Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
People always say there are three things you shouldn’t talk about in public, politics, religion and money. It’s a shame. They are such fascinating and exciting topics. Why would you want to steer away from them? If you really want to bring about spirited conversation with friends, why not ask somebody about their personal finances or their take home pay? I actually have discovered a fourth forbidden topic. Sin. Yes, if you want to clear a path to the hors d’oeuvre table just mention sin.
Surprisingly, people love to talk about someone else’s sin. They just don’t want to talk about their own. As the commentator Kent Hughes said, “We find it so easy to turn a microscope on another person’s sin, but we look at ours through the wrong end of a telescope.” We enjoy the misspelling and misappropriated use of sin. In one Sunday morning bulletin it was announced, “The rosebud on the altar this morning is in honor of the birth of David Allan Belzer, the sin of Rev and Mrs. Julius Belzer.” Or, “Our organist is inviting all members of the church who enjoy sinning to join the choir. They need all the help they can get.” For King David, however, sin was a topic to be avoided.
As we heard last week in the first half of the story, David was the perfect candidate for temptation, sin and the abuse of power. He was vulnerable, self-indulgent and lacking accountability to others. Plus, he was at the pinnacle of success. And so, in the springtime of the year when kings went off to war, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. One day he saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, innocently sunbathing, and he knew what he wanted. He sent for her. Several months later through the Temple grapevine, he heard word that Bathsheba was pregnant. The king was stunned. He had broken two of the ten commandment he had brought into the city to honor and defend. Well, David might not have been able to control the pregnancy, but he thought he could at least control who people thought the father was.
The subsequent story of Bathsheba and the death of her husband Uriah underscored David’s mighty fall. David tried to cover up the pregnancy by ordering Uriah back to Jerusalem for rest and relaxation, perhaps with his wife. But Uriah refused to abandon his responsibilities and remained steadfast to his charge as a soldier and loyal to the king. David then tried to get the soldier drunk, but again Uriah was honorable. David was so infuriated by Uriah’s moral righteousness and his ability to foil his plan, that he conspired with commander Joab to assure Uriah’s death on the battlefield. Poor Uriah carried in his own hand his death sentence written by David, so calculating and deceitful had David’s sin become.
Not surprisingly, there is no mention of David mourning the loss of Uriah one of Israel’s best soldiers. Instead, he dismissed the death as a regrettable, collateral damage. “War is war.” No, there was no remorse and no shame on David’s part. When Bathsheba’s mourning was over, he married her. It was expedient to end of the stories and rumors. Yet soon we read, that this thing that David had done had displeased the Lord, and the Lord sent Nathan to David to discuss that fourth dreaded topic. Sin.
Of course, there are many today who dismiss sin as nothing more than an inconvenient truth. Sin shouldn’t be all that embarrassing, and the world certainly doesn’t need prophets to remind them of their failings. Even the Bible found a way to minimize David’s sin. In the Books of Chronicles which mirrors the events of 2 Samuel, the story of Bathsheba and Uriah is left out altogether. Still others have blunted the bite of sin by making their tryst into a tragic love story. In the 1951 film, David and Bathsheba, starring Susan Hayward and Gregory Peck, the audience is led to believe that whatever happened between David and Bathsheba wasn’t sin, because they really needed one another. David was the sensitive, reflective king who just wanted to be loved for who he really was. Bathsheba was the lonely wife of an over-dedicated soldier. They fell in love, and love can’t be wrong, or at least not very wrong. That is how many have chosen to regard sin these days.
That, however, is not how God views sin, and so Nathan was sent to confront the King. David’s sin was wrong and his deeds were unacceptable to God. David welcomed Nathan at the palace door and then the prophet began to tell the king about a rich man who had stolen a poor man’s only lamb and had slaughtered it for dinner. The king was enraged. “What? Who is this man? Tell me, and I’ll arrest him.” The prophet Nathan pointed at King David, and said, “You are the man.” David had abused the privilege of the royal rooftop which God had entrusted to him. He saw what he wanted, and he took it, because he could. He was sure no one was watching. But God was watching, from a higher “rooftop.” Nathan reminded David of all the things God had done for him, and how much more he would have done, but instead, David had allowed temptation and sin to take hold of his life.
Now you may be wondering, so why does God want us to see our sin? It is because God knows how sin can tear apart the very fabric of our lives apart leaving nothing but ruined, broken stands. Most of us, however, don’t receive a personal messenger from God. The voices are much more familiar; a child on the end of phone, “Daddy, you missed my piano recital-again.” It’s waking up in a holding tank in a county jail, or hearing your spouse, questioning, why you have come home so late?
David’s response to Nathan may seem far too short and staged, “I have sinned against the Lord,” but there is something powerful and healing in those words. It is cry and prayer, just as poignant and comforting for great and grievous sinners like King David, as it is for minor league sinners, like you and me, who can barely say, “Lord, there is a slight possibility that I might have done some of these evil things, although it is not very likely. But if I have, then forgive them.”
Regardless of your sin, my friends, you can echo David’s plaintive cry, “I have sinned against the Lord.” It is the cry of one has been brought face to face with their own personal human failing, and a belief that only God has the power to make this right. It is a recognition that no human act can erase the stain caused by personal sin. Only God’s act of forgiveness can wipe the slate clean. Yes, only God can make things right again and create a new and clean heart.
The invitation to engage in heartfelt confession, however, is easier said than done. Even pastors have been told in recent years to follow the axiom of “do no harm.” We are told to beware of the underscoring the nature of sin and the years of heartache it causes. More often than not, the wisest course of action is simply to do follow the example of Nathan. Let the sinner see their error by finding parallels in other stories.
The story of David and Nathan teaches us that King David was forgiven for his egregious sin, but he still had to live with its consequences. That first born child died, Bathsheba would one day conspire against David, his own son Absalom would betray him, and the kingdom David had fought to unite would be divided in two. And yet, the surprise and the promise in the whole of the Old Testament is this. In spite of his sin and his failings King David is remembered as “a man after God’s own heart.” He was forgiven. He would defeat the enemies he had avoided when the soldiers went to war. David and Bathsheba’s second son Solomon would be known as the wisest of kings, and he would build the Temple for the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem. Jesus himself, as David’s descendent, would be honored as he entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as the Son of David. Yes, King David confessed his sin openly and pleaded for God’s mercy, knowing and trusting that God alone could make him new, and create within him a new heart and right spirit. And God was true to his covenant. He would not take his steadfast love and kindness away from David or his descendants.
My friends, we all fall short of living in the steadfast love and mercy of God. Your sins may not be as public and grievous as David’s, but you share the same promise of God’s steadfast love. There may be painful consequences of your actions and words, but God promises to renew you with his love, to wash you of your sins, and to create in you a clean heart and renew within you a right spirit. That is his promise to all who confess, “I have sinned against the Lord.’ Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.