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Proper 13B Alt 1st Reading

The Sword will never leave your house.

The story has turned. Up to this point 1 and 2 Samuel have seen David grow in power and in greatness. But because of what David did with Bathsheba and Uriah, things have changed.

Clearly last week's pericope and this week's are interdependent. The evil actions that David performed are what cause Nathan to bring a message, and what a masterpiece of prophecy he brings.

Nathan may be aware of the fate that others have faced when they brought bad news to the King. He may also be aware that reprimanding someone right after they have done something wrong, often falls on deaf ears. We read of Uriah's death and of Bathsheba's mourning. It is only after she has mourned that David takes her as a wife. Then she has their son. After all these things, when the Holy Spirit may have had time to hound David, when the action is not so near, then Nathan comes and brings a word from the Lord.

There could be a lesson in that for us preachers. Sometimes we may too hasty in bringing a word from the Lord. A correct word brought at a wrong time could be as ineffective as a wrong word. Tactical patience is not the same as conflict avoidance.

When Nathan does come to bring a message, instead of speaking directly, Nathan tells a story which may or may not be true. He appeals to David's role as a king who judges cases. Nathan paints a picture not just of a robbery, but of a crude man who acts unnecessarily evil.

In his commentary on 2 Samuel Robert Barron notes "Nathan composes his story in such a way that it touches on the reality of David's story with unnerving accuracy."[1] The language in verse 3 carries with it not only images of parental love, but is meant as a double entendre for sexual intimacy.

The accuracy of the story should have given Nathan away, but instead it riles up David's anger and he issues two punishments for the rich man: He should be killed, and he should be forced to give back four times what he had stolen.

This double punishment further reveals the connections between the rich man and David. David has cited the punishment for theft, which was paying back four times what had been taken. While the Law contains no mention of execution for larceny, it does point to death as the appropriate punishment for adultery. David has rightly condemned both the rich man and himself.

The ancients noticed this. Augustine says, "To cut away the diseased tissue in David's heart and to heal the wound there, Nathan used David's tongue as the knife."[2] Upon issuing the judgment, Nathan then says, "You are the man." The rest of the punishment follows. David has mistaken his power as something that he earned of his own right. He has forgotten that God gifted David everything. David is no self-made man. He only used what God had given him.

There is in this then two potential preaching points. On the one hand, David's fall stands as an archetype for original sin. Why is it that David, the man after God's own heart, fall? The best explanation is original sin. David, like all human beings, had a heart turned inward. Augustine called this incurvatus in se, turned inward on one's self. David had attempted to hide his acts, and he may have thought that he had gotten away with his sin. Uriah was dead, he was married to Bathsheba, no one knew. David had been able, as the king, to orchestrate events such that no one could stand against him. He was king.

Nathan's words remind David, that though David is king, David is not God. David's sins of sloth, lust, rape, deception, murder, and mass murder can be detailed as such, but they all connect to that original sin of a heart turned inward. They all happened because of David's idolatry wherein he thinks that because he is King, God will not give him a reckoning.

This could lead to another preaching point on worship. For while we are in the grips of original sin, we know that we are released from it when we offer praise to God. Barron says, "Authentic worship is the most centrifugal act possible."[3] While we may think that a contrite heart is the first sign of a repentant heart, worship reveals a heart that is continually repentant. Whenever we praise God, we are moving away from ourselves by giving God all glory and honor which is rightfully due God. In a sense then, because of Jesus, worship is the antidote to a heart turned inward.