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“David: Nip Temptation in the Bud”
Life Lessons from the Old Testament Sermon Series
2 Samuel 11:26-27

Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost—August 16, 2009


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The theme verse for our Summer Sermon Series on Life Lessons from the Old Testament is actually from the New Testament book of Romans: “Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Paul says that “EVERYTHING . . . was written to teach us,” and that includes not only the positive, but also the negatives examples we find in the Old Testament.  So far in our sermon series, we have had the negative examples of Adam and Eve, eating the forbidden fruit and plunging the whole world into sin; Abraham and Sarah, ing their marriage with adultery and polygamy; and Jacob, with the help of his mother Rebekah deceiving his father Isaac and stealing his brother Esau’s birthright and blessing.

We’ve also had the positive examples of Joseph, graciously forgiving his brothers who had grievously sinned against him; Moses, finally receiving the fulfillment of God’s plans for him after waiting so many years; Joshua, proclaiming his family’s faithfulness to the true God, and urging all the people to worship only the Lord; and Ruth, after great loss and suffering in her life, being blessed by the Lord with her heart’s desire.

In today’s Old Testament Reading, we have another negative example, a terrible tale of adultery and murder that could be ripped right out of today’s headlines. 

King David really had two roles in the ancient nation of Israel.  He was, of course, a political leader.  Politicians are often ranked in surveys as the least trusted profession.  Perhaps that’s not surprising, because it seems we often see them in the media falling into scandals much like King David.

But, maybe it is surprising, and for me a little embarrassing, that on a recent list of the most trusted professions clergy, only came in seventh, right below veterinarians.  You would hope that clergy would rank higher, perhaps at the top of the list.  But, over the years, we’ve also seen in the media examples of clergy falling into shameful scandals.

King David was both, a politician, and a kind of preacher.  For, ancient Israel was a theocracy.  King David was not only the head of the government, but also the head of the church in those days.  And we read how he took a very active role in that aspect of his position.  He brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem; organized the worship and music; planned for construction of the Temple; and, most of all, David wrote over half the Psalms, the hymnal of the Old Testament, still used by us today.  So, today’s Old Testament Reading is like a lurid tabloid tale about the disgraceful fall of both a famous politician and preacher, into adultery and even murder.

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.”

That is the first life lesson we learn from David’s negative example: “Nip Temptation in the Bud.”  For temptation is like a dandelion.   The worst thing that can happen for your lawn is for a dandelion to bloom out into one of those fuzzy balls.  Because then you have those harmful seeds scattered and taking root all over your lawn.  You have to uproot it before it blossoms.

It’s the same with temptation.  As James writes, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”  Paul puts in this way in Ephesians: “Do not give the devil a foothold.”  That’s what happened to David.  He gave the devil a foothold. He let temptation take root, and grow into horrible sins. 

Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  In the case of David, the way out was for him to stop watching Bathsheba, to turn away and repent from the lust in his heart and not let it grow into adultery and murder.  “Do not give the devil a foothold,” “Nip Temptation in the Bud,” uproot it before it blossoms.  Or, like David, you will have Satan’s seeds scattered and taking root in your life.

This theme is often repeated throughout the New Testament: “But you, man of God, flee from all this. . .  Flee from immorality. . .  flee evil desires. . . Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”

Paul puts it this way in today’s Epistle Reading: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . . and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness . . .  Be very careful, then, how you live . . . because the days are evil.”

If you’ve ever pulled out an entire dandelion, you know why they’re so hard to eradicate.  Their roots can be over two feet long.  The roots of our sin also go very deep, all the way back to the fall of humanity.  David explains the consequences for all of us in today’s Introit from Psalm 51: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” 

This original sin we are all born with leads us to commit actual sins in our lives.  As we confessed at the beginning of this service, “We are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed. . .  We justly deserve your present and eternal punishment.”

In the chapter after today’s Old Testament Reading, the Lord sends the prophet Nathan to confront David and rebuke him for his grievous sins.  Nathan tells David a story about a rich man who steals a poor man’s little lamb.  David didn’t know it was really a story about himself stealing another man’s wife.

“David burned with anger  . . . and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! . . .  Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! . . .  Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own.’”

If you look in the Bible you will see that there is an ancient explanatory caption included with Psalm 51: “A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David’s sin with Bathsheba.”

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight . . . wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. . . Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”

As we see in that psalm, David was deeply sorrowful and truly repentant for his sins.  That’s the second life lesson we learn from David: Turn to the Lord in repentance.  Our Liturgy puts it this way, quoting from 1st John and Joel: “If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

“Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin.’”  That’s the third life lesson we learn from David: No sin is too great for God to forgive.  Isaiah puts it this way: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

David celebrated the Lord’s forgiveness in Psalm 32: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him . . .  I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my guilt. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord’— and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”  That’s the fourth life lesson we learn from David.  To rejoice in God’s forgiveness.  Because, that joyous Good News isn’t just for David.  It’s also for you.  Your transgressions are forgiven, your sins are covered, by the blood of Christ.

The first life lesson we learn from David’s negative example is to “Nip Temptation in the Bud,” like a dandelion, uproot it before it blossoms.  “Do not give the devil a foothold.” “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith.”

The second life lesson we learn from David is turn to the Lord in repentance.  “If we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

The third life lesson we learn from David is no sin is too great for God to forgive.  “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

And the fourth life lesson we learn from David is to rejoice in God’s forgiveness, which is what we are doing here today.  As David wrote in Psalm 13, “My heart rejoices in your salvation.”

These four life lessons we learn from the example of King David are summed up by Martin Luther in the Small Catechism, in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed: “[He] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”


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