Mountain Tops and Valleys

It’s funny how devotions and sermon topics coincide. That happened today, except I like the devotional method of looking at this, and of course I had to go and rework it all.

The Holy Spirit works like that sometimes. You go in all ready to preach one thing, and you get in the pulpit, and the Holy Spirit sometimes leads you in a different direction.

Last week, I spoke of being broken. This week continues that theme.

How many times have you found yourself on top of the mountain? Success has come your way, things are going great. You probably find yourself thinking of yourself and maybe, your family?

God has a way of dealing with those who forget their first love – the Lord… or maybe never had that first love in the first place.

David, the man after God’s own heart, was a man who had it all. He was anointed King of Israel, from humble beginnings. Although he went through some horrific training – needing to run and hide from Saul for a number of years, he overcame that, to become the king of Israel.

After a period of great service to the Lord and the people, he got prideful and cocky. He forgot his first love. He instead saw a beautiful woman taking a bath – she forgot to draw the curtains – and David decided he just had to have her.

He did, and the consequences came – she was now with child, David’s child.

Now, he had to cover this up. You know what they say, the cover-up is worse than the crime, and so it was here.

He knew she was married, 2 Samuel 11:3 was clear on that:

2 Samuel 11:3-5

And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

He had it all, and he threw it all to the wind for some “afternoon delight”.

Now, David’s fall from the mountain top and into the valley begins – the cover-up, starting in verse 6:

2 Samuel 11:6-11

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell 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 this thing.”

David had to cover up the resulting pregnancy, so he sends for her husband, who was at war for the king, and enticing him, for, as it’s referred to in the military, a little “R and R” – Rest, and in this case Recreation (as opposed to Relaxation) – if you catch my drift.

But her husband, Uriah, is having none of it, he sleeps at the king’s doorway with the servants. Why would he do that? I mean, he’s been at battle, and out of the blue, a vacation. Who wouldn’t want a rest from all of the fighting, and a little “family time”?

David wanted to know as well – and we find the answer in verse 11 – he explained that his fellow soldiers were fighting for the king – and the Lord, he shouldn’t be loafing around eating, drinking and having a good time with his wife.

Do you really think God was going to allow this to succeed?

Heck no!

David needs to sink lower into the valley. David tried again – he got Uriah so drunk that he would throw caution to the wind and go down to be with his wife.

Nope, that didn’t work either.

David’s now desperate – he sends Uriah back to the fighting with a special message to the commander, Joaz. Put Uriah up front, and pull the rest of the men back gradually, so that Uriah would be killed.

If you can’t bribe the means of the cover up, then have him knocked off.

David’s sinking lower into the valley from the mountaintop, and he’s so clueless and prideful, that God’s setting him up for the fall of his life.

When Bathsheba heard of Uriah’s demise, she mourned his death, went to David and became his wife – and had a son, and no one was the wiser – but God!

God was none too pleased with David. I mean, adultery and murder? Two commandments broken right away, with a few others thrown in, such as no idols – Bathsheba was an idol, he just had to have her, right?

Do you think God had reason to be just a tad ticked off? Do you think God had good reason to take David’s tush to the proverbial woodshed?

Uh, yeah!

David must be thinking at this point, that he got away with it, but He hasn’t hit the valley just yet – enter Nathan the prophet – 2 Samuel, chapter 12:

2 Samuel 12:1-6

And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

Nathan had a little story from God to tell David. In this story, the poor man was Uriah, the lamb – Bathsheba, and the rich man – David.

David hears the story and is angered beyond belief, not knowing who the actors really were – David wants to kill the rich man.

God then uses Nathan to put David into the valley so far, that the only way he has to look is up, so that he could see how far he’s fallen – and to see Gods hand in all of it – verses 7 and 8:

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.

God, through Nathan told David, basically, I gave you everything, and I would have given you so much more – but you went and did this!

To put a point on all of it, the Lord took the child’s life at eight days old – not because of anything the child did, but because it was conceived in sin, and the act of conception was covered up so sinfully. David and Bathsheba didn’t deserve this child, and God took it away.

I truly believe that this child is in Heaven, but there was no way that God was going to allow David, or Bathsheba for that matter, to get away with their sin.

God had some other stuff he was going to inflict onto David – you can read all about it in 2 Samuel chapter 12.

The point of all of this is that when we’re on the mountain tops of our lives, God can – and will – take us into the valleys, either to correct us, as he did David, or to humble us, as he did Joseph.

A huge chunk of Genesis – twenty chapters, chapters 30-50, tell all about Joseph…way too much for an expository sermon here. The highlights of this fall and subsequent rise…

Joseph was Jacob’s favorite, and Joseph knew it. When he got that coat of many colors, you bet his pride hit its stride.

Time to start down that mountainside.

His older brothers threw him into a pit and sold him to Arab slave traders.

Thus started Joseph’s descent into his valleys – to learn a healthy dose of humility, and for that thirteen year period of training to become second in command of Egypt.

That humility training came in handy when his brothers came calling for provision during Israel’s drought. He was kind to his brothers when he could have called for vengeance of all kinds – now that’s humility.

Joseph learned these lessons well in the valley, so that when he assumed his place at the mountain top again, he was able to deal with adverse situations properly.

We can all look back on our own lives and seen where we were at the top of the mountain, and when God took us into that valley of brokenness to teach us a lesson.

Some people just don’t get it – they think they’ve learn the lesson only to take it on themselves to get back up, and screw it up again, usually in the same way. They learned nothing, and God has to take them down again, to learn what He tried to teach them in the first place.

How many of us have kids where we had to say, “How many times have I said…”?

God’s saying that very thing every time He needs to take us back off that mountain top to teach us the same lesson over and over. We eventually get it, but not after repeated lessons being given, usually worse lessons than before.

So, what are you doing for which God may need to take you to the woodshed?

Can you remember a time when God did exactly this?

Hopefully you learned a lesson, and your trips to the woodshed will become fewer and fewer.

Oh, they’ll never go away – God always has something to teach us.

He’ll bring us off the mountain to do it, back in the valley.

The view down in the valley is always closer to the answer, than the wider, more grandiose view from the mountain top.

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