July 26, 2009
Playing catch is a universal game. It only requires two or more people and something to throw. When I was 10 years old, my neighborhood’s preferred item was a baseball. We seemed to lose most of them and never seemed to have more than one; so when the well-worn tan ball with red stitching went down the sewer opening, we had to go after it. Charlie’s dad had a crowbar to pry open the cast iron lid, and Chris volunteered to go down into the ankle-deep stagnant water, past spider webs and slime.
He went where he never thought he would go because we had to have the ball. We couldn’t play the game without it. We pursued it at all costs. After all, isn’t playing baseball one of those inalienable rights? Perhaps we could put it under the “Pursuit of Happiness.” Chasing after this American value can lead us into places we never thought we would go.
King David went places he never thought he would go. He didn’t know about the Declaration of Independence, but he did know about the pursuit of happiness.
This cherished American mindset of being free to pursue happiness can quickly lead us into a gutter. When we individualize this pursuit and only think of what will make me happy, we are stepping into the same gutter as David.
I. A Pursuit into the Gutter
David found himself pursuing happiness as he took pleasure in looking over the capital city of the nation over which God had made him king. He had numerous victorious battles behind him; and even while he strolled, his generals were waging another successful campaign. Sometimes he went into war with them and other times he did not. Strolling on the roof of his palace and forgetting that his generals were at war was not his sin. His sin was going down a mental road to find his own happiness while forgetting God’s law.
From the height of his palace he looked down on the city and saw something that he thought would bring him happiness, so he pursued his pleasure. His pursuit of pleasure unchecked by God’s law lead him into the unthinkable: adultery, lying and murder. At each evil step he was seeking to gain his own personal happiness. His running after happiness was so fast and furious that he didn’t have time to think about God. A pastor who took the first step that David took once told me he never thought it would happen to him, but then it did.
As we look at this dark episode of David’s life, we need to trace what happened and say with the well-worn poem:
Sin will take you farther than you’d go
Sin will keep you longer than you ever thought you’d stay
Sin will cost more than you ever thought you’d pay.
II. Unchecked Pursuits Are Evil Things
So why is God telling all this? Why does he give us all the details? Couldn’t He just summarize this part of David’s life? It is vital to see God’s comment on the act in verse 27. This is not just a series of events, for this scene ends with God referring to the wicked drama as “the thing.” Certainly there are steps and individual acts, but God puts them all together and calls it, “the thing.” Which “thing” was God talking about: lust, adultery, lying or murder? The thing God is shouting to us through the harshness of David’s story of sin is that the pursuit of happiness unchecked by God’s law is evil.
Have you been in any gutters recently? Just what were you going after?