The Repentance of King David Window
This sermon is part of a Lenten midweek series on our sanctuary stained-glass windows.
Text: 2 Sam. 12:1-9, 13; Matt. 7:1-5; Luke 7:41-43
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” It’s one of the most commonly misinterpreted passages in the Bible. Often people use it as a defense for whatever they’re doing. When they’re called out on it they’ll make the claim, “Judge not…” as if what they’re doing can in no way ever be called sinful or wrong. We can all think of examples in this age of ours where blasphemies and mockeries of God and His children seem to multiply every other week.
The subject of our window this week could have taken that track. King David, man after God’s own heart, had instead followed his own heart’s impulses. He had spotted Bathsheba and needed to have her—he was king, after all. Then, when she discovered she was pregnant from their liaison, David pulled every string he had to have her husband not-so-accidentally killed on the front lines. Their affair would never be found out and she was free to be taken to David’s palace. Everything looked like he was in the clear. All tracks were covered. But there was One who knew what had happened, for He knows all. And He could not stand to see His beloved servant David remain under the power of such a sin. So God sent the prophet Nathan to David with a parable.
There were two men in a certain city. One was very rich, the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, he had more than he could ever need, so many animals he couldn’t even count them. But the poor man had only one little ewe lamb. This poor man from the parable is depicted in our window. You can see him there on the left, looking down lovingly at the lamb as he holds it. He had scrimped and saved and bought her himself. He brought up the lamb along with his children, like it was a daughter. It would eat from the portion of food that was his, as we can see in the window. It drank from his cup. It curled up in his arms when they slept. Now the rich man had a guest stop by, and as was the custom, the rich man was to prepare a meal for his visitor. But he didn’t want to take an animal from his own very many herds, so he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.
David, the former shepherd, who had raised sheep for food and wool, understood that that lamb in this story was no animal for slaughter. He saw the act for what it was: a gross sin of greed. Killing someone’s beloved pet when the rich man had his own flocks to choose from? Unthinkable! Inexcusable! So David, God’s instrument of justice in Israel, declared a sentence on this man, the sentence of a king acting as the judge he was supposed to be: “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” The merciless man deserved to die, but not before he paid back the poor man four times what he had paid for the lamb, even though that could never cover the pain and grief.
It’s very easy to condemn the sins of others. Often it’s easiest to condemn others for the same thing we’re guilty of. Look at the countless condemnations that get thrown around so easily right now, at this particular moment in our society. Left, right, progressive, libertarian, believers, unbelievers, Ukrainians, Russians, supporters of any and every cause or practice, media and social media moguls—they all throw the same insults at each other: arrogant, foolish, dangerous, stupid, anti-whatever. The cry goes out, “The one who has done this, who has thought differently, acted differently, spoken differently than me deserves punishment, deserves ridicule, deserves whatever they get.”
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me judge you guilty of the same things I have done. Let me take out that flaw from your eye, from your thinking, your behavior; while I have my own guilt, my own mistakes, my own misunderstanding.” So Jesus speaks to us. “You are the rich man in the parable,” Nathan says it to David—and to us. And the measure we use to judge others, the pronouncement we proclaim on them will be used on us, to see if we’ve really stood up to the standards we expect of others. And if David, man after the Lord’s own heart, as God Himself called him, if David wasn’t able to stand up to his own standards of justice and right and wrong, what makes any of us think that we can?
We cannot. That’s one of the things that makes Lent so uncomfortable for us. We have these reminders these forty days of our failings when it comes to our own code, and God’s. Those things we’ve swept under the rug, the shortcomings we’ve put out of our own memories, are all revealed by Lent and its constant call to repent. We’re getting away with it about as well as King David did.
We can react indignantly of course—how dare you judge me?! Judge not—at least judge me not! “I have reasons,” we explain, “I have excuses. It shouldn’t be a sin. Everything is relative; right and wrong are flexible and fluid.”
We could react that way. Or we could take a cue from King David. His stomach drops through the floor when Nathan says, “You are the man in the parable.” But he doesn’t make excuses. He doesn’t storm out of the throne room. He doesn’t order Nathan to be executed or imprisoned. He doesn’t whisper and gossip about Nathan to get everyone in the royal court on his side. No, David simply admits, “I have sinned against the Lord.” The Law has taken away all of his excuses. His mouth has been stopped. He confesses his guilt, not needing to hide it anymore, since it’s clear that God already knows. What David needs now is cleansing. In our window, the artists at Giannini and Hilgart have captured this exact moment. King David is kneeling, offering back the crown of Israel in repentance. There’s no reference to him doing this in Scripture, but this artistic touch does show the depth of his repentance, how true his contrition is.
So Nathan speaks another word from the Lord. “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” David will not suffer the death sentence that he so quickly and unknowingly proclaimed on himself. The Lord has put away his sin.
For there is another Lamb. In the window, above the prophet Nathan’s head, top and center, it’s over the entire scene, covering it. This Lamb is not being coddled or snuggled though. It isn’t eating from its master’s bowl. This lamb has instead drunk from the cup of the Lord’s wrath. This Lamb has had the death sentence proclaimed by David, proclaimed by all of us in our condemnations, proclaimed by God Himself in the Garden of Eden, “The day you sin you shall surely die”—this Lamb has had all of the Lord’s and our judgments piled upon it. So this Lamb of God in this window lies in the posture of a sacrifice, slain for our sins, for David’s sin, for Bathsheba’s sin, for your sin. This Lamb was not snatched away or stolen though. It willingly suffered the pronouncement of sin and death, becoming sin for us, so that the sin of the world would be put away from us; so that we would not die.
At the bottom of the scene in the window there’s a building. Presumably it’s the temple. David would not be permitted to build the Lord’s house, the temple, because he was a man of war. But God promised that instead of David building the Lord a house, the Lord would build David a house. David’s son Solomon, the next son of Bathsheba and David, would sit on David’s throne and he would build the temple as a man of peace. David’s house and lineage would endure forever, resulting finally in the birth of the Messiah, the Savior of all mankind. The Lamb of God would be descended from David still. Thus, the Savior stands at the top and the bottom of this window, the Lamb of God and House of God, the temple in human flesh, beginning and end.
This Lent we learn to put away our excuses and rationales. We say the simple words with David, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And God joyfully tells us, “Your sin has been put away.” This happens every week in the Divine Service with the confession and absolution. It also happens privately when there’s a sin that particularly bother us, like the sin that David confessed to Nathan to have Nathan specifically forgive that. We confess this every day and night with the Lord’s Prayer as we ask for our trespasses to be forgiven, as we forgive those who trespass against us. The measure the Lord uses is gracious and merciful. His proclamation is grace and peace. So we learn to measure ourselves and others with grace, forgiveness, and mercy. In the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Amen.