How to forgive a sin that is too big to forgive

A sermon preached on 2 Samuel 11-12 by Pastor Jonathan Werre at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD, on February 16, 2020.

            There is sin.  And then there is SIN.  But how do you forgive a SIN that is too big to forgive?  This is that story.  The story of how to forgive a sin that is too big to forgive.

It was in the springtime, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, as the poets say.  And a king’s fancy turns to thoughts of conquest, because it is far more practical to wage war in the spring than during the winter.  But in a middle aged man, like King David was, there is more than one kind of conquest that is on his mind.

This year, King David does something out of the ordinary—he stays home.  “In the spring (or as it says in the Hebrew, “in the return”), at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.”  This is one of the perks when you are successful—you can delegate, have people do things for you—and it is also one of the dangers.

Because when you delegate, you end up with more time and more energy for other things.  But, what will those other things be?

In college, 9:00 PM seems like a good time to get the evening started.  When you are in your late 40’s, as David likely was, 9:00 PM seems like a good time to go to bed.  Except not tonight, not on this night.  I’m not sure exactly what time it was, but we do know that David has more energy than usual.   “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.”

And he saw a woman taking a bath.  Bare skin is always on eye-catcher.  He sends a messenger to find out who she is.  “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam,” …and you can hear the servant pause ever so slightly; you see, when you are a servant, and you love your master, and you see a disaster about to happen, you must be very careful; so, the briefest of pauses, and the briefest emphasis, “…the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”

“Oh, yes,” I can hear King David, as he stares at her, say something like, “Bathsheba.  She’s a very…intelligent woman, isn’t she.” Nothing has happened yet.  But he keeps looking.  And as the song says, “Well your faith was strong but you needed proof, You saw her bathing on the roof Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya.”  And that’s just what the devil does, doesn’t he.  When you have such a strong sinful desire, the devil does not fill you with hatred for God, but with forgetfulness of God.  With forgetfulness of what you learned in Catechism Class.

He sent for her.  And what a frenzy that must have been, a knock on her front door,  the invitation to the palace, the flush of excitement, of anxiety, the panic of whatever shall I wear?

The next thing we know sinful nature has taken its course.  And as they lay there, in the dark, in that “king sized” bed, I wonder what Bathsheba was feeling.  Validation, given her youth and likely insecurities?  Or is it regret, and anxiety, since the power dynamic in this situation is decidedly in David’s favor?  I do not know what Bathsheba is feeling; but I have a good idea what David is feeling.  He is feeling…young.  Virile.  This beautiful, what, perhaps 21 or 22 year- old woman lying next to his 40-something-year-old body, proof that he is still has it.

But what they both should have been thinking about was Deuteronomy 22:22 which states, “If a man is caught sleeping with another man’s wife, both must die.”

The next day, life goes back to normal, as it usually does before chickens come home to roost.  A week goes by.  Then two.  Then three.  Then a month. Bathsheba discovers what under other circumstances would have been happy news—God has blessed them with a child.  She is pregnant.

These days, Bathsheba could have had an abortion.  The entire affair stayed hidden.  And David would probably never have repented and would be suffering in hell right now.

Because David’s faith is dead.  Just like your faith or my faith will die if we do not repent of our sin.  And as it also says in Hebrews 10:26, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” Now, David still went to church, still performed his duties in the temple, after all, he was the head of the church at that time.  But it was not coming from his heart.  Later he would write about this terrible time in his life, terrible months,  in Psalm 32.

Abortion is not a legal option.  So instead of killing the unborn child, David tries to kill the husband, Uriah.  And he succeeds.  Had him killed in battle so it would not look like a murder.  But it was.  David didn’t fool God.

Murder and adultery.  Big sins.  “Too big” to forgive.  Especially since they were done by one of God’s own.  Because we expect better from our own, don’t we.  If other people’s kids get in trouble or their pastor fails them or their spouse goes off the rails, we are sympathetic.  But when it’s our own, our own kid who gets arrested for drugs, our own pastor who gets caught in a porn addition, our own spouse who becomes an alcoholic, that cut is so much deeper.  That is true also for God, for later he will cry out through the mouth of the prophet Nathan, I gave you so much, and this is how you treated me!?  Really?!  “I anointed you king over Israel and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave your master’s house to you and your master’s wives into your arms.  I gave you the house of Judah and of Israel.  And if all this had been too little, I would have given you more.” (2 Sam. 12:7-9) And then God asks the crushing question, Why did you humiliate me and my name in front of everyone? (2 Sam. 12:10)

How do you forgive a sin cuts too deep, hurts too much, that is “too big” to forgive?

Well, you don’t start with you.  You start with Christ.  That’s what God the Father does.  That is how he forgives sins that are “too big” to forgive.  He dumps them onto the bloody back of Christ as he hangs on the cross.  Dumps them completely onto Christ’s back.  Leaves them completely on the back of Christ and has him pay for those sins that are “too big” to forgive, so that he can forgive them.  Which is exactly what Christ wants the Father to do with our sin.

And so he dumped David’s sin of adultery and murder on to Christ.  When David, whose conscience has been berating him, repents, God has Pastor Nathan tell David very clearly, “The LORD has taken your sin away.” (12:13)  Just like God told you very clearly through Pastor Johnson in the Absolution, “I forgive you all your sin.”  And isn’t that one of the reasons you keep coming back here, Sunday after Sunday?  So you can keep hearing the sound of God’s forgiveness over the noise of your own conscience?

This is how you forgive someone who hurts you with a sin that is “too big” to forgive.  You start with Christ.  And whenever you feel the resentment against that person welling up inside of you, each time you remind yourself that resentment is not the way God deals with you and your sin.  That to be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  This is where you will find the power to deal with those who hurt you with sin that is “too big” to forgive.

And then comes the lesson.  Something must be learned.  Because we don’t want the same sin happening again, nor does God.  Trust must be rebuilt.  Boundaries reestablished. And a new normal discovered.

For David, the lesson will involve the death of this child he conceived with Bathsheba.  And on-going trouble with some of his other children.  Even a civil war.  But even with all that, it will not turn out as badly as it could have.  He will not end up in hell.  Heaven is still his home because of Christ.  He and Bathsheba will not even be put to death physically, in spite of Deuteronomy 22:22.    And in addition, someone who never should have existed, will be born.  Solomon.  David and Bathsheba will have another child, named Solomon, and God will love him so much he will give him a nickname and make him the wisest man who ever lived.  A man whose parents should never, ever have even been together.  But, remember, God has promised to bring good from all things. (Rom. 8:28)

Lessons must be learned.  Not punishment.  Not revenge.  But lessons.  And this may mean making use of your pastors, or your friends, or professional counseling, or the legal system.  But as you struggle to find your new normal, may you discover the best good thing God means to bring from all this—that you end up loving God and worship and his Word which promises heaven in Christ even more than before, and you end up hanging on to this life a little less tightly, turning your face a little more directly towards home, towards heaven.

This was the story of how to forgive a sin that is “too big” to forgive.  It involves lessons to be learned and a new normal to discover, yes.  But the answer is that you do not start with yourself.  But with Christ.  For that is where the Father starts as well.  For Christ came to save us not from some sin or even most sin, but from ALL sin, even the biggest ones, even the ones that seem “too big” to forgive.  Amen.