Sermon preached on August 1, 2021 at Kerr Presbyterian Church by Rev. KJ Norris.
**Voice recording coming soon**
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Today as we enter into our time of studying the Scripture, I want to start with a story and see what you think. Imagine that you are a judge or an ancient king or queen and it is your job to proclaim what is right and what is wrong. It is your job to decide what should happen when neighbors disagree. See how you would react to this story:
“There were two men in the same city—one rich, the other poor. The rich man had huge flocks of sheep, herds of cattle. The poor man had nothing but one little female lamb, which he had bought and raised. It grew up with him and his children as a member of the family. It ate off his plate and drank from his cup and slept on his bed. It was like a daughter to him.
4 “One day a traveler dropped in on the rich man. He was too stingy to take an animal from his own herds or flocks to make a meal for his visitor, so he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared a meal to set before his guest.” (2 Samuel 12:1b-4, Message).
So, what do you think? If you got to be Judge Judy for a day and this story was brought before your court room. Or if you were an ancient ruler sitting on your throne, how would you respond? How does that story make you feel?
Yeah, well this story comes before King David, and he feels the same. He is outraged by the actions of the rich man. The rich man has everything he needs and more. And yet, instead of giving out of his abundance, he takes what is precious to the poor man and treats it without respect. He simply uses it to his own advantage and cares nothing for the family from whom he took the animal.
If you remember where we left off last week, we left David at a low point in his life. As a young man, it seemed like David could do no wrong. Sure, it took some people time to realize that. [The sermons for this series on David are now up on the website and you can go back and listen to the whole story unfold if you missed some while you were traveling this summer.]
You may remember that Kimberly started by teaching us a little about David—that he was the 8th son. The number 7 signifies completion symbolically in the Hebrew language and culture so it’s possible that David’s family saw him as expendable—as an afterthought—when he was just a boy. But pretty soon they realize the truth. David is an extra abundant blessing from the Lord.
Pretty soon David is slaying giants and leading worship and setting people free from oppression, much like Robin Hood did. And David is the very model of expansive love; he even shows kindness to his enemies. So when David becomes king, we expect him to be one who is fair and just. One who will set wrongs right and rule with wisdom.
But last week, we find that power has corrupted David. That as King, David has begun to neglect his duties. Now he just sends others out to do his work for him instead of being a living example for others. And worse, we see that David thinks he can have anything he wants. Including a woman who lives in the city, Bathsheba, even though she is married to another man.
Once David steps away from the call on his life, from the work that he knows he has been anointed to do, the whole thing seems to crash down on itself. He commits one sin after another after another. Coveting. Adultery. And in an attempt at a cover-up: Murder.
You may remember that he sends Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, back to the front lines of the war with a letter in his own hand which signs his own death warrant.
In a very short period of time David goes from hero to villain. From defender of the poor to oppressor. From righteous person after God’s own heart to one who thinks only of his own desires.
Oh how the mighty have fallen.
We see this kind of thing happen more often than we would like to admit. We fall in love with someone and believe they can do no wrong, and then they hurt us and we are in shock. How could they have done that?
We vote for a politician thinking that they will change everything, they will set things right. But then they don’t keep their promises and our hopes are dashed.
We have expectations for ourselves. We think that we are older and wiser now. We are off to college, living on our own and stepping into adulthood. We can be trusted with new responsibilities. And then things don’t quite go as we had hoped. We look at our own lives and can’t figure out how we got here. One choice lead to another and another and another. And now what? How can we possibly go back? How can we make it right? How can we even look our parents in the eye and tell them what happened?
Friends, the Good News of the Gospel is: when we find ourselves in these kinds of times and situations. When the floor drops out from under us. When we find ourselves as Jonah did, sinking to the bottom of the sea, caught in the mouth of a giant beast. When we are at our lowest—in the valley of the shadow of death—still God is with us.
The Psalms assure us that there is nowhere, nowhere you can go that God is not with you:
Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12, NRSV)
When you reach rock bottom, God is there.
David is at his rock bottom, but he doesn’t know it yet. He thinks he got away with his sin. He thinks no one knows. His power has made him indestructible. But God is there. God doesn’t let us simply stay in our own sin. God knows that even if we think we got away with it, our sin will destroy us. It will eat us from the inside out. It will cause a kind of death within us which fractures our soul, which causes us to become something we are not.
God created you with a purpose. You matter to God. And even when we are at our worst, even when we find ourselves in the mud with the pigs like the Prodigal Son, God still loves us. God loves you. More than you can imagine. God loves David.
So, what God do?
Well, we are picking up where we left off last week. David sends Uriah to his death and he is indeed killed in battle. And then I’m reading from 2 Samuel 11:26.
Read 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13
“You are the man.” I love that. Best line in Bible history. “You are the man.”
God doesn’t leave us in our sin.
God doesn’t abandon us when we are at our worst.
Instead God steps in.
In David’s case, God uses the prophet Nathan to help him see his own sin. Nathan tells a story—the one we started with today, read out of the Message Bible—And when David hears of the injustice done David’s righteous anger burns.
Yeah. It’s a whole lot easier to see someone else’s sin than our own. It’s much easier to cry for justice against the things that others have done than it is to get our own lives right. It’s much easier to want to remove the splinter from someone else’s eye than to admit we have a plank in our own eye.
Through this story, Nathan lifts up a mirror in front of David so that he can see the truth about himself. “You are the man.”
And David confesses his sin.
There are so many miracles in our story today. The miracle of wisdom given to Nathan in coming up with this parable. The wisdom of David to see injustice in the story even though he is living in a way that is far from God’s righteousness. The miracle that God doesn’t just give up on David when David royally messes up not only his own life but destroys the lives of others.
But perhaps the greatest miracle of all is found in David.
David doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t get defensive and hide from the truth. He doesn’t beat himself up and climb into a hole of self-loathing.
I don’t know about you, but there are times in my life when I have done all of those things. I realize that I’ve done wrong and yet I make excuses for my own behavior. Or I deny that I did wrong. Or sometimes I feel so bad about what I’ve done, I don’t want to come out from under the blankets.
But when we make excuses then we continue to be bound by the behavior. It holds us captive, dooming us to repeat the wrong over and over.
And when we deny what we’ve done then our relationships end up broken. There can be no healing unless we admit our wrong doing and seek forgiveness.
And when we allow the guilt to us take over us, we start to believe we can do no right. We stop living into the calling God has given us.
Only through repentance are we set free. Only through asking for forgiveness can our relationships begin to be restored. Only through confession can we find the new mercies that God gives every morning and start to live into being the new creation God makes within us through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“I have sinned against the Lord.” David says.
And we are told “Now the Lord has put away your sin.”
Now. Right now.
In that moment David has an opportunity to start over. David has a chance to begin again. David leaves from that moment a changed human being. Not a king who thinks he has all power and can rule as one without immunity. But instead a servant of God. Knowing that he is called again into the family of God. Knowing that he can love God in return and show love to others as he has been loved, as he has been forgiven.
We are doing our order of worship a little differently than we usually do it. We have gone back to having a prayer of confession in worship but today instead of putting it in the beginning, I thought it fit better here.