07 October 2015

Catechetical Homily on AC XXV

Text: 2 Samuel 12:7ff.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

People loved by God, “there is no person so lonely as the person left alone with their own sin.” (Bonhoeffer) God, in His great mercy toward us gives us those who confront us in our sin. Who pull back the fig leaves we’ve sown together to cover our sin and do this not to hurt us, but to save us. Nathan was such to David. You know the story. And how David condemned himself: “The man who has done this deserves to die.” “You are the man.” And when confronted, David didn’t offer any excuses. He didn’t attempt to spin the facts. He just stated what is: “I have sinned against the Lord.”

The Lord hadn’t sent Nathan, though, just to confront the sinner and bring him to an honest confession. He had sent Nathan to speak an absolution of sorts. “The Lord also has put away your sin. You shall not die…” I always heard it that way. But then I saw how wrong I was. What Nathan said was “The Lord also has transferred your sin. YOU shall not die…” Instead, the little Son of David would die for the sin of David. Absolution was given full and free to David, but Absolution is never a “it’s okay, don’t worry about it.” It’s always bloody. Our sin demands death: “the wages of sin is death.” So absolution is always anchored in someone’s death. In this case, the little Son of David who is thus a picture of Great David’s Greater Son. Your Lord Jesus. His absolution is never just words. They are words that are true and work because onto He has transferred to Himself all your sin that He might die the death for them, shed His blood for them. The absolution is anchored in the cross.

Lutherans were rather insistent that we recognized that this was a gift not to be trifled with. It was a precious thing and the only way for an anxious conscience to come to peace: the word of forgiveness, spoken by the command of Him whose bloody death backed it up, and whose resurrected lips showed that His sacrifice availed. But we were also adamant that it turned confession on its head to make it a torture and to imply that it only worked if you remembered and named every sin. Nonsense. You can’t. But there are sins that trouble you. Maybe especially the sins you know that have hurt those God put in your life to love and care for. And for those sins, and for that anxious conscience, God’s gift is the absolution. The Apology said it would be a wicked thing to remove the private absolution from the church. We’ve been rather wicked and so we have anxious consciences aplenty. Rather than leave sinners in their sin, we have a gift that we can give. A gift from God, blood secured and as certain on earth as in heaven. It’s for you. And it can set a heart at peace in a way that nothing else can.

The Lord also has transferred your sin. Onto Himself. You shall not die. For He has died for you and in your place.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, Will, I have to take issue with you on this, and it also puzzles me why nobody else chose to comment on it. My guess is that the answer lies in my comments on your von Schenk posting.
You wrote, “But then I saw how wrong I was. What Nathan said was “The Lord also has transferred your sin. YOU shall not die…” Instead, the little Son of David would die for the sin of David.” Specifically, my objections are as follows:
1. That the Hebrew word means “transferred” is a bit of a stretch. Various forms of the verb עָבַר occur over 500 times in the OT, and I cannot find another verse in which the meaning is “to transfer”.
2. But that is really the least of my objections. When God told David that his son would die, for some reason, we assume that David’s sin caused his son’s death. This is a typically human judgement. But God does not say that. Further, to state that …” Instead, the little Son of David would die for the sin of David,” is, to be charitable about it, wrong. All sins of the Jews in the Old Testament were forgiven through the ritual of sacrifice. “Korban” as we heard in a recent Gospel reading. That is word that originates with “cover with pitch” as Noah was ordered to do with the Ark. That means that the sins were actually still there, but they were covered by the sacrifice, so that they could not be seen. It was only when John the Baptist saw our Lord, that he prophesied, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who TAKES AWAY the sins of the world,” that we hear of true atonement. Our Lord was the only One Who could and would do that - not David’s little boy.
Yes, there can be no atonement without the shedding of blood, but only the blood of the Son of God is able to take away our, David’s, and his son’s sins. And who died for the sins of the little son of David?
3. The impression is given that the death of David’s son was punishment for his father’s sin; that death is the worst punishment God can impose. Now the fact is that we will all die. Even David, who was told, “You will not die,” eventually died. But the idea was that God would not kill him for this particular sin. In the New Testament, we hear St. Paul mention that it would be better for Him to be with Christ. Our Lord, on the night before He was to suffer gruesome suffering and a horrific death, in His own unselfish way, wanting to spare His Disciples as much suffering as He could, put it very delicately, John 14:28, “ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” David recognized this when, even as he was told of the death of his son, said, 2 Samuel 12:23, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
4. If I were to guess, and I do not insist that anyone has to share my belief, the reason David’s son had to die was purely to eliminate any questions about the Davidic Dynasty and the ancestry of our Lord. If the little boy had survived, he would have been the oldest son of David by Bathsheba. As we know, Solomon was involved in a very difficult struggle to inherit his father’s throne. Can you imagine if the other boy were a candidate and people would mutter, “But is he really David’s son? Not Uriah’s?” But this way he got to enjoy the pleasures of the presence of his Lord much earlier. Is that punishment?
Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

William Weedon said...

Dear George,

I knew you would object to the way I preached that, but then you know I am a rather ardent believer in vicarious atonement, about which I know you have your doubts. Still, the text is clear: The Lord strikes the child and does so "because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord." As to the force of "transfer" or "put away," it is not so much the doing away with a thing, as the relocation of a thing, particularly in the Hiphil: "to cause to bring over." Hence my rendering of transfer. Pax!

Anonymous said...

Will, I have never doubted vicarious atonement. It is penal substitution that I consider odious. Vicarious atonement is taught so clearly by Scripture that even I could not possibly object to it.
Whether when the Lord says, “the child will die”, He “strikes him” is debatable. David is the one who is suffering, the child is safe in heaven with our Lord. But I remember my horror about 50 years ago when some Russian Orthodox professor suggested that the death of the Romanovs atoned for a part of Russia’s sins. No way the little boy atoned for his father’s sins or that they were transferred to him. The little boy got early entrance to heaven. Is that punishment?
Et tecum,
(George A. Marquart)