Pentecost Sunday June 4, 2017
232, 230, 231, 224:3
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Prayer of the Day (Collect): O Lord God, heavenly Father, who by the blessed light of Your divine word has led us to the knowledge of Your Son, we most heartily beg of You so to replenish us with the grace of Your Holy Spirit that we may ever walk in the light of Your truth and, rejoicing with sure confidence in Christ, our Savior, may in the end be brought unto everlasting salvation; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
It was springtime in Palestine. Things were going quiet well for King David of Israel. His palace was finished. His kingdom was expanding. And as we heard last week, the eternal King of kings was going to come from his lineage. Things were going so well for David that as his army went to war, the great king decided he wasn’t needed on the battlefield and stayed home at his new palace.
While at home, as his soldiers were off fighting an enemy at his command, he took an evening stroll on the palace rooftop, when he saw beautiful wife of one of his soldiers—Uriah, bathing in the moonlight. Though married to a man who was off fighting on his orders, and though David himself was a married man, the king called for her, committed adultery with her, and a child was conceived.
Fearing Bathsheba’s baby bump would reveal his sin, the king tries to cover his tracks. He calls for Uriah to return from the battlefield in hopes that he will sleep with his wife and no one will know that the child’s father was the king. But noble Uriah (more noble than King David) won’t go to bed with his own wife while his fellow soldiers and the Ark of the Covenant are on the front lines. Not even after King David gets Uriah drunk will he go and lay with his wife.
When David can’t trick Uriah into covering up the king’s sins by sleeping with his wife, David heaps sin upon sin. The king sends Uriah to back to the battlefield with orders in hand that General Joab should put him on the front lines where he certainly will be killed in battle. Finally, this plan works and Uriah is killed in battle. After Bathsheba mourns the death of her husband, the King marries Bathsheba and the conspiracy to cover-up his sin seems complete.
Yet at the end of 2 Samuel 11 we read, “the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” (v.27b) The omniscient LORD knows even our secret faults, as David will soon learn. After the illegitimate child was born, the LORD sent His prophet Nathan to the king with the stinging accusation, “Thou art the man!” The King’s sins, which he thought had been hidden, were exposed by the LORD. David’s reaction? “I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Sam 12:13) Nathan immediately proclaimed the Gospel of forgiveness, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
So what would you expect this great king to pray about? Over the millennia kings and those in authority have pleaded for prosperity, wealth, the death of their enemies, and so on. King Hezekiah prayed for extended health. Before World War II, King George V of England prayed that his eldest philandering son, Edward, would not have children so that nothing would interfere with his second son, Albert, and granddaughter Elizabeth from ascending to the throne of England.
What about the king whose sins of adultery, conspiracy, murder, and cover-up had been exposed—what would you expect him to pray about? Maybe he should pray that the LORD not take away his good name and reputation. Maybe the king should pray that the LORD not punish him by taking away the kingdom from him. Maybe the king should pray that the LORD not take away the promise that one of his sons would rule on the throne after him. After all, early on in life, David had seen the LORD take all these things away from King Saul.
Though forgiven, there would be earthly consequences for David’s sins. Some of his sons would die a violent death. His son Absalom would try to steal the throne from David. He himself would have to flee Jerusalem while having stones and curses hurled at him by an angry relative of Saul. Both David’s family and reputation would suffer because of his sin.
Given all this, what is it that the king prays for? In Psalm 51, we learn that the ONE THING the king prays that the LORD would not take from him, the ONE THING that was more precious than his throne, his kingdom, or even his own reputation is this—“Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps 51:13b) David knew that he could live with out the throne, the royal legacy, and the kingdom. But if the LORD were to take His Holy Spirit from David, David knew he was lost—lost as a sinner and lost for eternity. The Holy Spirit is the ONE THING he prays that God would not take from him because of his sin.
Having been assured of forgiveness by Nathan, what did the king want to do? Conquer more enemies? Expand his boundaries? Grow in wealth? Verses 12 and 13, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.” (Ps 51:12-13) David wanted the spiritual kingdom of His God and Savior to grow. Rather than hiding his sins anymore, he wanted others to know about the LORD’s amazing grace, that more and more sinners may know the LORD’s ways and be converted to Him.
Let us learn from this king’s prayer. We love our families, our nation, our congregations, and our church body. But remember the words of Jesus—“What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matt 16:26a) The one thing we cannot live without is what we see the Lord of the Church pouring out on Pentecost—His Holy Spirit. For, “no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3) If God were to take away His Holy Spirit, we would be without faith in Jesus Christ, without His righteousness, and without any hope of heaven.
Our sins may not be of the same nature as were King David’s, but our sin is just as real. Our laziness, our lust, our greed, and our pride is very real. And our natural desire to cover up our sins and save face is just as real as it was for King David.
When the Prophet Nathan points the condemning finger of God’s Law at us, pointing out our sin and saying “THOU ART THE MAN,” let us run with repentant King David to the mercy seat of God, seeking His forgiveness. Flee to the cross of Jesus Christ and there find cleansing from ALL your unrighteousness, for Christ Jesus came into the world to save SINNERS. Run with repentant Peter INTO the empty tomb to see that your Lord who was delivered up onto the cross for your transgressions was raised for your justification. Return to the baptismal font where Jesus robed you with His righteousness and where the Triune God said, “You are Mine.” Rejoice in the joy of the LORD’s salvation, dear repentant brothers, for “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
Then LISTEN to what King David’s greater Son, the King of kings, tells you to pray for with the confidence of faith—“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13) With David pray that the LORD would not take His Holy Spirit from you, but by His Holy Spirit give you a clean heart and a right spirit that is set on doing the LORD’s will as a spouse, as a parent, as a neighbor and as a citizen. Having been forgiven, having tasted the amazing grace of the Triune God, let us join repentant David in asking that the LORD would use us unworthy sinners to teach other sinners the LORD’s ways and convert them unto to Himself.
Remember also WHERE God promises to give us His Spirit. On the first Pentecost Sunday, Jesus had told His disciples to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49 NIV). The city they were to stay in was Jerusalem, not Bethlehem or Nazareth. They shouldn’t expect that they get to pick their city and be clothed with power from on high. Jesus was very specific with them—Jerusalem. Jesus told them to wait there until the Holy Spirit was poured out on them.
Jesus has also told us where the same Spirit is given. It’s not on the golf course, at the campground, or walking in the woods, as such. Jesus says, “Abide in My Word” (John 8:31). God says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Paul writes of Holy Baptism that it is a “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Jesus says of Holy Communion, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25). The Word and Sacraments are the tools God uses to give us His Holy Spirit and keep us in the faith. As we echo this prayer of the King, let us remember where God has promised to give us His Spirit!
One of the great traditions of our Lutheran liturgy, is singing this prayer of King David nearly every Sunday. And what fitting words they are! Having heard the greatness of our God in the sermon, we join together with David praying that the LORD would not take His Holy Spirit from us, but use us as His children to do His will. Let us learn to pray as the King of kings has told us: Dear heavenly Father, give us Your Holy Spirit! 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.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.