Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sermon: Amnon and Tamar

Amnon and Tamar

Mount Pleasant was rocked this week by the news that the star QB of the high school football team along with two of his friends was arrested for allegedly having relations with a 12 year old girl. The boys were ages 16, 17 and 18, and since all three of them were with her, it is unclear who the father of the child was. According to reports, the acts were consensual, but since the girl was under age it is considered rape nonetheless.

This is a horrible story on so many levels. The oldest of the boys is such a good football player several SEC schools were interested in him, including UT, Vandy, and UK. Instead of earning a scholarship that might give him a chance at a good education and a good life, he is facing up to 25 years in prison. And what sort of life is the young girl facing? She is already sexually active – this is not even a story about teen sexual activity – she’s not even a teenager. But before her 13th birthday she’s already had multiple sexual partners and now, tragically, an abortion.

As I have read about the story, painful questions arise. What kind of boys think a girl barely out of grade school is a sexual play toy? And what kind of environment must this girl live in to allow herself to be used like this? Does she have parents, or brothers or sisters, anyone to look out for her? And the worst thought of all to consider is whether she may have initiated these encounters. It is a sad commentary on the state of our sex-obsessed culture that we must acknowledge that even grade school kids can be immoral.

Sexual sin is never pleasant to preach on, but it is particularly distasteful when children are involved. To discuss such tawdry matters is frankly a challenge in an assembly like this. On the one hand, we have lots of little kids who have no idea such horrible things take place, and I don’t want to prematurely expose them to the ugly realities of life. But on the other hand, we need to speak plainly and pointedly about moral purity and prepare our young ladies and gentlemen to live lives of holiness in an ungodly age.

So I will my best to address this issue with sensitivity and tact, but at the same time I have concluded that if I am to err at all, it will be on the side of frankness.
There is a story in the Bible that is every bit as distasteful as the what happened in Mount Pleasant this week, and I want to look at it more closely to understand the how things like this happen. It is the story of Amnon and Tamar found in 2 Samuel 13.

I.    Background

A.   Before we turn to 2 Sam. 13, we need to go back to 2 Sam. 11, because the story of Amnon and Tamar is really the outworking of what took place there.
1.    In 2 Sam. 11 David committed his most outrageous sin, taking Bathsheba- the wife of one of his mighty men, Uriah the Hittite- for himself, the covering up his adultery with the conspiracy to murder Uriah.
2.    In the next chapter, the prophet Nathan confronted David with his sin, which – true to his character as a man after God’s own heart – David immediately confessed.
3.    Though he was forgiven, David was going to bear certain conseuqences for his scandalous actions, spelled out by Nathan in 12:10-14:
a.    Verse 10 – the sword would never depart David’s house. Instead of enjoying a life of peace, prosperity and ease in his declining years, David would be a perpetual warrior.
b.    According to verse 11a, some of the enemies David would have to fight would be his own family, who would do everything they could to humiliate him publicly (11b-12).
c.    And finally, in verse 14, David learns that the son conceived with Bathsheba would die.

B.   So the story of Amnon and Tamar is not an isolated, random narrative about the sinful exploits of a spoiled prince.
1.    Instead, it is the opening act in the drama of the unraveling of David’s house, sets the stage for David’s son Absalom to turn the sword against him.
2.    We never know what impact our choices will have on other, but we need to be aware that our choices will indeed affect others, and in no area is that more the case than in how we behave morally.

C.    As we turn to the account of Amnon and Tamar, I want us to keep three questions before us:
1.    Who did he listen to?
2.    How did he view women?
3.    What damage did he cause?

II. Amnon and Tamar

A.   The plot with Jonadab (13:1-6).
1.    I have not yet actually formally introduced Amon and Tamar, so let’s learn more about them – 13:1.
a.    David had many wives, and children with each of them (see 2 Sam. 3).
b.    By one wife he had Absalom, and by another Amnon, making them half-brothers. Amnon was older (according to 3:2), and therefore was first in line for the throne
c.    Absalom also had a sister, “a beautiful sister” who name was Tamar.
d.    The end of verse 1 contains the shocking statement that Amnon loved his half-sister, something the Law of Moses specifically prohibited (Lev. 20:17).
2.    In contrast to Amnon who desires are in explicit contradiction to the Law (13:2a), Tamar was obedient to the Law, a virgin whose purity was unassailable – 13:2b.
3.    Seems like an impasse – until a third character enters the story, a cousin of Amnon’s named Jonadab – 13:3a.
a.    Normally wisdom is a good quality, but when it perverted and used for evil, as in the case of Jonadab (13:3b), it becomes diabolical.
b.    And once he learns of Amnon’s distress (13:4), he concocts a plot – 13:5.
c.    We have no way of knowing whether Jonadab intended for Amnon to maneuver his sister to be alone with him in order to seduce her or to actually force himself on her, but either way Amnon followed his counsel – 13:6.
4.    So let’s answer question #1: who did Amnon listen to? He listened to someone who encouraged him to be immoral.
a.    What Jonadab should have said is Amnon you are crazy, she’s your sister and according to the Law (not to mention common decency) you have no business pursuing her.
b.    But obviously, Jonadab did not respect the law of God, and undeniably cunning, he aided and abetted his cousin in a sinister plan to satisfy his illicit lust.
c.    Who do you listen to? To people who are wise in the Lord, who are convicted by truth and will stand up to you and tell you when you are wrong, or do you listen to your friends who do not love Christ, who are clever, but  ungodly?
d.    I can imagine the three kids who were arrested last week urging each other on. None of the three spoke and up said that what they were doing was crazy and wicked.
e.    The Bible warns is in 1 Cor. 15:33 not to be deceived – evil companions corrupt good morals.
f.     Parents, who do you let your kids hang out with? What messages do you let them listen to in music, TV, movies, games, social media?
g.    If you listen to the Jonadab’s of this world, don’t be surprised when the police show up at your school to take you away in handcuffs.

B.   The assault on Tamar (13:7-14).
1.    Tamar was an obedient and respectful daughter, so much so that when her father told her to go to Amnon and make some food for him, she did – 13:7.
2.    This unassuming young lady went to Amnon’s residence and made him a treat – 13:8.
a.    This word “cakes” in Heb. literally means “heart,” and most likely refers to cakes made in the shape of a heart.
b.    When I think about how sweet it was for Tamar to make these cute little cakes in light of what Amnon is about to do to her, it just makes the entire story that much more disgusting.
3.    When she was done, Amnon sent everyone away, and executed his devious plot – 13:10-11.
4.    As a woman of honor, Tamar immediately refused, and tried to reason with her wicked brother-
a.    First, she said “such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing” – 13:12.
i        In fact, there really is only one point of reference for Amnon is doing, and that is when the pagan named Shechem forced himself on the daughter of Jacob, Dinah, where the same language is used (Gen. 34:7).
ii      Amnon is acting like a Canaanite!
b.    Second, she said that laying with her would bring unbearable shame upon her, and make him look like a fool – 13:13a.
c.    And finally, she told him to speak to David, to delay gratification just long enough to see if the king would make some special dispensation for them to be together – 13:13b.
5.    But there is no reasoning with someone who is driven by lust rather than logic. I will let the horror of the words in 13:14 speak for themselves.
6.    Question #2: How did Amnon view women? As a person to love – no! As an object to use – 13:15.
a.    Do you think the three boys in Mount Pleasant saw in that young lady someone made in God’s image, a fellow heir of the grace of life, a young lady who deserved respect and dignity? Of course not. And to whatever extent she was complicit, the bottom line is that she was merely an object for them to pass around for the own evil indulgence.
b.    We now have a cottage industry of novels which portray women as the objects of the vilest kind of sadistic sexual perversion, purely objectified for the pleasure of men.
c.    Meanwhile girls as young as 5 or 6 are being treated for eating disorders because our culture is sending the message that a girl is only worth as much as her body.
d.    As one counselor says, The early and over-sexualization of our girls is creating young women who have shattered self-images and a disproportionate over-emphasis on their sexuality” (Christy Singleton, Girls need the right message about their bodies, The Tennessean 2 October 2012).
e.    Men, when we look at pornography, we are dehumanizing women, treating them as things rather than human beings. God created women to love, cherish, protect, serve, not to demean and exploit for our own perverse gratification.
f.     If you have the right view of women, you will make the same covenant Job did in 31:1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes;
how then could I gaze at a virgin?”
g.    Young ladies, if a guy makes a play for you and tells you how much he loves you while trying to entice you to do what’s wrong, learn from the story of Tamar. He does not love you – he loves himself and hates you!  A man who loves you wants you to be your most spiritually beautiful. He wants what is best for you, just like Christ.

C.    Shame and Death (13:16-22, 28-29).
1.    Now that Amnon has violated his sister, he is required by the Law to marry her and can never send her away. But do you think he cares about God’s law? – 13:16-17.
2.    This young woman’s life s shattered. In Israelite society she would be considered damaged goods, and it is unlikely anyone would ever marry her.
a.    She is marked for life, and to symbolize that, she rips the robe signifying her status as a virgin – 13:18-19a.
b.    Amnon has taken something from her she can never recover, her purity. In our day that’s not such a big deal, but for her, it was devastating, and she mourns its loss – 13:19b.
3.    Absalom figures out what happened, and takes her in to live with him – 13:20.
a.    In a way he provides her with what a husband should have, a place to live and be cared for.
b.    And if you look at 14:27, he even ensures that her name will live on.
c.    But each time he called for his daughter, it was a painful reminder of what happened to his sister, and his father’s failure to act.
4.    David did nothing to punish Amnon.
a.    Oh, he’s angry, as any father would be – 13:21.
b.    But what can he say? You shouldn’t try to sleep with women you have no right to? You shouldn’t conspire to take what is not yours? He was completely compromised.
5.    Absalom, though, isn’t paralyzed like David.
a.    At first it seems like he isn’t doing anything – two years elapsed according to 13:23.
b.    But Absalom hated his brother for what he had done – 13:22, and plotted his revenge by inviting Amnon to a party – 13:28-29.
c.    These actions would make it impossible for Absalom to stay home, so he fled to his grandfather’s, and remained in exile for three years (13:37-38).
6.    The final question – what damage did Amnon cause?
a.    Think of the destruction Amnon left in his wake. His sister – resigned to a life of loneliness and desolation. His own life – cut down by vengeful brother. Absalom – wheels set in motion for the ultimately fatal showdown with David. David – heartbroken as the words of Nathan were painfully fulfilled in the shattered ruins of his family.
b.     If you are sexually immoral you are not only self-destructive, you destroy the lives of others.
c.    What is the future of that young girl? Of these boys?
7.    Listen to the warning of Paul in 1 Thess. 4:3-6:
a.    First of all I want to be clear – the reason we should be pure is not because we might get a STD, not because we might have an unplanned pregnancy, not because we might get arrested. It’s because God expects us to be holy! People who know God ought to live like it.
b.    But we should take into account that when we are immoral we are defrauding someone else, and we should love others rather than take advantage of them.
c.    And most of all, we need to realize that if we are able to elude every possible consequence, “the Lord is an avenger in all these things.”

 This is an ugly story, because the Bible tells the truth and the truth about sin is that it is ugly. But we must always remember that God specializes in working through the ugliest situations and using them to do wonderful things. Yes, David’s sin with Bathsheba set his family on a collision course with tragedy. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Matthew 1:6 includes in the list of Jesus’ geneaology this detail: “And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” Through the pain and disgrace of David’s mistakes God was still committed to working to bring the world the Son of David, the King who would save His people from their sins. God can bring grace to bear even in a horrible mess like what’s happening in Mount Pleasant. He can do the same for any of you who may feel like your story is too shameful, too prurient, too scandalous. And we invite you to embrace His powerful grace.  

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