Monday, May 20, 2019

“YOU ARE THE MAN” 2 SAMUEL 12.1–13, May ‘19 Easter 5

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. 

“YOU CAN’T OUT-GIVE GOD,” 2 SAMUEL 7.1–17, Easter 4, May ‘19

1.      Please pray with me.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer.  Amen.  The message from God’s Word is taken from 2 Samuel 7:1-17 (READ TEXT).  It’s entitled, “You Can’t Out-give God,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
2.      David now stood at the height of his power in this world. By the Lord’s plan, this former shepherd had gone from tending sheep in the field to being the Shepherd-King of God’s “people” in Israel. God subdued all of David’s enemies before him. David captured, then donated to the kingdom a new capital city, Jerusalem. He brought the ark of the covenant to the new capital.  Then guilt started bothering David. He said, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent” (2 Samuel 7:2). So David was formulating a plan to fix things. He thought he should build a house, a temple, for the Lord. The ark of the covenant would have a place to go. Yet in this text the Lord said: “No, David, it’s just the other way around. You are not going to build me a house. I am going to build you a house.” David was discovering that you can’t out-give God.
3.      God remained the real King in Israel all along. Anything was bad if it led the people off the way the Lord wanted them to travel, even if the human king was doing it. Make no mistake, the Lord God was no worldly king. However good David’s motivations may have been for wanting to build God a house, the Lord determined that it was not about to be this way. The Lord was not going to allow David to become his landlord.
4.      The Lord always refuses to become a domesticated God. We use the term “domesticated” to refer to animals like dogs and cats. We take these critters into our homes and make them into pets. They’re not wild. They become part of the family. All through human history, there has been a tendency to try to domesticate God. It grew noticeably strong in the United States after World War II. During the 1950s, observers of the cultural and religious scene noted that the average American tended to look upon God as a cuddly grandfather type in the sky: God as a sort of nice guy. When God is regarded as totally comforting, never saying no to anybody about anything, domestication has been taking place. Or at least, people have been attempting it, treating the deity like a commodity in a box that they can take out whenever the need arises. People write the agenda for this deity, not vice-versa . . . or, at any rate, they try.
5.      The attempted domestication of God continues to this day. Just think about it in your own life: how do you regard the Lord? Do you want him around only when it suits you? Do you treat him like a servant, or maybe a tenant? Even though you might not ordinarily think of putting the matter in such terms, deep down have you been trying not to worship the Lord your God and serve him only, but rather to domesticate him and have him serve you only?  No one fears a domesticated god. People do not go out of their way to break any of their own cherished routines for such a god. No one makes sacrifices for a god like that. At bottom, a domesticated god can be neither respected nor loved. A god of this sort gives no help whatsoever when you need it, especially when the real demands of the God of heaven and earth!—catch up with us.
6.      For the Lord God really can’t be domesticated. He remains capable of saying no to people. He gave a mild “no” to David when he asked, “Would you build me a house to dwell in?” (2 Samuel 7:5). He speaks a great big “no” to all human sin, to every rebellion against him: that is, to anything that doesn’t come up to his high standard of being holy, faithful, and perfect. His ultimate “no” takes the form of being left without him forever.  Yet the God who is able to say no also knows how to say yes. In the text he was telling David that things would be the opposite of the way David had in mind, but they would be better still. David would not build the Lord a house, a temple. Instead, the Lord would build a house for David; a ruling dynasty.
7.      God’s best intentions for David would come to fruition after the great king died: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Samuel 7:12– 14a). Sometimes, Bible translators seem reluctant to give these words the full force they carry. The word father should begin with a capital F, and the word son should have a capital S. This is a prediction of One who would come after David had died, a descendant of David and also the very Son of God the Father. In other words, God was predicting the coming of the Messiah: Jesus Christ. The Lord was in effect telling David, “I will make your throne last forever, all right, because I am going to come in human flesh and sit on this throne myself. When I sit on the throne, it will last forever.”
8.      With this prophecy, God was “narrowing down” the messianic line again. It had been hundreds of years since the prophecies had gotten more specific. We have known for a while that the Messiah would come from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. Now we know that this line would be continued in David’s family. The Messiah would be the Son, not only of Abraham, but also of David. The New Testament begins by calling Jesus “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).  With this prophecy, God was also answering the question that Israel had struggled with ever since its people asked for a king. The question was: Who was going to be the real king? Would it be God or David? In Christ, the answer was “yes”! God was going to be King, as only he could, and at the same time a descendant of David was going to be king. It was not either/or, but both/and.
9.      The text goes on to say, “When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men” (2 Samuel 7:14b). Strange language to refer to the Messiah, but precious language all the same! To be sure, Jesus never sinned. Indeed, he can’t. He’s the Man who is also God. However, the Old Testament sometimes talks about the sin of the world as it was held against the Messiah. Psalm 69, for example, depicts the Messiah saying that he has to pay back what he did not steal (v. 4). Remember, Jesus was held guilty by God for the sin of the world, and the Lord God of heaven and earth is perfectly capable of saying no. On the cross, God was saying no to all sin as he was saying no to his own Son. He was punishing Christ as if Christ himself had been personally guilty of all sin, of yours and mine too. This is the Christ whom God raised from the dead and vindicated. The prophecy in our text said, “my steadfast love will not depart from him. . . . Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:15–16).
10.   We rejoice in Christ’s resurrection this Easter season. His resurrection means that we, too, shall rise on account of him. God establishes the kingdom of this Christ. He establishes it forever and includes us in it. Simply put, you can’t out-give God.  David found it to be so. He had his own ideas of what he would do. But God came back with something better than anything David could have imagined. The Lord said, “You’re not going to build me a house. I’m going to build you a house.” David would have the honor of being an ancestor of the Messiah, the Christ. What’s more, David himself would have a Savior. The promise of the Coming One was reiterated to David in the strongest terms here. For David, no less than for us, Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and he is the Lord and Ruler of all things.
11.   Ascension Day is coming up in two and a half weeks. One of the great Ascension hymns celebrates with the words:  Thou hast raised our human nature On the clouds to God’s right hand; There we sit in heavenly places, There we with thee in glory stand. Jesus reigns, adored by angels; Man with God is on the throne. Mighty Lord, in Thine ascension, We by faith behold our own. (TLH 218:5) How could we possibly out-give this God? Yes, we have opportunities to give to the Lord’s work, supporting the work of this congregation, or supporting our church’s missionaries and institutions of higher education. There are all sorts of opportunities to give. No matter how much you give, though, you can’t out- give God. He is always giving more, as David learned. So many other believers have learned this too. We only give because he has given, and still gives. We love because he loved us first.
12.   What about the domesticated god you can pull out of the box whenever there is a need? You most certainly can out-give such a god. You can out- anything the domesticated god, which is nothing more than a figment of your imagination. The real God frees us from such things. He has opened for us a fountain of love and mercy that keeps flowing. His blessings of sins forgiven and peace with God remain ours in and on account of his Son, Jesus Christ, that good and great Shepherd who laid down his life for us and took it up again. Hearing the voice of this Shepherd makes us his sheep and keeps us with him.  In Christ we have everything mentioned in Psalm 23, and more. His goodness and mercy follow the faithful through all the days of our lives, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He builds us a house, and he is going to prepare a place for us.  How can you possibly out-give this God?  Amen.  Now the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting.  Amen.