As an “associate” pastor (curious as to how this title came to be) you have a hidden blessing when it comes to preaching. Most associates only preach when the “senior” pastor is unavailable and since many senior pastors want to preach, they seek to minimize their unavailability for the pulpit. The associate, then, doesn’t preach on a weekly basis which means he has the luxury of sitting on certain passages as he waits for the next available opportunity. Depending on how long you’ve been sitting you may already know the major points you intend to hit well before it’s your turn to stand in.
Such was the case last Sunday when I stepped in to preach from 2Sam 12:1-15a. The passage recounts the Lord’s indictment & sentencing of David–spoken through Nathan–for his adultery with Bathsheba & the subsequent murder of her husband. There’s no way to honestly preach a section of Scripture like that without addressing the coexistence of God’s judgment & forgiveness. But 2Samuel 12 offends our natural sensibilities when we discover that David isn’t executed for his adultery & murder (both capital crimes under OT Law) while the infant son conceived through the affair is (2Sam 12:14). Say what you will about God’s mercy & forgiveness, are we really expected to see the juxtaposition of David’s pardon with the infant’s death as a demonstration of God’s justice? Yes, for at least three reasons:
1) God’s judgement is righteously dispensed to the criminal & to those he represents. It started with Adam as the head of the entire human race. As our “federal head” Adam’s guilt became our guilt (Rom 5:12, 19a) and God declared the sins of the father would be judged to the third and fourth generations (Exod 34:6-7). Thus, David’s infant son was corrupted by his father’s guilt (not to mention Adam’s guilt as well).
2) Following on #1, there are no innocent defendants in God’s courtroom–not even infants. David rightly declared in his confession psalm, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psa 51:5) If David was sin-cursed from conception how much more his son conceived in the act of adultery? The awful reality is that every life is issued with a death sentence, amassing more guilt & condemnation as (s)he grows (Rom 3:10-18).
3) The punishment for David’s crimes wasn’t denied–it was delayed & displaced. #1-2 are cold comfort until we understand that justice was served in every way. Although David was pardoned his sin didn’t go unpunished. God merely suspended David’s death sentence until the time He would place it on His own Son, Jesus Christ. On the cross, Christ suffered the penalty that David was spared and justice was served in full. God proved His righteousness in pardoning David by punishing Christ (Rom 3:23-26).
This final point was what I inexplicably forgot to explain in my pinch preaching. It’s the most important part because it represents the heart of the gospel. All of humanity deserves death but God has commuted the death sentence to His Son so that His people will be granted life. Sadly, I fear too many of us mistake the death of David’s son to be the greater mystery.