Monday, July 30, 2012

The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – 18th Ordinary (Day 1)

2 Sam. 11:26–12:13a

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband Uriah was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her back to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son.
But what David had done was evil in the LORD’s eyes.
12 So the LORD sent Nathan to David. When Nathan arrived he said, “There were two men in the same city, one rich, one poor. 2 The rich man had a lot of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing—just one small ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised that lamb, and it grew up with him and his children. It would eat from his food and drink from his cup—even sleep in his arms! It was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to visit the rich man, but he wasn’t willing to take anything from his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had arrived. Instead, he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the visitor.”
5 David got very angry at the man, and he said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the one who did this is demonic! 6 He must restore the ewe lamb seven times over because he did this and because he had no compassion.”
7 “You are that man!” Nathan told David. “This is what the LORD God of Israel says: I anointed you king over Israel and delivered you from Saul’s power. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and gave his wives into your embrace. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. If that was too little, I would have given even more. 9 Why have you despised the LORD’s word by doing what is evil in his eyes? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and taken his wife as your own. You used the Ammonites to kill him. 10 Because of that, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own, the sword will never leave your own house.
11 “This is what the LORD says: I am making trouble come against you from inside your own family. Before your very eyes I will take your wives away and give them to your friend, and he will have sex with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did what you did secretly, but I will do what I am doing before all Israel in the light of day.”
13 “I’ve sinned against the LORD!” David said to Nathan.
“The LORD has removed your sin,” Nathan replied to David. “You won’t die.


David screwed up royally. His royal screw up was made painfully clear to him by the skillful self-accusatory parable of the prophet Nathan. Even though YHWH “removed (David’s) sin” (12:13), the terrible consequences of that sin remained to torture the royal family throughout its days.

Forgiveness is given a “thick” profile in this story. This thick description sets up our consideration of Psalm 51, our lectionary psalm for this week, tomorrow.

First, all sins, King David’s and our own, are royal screw ups. That is, created and called to be God’s royal representatives who protect and care for his creation and reflect his character throughout it, sin is a failure to live out this mandate.

Instead of representing and reflecting God in this world, we seek to be God in “our” world. We overreach (as David did) or underreach (as do many whose voices have been silenced and marginalized). In either case, we fail to be the genuine “royalty” God has called us to be and languish in the debris of our efforts to be “divine” on our own terms!

Second, there is no such sin as “personal” sin, if by personal we mean private – just between us and God. Sin always ripples out and engulfs other in its consequences, even if we imagine otherwise or cannot see these consequences. David only recognizes his sin against YHWH when its consequences are played out in front of his eyes (12:13). Our sin always implicates the community and, indeed, the world in its reach!

Thirdly, sin can be forgiven but its consequences cannot be forgone. We never simply “get away” with it. Confessing our sin and claiming God’s forgiveness is but the beginning not the end of the matter. God transforms us “through” the consequences of our sin rather than saving us “from” them. How we deal with such consequences is the stuff of our sanctification. Repairing relationships damaged by sin is among the most excruciating and difficult tasks we ever have to face. Yet it is the one crucible we pass through that more than any other can make us look more and more like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

“The Lord has removed your sin,” Nathan told David. He will live as a result. Yet the pain of living with and through the consequences of his bedding Bathsheba might well have made him wish the Lord had killed him then and there. But live he did and somehow, by the mysterious alchemy of grace, through the maelstrom of his family life and the rigors of his rule over Israel, he became the man Israel remembered above all others as “the man after God’s own heart.”

May such be true for us as well!

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