The Israelites after they settled in the promise land believed they needed a king in order to be like the rest of the nations. They had lost confidence in God as their protector (1 Sa. 8:7) and for that reason they decided to submit themselves to a king in order to be protected. God acknowledges this desire and directs the prophet Samuel to make clear to the people the rights of a king would overrule their own choices.
Saul was chosen by lot to become their king. However, Saul turned from God and Samuel was directed to “seek out a man after God’s own heart” who would become King of the Israelites. What a remarkable man was this future king who would establish an everlasting dynasty. You should read the story of David in the two books of Samuel. Imagine begin chosen by God because you are a person after his own heart. The scriptures tell us of his love of God, his loyalty to Saul, his bravery and his weakness. God allowed him to have many wives but he wanted Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. We know the story of how his lust for her caused him to sin.
How could anyone so gifted by God, so dedicated to God give in to the temptation to sin? You can hear the utter disbelief in Nathan’s voice as he confronts David with his sin. Nathan says “how could you do this after all God has done for you?” Nathan knows David could have had any woman in the kingdom so why did he pursue this married one?
The answer is simple because we know temptation has the ability to short circuit our good intentions and judgment. Why is it that we find ourselves doing the things we should not do instead of the things we should do? I wish I had an answer for you but I do not because I like you have made those same poor choices and have sinned. So is there nothing we can do but acknowledge we are just weak sinners and just live with it? Is there nothing to do but try harder the next time so we will not fall?
Not by a long shot because if you read the story of David you will find forgiveness, restoration and redemption. If you pay attention to what God has promised us you would know God has provided a way for us to overcome temptation by first accepting forgiveness. God promises to forgive our sin every time we turn back to him. The words of Nathan to David are clear – “…the LORD on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.”
Forgiveness is one of God’s responses to sin and you can see it in every story of the bible. Forgiveness is not the only thing God offers us; he offers to forget our guilt (here I go quoting Jer. 31:34 again). This is a significant promise for us to understand so we can get past our weaknesses and choose to follow God’s laws instead of our own desires to sin.
But here is where we seem to mess it all up for we cannot seem to accept forgiveness without an accompanying punishment. The Pharisee in today’s gospel echo’s our own approach to sin. The Pharisee named Simon was righteous for he knew he adhered to every law without fail. Because of his “righteousness” he deserved to have Jesus dine in his house. I do not think his intention in inviting Jesus to dine with him was to know Jesus but instead he wanted Jesus to know his righteousness.
That righteousness caused Simon to overlook the basics of hospitality as Jesus entered his home. His puffed up pride made his approach to the law superior to this upstart so called prophet named Jesus. Simon believed that the woman because of her sin had no right to approach or to touch Jesus instead Jesus should have cast her aside. Simon like so many pious Christians believe sin deserves punishment not total and complete mercy. His thinking about what she deserved is a human approach to wrong doing. Simon through his words demonstrates his approach to sin is superior to Jesus’ approach.
Paul in the epistle today reminds us of a spiritual truth that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ not by the law. Paul in other epistles tells us that the law was our disciplinarian until the Spirit came and that law can only point out sin but does nothing to help us overcome sin.
God provided a way for us to overcome sin when he promised us he would change our hearts by pouring his Spirit into us. Without this change of heart all our efforts to follow his laws will only cause us disappointment. Without us allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us into sons and daughters we can only strive on our own willpower to change.
That simply leads us to do things to avoid the penalty of sin instead of doing the things that lead us to embrace mercy. It is in acknowledging our sin that we can allow God to enfold us in his arms and love us into wholeness. It is then we find our hearts are very much like the God we follow.
Like David, God has given us his kingdom and has changed our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit so we like David are a people after God’s own heart. Jesus invites us to kneel before him as that woman did and acknowledge who he is. It is then that we will feel the embrace of the Father and hear him say “your faith has saved you.”