My pastor is preaching through 2 Samuel and we got to the doozy “You are the man!” section last Sunday, where Nathan confronts David with his sin in chapter 12. He violated Bathsheba, and then tried to manage this sin, leading to the murder of Uriah and taking Bathsheba as his own wife. There is David, likely sitting on his judgement throne, and the prophet Nathan stirs up David’s heart against the nature of his sin by telling him a parable of sorts for David to judge. We are familiar with this story—David’s righteous anger is kindled and he declares that the rich man deserves to die. And Nathan does the ol’ switcheroo: “You are the man!”
What a moment. There’s so much tension there. David basically unknowingly pronounced that he is was dead man, with two capitol offenses against God’s law. He is exposed. In talking about the way we respond when we are trying to manage our own sins, my pastor asks, how does David respond? Some of the ways he mentioned that we try to manage our own sins provoke responses of denial, downplaying, minimizing, blaming, the non-apology apology—“I’m sorry that people have been hurt,” keeping it horizontal, safe, and manageable, or keeping it outward/surface level—“that’s not really who I am.” That’s what we want to do to manage our sin when we think of sin against other people.
But how does that change when we recognize our sin first as against God? No more managing our sin. And this was David’s response: “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Pastor VanDelden pointed out the first line in the chapter, “The Lord sent Nathan,” as the kindness of God. Just in the last chapter, saturated with David’s sin and sin management, we see that David sent Joab; David sent someone to inquire about Bathsheba; David sent messengers to get her; David sent for Uriah; David sends Uriah back to battle…The Lord sent Nathan.
My pastor said that in his kindness, the Lord doesn’t want David under the bondage of sin. “He doesn’t want you under the bondage of sin…he wants us to be free from the bondage of sin and know the richness of his grace. And the doorway for that is confession.” This is the “kindness of conviction. Hope. Hope for grace, restoration, and forgiveness.”
He continues, “We are skilled at managing our sins, not dealing with them. We don’t look at them as against God, as despising of God.” He then described confession as a vehicle to enjoy God more. And he asked, “will you pray for conviction?” Like David?
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.Ps. 139:23-24
He continues, “Without conviction, there’s no confession. Without confession, there’s either no relationship with God, or it’s a cold relationship.” What is our true longing—to look clean to others when we know we are not, or to be washed in the blood of Christ so that we can share sweet communion with him? Do we want to be transformed into his likeness or be our own God?
My pastor noted that the more David sees the glory of God, the more he sees how deeply he has sinned. It’s all over his prayer in Psalm 51.
He then said, “It’s God’s gift that a sinner sees his sin, sees the holiness of God, and is convicted of that sin and actually turns from that sin to God. When we see sin as against God…we can’t manage it anymore because God has seen it going on…You can’t minimize it. And you can’t master it. You can’t pay it back. If sin is first against God, then there is an urgency to dealing with it…and there is a thirsting for grace, there is a thirsting for mercy…if sin is not first against God, then the delight in mercy is very shallow—there’s no need for mercy, no desperation, there’s no need for forgiveness.”
Then he said something quite beautiful:
“What this confession of David does is that it shows us the door—not the door out, but the door in. Repentance is the door into more grace—the forgiveness and richness of God.” Think about that for a minute or two. We often scramble to find the door out. When we are confronted with sin, we do not look at it as a kindness of God. We want it all to go away. We want to escape. But in confrontation, we are offered a much better door. And in his kindness, God moves our hearts towards conviction, opening the door up for more grace, not less!
Pastor VanDelden went to Psalm 51, David’s repentance, showing how his conviction of sin against God made him thirst for forgiveness. Seeing and knowing it to be a sin against God, it drove David to God. We see the door of grace opened up in Nathan’s answer.
There was a lot of take-away for me to think about here. But Francis pressed me with the word, that repentance has to first be a vertical action before God. This is so elementary on one hand—we know this as one of the fist doctrines of salvation. However, sin is so deceiving and we look for the wrong doors when we are caught in it. Doors of darkness and destruction. It’s hard to pray that prayer for conviction because we know how ugly sin is. We don’t want to see it. Not on us.
What a kindness of God to lead us to conviction of our sin as an offense against him, giving us yet another opportunity to reveal himself to us as a loving God who has taken on the cost of our sin so that he can lavish us with his grace. He is doing the work to transform us into the likeness of Christ. What a Savior. And so we can sing with the Psalmist, “Grace flows from your lips” (Ps. 45:2) and proclaim to one another, “Oh that he would kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!” (SoS 1:2).