Sermon for Wednesday of Judica, 2021

Text: 2 Samuel 11::1–13

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When we confess our sins, Luther encourages us to examine our place in life according to the Ten Commandments. “Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker? Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy? Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome? Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds? Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?” When we actually do that, it’s impossible to not come to the conclusion that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. That’s key, though. If we don’t ever examine ourselves, we’ll never fully realized the depth of our sin. In fact, if sin is left alone and never struggled against, we can become calloused to it to the point that we don’t really even remember doing anything wrong in the first place.

Such was the problem with David. David’s sins are plain for us to see. When David saw Bathsheba bathing, he should have turned around and went back into the palace. Instead, his eyes lingered. He liked what he saw. David already had a wife. He had more than one wife, in fact. But here he sins against the Tenth Commandment. He covets Uriah’s wife. He is not content with what he has. That wasn’t all, though, of course.

Breaking the Tenth Commandment often leads to the breaking of the Sixth Commandment. David commits adultery with Bathsheba. Then Bathsheba discovers that she’s pregnant with David’s child. It can’t be Uriah’s. Uriah is off at war. David is left with a choice: come clean or cover it up. Coming clean means David’s reputation will be ruined. Can’t have that. He chooses to try and cover it up instead.

So he calls Uriah home and tries to get him to sleep with his wife. That way when she has a baby it will look like it was Uriah’s child. Uriah will have none of that, though. It doesn’t seem fair to him that he gets to be with his wife while all the rest of the army is still out in the battlefield. In concealing the truth from Uriah, David breaks the Eighth Commandment. Then he breaks the Fifth Commandment by getting Uriah drunk in hopes that he won’t realize what he’s doing and go and sleep with his Bathsheba anyway. When that doesn’t work, David arranges to have Uriah killed in such way that it looks like an accident. In the end, David is able to take Bathsheba as his wife since her husband is dead.

When we read this account, we see David’s sin. But Israel didn’t. To the nation of Israel, it looked like David married a widow of a brave soldier that died in a tragic accident. To the nation of Israel it looked like David and Bathsheba’s baby was conceived after they were married. David had succeeded in getting away with adultery and murder.

But the fact is that you can’t hide your sins from God. David, over time, had likely even convinced himself that he was in the clear. If he had truly reflected on the matter, he probably would have seen them for himself, but he didn’t.

It is quite true that we can confess our sins directly to our Father in heaven. He do this every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, in fact. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we pray. God hears that prayer and God forgives us. It is also true, however, that there are sins that we know and feel and in our hearts. These are the sins that stick with us. These are the ones that we can’t bear to think about because we’re so ashamed by them. These are the sins that get buried into the recesses of our minds to the point that we stop thinking about them. This was David’s problem. David needed a pastor to come and help him. That’s where Nathan comes in.

Notice how Nathan comes to David gently. He doesn’t just tell David, “You committed adultery. You had a man killed.” Who knows how David would have reacted that. He might have simply gotten angry with Nathan, called him a liar, and had him shown the door. He is the king, after all.

Instead, Nathan puts David on the outside looking in. He tells a parable about a rich man who has plenty of sheep to feed his guest, but, instead of taking from his own flock to feed his guest, he takes the only sheep of a poor man. David is filled with rage at the rich man in Nathan’s parable an says he deserves to die. Then come the haunting words from Nathan’s mouth, “You are the man.” Now Nathan can actually spell out for David what he had done. Did he tell David anything he didn’t already know? No. David knew what he did. But did David understand the depth of his depravity? No. David needed Nathan to help him examine himself. David’s confession is but a few words. “I have sinned against the Lord,” he says. The absolution that comes from Nathan is equally as short: “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” While that last bit may seem harsh, recall what David said the man in Nathan’s parable deserved to die. Death was, in fact, the penalty for what David had done. But, as Nathan says, David will not be put to death. His sins are forgiven.

We tend to think of going to confession as a purely Roman Catholic thing, but the Lutherans have always clearly confessed that we retain the practice of Individual Confession and Absolution. We retain it because we need it. We attempt to examine our lives according to the Ten Commandments, but sometimes we need help. That’s where our pastor comes in. He comes to help us realize the depth of our depravity.

He does not do this for the sake of torture, though. His goal is not that we feel horrible about ourselves. That was not Nathan’s goal, either. Nathan wanted to forgive David. Nathan wanted to forgive David because God wanted to forgive David. The same is true of our pastors today. The forgiveness that is pronounced in the absolution is not the forgiveness of the pastor, it is the forgiveness of God. Your pastor wants to forgive your sin because God wants to forgive your sin.

The reason that God wants to forgive sins is that the price for sin has already been paid. The punishment for your sin is death, but you shall not die, for the that price was paid by Christ in his holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. Jesus’ death created a treasury of forgiveness that will never run out. Your heavenly Father doesn’t want that gift of forgiveness to simply lie there and never get used. No, he wants to give it to you. This is why Jesus breathes on his disciples, giving them the gift of the Holy Spirit. He wants them to take the benefit of sins forgiven at the cross and give that gift to all people. This is why the church as a whole exists. It exists to forgive sins. This is why churches call pastors. To forgive your sins. And you can be certain that whatever is loosed here on earth by your pastor is also loosed in heaven.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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