“Undeserved Mercy” (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon preached on 7 September 2014 at Poole Christian Fellowship

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There was a King called David. He was the model by which all Old Testament Kings are judged. He was a man chosen by God, and who served God. God gave him the throne, the nation, a palace and great victories wherever he went. He did what was right and just for all the people.

At the height of his reign, when all seems set well, he inexplicably carries out a series of disastrous crimes.

1. The Crime

While his army is away, bored and alone, he is drawn to a beautiful woman who he watches bathing. The woman is married to one of his mighty men, Uriah the Hittite; she comes to him, they sleep together and she returns home.  It is a terrible crime in the sight of God, and against her and her husband. David is an adulterer.

For a while David may have thought he had got away with it. But he quickly receives word that Bathsheba is pregnant. David concocts a ruse to cover over his crime. If Uriah was back on the scene everyone would assume that child was his, and provided Bathsheba didn’t talk, all would be well. He sends for Uriah, under the pretext of wanting information about the war and sends him home to be with his wife. But David doesn’t reckon with the conscience of his friend who is unable to enjoy home comforts whilst his colleagues are at war. The plan has failed. David is now a deceiver and a manipulator.

Then David resorts to most dastardly scheme of all: he arranges for Uriah to be murdered in such a way as it appears that he was accidentally killed in war. When Uriah dies he takes Bathsheba to be his own wife. It may have been seen as some as honourable gesture in providing for the widow of his friend, but the fact is that David is now a murderer.

A murderer, and deceiver and an adulterer. It can’t get much worse!

For maybe up to a couple of years it appears that David has got away with it. But God knows differently.

2. The Confrontation

God sends a prophet to speak to David:

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

By means of a clever story, God exposes what has been going on. David stands guilty, judged and condemned before a Holy God.

And we too have to acknowledge that that phrase “You are the man” also to us. We may not have done what David has done, but we too are guilty of lust, of deceit and anger that amount to the same thing, as Jesus made clear in the Sermon on the Mount. Left to ourselves we are hopeless. Our case is lost. What can be done?

3. The Confession

“I  have sinned against the Lord” – is David’s frank statement of the reality. Note that David does not mention his crime against Bathsheba and Uriah – great thought they are. It is against God that our crime is. Psalm 51 is a moving portrayal of the depth of David’s heartfelt sorrow and pain.

4. The Commitment

Not a commitment from David – but one from God.

“The Lord has taken away your sin” – has to be amongst the most glorious things ever said to a man. The fact is that David did not deserve to have his sin removed – neither do we. David could do nothing to have his sin removed – neither can we. For us to be forgiven God himself had to intervene.

5. The Cost

David did not know what it would take to have his sins removed. He did not have the knowledge of the cross that we have today. We understand that we have a saviour who himself took our crimes on himself and paid the full penalty for them in one extraordinary day.

6. The Commemoration

That is what we remember when we break bread: our sins, real and vivid though they are, have been taken away by God himself. We stand guilty just as David was, but we stand forgiven as David. The means that God is able to deal with us, as thought our crimes had never happened. Amazingly, when this was all over, David and Bathsheba’s marriage was blessed by God and he gave them a son, Solomon, who would be a model of the forthcoming Messiah. God’s mercy almost defies belief. And as we break bread, we remember and celebrate it.


John MacDiarmid

September 2014

Posted Under: Talks

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