1. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The message from God’s Word today is taken from 2 Samuel 12:1-13 (READ TEXT). It’s entitled, “You Are the Man,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
2. It was the time of year when kings went off to war, but not this king. He stayed at home. In the neighborhood his eyes fell upon a beautiful woman, and he desired her very much. He called for her, the deed was done, and soon she found that she was going to have a baby. This plotline doesn’t come from some soap opera on TV. This is straight out of the Bible. It’s only part of the story of King David, David’s loyal soldier Uriah the Hittite, and Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. In desperation David eventually killed Uriah so he could both take Uriah’s wife and try to hide his own sin at the same time. Yes, the great king committed adultery and murder, to say nothing of all his covering up. Maybe we weren’t expecting such things from David. But, he was, after all, a sinner.
3. The Lord gave the prophet Nathan the assignment to confront the king with his sin. Nathan had a difficult job. It wouldn’t do to send a memo with the heading, “TO: King David FROM: Nathan the prophet RE: Bathsheba.” The king would quite possibly quit reading such a note, crumple it up, and burn it. Still worse, he might send soldiers after Nathan, and then who would tell David what he needed to hear? Instead, Nathan told the king about a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had many flocks, but the poor man had just one little lamb that was like a member of his family. When the rich man received an out-of-town guest, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it prepared for dinner. When he heard this, King David became enraged. He was filled with anger at this despicable act. He declared that the rich man deserved to die. Then Nathan the prophet sprang his trap. He told the king: “You are the man!” Nathan’s story was about David. There was no denying it: David was the man.
4. A little boy had attended Vacation Bible School years ago. As he and his classmates were sitting in the church pews that day, his pastor brought them pencils and paper. He told the little boy and his classmates to think of some really bad sin they had committed. All sins look equally bad to God, but we all tend to regard some as worse than others. Each of them was to recall a sin they thought was horrible. Then the little boy and his classmates were supposed to write that sin down! As the little boy wrote, he tried to make certain that the kids sitting on either side of him couldn’t see what he was writing. He could have saved myself the trouble, though. They were too busy trying to keep their own papers covered to look at his. Then the pastor talked about sin. He told them that it’s rebellion against God. In fact, sin amounts to our ridiculous and wicked desire to kill God and sit on his throne ourselves. He added that sin has consequences, both in this life and for all eternity. The little boy and his classmates listened as their pastor spoke, but at least some of their thoughts were turning to what the pastor might be planning to do with the sheets of paper they were keeping so carefully covered. They didn’t have long to wonder. The pastor asked them to hand him their papers. Then he took them from them. He was collecting those papers on which they had written their most terrible sins! Was he going to read them? Still worse, was he going to read them out loud? Worst of all, was he going to show those papers to their parents? You see, sin always wants to remain unknown. The little boy and his classmates thought they were about to be exposed, like David. Then their pastor produced a big metal pot. He placed all their papers in there, lit a match to them, and burned them. He did this to show them how complete God’s forgiveness is. For a while, though, how the little boy and his classmates squirmed!
5. Think about that story for a moment… If the little boy’s pastor had begun the devotion that day by saying that he was going to lead his class in the public confession of sin from the hymnal, they would have gone along without a second thought. Even if he told them before the confession itself that he wanted them to think of some really bad sin and especially recall it as they confessed, they wouldn’t have been greatly upset. Although they would have readily confessed their sins to God, nonetheless it terrified them to think that some mere human being might find out what they had written on those sheets. Shouldn’t the little boy and his classmates have feared God more than people? Shouldn’t this be the case for you and me today too?
6. When the subject of private confession and absolution comes up, sometimes people say: “Oh, I could never confess my sins to my pastor or to anyone else.” It seems they don’t mind that God knows all their sins, but telling those sins to someone else scares them to death. Isn’t that strange? We might think we would get some sympathy from fellow sinners, even though we don’t deserve any from the Lord.
7. After about a month of hearing a new pastor preach, one man stormed out to his car in the parking lot. “I’m never going back to that church again,” he was muttering. When someone asked him why, he responded, “Because of that new pastor. He knows me too well.” Of course, the brand-new pastor didn’t know this man very well at all. Still, God’s law as proclaimed by the pastor had apparently touched a nerve. The real issue wasn’t how well the pastor knew the man, but rather how well the Lord knew him. The Lord knew David. In the text, God’s Word found him out. He was the man. David was caught, caught before the Lord. There was no more avoiding sin for David, covering it up or hiding it. He was the man. David confessed.
8. God’s Word has something to tell us, as we sit here listening to the account of David’s sins. It springs the trap on each of us and declares, “You are the man.” The Bible says, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1). Just like David, we can be selfish. In our selfishness we hurt other people, and like David we want to cover everything up. The words of God through Nathan apply most fittingly to us: You are the man. Like David we need to confess, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
9. After we confess our sins before God and one another, the absolution, the word of forgiveness, is really quite simple. It’s short and sweet. In the text, it was shorter still. Nathan told David, “The Lord also has put away your sin.” Again David was the man, but now the man whose sin the Lord had put away. So also, the absolution says to you the most important thing of all. Don’t concentrate on anyone else right now. This is about you. It’s a simple and direct word, directed right to you: you are the man, the one whose sin the Lord has put away. See what I mean? From our perspective it’s short, even simple. Our sin is forgiven. When God says it, that’s how it is. There are no “ifs” “ands” or “buts.” The Lord has put away your sin. Period.
10.It’s possible for us silently to agonize over our sins for days stretching into weeks and months. David did. In a psalm, he said: For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover up my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin (Psalm 32:3–5). After David confessed, forgiveness was simple. It was simple for David, and it is for you and me.
11.During a war in which the British army was engaged years ago, a chaplain was watching British soldiers marching toward the front, wearing their famous red coats. A friend handed him a piece of red-colored glass and told him to look at the soldiers through it. Through the glass all their red coats looked white—pure white. The chaplain thought of the words of God through Isaiah, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). How simple it was for him to look at the passing troops through a piece of red-colored glass! Then he remembered that when God looks at us and sees us white, it is because he, too, is looking through something red. He’s looking through the blood of Christ.
12.Although I said a moment ago that from our standpoint God’s forgiveness is simple, it remains true that from the Lord’s standpoint there was nothing simple about it. Look at the lengths to which he was willing to go. It was for us men and for our salvation that God sent his only Son into this world. It has well been said that G.R.A.C.E. is “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” Christ is the only reason why God has ever forgiven anyone, in the New Testament or the Old Testament. He extended himself to fulfill God’s law perfectly, in every respect, as our Substitute. He went all the way to death on the cross. Christ even went to the length of enduring hell in place of us all when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus was “delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
13.Therefore, you are the man whose sin is put away. All your sins are forgiven—not merely some of them, or many of them, or most of them, or even almost all of them. In Christ, all of your sin is forgiven, including original sin. Your sin is totally forgiven, even that thing you seldom think about until someone brings it up, and that other thing you can’t seem to get out of your mind. God has hidden his face from our sins and blotted out all our iniquities (Psalm 51:9). Once red as scarlet, on account of Christ we gleam as white as snow.
14.All of us have felt guilt and shame before other people when we’ve wronged them. We know how powerful this feeling can be, but guilt is no mere feeling. Our real guilt before God runs greater and more terrible than any guilt feeling, but it has really been put away by our crucified and risen Lord. You really are the man—the sinner completely forgiven in Christ. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting. Amen.