David: A Sinner with a Promise
Scripture Reading: II Samuel 11:1-27; 12:1-15; 24-25
Text: Psalm 51
Sermon by Rev. Harry Van Dyken
Minister in the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 20, No. 9
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Subsequent to the history that we read concerning David, this man after God’s own heart penned Psalm 51. This psalm is the public confession of a man of God, but more than that, it is the public testimony of amazing grace, of a grace that’s greater than all our sin. It is the public testimony of a man who could conclude his psalm by saying, "LORD, restore now what I broke; build it up again. Restore the walls of Zion. Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Jerusalem." Our sin, as David’s sin, breaks, tears, and destroys. Sin is always that way, without any exception.
When the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth he said, "I came not to bring the righteous but sinners to repentance." Christ was saying that there is no room in the church of Jesus Christ for righteous people who are righteous in themselves, who have not sinned. Such self-righteous people have a righteousness which may look pretty good to men but it is totally unacceptable to God. He just will not receive it. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; there is none who does good – no, not so much as one. They have all turned aside; they have all together become filthy. There is none who seeks for God – no, not so much as one (Romans 3).
David was a king of Israel, but David thought as many people think, and as we all think at times. David thought that he occupied a special place, and so he could sin with impunity. He could sin without paying the consequences. He could sin without it really being sin because he was a king. Because he was a king, he could take from those under him and do as he pleased.
David is no stranger in that respect; that is always the way sin works; that is always the way the devil tempts. "It’s not really bad for you; it’s not really sin for you. In your situation, in your circumstance, in where you are and what you’re doing" – in other words, rather than to face sin for what it really is and to face the wonderful and amazing grace of God, man would rather redefine sin. It becomes a lot easier to live, he thinks; it becomes a lot easier to exist in the midst of a society and of a culture that is rotten. It becomes a lot easier to adjust and to move. Situational ethics is a lot easier: you can weave your way through a lie. And David thought that.
Situation ethics is not new. Situation ethics goes all the way back to paradise when Satan came and said, "God doesn’t understand the situation; but, Eve, you understand it. Because God doesn’t understand the situation, He said, ‘You’ll die,’ didn’t He. No! In this situation, Eve, if you go ahead and eat of the fruit of the tree, you’ll really live, you’ll know what life is." How many times has Satan said that? That’s what he’s said to you over and over and over again. "You’ll really know what life is if you just sin." The Lord Himself warned the seven churches in Asia Minor against those who said, "If you just dipped into the deep things of Satan, then you’d know what this is all about." Jezebel, the Jezebel of the New Testament and the Jezebel in Revelation, said, "Then you could really be a Christian." God said to the church of Thyatira, "If you don’t throw her out, I will; and all those who follow her with her will I throw into a bed of sickness. And I’ll destroy her and her children with death." Church of Christ, to redefine sin – David tried it. It was only tragedy.
I want you to notice "David: a sinner with a promise." I want you to see:
"David: a sinner with a promise" – there is no question about his sin, is there? There really is no question that David was in such a special place that he could do those kind of things. There really is no question, is there, that we can redefine sin to fit the situation; that sin is different today than it was then, or different then that it is today. Sin is to transgress the law of a righteous and holy God. That law of a righteous and holy God, as David found out, is not a willy-nilly or arbitrary, something which God just decided, "Well, I’ll think I’ll make those ants that are crawling around there do this, and I think I’ll make them do that, and I think that I will like that. I would like to see how they are not able to do this, and how they are not able to do that." That is not the way it is. Jehovah God said, "I’ve made these in My image, Adam and Eve and all their children. I’ll tell them how to really show forth My image, because through sin they’ve lost that knowledge. As I bring them back through the blood of My beloved Son and the sacrifice which I will offer, I’ll show them how to be My image. I’ll show them where joy is, and happiness, and where the wonder of life is; I’ll show them again. That eating of the fruit of that tree is death-dealing. Stay away from it!" Seeing the fence that God built around it and saying, "No, there’s death there," will bring joy and happiness.
1. David’s sin;
2. Nathan’s message;
3. David's repentance; and
4. God’s disposition.
And David said, "No, God, You don’t understand. I need this. I’m a king! It’s all right for me." How often has that happened in your life, church of Christ? "It’s all right for me: I’m somebody special. The situation demands it. It isn’t bad after all." It is redefining sin. David committed adultery. He committed adultery with the wife of a man who was fighting David’s battles, where David should have been. Then, because David defined sin the way he did, he had to get rid of that man because that man was in the way. That man would not cooperate. So David got rid of that man; he had him murdered along with others. To cover up the murder, others were murdered with him. Joab was aware of the needless battle losses: Joab said, "Tell David this."
David’s sin was great. What shall we say, church of Christ? Shall we say that that is a greater sin than any of us have done? Then we have misunderstood. If we respond by comparing sin, we’ve misunderstood. That is a danger in the church of Jesus Christ. I know that we’ve often as a church shied away from talking publicly about public sins. God moved David to write a confession which we can read today. What do we say? What do we say when we read Psalm 51? What a horrible, gruesome man David was? No, we don’t say that. We say, "What a wonder! What an absolutely amazing thing, that David could tell us this about his life. He could put himself out there and say, ‘Look what God did! He took a sinner like me; He lets me write part of His Bible. He used a sinner like me. Later on, He remembered me in saying, "Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham."’ Later on, there were blind people on the way to Jericho who were crying out, ‘Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us!’ because somehow there is power in that name."
David’s sin was great. Sin today is great. Whether it is of a public nature that we then must clear it away for everyone; or whether it’s that which is between us and our God, or us and our family, or us and our neighbor, sin is great. We can’t define it away. So I don’t really think that there is anyone here who wants to define David’s sins away – the sins of adultery and murder.
It was good, you see, when Nathan the prophet came to him, for God sent Nathan to him, and Nathan came with that message disguised. Nathan came to David and told him an allegory, a story in which David was the main actor but he didn’t know it. So when Nathan had carefully told him all about what God had to say, masking David as the rich man, and after David looked at that whole enactment that Nathan held before him without recognizing the main actor – when it was all finished, and David said as king, "That man shall surely die!" – then Nathan called to his attention, "Didn’t you recognize yourself? You’re that man!"
Have you ever had that happen? Has God worked with His Spirit in His Word in such a way that it has happened to you? That God says, "You are that man!"? It is so easy to condemn others, isn’t it. It’s so easy to look at the sins of others and talk about how terrible they are. But when God displays the scene of sin before us, and we look at it and say, "Isn’t that terrible? Isn’t it horrible?" – then God says, "You are that man!" In other words, the message of God’s Word concerning sin comes home, the message that there is none righteous, that this is a total involvement for all of us, that – yes – there are relationships that have to be straightened out.
David had to repent too, and God insisted that David do that. David did it in a beautiful way! In fact, David looked back, and when he finally saw himself there in that enactment, he said, "You know, I was born in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. I’m no good. Their king, that was me! But I have a great God, a wonderful Jehovah! And I can pray." David threw himself on the ground. He prayed and prayed: "Wash me with hyssop, and I shall be clean." Washing with hyssop was a very common thing in the Old Testament after God instituted the covenant in Exodus. God said that when the bird was killed and its blood was put in the bowl, and when you dip with hyssop into that bowl and sprinkle the congregation and the altar, that blood sanctifies. And in the Passover, the blood of the lamb was put in the basin, and the people dipped into that blood with hyssop and sprinkled it on the doorposts and on the lintel, and the angel of death didn’t come in. David says, "Wash me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me with the blood of Christ, with the blood of the Lamb of God!"
That’s what John the Baptist was talking about when Jesus came into the world. John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" Please note that he didn’t say, "Behold, the Lamb of God who will help hide the sin of the world, who will help redefine the sin of the world, who will help make excuses for the sin of the world, who will help it so that we don’t have to take sin so seriously, who will help in that we can dress sin in other clothes and it won’t look so bad." Rather, Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, knows what it is, recognizes it fully, and says, "I’ll take it on My shoulders and carry it to the cross of Calvary where it will meet with the justice of God." "Wash me with hyssop, and I shall be clean."
Church of Christ, a very critical matter which sin brings is seen in David’s words – "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me." David was a king; in the Old Testament the Spirit was not poured out on all flesh. The Holy Spirit did not come richly to all the church but came specially to kings and priests and prophets. David was a king and had a special call from God, and he said, "Please don’t take Thy Spirit away from me." What does David’s petition mean for today? Church of Christ, it means that with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament on Pentecost, every child of God is a king, a prophet, and a priest; but every child of God, because of sin, endangers the abiding presence of the Spirit of God. So his cry must go up with David’s: "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Then sinners will learn of me, and transgressors will understand, and sinners will be converted unto Thee."
Do you see what David is saying? When people look at David and see the amazing grace of God, they’ll say, "There is a place for me." That is what God wants, church of Christ. That is what He wants with the whole church of Jesus Christ: that men can see that it is a place of saved sinners. God wants men to understand what sin is and to understand the deep need of forgiveness. He wants men to understand that God provides. Remember what the king had said: King David passed sentence, "That man shall surely die. He shall restore four-fold." What a predicament, then, when Nathan replied, "You are the man!" How does a man restore somebody’s life one-fold, let alone four-fold? How could David give Uriah his life back? and restore his wife to him? David tried with his monkey business to let Uriah keep his life, but God said, "No." And Uriah said, "No." (Oh, he didn’t know it, but in his integrity he said, "No.") So tell me, how do you do it? How do you do it, people of God? How do we pay for sin? How do we restore, how do we make restitution? How do we get rid of the results of sin? The sentence was that "He shall die, and he shall restore four-fold." The king’s sentence came from God, the sentence of death and restitution for sin. How do you do that? How do you move from II Samuel 12:14-15 which says, "‘Howbeit, by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die,’ and Nathan departed unto his house, and the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick" – how do you come from there to verse 24, "And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her, and she bare a son and called his name Solomon, and the LORD loved him. And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet and called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD." The name Jedidiah means simply, "Loved of Jehovah." How do we get away from, "I was born in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me"? If our heart is perverse, then we cannot seek God. And yet we come to the place where we can say, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." Somehow we come to a place where we can say, "I have borne a son, and his name is Jedidiah, loved of Jehovah."
Church of Christ, that transition is what God brought about; it was God’s disposition. "David, you’re not going to die." "Why not?" "Because you saw your sin, David. Because seeing your sin for what it really is, you humbled yourself before God, you confessed your sin. You said, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ You’re not going to die, David; you’re going to live. Yes, there’ll be results of sin, not as punishment but as reminder. In your house, they will be there to remind you that you can’t play with God. But the real result of sin, the punishment of sin, death, will be taken away. David, you’re not going to die." Besides showing mercy with David’s life, God also did not strike his union with barrenness. Another son was born to Bathsheba. God sent a messenger there and said, "I want to name this baby." He had two names. You know his name Solomon, which means peaceful or prince of peace. His other name was a name that his Father in heaven gave him very specially, Jedidiah, loved of Jehovah. How amazingly beautiful that God takes our sin, turns it around and says, "Here’s what I’ve done, even with your sin." How beautiful when we’re able to fall down before God in penitence, in sorrow for sin, and say, "Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done this wickedness in Thy sight; take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Wash me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."
Church of Christ, I want you to stand with David. Wait until after the drama of the rich man is played on the screen because if you stand with David too early you’re going to point the finger and say, "You have to die!" Instead, stand with David as God takes that finger and points it back and says, "That man is you! You’re going to die." The king has passed the sentence; there is no way out. Even if you make restitution, you are still going to die, and you can’t make restitution. Sin breaks in such a way that you can’t put it back together. You can’t go back before the sin and decide to start all over as it was before – it’s impossible. Uriah was dead. Bathsheba was pregnant. You can’t go back. Sin always works that way.
But there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that blood lose all their guilty stains: all of their guilty stains! It takes away the sentence of death and the need of restitution. For there on Calvary’s cross, and there in a life He lived, Jesus Christ restored all. He’ll give Uriah his life back and his wife back. He’ll restore it all the way it ought to be. He doesn’t just say, "I’ll take away your sin and give you a new start; see what you can make of it now." No, for then indeed we could kind of look at each other and say, "Well, you’re not doing so good, are you; and, well, you’re doing a little better." No, He washes us clean. When God forgives sin, it is gone. One of the awful tragedies in the church of Jesus Christ is that often sin is not considered gone when God forgives it. We play around with it a little; we talk about it yet; we create tragedy.
Today I want to hold before you David, a man after God’s own heart, a beautiful king. Why was he such a beautiful king? Wasn’t he a filthy sinner? Wasn’t he a horrible murderer? He didn’t even care when a messenger told him, "Look, Uriah’s dead, and some others died with him." His thoughts were "Oh, well, the sword takes one as well as the other." I hold before you David as a man after God’s own heart because God said, "David, you’re mine," and because David answered and said, "Lord, I’ll bow before that great and amazing miracle that a sinner like me can find a sweet refuge by coming to Thee." I want you to see that David.
It is that David I’d like to have you join. Stand with him under the cross of Christ! When we stand together under the cross of Christ we will help each other along His way. We won’t look around and say, "How’d you get here? What are you doing here?" We will help each other along the way as sinners who have been saved. Once in a while when we dip into situation ethics – and we do – when we think it’s not sin for me; it’s all right – even then, by God’s grace, we will help each other back to the cross of Calvary and back to the place where God says, "Your sins and your iniquities will I remember no more." Amen.