It should have been a very happy time for him, and it should have been a happy time for her, too. Earlier she had become a widow, sadly, but she had recently become remarried to an important man in the community, and now they had been given a little baby boy – a son. It should have been a happy time for them all. But this is what the Bible says in 2 Samuel 11:27: “The thing David had done displeased the Lord.” The thing David had done displeased the Lord because he was the one responsible for making his new wife Bathsheba a widow, resulting from his greedy desire to have her as his wife and not to remain the wife of the one who was her husband, a man named Uriah – and the little baby boy was the result of his adultery with the one who was now his wife. Yes, it should have been a happy time for them all, but, again, this is what the Bible says in 2 Samuel 11:27: “The thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
And that is why it cut David to the heart so hard — when, after the prophet Nathan told the story about the little lamb in our Lesson, and David said of the man who had stolen and taken for himself the poor man’s one lamb for dinner instead of taking from his own immense flock, that of that selfish greedy, covetous man, David said, “He must surely die” – Yes, that is why it cut David to the heart so hard when Nathan said to this important man in the community, “David, you are the man.” “David, you are the man who must die, because the thing you have done, David, the thing you have done has displeased the Lord.”
What is the little lamb in your life? Every day of our lives we are called upon by our God to take full accountability for all we have done that has displeased our Lord, but on this Ash Wednesday we especially reflect on why we must come before our Lord in dust and ashes, recognizing his right to say to every one of us, “You are the man, you are the woman, you are the boy, you are the girl, for every single thing you have done that has displeased the Lord.”
Yes, we think about our sins in general, the things we know we just say and do and think, often without even thinking all that much, and we acknowledge they are things we should not do. They are sins. But aren’t there also those specific things that we would start getting very nervous about very quickly if the Lord should decide to send the prophet Nathan knocking on our front door and wanting to talk to us one on one? There may be things in our past that just cannot be undone and that may tempt us to think that the Lord should just stop bothering our conscience about them, or that may even cause us to wonder at times if that is why this or that bad thing is happening in our lives. Or there may be something in your life right now that the devil is using to try to get you to get even with someone or get away with something or get your way about something that is not in keeping with the will of him who is the way, the truth, and the life. All of us, no matter our age, no matter where we are at in life — all of us need to have the prophet Nathan speak the word of the Lord to us, “You are the one. Nobody else right now. You are the one who has done what is displeasing to the Lord. You are the one who has taken for yourself the little lamb that was not yours, and for that, you are the one who should surely die.”
2 Samuel 11:27 is the verse that led directly into the words of our Lesson about Nathan confronting the king of the land. The verses that follow after our Lesson talk about Nathan comforting the king of the land, and in that way, I pray, comforting every one of us with words that we can take to heart every day of our lives, but especially on this Ash Wednesday day of our life.
What happened afterward was a miracle of God’s grace. About those months in which David was living in unrepented sin, during which he was in danger of eternal damnation apart from God, he later wrote this in one of his Psalms – Psalm 32: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” How wondrous and how really a miracle of God that David did not continue in the silence of his guilt, but with his mouth later on in 2 Samuel 12, as he kept standing before the man of God who had convicted him of his sin against God, David uttered the all-important words, “I have sinned against the Lord.” No excuses. No explanations. No other possible way to look at it. “I have sinned against the Lord.”
And then what did the prophet say to this sin-burdened man of the community? What does God say to us as we confess our iniquity to him? God does not say, “Wait a minute so I can think about what you said.” God does not say, “I want to know if you really mean what you said.” God does not say, “You need to prove what you have said by doing what I am now going to tell you to do.” Nathan said to David what God says to us and what we say to each other because of the miracle of God’s grace, “The Lord has put away your sin. You are not going to die.”
“Now you are the man, you are the woman, you are the boy, you are the girl” in a totally different way! You are the one for whom Jesus stood up from the dust in the Garden of Gethsemane to go to what would have been for anyone else the ashes of death on the cross and then to leave the darkness of his tomb because death’s dark prison could not keep in its chains the holy and eternal Son of God. He is the one I looked at as one who has displeased the Lord since he took upon himself all those things of yours that caused my displeasure. So for his sake, you are the one I love. You are the one I have forgiven. You are the one I will never leave or forsake. You are the one I pray for as you go through everything this life throws at you. In David and Bathsheba’s case, for example, the Lord did allow their son to die as a personal reminder to stay close to their Lord, something we know from the Bible the Lord does not say we can say about specific bad things that happen to us, though we recognize that all heartaches are reminders of this important truth in general: God wants us to stay close to him because he will always be close to us — and he says in his marvelous, miraculous grace: “You are the one, in the midst of everything life throws at you, for whom I will someday throw open my arms and hold you close to my heart all the days of an eternity filled with joys and filled with peace that you can’t even begin to fully imagine.
Yes, on this Ash Wednesday, we do take particular note of our sins that caused there to be a need for the season of Lent, but we never take our eyes off the end result of the season of Lent – that in total love for you and me by taking on his Father’s displeasure Jesus Christ perfectly did what was pleasing to the Lord, and that in total love our Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake considers you to be perfectly pleasing to him. On this day and every day, remember, I pray, these two most important things as the most important things to remember when God says, “You are…” Filled with sin and deserving of death, yes. But forgiven of sin and assured of life and of love and of joy and of peace — always. Amen.