Rev’d Jonathan Gale
2 Samuel 11: 1 – 15
David Commits Adultery with Bathsheba
1In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, ‘This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ 4So David sent messengers to fetch her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. 5The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.’
6So David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. 8Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house, and wash your feet.’ Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10When they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house’, David said to Uriah, ‘You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?’ 11Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths;* and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.’ 12Then David said to Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, 13David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
David Has Uriah Killed
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.’
Ephesians 3: 14 – 21
Prayer for the Readers
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. 16I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.
John 6: 1 – 21
Feeding the Five Thousand
6After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. 5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’ 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages* would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’ 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ 10Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they* sat down, about five thousand in all. 11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’ 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’
15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
Jesus Walks on the Water
16When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, ‘It is I;* do not be afraid.’ 21Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.
Did you notice that when all able-bodied soldiers are off fighting for Israel, David is parading around, as our reading says, “up on the roof of the King’s house.”? The obvious question is what was he doing there when he should have been with his men?
I don’t want to draw any more attention to this story other than to say that when he should have been down in the valley fighting he was up on the rooftop getting up to no good.
We all get up to things, and by that I don’t mean we get into mischief. What I mean is this: we all aspire to things and they can be good things or they can be bad things. It seems that what we aim for on the heights of aspiration we descend to the valley to carry out.
The Israelites certainly seemed to illustrate this principal:
2 Kings 17: 10 They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree
Isaiah 57: 5 You worship your idols with great passion beneath the oaks and under every green tree. You sacrifice your children down in the valleys, among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.
And exactly the same works for good. Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments and speak with God. The Psalmist lifts his eyes up to the hills and realises his help comes from God. Jesus is transfigured on a mountain. Jesus’ most profound talk is the Sermon on the Mount. The disciples gather in the Upper Room for the Last Supper, and they could well have been in the same place on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon them.
What we aspire to up here (point to heart) we carry out down here (indicate hands).
Paul prays for the Ephesian church in this morning’s epistle that he (that is God) may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.
The ethereal will manifest in the mundane. What is in the spirit will emerge in practice. Christ in the heart through faith will emerge rooted and grounded in love.
Proverbs 23: 7 For as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
Jesus could only do what he did by looking up to God in prayer.
- Matthew 14: 23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray
- Luke 6: 12 One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray
- Mark 6: 46 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray
- Luke 9: 28 And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
Jesus didn’t only pray at altitude of course, but you get the idea.
Vs 3 of our Gospel reading tells us 3 Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Soon afterwards he descends to the hillside and is feeding 5,000 people with the sustenance they badly need.
Vs 15 of our Gospel reading tells us 15 When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. In the next verse we read his disciples went down to the lake. Soon afterwards Jesus himself has come down and is walking on the surface of the lake towards them.
That which he aimed for on the heights of aspiration he descended to the valley to carry out.
Jesus knew that it was only in prayer that he was able to function effectively. Had he not remained in vital contact with the Father all he would have been capable of was religious activity; and that is what he despised the Pharisees for: a religiosity that went through the motions of activity but refused to open itself up to God.
The are two ways in which we can really get offside with God because they frustrate God’s desperate desire to pour his grace and love into our lives:
- The first is to ignore his principles altogether. That is the kind of licentiousness David practiced in our reading.
- The second is to approach matters with a religious spirit. That is the kind of legalism that hangs onto the outward forms of religion and keeps God at arm’s length. It’s what Paul calls 5 holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power.
A prayerless life will achieve both of those for us in double-quick time. That is why Jesus protected himself with prayer, fasting and scripture during his 40 day trial in the wilderness.
And he prayed constantly to the Father so that his ministry might be effective.
There are words in a modern song that go, touching heaven, changing earth.
What is invested in heaven realises a return upon earth.
As Christians we are called to be influencers – each and every one of us. But we will only change earth if we first touch heaven. For this, like Jesus, we need to spend time in God’s presence, opening ourselves to the influence of his Spirit.
There is so much more to God than where you and I are today: wherever that may be. Paul’s prayer for the people who make up the Church in Ephesus rings through the ages:
18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Jesus had 5,000 to feed. The church has hundreds of thousands, most of whom do not know that they are starving.
Pray like your life and theirs depended upon it, because I tell you, it does. When we learn to touch heaven in prayer, things will begin to happen in our lives down here.
God bless you.