4 Pentecost Proper C6
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15 Sermon
June 12, 2016
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
536 "Awake My Soul & With The Sun"
388 "Just As I Am"
390 "Drawn To The Cross"
652 "I Lay My Sins On Jesus"
CHOOSING ACCORDING TO GOD'S STANDARD
TEXT (vs. 11:26-27; 12:13) “When Uriah's wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD. Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ Nathan replied, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.’”
It won't be very long, just a little over a week in fact, that we will be meeting for synod convention. And I will be attending, as I have for almost every year since I've been in the ministry.
One of the things that happen at synod conventions is a variety of different elections. Now I don't know whose names will be on the ballot this year, it's something that I'll be finding out when I get there. Thankfully, I've had a number of years to get to know who various people are, so I won't be going in flying completely blind.
But there are decisions to be made, and they have to be made according to the best information available. Of course we have the advantage of divine intervention in all of our deliberations; but I have to trust that those who will assemble and submit their ballots will know what they are doing, and that God the Holy Spirit is in charge of the whole process. I believe that it is God alone who will see to it that our synod has the proper leadership.
Today I’d like you to imagine for a moment that you are in a position to elect a spiritual leader, someone to be God’s representative for you. This is something you'll have to do sometime in the future, because I'm not going to occupy this pulpit forever. But instead of giving you a list of names, I’m going to give you a list of sins and weaknesses of these individuals, and you have to make up your mind.
The first candidate is a drunkard. The next is very advanced in years. Then there’s a daydreamer, a known liar, a stutterer and a murderer, a spineless wimp, a known womanizer, a couple of young guys barely out of their teens, a murder and adulterer, someone who is suicidal, someone who disobeyed God’s call and ran away, someone who went bankrupt, a homeless wandering hermit, someone who denied being one of Christ’s disciples, several who fell asleep on the job, a dwarf, someone who persecuted Christians, and even one person who was dead.
You might have guessed who some of these people are, but if you were given only this list and nothing else, who do you think would be worthy of being God’s spokesman? Who out of that list would you want to be your spiritual leader?
This morning, I’m going to pick one of these people to talk about. It is the man described in our text for today, who is none other than Jesus’ own ancestor, King David himself.
To give you a brief history, David was the youngest son of Jesse. He, along with his brothers worked for his father on the family farm inBethlehem.
Saul had been rejected as the king ofIsrael. The Lord told Samuel to go to the house of Jesse and anoint one of his sons to be king. Since Jesse had eight sons all together, the Lord would direct Samuel as to which one to anoint.
The seven oldest sons presented themselves, but the Lord did not choose any of them. So Samuel asks Jesse if he had any more sons. The youngest, named David was out tending the livestock. He came in, all hot and dirty and sweaty and smelly from working. And of course he was the one the Lord had chosen. Samuel then anointed him the king ofIsrael, much to the surprise of Jesse and his other sons. Everyone else was scrubbed up, cleaned up, and in nice clothing; but God chose the one who nobody else thought was even in the running.
In 1 Samuel chapter 16, verse 7 God gives us an insight into his logic: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” And so it was with the anointing of David as king ofIsrael.
In 1 Samuel chapter 13, verse 14 David is described in this way: “…the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people…”
So now we see David being a chosen and called servant of the Lord, and even described as a man after God’s own heart. You couldn’t find better qualifications for a spiritual leader. That’s all well and good.
However David had other issues as well. Even though he was anointed by God and called a man after God’s own heart, sin still affected him. One evening, David got up from his bed and was walking around on the roof of the palace. From there, he spotted a very lovely young woman named Bathsheba who was bathing. He found out what her name was, and that she was the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah the Hittite.
But that little fact didn’t deter him. He sent for her anyway, and they wound up having an affair. In fact, Bathsheba wound up pregnant from their extra marital relations.
Now David was really in a pickle. So he sent for Uriah to come to him on the premise that he wanted a battle report. The thought was that Uriah would have a few days’ furlough and spend some time with his wife. That way, Uriah would believe that the child his wife was bearing would be his, and this adulterous affair would be concealed.
But Uriah refused to go to his home; instead he slept on a mat outside the palace. His conscience wouldn’t allow him to have the comfort of home and food, and the pleasure of a woman while his troops went without.
When David was told about this, he had to come up with a plan “B,” so-to-speak. So he sent Uriah back to the battle front, to a location where he was certain to be killed. He, in effect, organized Uriah’s murder. And after Uriah died, and the period of mourning was over, David sent for Bathsheba and took her to be his wife.
That, in a nutshell was the soap opera-type series of events in David’s life. Some of you may recall that I preached a two-part series about this. David gave way to the sin and lust in his heart; so much so that he committed both adultery and then murder to try to cover it all up.
Of course this was all known to God, and he was very much displeased. So God sent Nathan to show David his sin, which is part of our Old Testament reading for today. Nathan points the finger and shows David to be the sinner he is. Adultery and murder were, and still are pretty serious offenses. And David was as guilty as he could be; the blood of Uriah was on his hands.
But Nathan had more to tell David than just to expose his sinfulness. Verse 13 of our text says, “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ Nathan replied, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.’”
The Lord has taken away your sin; oh my, how sweet those words must have sounded to David! In the midst of sin and conviction and utter hopelessness under God’s law, the forgiving words of the Gospel suddenly show forth the incredible amount of love God has for his people! David was certainly troubled by his sin; but God’s message of forgiveness made all of those troubles just melt away.
If we skip ahead to the New Testament, to our Gospel lesson for today, we find Jesus as the invited dinner guest at the house of Simon the Pharisee. A sinful woman comes in, washes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and anoints his feet with perfume. She is fully aware of her sinfulness, and knows that she will find forgiveness through faith in Jesus. Of course Simon rebukes Jesus for his involvement with this woman. But Jesus says in Luke chapter 7, verse 47: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
The message of the Gospel meant a lot to her as well. She came to Jesus with a contrite heart, in faith knowing that she would find forgiveness. And despite the objection of Simon the Pharisee, she left knowing the forgiving love of God in the message of the Gospel.
In the beginning I gave you a list of the various sins and strikes against various individuals, and I asked which of that list you would want as a spiritual leader. According to our human logic, we probably wouldn’t want any of them.
Now what if you had a list of people who had never been in trouble, who attended church regularly, who studied their Bibles, who were faithful to their spouses, who were generous contributors, and from all outward appearances were sound faithful people? Would that be more to our idea of what a spiritual leader should be?
If you answered “yes” to that question, I should let you know that I just described the Pharisees and other members of the Sanhedrin, whom Jesus frequently chastised, and who were responsible for putting Jesus to death in order to get rid of him.
But let’s look at that other list, the one we would be inclined to dismiss according to our logic, to see who we would deem as not worthy of being a spiritual leader: Noah was the drunkard, Abraham was advanced in years, Isaac was the daydreamer, Jacob was the known liar, Moses was the stutterer and murderer, Gideon was the spineless wimp, Samson was the long-haired womanizer, Jeremiah and Timothy were the youngsters, David was the adulterer and murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Jonah disobeyed God’s call and ran away, Job went bankrupt, John the Baptist was a homeless wandering hermit, Peter denied Christ, his disciples fell asleep when they were to keep watch, Zacchaeus was the dwarf, Paul persecuted Christians, and Lazarus was dead; Jesus had to bring him back to life to make use of him!
So does this mean that all people who are guilty of gross and heinous sins would make good spiritual leaders and those who are decent, upright, church-going folk wouldn’t? Of course not!
The point is, that God calls people into his service based upon his standards, and not ours. We can only look at outward things; it is God who examines and judges the heart. Thankfully, he’s the one who is in charge.
As an illustration for my message today, I used our upcoming synod convention. Some of the people who will be elected I know; the others, maybe not so much. Irrespective of that, there are two important things I do know about all of them:
First, I know that each and every one of them is a sinner, and they daily sin much. There won’t one perfect candidate amongst the names put forth by the nominating committee or nominated from the floor.
Second, I know that each and every candidate has a deep personal faith in Jesus their Saviour. Through faith in him, they have received forgiveness for their sins. And because of this, they are dedicated to his cause and the ministry of the Gospel. Their faith in Jesus qualifies them to serve the Lord in whatever capacity he desires. They have been forgiven much, consequently they love much.
As we look at our own lives, we know we have sinned and need Jesus as our Saviour. We know what Jesus means for each of us. We know that if we were judged according to our sins and faults, we could not stand. In fact, if my suitability for the ministry was measured against my own past record of sins, and indiscretions, and failures, and other problems, you'd probably lock the church doors and send me down the road. But Jesus asks each and every one of us to be his servants and his spokesmen of the Gospel message. God wants all people to be saved and to know Jesus as well.
If we look at David, an adulterer and a murderer, who is also called a man after God’s own heart, we can see how God can take a life and turn it around. We can remember him each time we use one of the many Psalms he wrote in our worship services, or sing one of the many hymns based upon those Psalms.
God knows what he’s doing. He takes lives headed for hell and destruction, and gives them new life through the Gospel. He’s done that for you, and I'm ever so thankful that he's done it for me.
If we tend to think of ourselves as failures or not worthy of being one of God’s servants, just remember a quote by Billy Graham: “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.” We are to be his faithful servants, sharing the good news of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Remember that Babe Ruth is famous for hitting 714 home runs; but he also struck out a record 1,330 times. Henry Ford failed and went broke five times before he finally succeeded. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for a lack of ideas. He also went bankrupt several times before buildingDisneyland. Winston Churchill did not become Prime Minister of England until he was 62, and then only after a lifetime of defeats and setbacks. His greatest contributions came when he was a senior citizen.
If we are consumed by our sins, faults, and failures, then we aren’t functioning by the hope and promise of the Gospel. If we dwell in the past, then we don’t have much of a future ahead of us.
In Philippians chapter 3, verses 13-14 the Apostle Paul writes: “…Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”
God has forgiven us all of our sins and has given us a position in his kingdom. We are to be his faithful servants as we become examples and witnesses of his wonderful grace and love at work in our lives.