The Story 12
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
A king can, usually, get anything he wants. In the case of David, the shepherd king (supposedly of God) decided, at some point, that what he wanted was another man’s wife. He wanted her and, so (being the king), he sent for her and took her.
There’s not a lot her husband could have done about that, since he was out of town being a faithful soldier in David’s army. I’m not positive how much he could have done about it anyway … since it was the King that wanted her. But he didn’t get the chance. King David … as soon as he craved Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba … sent a servant for her and required her to come and (I guess) submit-to-him whatever it was that he, the King, desired to have of her.
Last week we heard of the nobility of the boy / man who God picked to be His earthly surrogate to reign over His people. Like a shepherd guarding and guiding his sheep, DavidGod chose to beasHe would be to subjects under his charge. Having pulled lambs from the jaws of bears and lions, David became worse than those predators by victimizing two of his own sheep. Putting his own subjects, Uriah and Bathsheba, into his own jaw, King David separated them from the flock, bit down, and began chewing on the flesh that he was supposed to protect. David mauled his own sheep.
He walked his palace roof one spring afternoon … his army off in battle. He, this time, staying behind, David saw a woman bathing on her roof. She wasn’t teasing him … he, as king, had palace view, probably, of much of the city. Happenstance, probably, made this unique site available. David lingered, I guess … enough to lust after and consider his power to have. Discovering that she was a married woman and that her husband was away at war … David decided to steal what, he knew, wasn’t his. Bathsheba was summoned, he had her in his chambers, sent her home, then discovered, later, that he’d impregnated her.
The crime being committed, David began the cover-up. Sending for Uriah to come home, David tried to get him tipsy enough to know his wife while home. Firmly choosing to not enjoy thatuntil his brothers, at war, could know the same, David’s scheme to fool Uriah into thinking that he would be the child’s father didn’t work. Plan two was to get him killed in battle and make that happenquickly so David could (quickly) marry Bathsheba and make the child’s birth legit.
So, we have, here, an adulterer, rapist(I’d say because of the authority he had over her), a schemer, and a murderer. King David had some (not little) cracks in his armor. Last week, we gave him a good bit of credit. This week, disgust-of-him might be more appropriate. About the worst thing we read last week was about David’s somewhat gaudy dancing. This week (and for all the world to shamefully read in Holy Scripture), actions of David are shown criminal andwell-beyond distasteful.
And for an un-approved sacrifice, God withdrew His grace from the first king, Saul. David gets listed in Hebrews’ “Faith Hall of Fame” while Saul (if there were such a thing) would hit the “Hall of Shame”. The difference? “A broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” … and that’s the only difference.
God despised Saul’s sin … but, more, He despised the fact thatSaul did not truly repent of it. Oh, sure, Saul was sorry he’d lost God’s grace. He was sorry about the benefits he lost, but true contrition and brokenness over his offense to God he never got to. He, even, said the words of confession; he, just (in his heart) didn’t mean them as sin which offended God.
This distinction is the reason why we, here, leave time at the beginning of our Divine Service to “get there” in terms of heart-felt contrition and repentance (not, just, lip-service, but heart-rending). God’s favor upon us, or His despising of us, depends entirely (just like it did for these two men) on whether or not we aretruly repentant … contrite to the heart and broken over our offense to God. “Upon this your confession” I say before announcing grace by the forgiveness of sins if sincere. Contingentupona true confession: “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Confession from a repentant heart changes everything in terms of God’s grace granted or withheld. It’s that important!
And that was missed with David for awhile. It took his pastor, Nathan, to convict him of his sin or else he was in jeopardy of losing every ultimate grace God wanted for him. Breaking it to him not so directly, but so that he’d, truly, see the damage of his acts, Nathan told him to judge a man for similardeeds:
“’There were two men in a certain city, [he said], the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.’ Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because hehad no pity.’
“Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the Word of the Lord, to do what is evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.’ And Nathan went to his house.”
First things first: a sin against men is a sin against the Lord … and little or big (by our assessment) … any withheld (not given to break-down our arrogant spirits to seek God’s mercy) … jeopardize grace. God despises unrepentant sin of any size. If you read 1st Samuel’s chapter 15, you may have (like me) thought God a bit too hardon Saul for what seems like such a small thing. If we take away from today’s message anything that makes us OKwith any one of our sins, then we have not been listening … and any one of those seemingly small sins stand to damn us for every ounce of eternal Hell we have, potentially, in store for us if not repented-of. Do not miss that point! “David said, ‘the man who has done this [anything] deserves to die.’” Saul, by his sin, deserved to die … and you and I, by our sin (no matter of what size) deserve to die!
David is a testament to faith because he (first of all) came to know the fact of his sins. He wrote Psalm 51 in the midst of his realization through this sin, but 51 is not his only what’s-called “penitential” bit of writing. Here, though, he said (and you can hear these words coming from the desperation way down in his gut: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love, according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly … [scrub me] from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” This he cries out for, because he goes on that “for I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may [indeed] be justified in Your Words and blameless in Your judgments. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Pouring out yourself honestly to God opens the way to a process whereby He can, then, let you get toknow what He’s like poured out upon you.
By the way, David got to understand, also, that his sin got dumped onto his kids, grand-kids, and so on. If we’re not amply crushed by what we do to ourselves, consider the burden that we pass on to people who we’re supposed to want-only-the-best-for. The people of Israel getting split apart, conquered, and hauled-off to exile with fish-hooks in their mouths … even all that followed because David stood condemned as a sinner.
David also, though, understood grace through forgiveness... and that he passed onto his children, as well. If God will, he said, “purge me with hyssop, I shall be clean”. Grace is undeserved favor, and David knew it. Deserved favordoesn’t exist for man with God. David only understood grace because he knew it, given him, undeserved. And we know that conceptually, but that can’t be just words we say. Too many think Godowes grace to them (that, if He just dealt fairly with us, all would be good, because we deserve good). Nothing could be further from the truth. If anyone wants their rights beforeGod … if any want God to befair with them … then Hell it is, no argument allowed.
But undeserved favor … grace expressed in forgiveness … is God’s gift. It may be (for some of you) that the adultery, rape, scheming, and, even, murder of David doesn’t feel like it beats your stuff. Maybe (for some) you look at his atrocities and excuse them as “just David and God loves David, but He couldn’t love me that much”. Maybe (for whatever reason) you think your sin is too shocking (God, of course, hadn’t seen it all and, still, made the same gracious offer).
Would your sin disgust the rest of us? You know, that’s possible, but then, it’s not our favor that you need … it’s God’s (and He already knows that sin and offers forgiveness-of-it anyway).
See, David was an adulterer, rapist, schemer, and a murder and, yet, God forgave him upon his heart-felt confession. God promised, with him, to “know his sin no more” (even those) … to “cast them as far as the east is from the west” … and David received that gift by faith (He took the Lord at His forgiving Word and rejoiced in the fact). And that’swhy David’s in “Faith’s Hall of Fame”.
There is one more component to this that we (like David) need to understand. “Go, and sin no more” was the way Jesus, later, put it. He died to forgive sins, but only to forgive sins so as tochange lives … and that not, just, for after this life … but for while we’re, yet, in this life, as well. For David, it meant, in-faith, gracefully enduring the cost of his sin on the earth. Scripture tells us that, because of his sin, his life, family, descendants, and nation suffered for sin that he did, even though it was repented-of. His descendent, Jesus, would, even, have to become that sin to pay for it ultimately. Hard to imagine Jesus as an adulterer, rapist, schemer, and murderer, but that’s what He had to become(in flesh) in order to defeat its effectswithout His blood.
That got done, yet you and I will be required to, in-faith,gracefully endure the earthly price of our sin. Every one of us (even the seeming best of us) will die to this earth equated with sins as bad as adultery, rape, scheming, and murder.
But grace, able to change one enough to, in-faith, endure… and, even,rejoice … can mark the way we faceearthly death, pain, struggle, and challenge. Praying, like David, that God “create in [each one of us, personally] a clean heart and renew a right spirit within [us … for our life, also, here]. [Do not] cast [any one of us] away from Your presence, [Lord], and take not Your Holy Spirit from [us]. Restore to [each one of us, with no exceptions,] the joy of Your salvation, and uphold [us, each] with a willing spirit[no matter what]”.
And, to take that, just, one step further: “Oh, Lord, open, [even, our] lips, and may the mouth of [each and every one of us] declare [… and do so always …] Your praise”.