For three years now, I have preached a summer series using a children’s book as a second reading in our worship service. We read the book in whole and talk about it specifically in the children’s sermon, and then it is referenced to varying degrees in the main sermon which closely follows the theme of the book.
Today’s book is This Is Not My Hat, by Jon Klaassen.
Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out
This episode from David’s life has to rank up there as one of the most dramatic moments in all of scripture. We, the readers, know what’s going on—we can see “behind the scenes,” so to speak.
But we also know David cannot see it coming. Were this a movie we were watching, I have no doubt some of us would be shouting at the screen to warn him: “No, David!! Watch out!! It’s a trap!!”
But David cannot hear us. And it is just as well. Because we also are too often deaf to those who would warn us of the harm they see heading our way.
This is a dramatic story because of the unveiling of David’s eyes and heart, but it also resonates with us because it is (in a sense) the story of all of us. We make mistakes. We fail. We sin against God, and against each other. And no matter how hard we try, no matter how sneaky our cover-up, no matter who we threaten or intimidate into never speaking, no matter how much it looks like we got away with it, an eternal truth rings out: “Be sure you sin will find you out.” That’s Numbers 32:23, but it’s also story after story in the Bible.
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden break the rule that God instituted to keep them safe. They decide to be their own judges of right and wrong, and then try to hide out in the bushes thinking God won’t notice.
After killing his brother Abel, Cain seems to think he can pull the wool over God’s eyes with his “Am I my brother’s keeper?” line. But while he’s trying to play cool like he did nothing wrong, God has already seen through him. God has already heard Abel’s blood crying out from the ground, as Gen 4:10 tells us.
Abraham tries not once but twice to pass his wife Sarah off as his sister in order to save his own skin. Both times his deception is exposed and consequences come quickly.
Moses kills a man in anger and buries him in the sand, thinking no one has seen it. But just like the little thieving fish in the book, someone always sees. His sin is exposed, affecting his relationships and future ministry.
In Joshua 7, Achan hides plunder from a conquered city—which was forbidden—and it affects the whole community even before it is exposed.
And in what feels like a NT retelling of Achan’s story, Ananias and Sapphira lie about their contributions to the church in Acts 5. Their sin too is found out and consequences are severe.
The examples go on and on. Over and over we find stories that illustrate the truth of 1Cor 4:5: “[The Lord Christ] will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart” (NIV11).
David & Bathsheba
This is what we find in today’s story. Like the fish in the book, David was certain he’d gotten away with it. But sin always comes out sooner or later.
David has it all—money, power, respect; the adoration of his people, beautiful partners, a successful military record…… He is the picture of success and prosperity.
But something is clearly lacking in David’s life. And—as is true for all of us—we will never find fulfillment and purpose unless we find it in God.
This story really begins in 2Sam 11. There’s a war on, but David—the brave and brilliant military leader—is not risking his own neck; he is safely cloistered in Jerusalem. He strolls around the palace roof one evening as the air starts to cool, and he looks around—and down—on the city he rules over.
Somewhere down below, a woman innocently cleans and cools herself on her own rooftop. This is what one does, after all, in that day and time. There may well have even been others—male and female—on other rooftops at that very hour. But this woman is particularly beautiful, and David gives into the demons of lust, power, and control.
Using his privilege as king, he sends people to find out more about her. He learns her name, her parents’ names, and that she is married to one of David’s military officers—a man named Uriah.
But as David gives in more and more to “his own evil desires” (as James 1:14 describes the birth of sin), what began as lust and evolved into stalking a woman grew into something even more sinister. He has her brought to him, and he “lay with her,” as the old KJV described it. The biblical authors did not have any conception of “consent,” as we recognize it today, but it is clear given the power dynamics at play that this woman—Bathsheba—did not have a say in the matter: one could not refuse the king.
Now while David appears infatuated with Bathsheba until they slept together, the bible says very little about his attentions toward her afterwards—at least until she realizes she is pregnant. This, too, testifies to the power dynamic involved and David’s sinful desire to “possess” something that he had no right to.
When David realizes this pregnancy threatens to expose what he has done, he falls back on the ancient practice of weaseling out of responsibility. This pregnancy means Uriah will find out, so David concocts a plan to keep his sin hidden.
He invites Uriah home from the battlefield under the guise of getting an update on the war, but in reality he’s trying to get Uriah to have relations with his wife. That way, when the baby is born, Uriah will assume it is his. Brilliant plan, right?
Except here’s the thing. Uriah proves himself more righteous than David. In solidarity with his fellow-soldiers, Uriah practices abstinence. David tries again and again, even purposely getting Uriah drunk—but to no avail.
His plan thwarted, David pivots towards a deadly game. He puts a secret letter in Uriah’s hand and sends him back to the battlefield. The letter, we learn, contains orders to assign Uriah to the front line—specifically to where the fighting is the fiercest and the casualties are the highest—effectively committing the murder of Uriah by the weapon of war.
But who will find out, right? Who is to know? What started as a lustful gaze escalated into stalking, rape, and now murder, but David seems to have tied up his loose ends at this point. No one will care about Bathsheba because Uriah is dead; and poor Uriah appears to be just another casualty of war.
And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling prophet.
Our Exposing God
You see, scripture tells us that God knows our hearts. God knows us more intimately than we even know ourselves. There is nothing that happens that God does not see, and nothing in the dark that will not be brought to light. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:2–3:
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (ESV)
Be sure your sin will find you out.
But you know, church, (and this is important:) God is not in the sin-exposing business because God is a judgmental, hurtful, hateful God. Quite the opposite. “God is love,” as we read in 1John 4, and all this exposing of sin is a part of healing. A wound that is hidden away will not heal; in fact, if it is not brought to the light, cleaned (perhaps lanced), and medicated, it could cause the whole body to turn septic. In the same way, God participates in our sin being exposed in order that we might be healed and find greater wholeness than we have ever known.
God, we read in 2Peter 3:9, desires that none should perish, but that all come to the knowledge of God.
Isaiah likewise testifies in chapter 30 verse 18 that “the Lord waits [and why??] to be gracious to you; therefore God will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (NRSV).
So the same in 1Tim 2:4: “[God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (NRSV).
And in Ezekiel— (and I love this!!) in both chapters 18 and 33—God expresses regret that even the wicked miss the boat of God’s gracious love and expansive forgiveness, saying:
As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways (Ezek 33:11; cf. 18:23).
Surely it is God’s compassion and love that drive this medical mission of exposing and tending the deep wounds of sin within us.
Let me try to wrap this up like a preacher, by offering some bullet points.
First. The testimony of scripture is consistent in its insistence that there is no way of covering up sin except with the blood of Jesus: no deception we can perpetrate, no boasting or bullying or gaslighting we can do, no pretending it never happened, and no burying of the skeletons in our closet. There are no plants so thick that we can hide our sin there, as tried Adam and Eve and the little fish. What we have done in darkness will come to light; the sin we have done will find us out.
Second. All of our hiding and machinations allow sin to become septic in us, isolating us from the healing balm that is freely available to us. It is not coincidental (I believe) that the term Jesus uses for us when we try to hide our sin is “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). While we may look great on the outside, the inside is filled with filth and rotting corpses.
Third. There is a balm in Gilead. Our tender and compassionate God is eager to triage our lives: lancing where the pus of sin has built up, stitching where we have been torn apart by the world, binding the bones that are broken and limit us. We need not fear this exposing of ourselves and our wounds, for—though it is often painful and uncomfortable—it is necessary for us to experience healing.
This is why David finally submits to God when he is confronted by Nathan and his parable. This king who is said to have a heart like God’s realizes the wounding in him and the wounding he has perpetuated. According to tradition, Psalm 51 records David’s prayerful response as he submits to the healing work of our God. It speaks of being washed, of the need for antiseptic, and even of the necessity for a “heart transplant,” to use today’s medical terminology.
I’d like to invite you to consider responding to God this morning by praying this prayer of confession and submission with me. Confronted as we are with the eternal truth that our sins will find us out, the only right response is that of David in our scripture today and in this psalm: we admit our sin, our brokenness and wounding, and we recognize that we cannot find wholeness again without God working in us.
If you, like David, want a fresh start this morning—in life and with God—will you join me in this prayer? The words are on the screen behind me; let us confess together:
Look on me with a heart of mercy, O God,
according to Your generous love.
According to Your great compassion,
wipe out every consequence of my shameful crimes.
Thoroughly wash me, inside and out, of all my crooked deeds.
Cleanse me from my sins.
For I am fully aware of all I have done wrong,
and my guilt is there, staring me in the face.
It was against You, only You, that I sinned,
for I have done what You say is wrong, right before Your eyes.
So when You speak, You are in the right.
When You judge, Your judgments are pure and true…
Cleanse me of my wickedness with hyssop, and I will be clean.
If You wash me, I will be whiter than snow.
Help me hear joy and happiness as my accompaniment,
so my bones, which You have broken, will dance in delight instead.
Cover Your face so You will not see my sins,
and erase my guilt from the record.
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
restore within me a sense of being brand new.
Do not throw me far away from Your presence,
and do not remove Your Holy Spirit from me.
Give back to me the deep delight of being saved by You;
let Your willing Spirit sustain me. (Ps 51:1-4, 7-12 VOICE)