Sermon from 2-25-2015 Wednesday Lenten Service.
The Penitent King David
Grace, Mercy and Peace are YOURS this day from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN.
The season of Lent is a “penitential season,” a time for us to contemplate the reality of our lives as sinners in a fallen world rescued by the work of Jesus in His life, death and resurrection for us.
The first of Martin Luther’s 95 theses deal with the idea of penitance – or repentance – saying, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said ‘Repent’, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” Our life as “penitent believers” then is a life-long repentance – a turning back from our inward desires that lead to sin and misery in the world and a turning toward God, receiving His mercy, and living the new life He gives to us through Jesus.
This is why our Lord Jesus doesn’t stop when He says, “Repent,” but He goes on to say, “Believe the Gospel.” Because it is through the Gospel that we are restored and recreated so that we can even begin to change and live a new life in Christ.
Our need for repentance doesn’t end with our baptism – it isn’t completed in our confirmation – and it isn’t done away with by merely confessing our sins. Our life of repentance is ultimately a despair of our selves and our own abilities – and a trust in our God who, in Christ, has rescued us and restored us to a right and proper relationship to Himself.
This Lenten season, we are going to look at how God has portrayed His activity in the lives of His beloved children by looking at a number of specific people whose lives are revealed from God’s point of view in the Holy Scriptures.
The first is King David.
When we consider these two chapters of 2 Samuel, we often focus on David’s adultery with Bathsheba. But when we consider the account in full, we see that this act is not the most significant part of the story. And while some 3500 years later, we like to pharisaically wag our finger at David’s infidelity and pray, “Thank God that I’m not like David who committed adultery and murder,” we miss the fact that, indeed, we are very much like King David – sinners – who, unless God keeps and preserves us from acting on our sinful urges and inclinations, would do precisely what David did, and even worse, if given the right motivation and opportunity.
As we consider the whole series of events in this sad chapter of David’s life, we see that David’s problems did not begin with Bathsheba. David’s problems began when he gave up the responsibilities that God had given him when he placed him into office as King.
God had raised up David to be King of Israel. He had called him out of the field where he shepherded sheep, and made him a shepherd of God’s people. We would rightly say that God put David in the VOCATION of king. God placed David, one of the chosen children of Israel, a descendant of Jacob, on the throne to lead His people. This was David’s station – his role – dare I say, David’s purpose – to serve those around Him whom God had placed into His care by being their King.
Now, this role has certain responsibilities – so, thus, by placing David into this role, God gave to David those responsibilities. One of those responsibilities – one of those duties – was to lead as a king in battle.
But we read that David pushed back against the hand of God who had made him King. Rather than living up to his responsibilities carrying out what God had given him to do, David shirked his duty as king. He remained behind in the palace instead of leading his army into battle as was the duty of kings in that day.
His selfishness and his pride – his thinking that those duties were somehow “beneath” him is what we are told begins his downward spiral which results in all manner of chaos not just for David but for the entire Kingdom.
And so it is with us. God places each of us in the stations of life in which we find ourselves. As father or mother, as son or daughter, student, teacher, friend, employer, employee – even citizen and neighbor. Each of these God given stations has responsibilities – duties associated with them.
Through these, the curb of God’s Law works to protect and preserve us from evil to keep us from acting out of our own sinful desire to hurt and harm our neighbor.
These vocations make demands on us – they demand our time. They demand our energy. And what do we do? We behave like King David. His vocation made demands on his time and energy as well. According to his vocation as king, he was to be with his men – out in the field of battle. He was to plan and strategize with his commanders. He was to lead them on the battlefield.
And instead, David sent Joab and his servants and all Israel, and then plops himself down on his couch – to follow his own fancies and desires.
And it’s here that those desires take hold. Hidden from David’s thinking at this time was what he later confessed in the Psalm that we read, “I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
The responsibilities and duties of his vocation as king would have kept David from falling. Just like the vocations and duties that God gives to us are themselves a gift given to us to keep our sinful nature in check – They give us the means and show us clearly how to love and serve those around us according to God’s will.
The responsibilities David that had as king were a graceful means by which God sought to keep David out of danger and temptation. But David rebelled. He pushed back against God’s grace and mercy. In a sense, David jumped the curb to go joy-riding.
The same is a risk for us – anytime we step out of our vocation and the God-given responsibilities associated with them. We risk slipping headlong into sin whenever we love ourselves and forget or set aside our God given responsibilities to serve our neighbor. Whether it’s husbands loving their wives to the point of giving up their own lives or wives honoring and submitting to be loved by their husbands or if it parents failing to raise up their children with discipline and the Gospel – or a clear breaking of any of the commandments. In each instance, we jump over the curbs God has placed in our lives in our vocation to keep us on the straight and narrow – those things given by God to keep society functioning well for the benefit of us and all those around us. Without God curbing our inward desires through His Law, the sin that dwells within would overflow. This sin would lead us to destroy God’s good and perfect creation, it would cause us to hurt and harm our neighbor and destroy society at large.
We see in David how slippery the slope is once we turn our back on fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the stations into which God has placed us.
David failed to accompany Israel into battle. His sense of self-importance and arrogance kept him from doing what God had given, and so he sought out other ways to occupy his time.
The old adage goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground,” and we see this as it happened one afternoon, when David arose from his couch – where he shouldn’t have been in the first place and He went for an aimless stroll on the roof of the king’s palace instead of striving against God’s enemies on the battlefield.
Bored and with nothing better to do, David looks down and sees Bathsheba – and the inborn lust inflamed him, it overwhelmed him.
Even here, though, God had provided David with a curb to keep his sinful flesh in check. David was already a husband – many times over – in fact. So, within his vocation, even though sin had inflamed his passion, David still had a God given way to satisfy his bodily urges. St. Paul says, “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. . . . Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
But David jumps the curb of his responsibilities as husband and from the inward root of sin, his passion and desire overflows so that he has his way with Uriah’s wife while – while Uriah is out fighting the war in David’s place.
That’s one of the ironies of this particular account. King David is the lowlife. God’s appointed and elected King is shown as the sinful villian – and a non-Israelite – a Hittite who as supposed to be put to the sword and destroyed by the Israelites – is the honorable and righteous one.
In some ways, this foreigner is the Christ figure – Uriah is honorable – upright – dutiful – gives up carnal pleasures and seeks to fulfill his duty without wavering and without compromise. Though as a man, we know Uriah must have been a sinner, there is no record of his sin in Scripture. Instead, Uriah is a righteous and upright man murdered unjustly by David’s sin – just as, Jesus, the Holy and Righteous lamb of God is murdered on account of our sin.
When David calls Uriah back from the battlefield in an effort to cover up his sin, Uriah does not give up his vocation as devoted servant to His king. Rather than enjoying the creature-comforts of home as David expected, Uriah never even enters his own home, but sleeps among the servants, until he is sent back to the battlefield. Listen to His response when David asks why he does not go home, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in tents and my master 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.”
Compare the attitude of this foreigner with the attitude St. Paul encourages the Philippian Church to have: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
David tries everything to appeal to Uriah’s own interests and his own desires. He even gets Uriah drunk – to weaken his resolve and to decrease his strength of character so that Uriah will go be with his wife. And when this conspiracy to cover his sin by his own cunning and craftiness doesn’t work, David hatches a new plan. He will murder Uriah by the hand of his enemies and has Uriah carry his own death warrant back to his commanding officer.
Notice how one sin – his failure to carry out his duty as king, has now led to lust and covetous desire and adultery and even a plan to murder – all in service to David’s pride and arrogance by which he made himself God and the arbiter of right and wrong.
When Joab executes Uriah according to David’s command by the hand of the Ammonites, David thinks nobody will know – nobody will find out – nobody will realize what he has done. In fact, he tries to make himself look honorable and righteous by bringing Uriah’s wife into the palace.
And the thing that David had done, displeased the Lord.
There’s the understatement of the millenium. David had jumped every curb. He had put himself into every compromising situation possible. He had ignored God’s Word and His command, had committed adultery and finally murder, and now, through a pious show of right had stolen Uriahs widow to be his own as if he were bestowing some great favor upon Uriah and his household by doing so – when in actuality, David was a conniving weasle.
And, no doubt, David thought He got away with it. Uriah’s wife was his own, he would have a child by her as his wife – and he looked like the beneficient king who took in the poor pregnant widow of a war hero.
Notice how sin had completely taken hold of David. He was not worried about being found out. He was unconcerned for breaking God’s law – and he had no regard at all for his kingdom.
And here is where God’s love, mercy and grace toward David shines brightly. God is not content to allow David to walk away. God desired that David would repent and receive forgiveness. God desired that David would be restored to a right relationship with Him.
And so God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David – to lay bare David’s sin so that David could clearly see His despicable behavior. Nathan points the accusing finger of God’s law and says, “YOU ARE THE MAN.” And David is brought to repentance.
Notice that David doesn’t manufacture this repentance – it isn’t something that David initiates or begins. It isn’t even because of the terrible consequences of his sin that David is contrite and sorrowful. Rather, he sees only his sin – and David is terrified – because David knows that he, himself, deserves the sentence of death he had previously pronounced was due to the man who acted so horribly toward his neighbor.
“I have sinned against the Lord,” said David.
Uriah was a casualty of David’s war with God. Bathsheba, likewise, was stripped of her husband, because David had rebelled against God and his God given vocation as king.
This is true repentance – a repentance that is sorrowful not merely for the consequences of sin – but looks at the sin itself and utterly hates and despises the fact that it was done. “I HAVE SINNED” says David. And His sin was not against Uriah, not against Bathsheba, not against the Nation which he led, it was against God.
This is the case for all of us. Yes, our choices have consequences – and the consequences of David’s sin would be severe. The child conceived by him in Bathsheba would die. His own wives would be defiled in his sight and in the sight of all Israel.
But none of this prompted David to confess. For our sin against God we deserve nothing but death and eternal damnation. But it is not our fear of this that ought to terrify us – it is the fact that our God has done and continues to do everything for us to rescue us, to restore us, and to keep us from that fate – and we have constantly and heedlessly jumped over the curbs of His boundaries and sought our own pleasure in rebellion against Him.
But hear Nathan’s words to David, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” God in Christ has reconciled you to Himself. Christ Jesus has born the penalty in your place, suffering the death you deserve and bestowing upon you His perfect righteousness and holiness. Because of Jesus, YOU shall not die – your sin is put away – taken upon Jesus’ shoulders to the cross.
“NEVER-THE-LESS” – says Nathan.
Wait – I thought the sin was covered – that’s it right? God can’t punish me – he already punished Jesus.
Yes. Nevertheless, God loves you. And he doesn’t want you to make the same mistakes again. Likewise, God loves your neighbor – and all those around you, He doesn’t want them to follow your example and suffer harm because of it.
Therefore, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Says our Lord Jesus in His letter to the Church in Laodacia. And again, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” He says in the book of Proverbs. Commenting on this, the inspired author of the letter to the Hebrews writes: “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, . . . then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
“The Lord has put away your sin,” Nevertheless – the Lord loves you and your neighbor.
King David not just any conniving weasle – but he is the king and leader of God’s chosen people. There is no doubt that there were in the palace many who knew the truth. And it was just as hard in those days to keep a secret if you are a person of power and influence as it is in our own. So there was certainly no way to keep this completely under wraps.
Imagine if all of David’s subjects followed his example. If your neighbor has a beautiful wife – it’s OK to simply overpower her with your status and influence and have your way with her. And, if she becomes pregnant and you can’t find a way to cover it up, simply find a secret way to off your neighbor and take her to be your own wife. David’s behavior endorsed this as an acceptable way to live.
And, in our sin, we do the same. Our neighbor watches and sees. They learn and knowing we follow God, they learn what is acceptable and beneficial by seeing our example.
The son born by Bathsheba would die – before David could bring him into God’s covenant family through circumcision. Yet, David does not lose hope in God’s grace and mercy. He fasts and prays that God would graciously permit the child to live. Yet, when the child dies, David is not embittered or angry at God. He knows that this death serves as a means by which God warns others who may consider following David’s example. It conclusively shows there is no blessing in what David did. It testifies in no uncertain terms that what David did was wrong that his behavior is unacceptable and ought not be followed.
David accepts the consequence as coming from God, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
This is also the mark of true penitence.
A haughty attitude that demands that God deal with us in a certain way or do a certain thing (except when God specifically promises it), is a rebellious attitude that still is at war with God.
What God has promised is forgiveness and salvation in Jesus – that on account of Jesus – your sins won’t follow you to the grave and you will not bare the punishment for themselves
In Your baptism, Christ has, indeed, washed you whiter than snow, and though you would dirty the white robe of Christ’s righteousness by your sin, He promises to cleanse you and restore you.
Even when he crushes your spirit under the weight of His rebuke of your sin, He desires that you would hear joy and be glad that He has pursued you. For the blood of Christ blots out all your iniquities and in Christ your sins are hidden from God’s sight.
For Christ has born them for you, you have peace with God. He brings you His Word and He gives you His body and Blood to fill you again with His Holy Spirit, first given in your baptism in order to give you hope and faith and trust in the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting…. all in the Name of Jesus. AMEN.