The Third Sunday After Easter April 13, 2008
2 Samuel 12:1-15
2 Samuel 11:1-17,36-37
198, 279, 340, 188 (1-2,5-6)
Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. ‘I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! ‘Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 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.’ “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ” So 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. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” Then Nathan departed to his house.
In Christ Jesus, our Savior who has won forgiveness for all of our sins, dear fellow-redeemed:
Three weeks ago we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We are told by Paul in 1 Corinthians that if Christ is not raised, then we are still in our sins (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:17). So we know from God’s Word that because Jesus rose from the dead after dying for our sins that our sins are indeed forgiven—that’s the truth, but now how does that apply to our every day lives.
Today we use the example of King David and consider how THE NEWS OF EASTER IS APPLIED TO OUR SIN. We will find what joyous news it is as we are led to remember that I. Sin is rebellion against God, II. God is active in leading sinners to repentance and III. God is just and forgives our sins.
King David received tremendous blessings from God. He began as a simple shepherd boy in the hills of Bethlehem. Because David was the one whom God had chosen this simple shepherd boy was exalted and made king over Israel. Even before becoming king and then throughout his reign David was very successful in battles against his enemies. It began with his defeat of Goliath—the giant—and continued in battles against the Philistines and the other enemies of Israel. David fought and fought and fought. The Lord fought with David and as a result David won and won and won. David was the instrument through whom God created peace for His people by driving the enemy nations out and establishing Israel as dominant nation.
God blessed David with riches as well. So it is that the message from God through Nathan included these words: “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. ‘I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight?” [vv.7-9] Instead of rejoicing in God’s blessings and giving thanks to Him, David rebelled against God. By his sin David dismissed all of those things God had given and pursued something his flesh desired even though it went contrary to God’s will.
It is fairly easy to sit back and think: “If I had all of the blessings King David had I would be so happy and content that I would never sinfully pursue something I shouldn’t have.” We might say that, but it is not true. We too show a lack of thankfulness and pursue sin.
Sin as rebellion against God shows up in a variety of ways. How many of us haven’t at various times struggled with discontent—complaining, whining, and at times bitterly complaining about what we don’t have or what we cannot do. Perhaps we have been discontent with our life because it just doesn’t seem right when someone else has so much more, or “I wish I could be like that person, I wish I could have this, I wish I could have that.” If we were to focus on what God has given us instead of what we do not have, then we’d find no reason for complaint; but the sinfulness within us rebels against God, questions His wisdom in what He has or has not given us, questions His generosity, and wants more. We are not so different from David.
Discontent is not the only way that we rebel against God. The Bible describes sin as lawlessness: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Anything that breaks God’s will for our lives is sin. Therefore, when we fail in keeping any one of God’s commandments we are committing lawlessness—committing sin that is ultimately a rebellion against God. God says, “Do this” and we don’t—we rebel. God says, “Don’t do this” and we do—we rebel. Sin is a rebellion against God’s will for us and His judgment against that sin is death.
When we consider the reality of what sin is we begin to appreciate the blessing of forgiveness. As we realize the truth that sin is a rebellion against God, it gives us a very stark picture of our lives. In other words, we can’t go through our lives looking at the things we do contrary to God’s Word and brush them off as if they were no big deal. Every sin is a rebellion against God. It is lawlessness. We need help. Thanks to God He has provided help through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We need to properly understand the sin in our lives before we can fully appreciate what Jesus has done. So we recognize that sin is a rebellion against God—yes, even the sins we commit in our lives day by day.
If this is where the story ended we would be facing despair, fear of God, and be left with the question: “Does God really love me.” But this is not at all where the story ends. God sent Jesus to be our Savior and now in individual lives He is active in leading sinners to repentance. God leads us to repentance when He brings us to faith, but He continues to lead us to repentance day by day as we sin. As He leads us in repentance He also assures us of His forgiveness.
We hear in the text that “…the Lord sent Nathan to David.” [v.1] The Lord sent His prophet, Nathan, to David with one purpose—to bring David to a confession of his sins and repentance. David had been living a lie. For many months he lived in the guilt of his sin. He had committed adultery and then tried to make it look as if the child that was conceived was Uriah’s. When Uriah wouldn’t go home and sleep with his wife, David made sure Uriah became drunk (another sin!) with the idea that then Uriah would go home and sleep with his wife (cf. Old Testament reading). But all of this was to no avail so David finally murdered Uriah through his order to have Uriah put in the front line of battle. David attempted to cover up His sin and did not repent. Though David was unrepentant, God did not neglect David and “write him off” saying “You’ll just have to face the eternal punishment for your sins.” God sent Nathan to lead David to repentance.
Nathan used a parable to show David his sin. It was easy for David to see the sin of the rich man who took the poor man’s pet lamb and used it to make a feast for a guest. David cried out, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!” Nathan answered: “YOU are the man!” [v.5] David was convicted in his sin and repented.
In Psalm 32, David describes what it is like to hold onto sin and keep silent, but also the joy when God leads the sinner to repentance. “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5).
God actively sought the straying David to bring him back to the fold, but this is by no means the only example of God’s leading someone to repentance. When Adam and Eve first sinned, God went out to find them and bring them to repentance. As God walked through the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day Adam and Eve hid because they knew they were naked and were afraid of God because they had sinned. God asked, “Where are you Adam?” God sought out Adam with the goal of bringing him to repentance. When Adam first confessed his sin it was with blame toward Eve: “It was the woman You gave to me…” But in the end, through God’s words, Adam and Eve were led to a genuine repentance for their sin—sorrow at their rebellion and also complete trust in the forgiveness of sins through the promised Savior. [cf. Genesis 3]
During His ministry, Jesus also sought to lead straying sheep—sinners—to repentance. Looking out over the city of Jerusalem in which so many had rejected Him, Jesus, lamented: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I wanted to gather you together as hen gathers her chicks under her wings (bringing them to repentance and salvation), but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37).
Today, Jesus no longer physically and visibly walks on the earth, but He conducts His ministry through His Word. He calls sinners to repentance through His Word as we read and study it and are convicted by God’s Law, but then also rejoice to know that Jesus died for those sins. God speaks to us through His Word calling us to repentance and restoring us and assuring us of the forgiveness for our sins.
God also works through our fellow believers. Jesus describes the approach of going to a fellow believer who has sinned and seeking to rebuke the sin with the goal of restoring him, bringing him to repentance and to a renewed commitment to follow Christ with trust in His Word. Paul writes to the Galatians saying, “If a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…” (Galatians 6:1). This is the act of restoration—God calls and leads sinners to repentance through us.
If we are in a position to be used as a tool by God to bring a sinner to repentance in the way that He used Nathan, may God give us the strength and zeal to be that instrument, to go and rebuke that sin in Christian love. If on the other hand, we are the ones who are caught in sin and someone comes to us to rebuke us and to correct us, may we with a humble spirit accept that admonition as being from God and welcome the person who comes to us as God’s instrument to restore us.
God is still very active in restoring sinners and leading them to repentance through His Word and through His children who share that Word of God.
In the end, God is just and forgives our sins. After Nathan exposed the severity of David’s sin and rebuked it, “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.” [v.13] David had himself given the judgment against the man in the parable who represented him. By David’s own sense of justice he deserved to die. But it was God’s justice through Christ that would spare David’s life. Nathan announced forgiveness by saying, “You shall not die.”
God did not compromise His justice by forgiving David. God did not ignore David’s sin. God forgave David’s sin with justice because sins’ just punishment was carried out upon Jesus when He died on the cross. Jesus died instead of David. Jesus died instead of you and me. Jesus died for our sins and their guilt and therefore justice was carried out on Him. We live being declared just and holy for the sake of Christ’s holiness.
Nathan had already told David how adversity would arise from his own house as a result of his sin. Nathan also told David that the son he had conceived with Bathsheba would die. David—the king of God’s people—had not set a good example to the neighboring nations or to his own people. His behavior had not given the true God glory in their eyes and indeed David had defiled God’s name. Therefore, there would be a visible consequence and result of David’s sin so that all would see that this was a sin against the true and holy God. This was not a lingering bitterness from God or retribution for the sin. God viewed David has His beloved child, a man after God’s own heart, a sinner who was cleansed and declared righteous in the name of Christ, the coming Savior. As further evidence of God’s forgiveness, a son born later to David and Bathsheba—Solomon—would become an ancestor of Jesus Himself.
God’s justice through Jesus Christ gives us the forgiveness of sins. “…the blood of Jesus Christ [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7-9).
When we apply Easter to our daily lives we see that we are sinners and that sin is rebellion against God. But the justice for that sin was taken out on Christ. Since justice for that sin has been paid we have complete and free forgiveness. This enables us to go forward with consciences cleared, souls uplifted and rejoicing because Jesus our living Savior truly does forgive all of our sins—calling us to Himself no matter what our sins have been or how great our trespass (cf. hymn 279). God’s mercy calls us, forgives us, and gives us life. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.