Central Presbyterian Church

Massillon, Ohio

“You Are That Man”

Text: 2 Samuel 11:112:7a (T.E.V.)

Matthew 18:2134 (T.E.V.)

             Your pastor thinks it’s time for a little test of basic Old Testament Bible knowledge for this morning’s gathered congregation. Don’t’ freak out. This won’t be that hard. If I was to ask you which king of Israel is most well known for his excellent wisdom, even having attributed to him a 31 chapter book of Proverbs, who would you say?........ Solomon, of course. You did so well on that one, I’m confident you can tell me who the very first king of Israel was, a guy best remembered for his struggles with mental illness in his later years of rule?........ That would be Saul. Now, who would you say was the most beloved king of Israel, one who defeated a giant with a slingshot, and from whose throne it is said that Christ is descended?……. David. Very good.  

             In a game of Family Feud, the survey would certainly have shown King David as the top pick when the audience was asked to name their favorite king from Bible times. And for good reason. David was a man of great faith, trusting God for protection from his enemies and for provision of all his needs. Although a warrior, David was fundamentally a man of gentle spirit and humble demeanor, deriving great joy in playing his harp. Many of the Psalms, in all their poetic beauty, are credited to David. Yet for all the well deserved accolades we bestow upon King David, like any and all of us, he had a dark side. Let’s now hear a saga of passion, intrigue, and betrayal. 

            (Read 2 Samuel 11:127) 

            This is a shocking story. We wonder how someone the stature of King David could do such a thing. David was a great king. But David was a human king. He was carried away by his lust. He acted out of extremely poor judgment. He got a married woman pregnant. He tried to cover his tracks by making it look like the baby in Bathsheba’s womb was conceived by her husband Uriah, who incidentally was one of David’s best and most faithful soldiers. Then when all David’s tricks failed, he had Uriah whacked. He feigned grief, then que sera. Then he took the dead soldier’s wife as his own. That’s about as low as it gets. 

            This is yet another illustration that even the best of folks can go terribly wrong, revealing the dark side of the human condition; a condition we all bear. Granted David’s “sin” is pretty extreme. But which of us is any less human, and which of us is not liable to stumble and fall over our lusts, our lapses, our poor judgment, our desire to “cover our tracks, even at the cost of another?” And oftentimes, even the best of folks are blind to their own wrongdoing. That was yet another issue for David. It appeared that David was entirely in the dark as to the wrong he had committed, and the heinous nature of his acts. And he didn’t seem to have a clue that what he had done had displeased the God he had so faithfully served. It took an outside voice to bring King David to a reality check. Let’s read about that now.

            (Read 2 Samuel 12:17a)

            It was only the power of God’s word spoken through the prophet Nathan’s parable which convicted David of the seriousness of his actions, and opened his eyes to some startling truths about himself: for all the accolades heaped upon him, he was not perfect; he had the capacity for profound sin; the residue of his sin would affect the future of his entire family. [I’d invite you on your own time to read further in 2 Samuel for David’s continuing saga] Perhaps the greatest thing of which David was convicted was a serious blind spot……. Himself. David certainly isn’t alone in this.

            I used to work on a labor gang in the mill with a guy named Etzio Pagano. Etzio was one of those guys who could see everyone else’s faults, but none of his own. He was like the person Jesus once talked about who looks for a speck in his brother’s eye while carrying a log in his own. One hour after the start of a shift, Etzio would be sitting on a shipping crate, smoking a cigarette, sipping a cup of coffee, complaining about how lazy the new guys were. He would complain that his girlfriend was the cheapest person on earth, but when we went to lunch at Schmidt’s Restaurant, he would slip out leaving the waitress not a dime. If he was confronted on any of this, he would be clueless. “Lazy……. me? Get outta here!” He couldn’t see anything he did as wrong. But if anyone else did the same thing……. Have you ever noticed that the one who is calling everyone else cheap is probably a cheapskate himself; the one who is calling everyone a gossip is probably a gossip herself; the one who is calling everyone a liar and a cheat……. In a sense, Etzio Pagano was a contemporary of David – blind to his own faults, blind to his own wrongdoing, blind to his own sin. But no one ever confronted Etzio with a parable which served as a mirror, at least not while I knew him.  

            The word of God – heard and understood – has an amazing effect on people’s eyesight: they see themselves more clearly than ever before. Maybe that’s one reason folks tend to avoid engaging God’s word. After all, who wants to have their eyes opened to themselves? David probably didn’t. But opened his eyes were when Nathan held before him the mirror of God’s convicting word through a simple story of a man and his little ewe lamb.  Throughout the gospels, we find Jesus speaking God’s word in parables, and having a similar effect on His hearers. One instance is found in the New Testament lesson for this morning. One day, Peter approached Jesus asking Him what was the limit on forgiveness: how many times can my brother or sister sin against me before I say “No more.” “Seven times?” There was probably someone who had wronged Peter one too many times. Well, Peter had either lost sight of, or was blind to, how many times Jesus had forgiven him – for his disbelief, for his lack of faith, for his doubting and misunderstanding, for his yet to come denial. So Jesus tells a little story of an unforgiving debtor which was intended to open Peter’s eye’s to the fact that he was in no position to withhold forgiveness; to help Peter take a look at himself, and see that he needed forgiveness “seventy times seven.” By means of this parable, Jesus said to Peter in effect the same thing Nathan had told David: “You are that man.” 

            That’s how God’s word works when we dare get close enough. It enlightens, even the best of us, to the reality that we’re not perfect. It helps us to see ourselves for who we are….human. When David encountered God’s word through God’s prophet, it happened to him. When Peter encountered God’s word through God’s Son, it happened to him. When we encounter God’s word through the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, it happens to us. Am I “that man?”