Are we the ones? (Dec 31, 2020)
Are we the ones?
2 Samuel 12:1-13
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We have been given such a gift in confession. Sadly, it’s a gift we may be hesitant to use at times. Like the apprehension before a live saving surgery we are often filled with anxiety before confessing our sinfulness – perhaps even thinking it better to just live with the burden of guilt rather than acknowledge what we have done. In today’s service we are going to focus on God’s gift of confession and forgiveness. To do this, we are going to read through the four parts of confession from Luther’s Small Catechism, paired with hymns and Scripture readings – Scripture being the foundation of our faith. After we gain this better understanding and appreciation for Confession and Absolution – the Forgiveness of Sins – we will then have a general confession and forgiveness, followed by the reception of the Lord’s Supper – the Sacrament assuring us of the administering of God’s forgiveness.
So, are we the ones who need to confess? Are we the kind of people that confession is for? We need only to consider the Ten Commandments to see that yes, we are lawbreakers. We are the ones who need confession. This evening, we will hear from Scripture, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker” (Jas 2:10-11).
It all starts with temptation. Eyes that wander. Hearts that want. Egos that are proud or selfish. And already having stepped into sin, there is opportunity to stop. But so often we wade in a little more, just a little bit farther. Afterall, what’s one more tiny step? What’s the harm of one step further. Well, we will see what the harm is when we read about the aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba. He had so many opportunities to turn away from sin, to resist temptation and return to the Lord. When he first caught a glimpse of Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop he could have looked away – gone to another part of his rooftop. But he let his gaze linger. And when lusting turned to coveting, instead of inquiring more about her, he could have forgotten about her. And before coveting turned into physical sin, rather than summoning her, he could have gone to God in prayer for forgiveness and strength. Instead, as he let his eyes wander, he let his heart wander from his Lord.
Sin had been committed. Multiple sins already. But as if that isn’t enough, how much more heartache and trouble do we often find as we try to cover over our sinfulness and hide it from others. How much guilt and shame could we save ourselves if we simply go immediately to the one who already knows?! Yet, we see David compounding sins as he tries to cover it up. He lied to one of his soldiers. He tried to deceive him. Then he purposefully had him killed. What kind of holes have we dug ourselves simply because we were blinded by our sinfulness and frantically trying to cover up our guilt? King David later wrote in the Psalms, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Ps 32:3-4).
And what is probably most appalling is that somehow we still think it right to become enraged in righteous anger against the sins we see in other people’s lives. Trying to pick out the fleck of dust in someone else’s eye, while we have a plank sticking out of our own. When God’s prophet Nathan told David a story about a rich man, with large herds, taking the only lamb of his poor neighbor to prepare a meal for a guest, David had the audacity to be enraged at this man’s sin. “As surely as the LORD lives,” David said, “the man who did this must die!” (2 Sam 12:5). It’s the same outrage we might have against others. “How could someone steal packages from another person?!” “How could someone drive drunk and put others’ lives in danger?!” “How could someone rape another?!” Be enraged about sin, yes! But are we enraged about our own sins? “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die!… because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Sam 12:5-6).
“You are the man” (2 Sam 12:7) was Nathan’s conviction of David – the LORD’s conviction through his prophet Nathan. We are the ones guilty of sin. The law cuts past any excuse, any rationalizations, any clever word games. We know it’s true. We know we can’t hide it from the One who knows all things. “Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?” (2 Sam 12:9) the LORD asks David. “Why” is the impossible question we cannot answer. Why, in spite of all God’s goodness, God’s grace, God’s abundant blessings, did you do this? Why? Because I’m a sinner.
After the striking accusation that must have hit like a greatsword through the chest, David confessed: “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Sam 12:13). God waits for each of us to confess and acknowledge our sins in this same way. God waits with longing to forgive and heal and restore the hearts of all who turn to him in repentance.
And see how immediate the forgiveness is! “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.’” (2 Sam 12:13). There’s no verses in between with long drawn out pleas for mercy. There’s no requirements Nathan lays out for David to fulfill. The forgiveness is immediate! How closely tied the confession and the proclamation of forgiveness are! God is always ready to forgive the repentant sinner. If only we would be more ready and willing to confess our wrongs – knowing, trusting that we will always find forgiveness from God! David said nothing to extenuate his wrongdoing or minimize his guilt. “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps 51:7-10).
Are we the ones who are guilty? Yes. Are we the ones whom the Lord forgives? Yes. The promise has already been made by David’s time. The promise has already been fulfilled in our time! The LORD kept his promise to sacrifice the Lamb of God to take away the sin and rebellion of the whole world. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Is 1:18).
We see how immediate and willing to forgive God is in the account of David, which we will read. We will also see how completely and willing to forgive God is in the Gospel reading – the prodigal son. I’ll just highlight the last few verses of that reading, but as I do, I want you to note 3 things. Does the son have to earn favor or is he given grace? Is he treated as an outcast or given the full rights as a son? Is there disappointment when he returns or celebrating?
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Lk 15:21-24). I’ll also note that while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him – because he was looking for him, eager for him to return! His father saw him, and already then, before a word was said, was filled with compassion for him.
Brothers and sisters, Are we the ones? Yes, we are guilty of sin. But we are also the ones whom God has forgiven through Jesus his Son! And, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Lk 15:10). Let’s hear from Scripture, sing of God’s goodness and mercy, confess our sinfulness and fully trust in the proclamation of forgiveness.