Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity - 2 Sam 22:26-34

                                                                                                Trinity 9
                                                                                                2 Sam 22:26-34

            “And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.”  That’s how Second Samuel introduces the chapter in which our text is found.  David is giving thanks to Yahweh and praising him because he has rescued David from all those who had sought to overcome him.
            There had been a long list of people whom you would include in that category.  Some were people you would expect – like the Philistines.  Others were people you would not necessarily expect – people who unjustly tried to kill or harm David.
            First on that list is the name mentioned last – Saul.  Saul was the first king of Israel.  However he proved to be unfaithful to Yahweh and so God told the prophet Samuel that he had rejected Saul as king.  He had Samuel anoint David as the future king.  Yet Saul continued to reign as king, and in fact David was taken into Saul’s service.  We are told that Saul loved David greatly. In fact, Saul told David’s father Jesse, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.”  David was Saul’s armor bearer, and also played the lyre for Saul to calm him when he was agitated.  David and Saul’s son Jonathan became best friends.
            David was a faithful servant of King Saul.  He killed the Philistine warrior Goliath in single combat. After this we are told, “And David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him, so that Saul set him over the men of war. And this was good in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul's servants.”  David was successful because God was with him and blessed him.  He was successful in serving Saul, until finally Saul thought that he was too successful.  Jealous of David and threatened by his success, Saul finally tried to kill David.
            David had to flee for his life and live on the run. Driven by jealousy and paranoia, Saul pursued David.  On two different occasions, David had the opportunity to kill Saul. And yet he refused to do so, in spite of the encouragement from the men who now followed him.  He told them, “Yahweh forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, Yahweh's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is Yahweh's anointed.” 
            When Saul realized that David had spared him he said, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand.”
            Saul and his sons were killed by the Philistines in battle, and so David became king.  He fought many battles in subduing Israel’s enemies. But his greatest challenge did not come from foreigners.  Instead it came from his own house – his own son.  Absalom agitated and conspired against his father.  Finally he set in motion a coup. David had to flee from Jerusalem, and Absalom set himself up as king.  Only by God’s intervention as Absalom rejected good tactical advice and acted instead on a bad plan was David rescued.
            David had ample reason to praise God.  He begins this song by saying, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”
            David the goes on to talk about his own behavior.  Just before our text David declares, “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.  And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.”
            David says that he has walked righteously in God’s ways, and so in our text he praises God by saying, “With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.”
            Now as we consider David’s words, it should raise a few questions for us.  I only need to say two names and you will probably understand what I mean: Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite.  David saw Bathsheba bathing.  She was hot and he wanted her.  He was the king so he made it happen.  He had sex with another man’s wife, and Bathsheba became pregnant.  When David’s attempts to cover up his action failed, he had Uriah killed and took Bathsheba as his own wife.
            David was certainly not blameless all the time!  He did depart wickedly from God’s ways. So how can he speak this way in the song?  For starters we need to listen again to how the song is introduced: “And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.”  David has in view his behavior in relation Saul and his enemies.  He had been blameless and done what was right in relation to Saul and Absalom.  The same could be said about the Philistines and all the enemies of God’s people.
            The Scriptures, especially the Old Testament, are entirely comfortable speaking about how a person has been righteous in relation to others. It shows us that there is a time to speak in general terms about our behavior as being God pleasing. We know what is right and wrong, and there are indeed many times we do what is right.  For this we thank God, because he leads us by his Spirit. We don’t need to paralyze ourselves by navel gazing; by always trying to find some remnant of sin that affects our every action.  As a baptized Christian – as someone who is in Christ – God doesn’t see you that way.  Instead he sees the good things you do as being good – as being pleasing to him.
            That is not to say that David always spoke in this general way.  David is the one who wrote Psalm 51 in response to his sin involving Bathsheba.  There he said, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.”
            There are definitely times when God’s law confronts the sin we have done.  It shows us our sin.  It shows that we are sinners.  David says in our text, “You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.”  We come before God in the humility of repentance, because his law brings us down when we are haughty.  It shows us what we really are apart from Jesus Christ.  It leads us to take refuge in God’s forgiveness.
            David knew this.  He wrote in Psalm 32, “For 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 dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.’”
            We are able to say the same thing. The reason we can is indicated by the last verse of David’s song.  There David says, “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.”  David’s offspring was Jesus the Christ – Jesus the Anointed One.  He was anointed, not with olive oil, but with the Spirit of God at his baptism.  Because of God’s steadfast love for you, God treated Jesus as if he was crooked and haughty.  Jesus died on the cross for your sin, so that God can now in Christ view you as blameless and pure.
            God the Father gave this role to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son.  But as David said, he showed steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever. David wrote in Pslam 16, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.”  On the day of Pentecost Peter declared, “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”
            In Jesus Christ, God has forgiven your sins and defeated death.  He has given you the living hope of the risen Lord.  It is because of Jesus that we can say with David in our text, “For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.”  Jesus has overcome the darkness of sin and death. We always have hope because we know that our life leads toward the light of resurrection on the Last Day.
            It is because of Jesus that we can say with David in our text, “This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”  We know that God’s Word proves true because he has already spoken the great “Yes!” to all of his promises in Jesus Christ.  He is a shield for all those who take refuge in him, because in Christ we have the certainty of God’s continuing love and care.

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