of my life than
days I get to go to church. I don't think God will understand since my
church days are less in number than my work days. Maybe in this case,
the company will understand that I can't do it."
Prayer becomes an afterthought of what we should do, rather than a
foremost thought in all that we do. Friends, these things are not
pleasant to consider, yet I can see them far too clearly in my own life
many times. David's foremost thought after prayer and fasting was not
his natural needs. Worship of the Lord came first. Today, we all would
do well to put this pattern before our eyes. Natural needs should be
placed squarely behind God's worship. Church service should not be
built around your life. Your life should be built around church
service. Anything short of that is plain, old-fashioned idolatry.
However, notice something even more peculiar to this sequence of
events. David knew to put worship of God in His house first, but
something had to be accomplished before that.
Before David went to the house of God, he made himself respectable.
Sackcloth and ashes in the dirt outside the palace was a perfectly
acceptable way to show God his penitence for his sins. Sackcloth and
ashes with dirt-smeared skin was not an acceptable way to present
himself in God's house. A change had to be made. Sometimes I get told
that people only dress up for church to satiate their own vanity and
pride. Their charge is that people go to church to say, "Oh, look at
me!" Doubtless, pride and vanity afflict us all, and there have perhaps
been cases of that: though I do not know of any firsthand. However, my
preference of wearing a suit to church is not because I am a preacher
(been wearing one since I was 4 or 5). My preference was thrust upon me
as a child, but it is voluntary at this point. It is my preference as
that is the absolute best that I can put on to present myself in God's
was before the Lord both in the dirt and in the house. However, the
idea of situational acceptability was familiar to him. He knew that
God's house should demand more respect than old rags. Now, if old rags
are all someone has, then by all means, come to church in what you
have. A man once told me that he would wear suits to work when there
was a board meeting, to a funeral, and to a wedding. These events were
special. My reply was met with shock, "Well instead of presenting
yourself to board members, a grieving family, or a happy couple, church
is where you get to present yourself to the King and a special portion
of His family. Is that not the most special event we could have in our
the parable of the sower, part of the lesson of the good ground is that
it does not have the clods, rocks, and weeds of the other parcels.
However, we know from natural observation that ground is never naturally
clod, rock, and weed free. Those things are part of the old earth that
we live on. So, if ground is good and free of those things, it must be
prepared thusly. Lately, I have spent a lot of time in my garden, and
it never ceases to amaze me just how fast the ground can get out of
control if allowed to. Diligence is required to keep the good plants
free of all obstacles and intrusions. Preparing our heart and mind to
seek the Lord and rejoice in His pavilions requires diligence. However,
it also behooves us to make the outside as presentable as we can as
well. David came to worship. Worship means reverence, and the
reverence of God requires that we be as presentable as we can.
I was about 8 years old, I stumbled out of my room one Sunday morning.
I already had my shirt and slacks on, and was laying my coat and tie on
a chair. Dad was sitting at his desk, and he took one look at me and
said, "What's your problem?" Sometimes youngsters are just foolish
enough to tell you. "I don't want to go to church." He said, "That's
obvious. So, what's your problem? You know we're going." "Yes sir, I
know we are, but I don't want to." I will never forget the reply he
gave, "Whether you want to or not is not important. You know we are
going, and you need to put a better look on your face. You are going to
the house of God where His special people meet. They deserve and He
certainly deserves more than you are giving right now." Many years
later, I finally understood his point - though that day, I can assure
you I put a better face on - in that part of being prepared for worship
is how we appear. Though God knows how we feel, our days in His courts
should be marked with praise not woe.
had a bad day that day. Yet, he worshipped in the courts of the Lord.
Though heavy in spirit, he still made every effort to give the Lord all
he had in church. If he had showed up poorly dressed or poorly attuned
in his countenance, the Lord would not have gotten David's all.
Friends, God has not changed, and He still deserves our all. May we put
the very best forward in our service while seeking to give Him our all.
Does it trump our natural wants or needs? Yes it does. Does it trump
how we feel? Yes it does. Does it give a pass for bad seasons? No it
does not. David knew that His help and strength came from the Lord, and
for that, David was willing to press into God's house in worship no
matter what life’s circumstances threw at him. One final thought about
worship is that if someone is having a rough go of it like David was,
God’s house is the best place one could be. As the old hymn-writer
said, "There, there on eagles wings we soar, and sin and guilt seem
there no more. And heaven comes down our souls to greet. And glory
crowns the mercyseat."