This week at ELS Camp Indianhead, our theme is “For You!” as we hear what God’s Word and the Small Catechism tell us about Christ being present “for you,” “for the forgiveness of sins,” in Absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
Prayer: Almighty God, we are Your prodigal children, but we come back to You, as David of old, acknowledging and confessing our sins. Wash away all our sins in the blood of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, who was wounded for our sins. Create in us pure hearts, that we may rejoice in Your mercy, through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Picture yourself sitting in your classroom at school, minding your own business, attentively listening to the teacher. Then you hear the voice over the intercom. You have been called to the principal’s office!
What goes through your mind? Do you experience guilt? Fear? Do you wonder, “What I have I done wrong?” Do you think back to things you have done wrong that until now have gone unnoticed? Do you wonder if someone turned you in or framed you?
Your heart beats faster, your palms are clammy. You feel a little sick to your stomach as you march down to the office.
But when you get there, the principal smiles rather than giving a look of disappointment. You’re not in trouble after all. The principal hands you a certificate. You’ve been named “Student of the Month.” What a relief!
In our text, instead of summoning David into his presence, God sent a messenger, the prophet Nathan, to speak a message to David, “You are the man!” This message contained bad news and good news, law and gospel, God’s condemnation of sin and God’s declaration of forgiveness.
How could Nathan confront the king? After all, David was God’s chosen ruler over Israel, someone who had been called “a man after God’s own heart. He was also God’s instrument in writing many of the psalms by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Yet God Himself had sent Nathan to speak his word to David, who, in spite of being brought to faith, had committed sins of adultery and murder. God gave Nathan words to speak to David that would awaken his conscience and show him the greatness of his sin.
Instead of going for the jugular, coming out with both guns blazing, Nathan addressed David’s sins by way of a parable, one that sounds a story right out of Aesop’s fables or a fairy tale like the Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks.
“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
That poor little lamb! That poor man, who had his lamb taken from him! What kind of horrible person would do such a thing? These were the kinds of thoughts going through David’s head. After all he used to be a shepherd himself as a young man. “David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” (v. 5-6) Be careful what you wish for David! You may have spoken too soon!
Then Nathan shows David that when you point your finger at others, there are four more pointing back at you. Nathan announces, “You are the man!” (v. 7) While David still processing the gravity of these words, Nathan showed him exactly how indeed he was the rich man in the parable. After God had so richly blessed him with wealth and power, he still wanted more. He wanted what God had forbidden him to have, another man’s wife. Out of his lust for Bathsheba, he had an affair with her and then he used his authority as commander-in-chief to have her husband put on the front line in battle, guaranteeing his death. This would make his crime easy to cover up. Then he would be free to marry Bathsheba, as far as everyone else was concerned. But God sees everything we do, even what we do in secret. God can read our hearts and minds and knows our thoughts and desires.
When we hear this account of David’s sins, we are tempted to do as David did when he listened to Nathan’s parable and say, “What a wicked man, deserving of great punishment!” But what if I told you, that “you are the man”? You may say, “Of course not. I’ve never committed adultery with another person’s spouse and taken them as my spouse,” or “I’ve never murdered anyone.” Is that so? Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, does not let us off the hook that easily. There he tells us “that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” and that “anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Mt 5:27, 21). Have you been angry or felt hatred toward anyone? Do you watch movies, T.V. programs, and view pictures on the internet that awaken lustful thoughts? Do you desire things that belong to other people? Do you cover up bad things that you do or blame them on others? God’s message is directed at you also, “You are the man.”
God’s Word pierced David’s heart. He admitted his guilt, “I have sinned against the LORD” (v. 13). Then Nathan announced to David, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (v. 13).
God gives us many opportunities to confess our sins before Him and to receive His forgiveness. We publicly acknowledge our sins during our worship services in the confession. In our worship and devotional life, we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In these words, “before God we acknowledge ourselves guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of.” When a particular sin is troubling us, we can confess our guilt to our pastor or another trusted fellow Christian.
Having confessed our sins, God gives us His Word of forgiveness. “The Lord also had put away your sin” (v. 13, NKJV). When children put away their toys or games, they may take them out to play with them within a couple hours. When we put away belonging in an attic or closet, we may look at them once in a while or bring them out for a particular holiday or when we move. However, when God puts away our sins, they are removed forever, as Psalm 103 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” God has taken all our sins, big and small, and placed them on His Son Jesus Christ, who paid in full for them by His death. God declared that all our sins are forgiven by raising Jesus from the dead. “You are the man,” yes, sinner though you are, you are the recipient of the gracious forgiveness of all your sins.
This week and throughout your lives, you will receive many messages, in person, by cell phone, by Facebook or other social media. Some messages will bring you joy while others will bring you sadness or anger. May we who are gathered here around God’s Word continue to hear God’s message to us through His Means of Grace. When God’s Word of Law points at us to tell us, “You are the man!” may we be brought to repent and confess our sins, that we may also be assured by the Gospel, that we are “Redeemed, restored, forgiven, Through Jesus’ precious blood, Heirs of His home in heaven- O praise our pardoning God” (CW 388). Amen. Soli Deo Gloria