Sunday, August 1, 2021
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13A
Well, the world has been watching and talking about the disappointment of Simone Biles withdrawing from Olympic competition. The “G.O.A.T” greatest of all time gymnast, is human after all, we found out. She’s demonstrated courage to be vulnerable in a way that I am not sure I myself would be able to do: to step back and admit fallibility in such a public way is not easy. As we continue to look at the story of King David in 2 Samuel, we hear the rest of the story of how the Greatest of All Time King also is definitely fallible. Just a brief recap, last week we heard how David stayed home from fighting and sent his officers to fight his battles for him while he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then sent her husband Uriah into the fiercest of the fighting to be killed to cover up David’s sins. David has broken at least three commandments: coveting, adultery, and murder, and has tried to get away with it.
As we continue the story today, we see that God’s justice prevails – no one, not even the Lord’s anointed king of all Israel, can get away with murder. Depending on where I am personally, if I’m feeling more like a sinner or a saint, I can put myself in the shoes of either Nathan or David. When I feel like Nathan and wanting to point out someone else’s sins, I wish I could confront people who are wrong with the same tact and skill that Nathan does. By telling the story of the rich man who has many sheep and the poor man with just one little ewe lamb, Nathan is able to help David admit to his sin. If only I could be less blunt, that calm, and at the same time convicting to hold someone accountable!
When I’m feeling like David and know I’ve done something wrong, I hope I respond with humility as David does. Last week, we saw how David really dug himself a hole moving from coveting to adultery to murder rather than stopping and coming clean earlier on. But today, we see a model of someone finally taking responsibility for his sin and the consequences. “I have sinned against the Lord,” David says. He is able to listen to Nathan and not knee-jerk react in denial or pointing the finger at someone else. It takes real courage to admit when you are wrong. It demonstrates solid leadership to listen to critique and in this case, not only admit to wrongdoing but also ask for forgiveness. Just as we did today in worship, it became Jewish tradition to read Psalm 51 after this passage was read in the synagogue – the psalm of repentance that David writes after these events. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” he sings. This song still speaks to us as our prayer today when we need God’s help to start over and move on after messing up.
The consequences of David’s sin are pretty big even though David repents. As we’ll see next week, three of David’s sons will die violently. His sons will fight over who gets to be king next, ultimately causing division in the kingdom of Israel that will never be fully repaired. And most difficult for us to understand, David and Bathsheba’s baby son will die in infancy as punishment for their sin. It is much easier for us to want to be the righteous prophet Nathan – to point the finger and say self-satisfactorily: “YOU are the man! Ha!” But as I said last week, God’s judgment and deep disappointment with David is not the end of the story, thank goodness, because this means that God’s judgment and deep disappointment with us and our sin is not the end of our story, either.
Nathan doesn’t just point a righteous finger. Nathan confronts his beloved king because he wants David to do better and knows he can do better – God believes David can do better. Both Nathan and David want repentance. Confession ends with absolution or forgiveness. Repentance is dynamic. It is not simply wallowing in our guilt but moving forward in faith in a new direction. Repentance simply means to turn and go a different direction. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” David asks, we ask.
God’s main concern with David, you see, is that God has given everything he needed to succeed and more because God has faith that despite his sins David can do great things: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul…” the Lord says. David had seven wives before he took Bathsheba as his eighth wife. “And if that had been too little,” the Lord says, “I would have added as much more!” David needs to turn back to God, and the main part of the turning, the repentance, is to recognize that God is enough. God has given David much more than enough, more than he needs to rule Israel as a good king. Renewing a right spirit within us is trusting that God is enough for us, too. God, in fact, has given us more than enough.
This is the basic message of our gospel for this morning, too. Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” In Christ, God has given us all that we need. Whoever comes to him will never be hungry and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty. What we have from God is good enough, in fact, more than enough. In our hyper-consumerist society, we can easily think like David that we need a bigger house, a better car, more friends, more money, perhaps a better spouse or higher achieving children. Like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, like David, like the disciples following Jesus we too are often tempted to think the grass is always greener across from where we’re standing. Can we be satisfied with what we have, and even, satisfied with who we are and trust that the God who created you and called you by name and redeemed you believes YOU are enough just as you are? Turning to God again and again reminds us of our ultimate source of life and meaning. This is what it means to call Jesus the BREAD of LIFE.
In interviews with other Olympic athletes after Simone Biles dropped out, we heard the darker side of the kind of single-mindedness it takes to be an Olympic champion- the drive to compete and to win on the one hand demonstrates in some truly amazing ways what human beings are capable of. But once you get too old, or lose your confidence, that’s it – you’re out to pasture, a has-been. We’ve heard the struggle in interviews this week of athletes talking about trying to redefine their lives and who they are once the Olympics are over. God bless all of those athletes to help them find meaning and purpose that endures for eternal life, not just for a season of medal winning. And God bless us too in our journey of turning back to God.
As we’ll see in the coming weeks, God’s grace and forgiveness includes not just sparing David’s life, but giving David and Bathsheba a second son, Solomon, who will be another flawed and yet good king for Israel. Solomon’s second name given to him when he is born is Jedidiah which means “beloved of the Lord.” What a beautiful promise to David and to us, that we are beloved of the Lord! David’s faith and trust in God’s love for him will continue despite the difficulties he endures. He is king over Israel, but God is king overall, and this is the hard lesson David learns in these chapters. God is enough. We are good enough not because we make ourselves so with the right kind of diet and exercise or even in trying to follow all of the rules or meeting the expectations of others. We are good enough because Christ, the bread of life, dies and is raised for us. Even when we stumble, when others confront us with our sins, God gives us opportunities to repent – to turn toward the bread of life once again, and renew our hearts. Thanks be to God. Amen.