Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sermon -- 4th Sunday after Pentecost (July 7, 2019)

2 SAMUEL 11:26 – 12:10,13-15


In the name + of Jesus.

     With Independence Day upon us, it is an easy time to get patriotic.  And it is a good thing to pray for our country and for its leaders.  The Bible encourages us to do just that.  The Bible, however, does not ask us to ignore that our leaders do not always act according to his word.  It should come as no surprise that all our leaders are sinners.  Some prove it with shameful lives and by promoting wicked causes.  While their sins may be obvious, there is nothing particularly noble about sitting on one's high horse and sneering at other people.  And there is nothing particularly artful about being outraged at someone else's faults.  It usually means that we are ignoring our own.
     There are very few rulers who go through life scandal-free.  That was true even for the likes of King David.  David was described as a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).  Still, David was a man of sinful flesh, and he proved it in a most shameful way.  When his army was out to battle, David was attracted to the wife of one of his officers who had been deployed.  The result of his illicit affair with Bathsheba was that she got pregnant.  In an effort to cover up his scandal, David arranged to have her husband, Uriah, killed in battle.  This was not collateral damage which happens in war.  Uriah's death was the battle plan.  After Uriah was killed, David took Bathsheba into the royal palace and made her his wife.  I don't know if there were rumors of scandal flying around Jerusalem or not, but God's opinion of the whole matter is spelled out clearly: The thing that David had done displeased the LORD. (2 Samuel 11:27)
     Therefore, the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David to expose his sin and to call him to repent.  When Nathan told the parable about the rich man who stole and slaughtered the lamb of the poor man, David was enraged at such a merciless act.  David unwittingly proclaimed the sentence against himself: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die... because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” (2 Samuel 12:5-6)  
     It is always easier to see the faults of others than our own.  We are not really too bothered by our own faults.  We give our sinful flesh whatever it craves in order to find happiness and satisfaction for ourselves.  And we believe that all is well as long as no one gets hurt or no one finds out or if our friends say it is okay.  We can get drunk or stoned on our free time.  We can watch porn with the curtains drawn.  It doesn't matter who we go to bed with; that's our private business.  Abortion becomes a form of birth control as long as you can convince yourself that what is aborted is not a baby.  This reasoning is used to excuse sins—in fact to insist that they are not sins at all.  Repent.  Evil is not determined by who gets hurt or by who finds out or if society says it is okay.
     The Lord confronted David about his sin through the prophet Nathan.  God granted Nathan the courage to confront his king.  There was always the danger of David lashing out against Nathan, saying, “You have no place to challenge the king.  Whatever the king does is royal business.  It is not your business.”  And while we are not kings, we do try to claim sovereignty over everything we do.  Whether motivated by shame, anger, or stubborn resistance about our sins, we are quick to rail against a pastor or a fellow Christian: “Mind your own business.  Stay away from me.  What I do in my own home or on my own time is nobody's business but mine!”  This is a lie.  You are not your own.  Your actions and attitudes may not be criminal, but neither are they harmless.  Most significantly, in all that you and I do, we are accountable to God Most High, King of heaven and earth.  Dealing with sins is royal business.
     When the Lord confronted David, he could have gone through a long checklist of the ways David's sins affected other people: He impregnated another man's wife and destroyed their marriage.  He ended Uriah's life.  He stole Bathsheba's husband from her.  He emboldened all his subjects to copy his rebellion against God.  He brought international scorn against the Lord since people from foreign nations would regard the Lord as a god not to be taken seriously.  And all of those things would have been true.  But this is the main charge Nathan issued: “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7)  You are the one who acted so mercilessly.  You are condemned by your own judgment.  “Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Samuel 12:9)  
     Dealing with sins is royal business.  The King of the universe, the creator of mankind, has every right to say how life is to be lived, since he is the one who gives it.  God is good, and his word establishes what is good.  Still, we rebel and do what is evil.  And you cannot insist that your sins do not harm anyone else, because they do.  By your sins, you embolden others to sin against God.  After all, if God's people don't take God's word seriously, why should anyone else?  Even if no one knows about your sins, such as your thoughts, God does know.  And he asks you through the prophet Nathan: “Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Samuel 12:9)  Every sin—no matter how shameful, no matter how scandalous, no matter how secret—is a despising of God's word.  Repent.
     Dealing with sin is royal business.  David may have been a king, but God's word reduced him to nothing.  David did not invoke his royal status against Nathan, suggesting God's word applied to him differently.  There were no excuses.  David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Samuel 12:13)  And immediately, God's prophet absolved David.  Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13)   
     Just as David did not excuse his sin, neither did the Lord.  Nathan's absolution was not, “Oh, it's okay, David.”  It was not okay.  David had acted wickedly against God and against his neighbors.  Dealing with sin is royal business, and so the King of heaven and earth dealt with David's sin himself.
     The King of heaven and earth humbled himself to be a servant.  He became a man to serve us in our need.  In his service to us, Jesus took our sins away from us so that we are not condemned for them.  If you want to know how God deals with your sins, look to the crucified Savior who hangs on a cross for you.  There, Jesus dealt with your wickedness, your guilt, and your rebellion against God's word.  There, Jesus suffered God's judgment against all who have defied his commands.  There, Jesus swallowed the cup of God's wrath and endured the torments of hell for you.  For the sake of Jesus who shed his blood in your place, God has issued his royal decree: You are pardoned of all sins and offenses.  God's wrath has been taken away from you, and you are now under God's favor.  You have been brought into God's kingdom which is ruled by grace and peace and life.
     It ought to be understood what forgiveness is and what it is not.  Forgiveness is the royal decree that your sins are pardoned and that God's curse has been lifted for the sake of Jesus.  This is God's word and promised to you.  By it, you shall live forever in his kingdom.  But God's forgiveness does not mean that the consequences of your sins are taken away.  Uriah did not come back from the dead.  The scorn of the nations did not go away.  In the same way, the fallout from your sins may never go away in this lifetime.  Relationships may never be restored.  Debt may plague you for a long time.  You may fight against your addiction for the rest of your life.  Regrets may haunt you until you go to your grave.  But do not misunderstand: While consequences may not be taken away, your guilt most certainly has.  The absolution which Nathan proclaimed to David applies also to you who are in Christ: “The LORD ... has put away your sin.” (2 Samuel 12:13)
     Dealing with sin is royal business.  God has made it his business to save you, to take away your sin, to mark you for the resurrection to eternal life, and to bring you in his kingdom forevermore.  Since you are God's business, you are God's redeemed.  The King of heaven and earth has decreed it to be so.  And therefore, it stands forever.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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