Walls don’t only hold back our many fierce enemies, protecting those within from external threats. Walls break and block out howling winds of life’s many storms. For that heavenly Jerusalem, God builds up walls for the shelter and support of all who enter under the scarlet banners of repentance and forgiveness of sins.
God is our sole, Mighty Fortress. His walls thwart the slave-traders which would capture and shackle us, to live as prisoners enslaved in sin. These walls defend us from that devastating and ruthless plunderer Death, preserving our life together forever in Christ. From Hell, savage legions may charge forth to ravage and attack as often as they like. The Lord builds His Church with walls that even the evil one cannot breech. Against His Church’s walls, the gates of hell cannot prevail.
However, from high atop the ramparts, he watched. The king David spots Bathsheba bathing. Curious to know her, he invites and entertains two dissident spies. Discontent and Covetousness join him on the walls. If she had a husband, he sure was gone a lot, they observe. She must be lonely. Being the king is a lonely job, too, more often than not.
David welcomes Covetousness and Discontent to stay on as his personal guests. David dresses them in all his glorious, self-righteous splendor. As one, they feast with him on pomegranates and royal prerogatives. David gets drunk with them on the strong, fortified wine of his power. Soon enough, together with those two malcontent spies, David ventures out beyond the Lord’s strong boundary walls.
The spies set a trap. Soon enough it is sprung. Bathsheba is taken captive with David. Covetousness quickly binds them up together in sin. It’s a strange, elastic, spiritual bond. Even back inside the walls, still they remain shackled in shame all the while they’re apart. Made slaves to Discontent, they live restlessly now, running and fetching after their new masters’ every least whims and fickle demands.
A slave to sin must continually yield up its body and will to its master. David was no longer a free man, gladly serving the Lord. He has new lords now; Discontent and Covetousness are never satisfied. These new lords are hasty to inflict much bitter misery. Under sin, David becomes a slave-king, the Enemy’s own (fearful and willing enough) servant who sits on a throne. Covetousness insists the Enemy’s secrets be kept and his murderous will executed from there. “Let that slave’s throne now prove its power to serve sin!”
David does what an enthroned slave-David must. His royal orders proceed outside the walls with his full force as lord Covetousness commands. The sin-slave David directs his armies to withdraw during the heat of the battle from Bathsheba’s honorable husband. Perhaps, David hoped, he could bury the evidence of his sin with a little more thrown upon Uriah’s body in the grave. All the while, town criers herald sad news: “Decorated Military Veteran Uriah Dies in Fierce Battle.” David’s sinister sacrifice will be draped in a most regal honor. A vicious Enemy takes both the glory of battle and the apparent blame.
One unrepentant sin often leads to a multitude more. It sprawls out and entangles first one other person, then a third party, then soon an army. David abuses his kingly privilege and authority to woo his neighbor’s wife, steal away with her just for a night or two, eventually killing a most loyal man. All this transpires just as those unholy spies desire, Covetousness and Discontent. At times, man and woman become bound as prisoners of their mutual past sins. They’re bound in shame–united by fear rather than by good faith, holy love and God’s grace. They suppose it all justified in the end, now with Uriah buried, Bathsheba made queen, and her child the legitimized heir to the throne.
The Lord intervened, for the sake of His redeemed people, for the sake of the king and his bride, and for you. He sent His Nathan, His gift-servant, to give rebuke, give absolution and to save even an unfaithful king, a queen, their child and indeed all the kingdom of heaven.
“Thou art the rich, powerful man who covets beautiful lambs given for others to keep! Thou art the man, your Highness, who slays the poor, faithful shepherds he should protect, for the sake of his own personal pleasure and pride.”
“I have sinned!” David repented and cried, “Woe is me!”
Nathan the Prophet, gift-giver of God, looses on earth their infernal shackles and breaks the chains that had bound them in service to the will of Covetousness and Discontent. By the Word of the Lord’s grace, His absolution is pronounced. These heinous sins enslaving the king are forgiven him. Some consequences remain. Uriah’s corpse yet rests in the grave, until the Day of Resurrection for all who have died.
Yet the Lord preserves His kingdom for David. The Lord remains faithful to His Covenant promises for this David. The Lord even christens his and Bathsheba’s own son–anointing Solomon King with the same saving promise of the Christ to be born into the world. That Lord’s promise is kept purely out of divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in David, or in you and me. The Lord’s Christ is born, of the house and lineage of David, through this same Solomon’s seed. “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
The walls built upon by the Word of the Lord, our chief cornerstone Jesus Christ, still stand strong today. On His brow are thorn-etched those words “Thou shalt not…,” engraved for all the numerous times we nonetheless foolishly did. Christ bears all the scars of our sin, yet sends messengers with a message to give. These speak the Word of His grace, mercy and peace–forgiving your sin. We find those pardoning words etched high on the walls, too, as we are welcomed back inside as priests and kings. We go forth from them into the world, made free and fit again to serve the one Lord, Jesus Christ.
Christ, our Redeemer redeems us from such slavery to sin. He frees us from the life of fear, shame and conscripted servitude to the will of sinister lords, Covetousness and Discontent. Absolved, restored into God’s good grace, we rejoice with David, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” (Psalm 16)
And should ever our Enemy appear to entangle us again, we are made all the more eager to admit the wrong, bold to confess “I have sinned.” For swift come those God sent, gift-giving servants of the Lord to absolve us in the stead and by the command of Christ, too. The sin-slaver’s shackles clank lifeless on the floor. They can bind us no more, for these keys loosen us for freedom and life right here on earth as in heaven.
We prize these keys, where the righteousness of Christ is dispensed and delivered for us as our gift. His promise stands like mighty walls against the very gates of hell. By these keys Christ delivers His people and builds up His Church. Hear then the Word of His grace, for our faith to receive. In this way, we must help the weak to be no longer captive slaves to those sinister spies, but rather remain freed through the Living Word of His apostolic promise:
“Whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” (John 20)
Hear the Psalm appointed for this coming Eighth Sunday after Trinity / 29 July 2018
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
- 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
- according to your steadfast love;
- according to your abundant mercy
- blot out my transgressions.
- 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
- and cleanse me from my sin!
- 3 For I know my transgressions,
- and my sin is ever before me.
- 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
- and done what is evil in your sight,
- so that you may be justified in your words
- and blameless in your judgment.
- 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
- and in sin did my mother conceive me.
- 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
- and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
- 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
- wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
- 8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
- let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
- 9 Hide your face from my sins,
- and blot out all my iniquities.
- 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
- and renew a right spirit within me.
- 11 Cast me not away from your presence,
- and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
- 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
- and uphold me with a willing spirit…
- 18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
- build up the walls of Jerusalem…
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