Who Am I?
23rd Sunday after Pentecost
Who Am I?
Text: 1 Chronicles 29:1-18
Who am I? Who am I to be standing here in this place, doing this right now? I’ve wanted to be here in this moment for so long. I’ve waited and waited. I’ve dreamed. I’ve prayed. Now here I am. But who am I to be here?
I remember standing not too far from here not too long ago when I was barking out orders. What a foolish moment that was. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life. I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. But even after all that, I still struggle with that occasional arrogant urge. I want to boast in what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished. My pride puffs up my chest and I walk and talk like I’m a demigod here on earth.
On this particular occasion not too long ago I wanted to count up all the people we have. Not because I wanted to take care of them. Not because I wanted to make sure I could provide for them. I simply needed to indulge my own arrogant ego. I wanted to see how great we have become and then say, “Ah! Look what I have done!”
Perhaps you can relate. Doesn’t it feel good once in a while to take pride in what you have done? After all, take credit where credit is due! And if someone doesn’t give you the credit, then you better make sure you rip it from them! This arrogant urge in us all will flare in the most foul ways. It puts others down. It laughs at. It talks behind backs. It rolls the eyes. It huffs and puffs when it doesn’t get attention. That arrogant urge even gets angry when it isn’t fed. Know the feeling?
I also remember a different moment standing again not too far from here in this place. This moment was quite a long time ago already, but it is a moment I will never forget. It happened at my home. It was an ordinary evening. I was enjoying the gentle night breeze, taking in the fresh air out on my balcony. Then I saw her.
Now I know right from wrong. I’m a God-fearing man. I’m a man after the Lord’s own heart! But again, the urges and cravings came rushing through me like full-force flood. I saw. I wanted. I acted. Poor choice led to poor choice after poor choice. Before I knew it I was caught in a web of lies.
My conscience was screaming at me, but it’s like I turned it off. With my back against the wall I made more foolish choices. I was more than ignoring my conscience. I was completely ignoring my God. Why? Because I didn’t want to admit the truth—I was an adulterer and a murderer.
Perhaps you can relate. It’s one thing to indulge in pride here and there. We all do it. We do it a lot. But there are other times when you see something and you just have to have it. It’s like a switch flips. You see. You want. You act. You know it’s wrong. You’re a God-fearing, church-going person. But for some reason it feels oh so good to do what is oh so wrong. So you do it. And you do it a little more. And if you get away with it, you do it a lot more.
At some point (maybe even right away) you know you’ve done something wrong. But rather than stopping, you close your ears and refuse to listen to the conscience screaming at you. You lie a bit (or a lot). You make up excuses. You defend yourself. Slowly but surely you are woven more tightly into a tangled web. Why? Because you don’t want to admit the wrong you’ve done.
In my many, many years of life experience I’ve realized how much I like to do this. We all do it more than we even realize. The last thing I ever want to do is admit how bad I am. I don’t want to talk about my wrongs. I don’t want to acknowledge my sin. I don’t want to talk about disobeying God. That makes me uncomfortable.
So I fight back. The deepest, darkest recesses of my heart charge forward like an army, well, like an army bent on hell. I hide when I’m confronted with sin. I close my ears when I’m confronted with sin. I get angry when I’m confronted with sin. Sometimes I just keep on sinning because I’m that stubborn and don’t want to give up the pleasure or feeling of what I’m doing. That sinful part inside of me will fight to eternal death to keep from finally admitting that it is wrong and belongs in the hell it deserves.
How quickly God brings us to our knees though! Not long ago when I arrogantly ordered a census of my people, I quickly was faced with the consequences for my choices. And it was a man named Gad who proclaimed to me the truth of how God felt about my sin.
With that “other” incident, just as surely as I will never forget what I did, I will never forget how God humbled me. He sent a man named Nathan to me. Nathan told me a story to make me realize that I had sinned against the Lord and I deserved to die.
Both times, and many times in between, I fell to my face in sorrow and repentance. My bones were crushed. My strength was sapped. I grieved with great groans over my guilt, while echoing each excruciating moment: “I have sinned against the Lord. I have sinned against the Lord.”
So who am I? After all that I’ve done! I committed adultery with Bathsheba. I murdered her husband Uriah. I lied and covered it all up. I boastfully counted the people of my kingdom—despite general Joab’s urging me not to. And I’ve done a whole lot of other things I pray you never know about. Who am I to be right here right now in this place and moment? Who am I? I’m a sinner!
While I struggle with who I am, let me tell you who God is. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love . . . He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far as he removed our transgressions from us.”
Every time I failed, every time I fell—every time I sinned—I heard the same words announced to me each time, words Nathan the prophet once spoke to me: “The Lord has taken away your sin.” I committed adultery. I murdered. I lied. I was proud. I was arrogant. I’ve done big things and small things. I’ve done bad things. I’ve done awful things. But every single time I have fallen at the feet of my Lord I hear these words announced: “The Lord has taken away your sin.”
I’ve written often about who God is and what he is like. But words are so inadequate. How do you describe a God who is so forgiving? How do you detail a God who is so merciful?
Can you believe that he forgave all that I’ve done? As if that isn’t great enough, he has showered me with other blessings. He has blessed my kingdom and our nation. I live in a glorious palace. God was gracious enough to give me a brilliant and beautiful son from that adulterous relationship named Solomon. Then, God even promised that he would establish the throne of my son now and forever!
Do you know what he was talking about there though? God was promising a great kingdom for my son Solomon. But God was also promising a greater kingdom for a greater son yet to come. You might know this greater descendant of mine. His name is Jesus.
He is the one that God had been promising all along! And he is the reason that God is able to forgive all my sins. You see, Jesus was forsaken by God. He was mocked and insulted. He was surrounded by vicious people, like roaring lions, who divided up his clothes and pierced his hands and feet. Then, finally, he died. All this he did—he suffered, he experienced hell, he died—so that it could be announced to you and to me: “The Lord has taken away your sin.”
Who am I? Who am I to have such a Savior? Who am I to receive such forgiveness? Who am I to receive such mercy? Who am I to have been redeemed from the pit and crowned with love and compassion? Moreover, who am I to be right here, right now in this place and moment? Who am I? I’m a forgiven sinner!
So here I am in this moment that I’ve waited so long for. I’ve dreamed. I’ve prayed. Now here I am, standing before all the people of Israel and before you, preparing ourselves to finally build a permanent temple—a place of worship—for the Lord God. My son Solomon will finally build it, but today we can dedicate ourselves to the task I have so dearly desired to begin. But who am I to be right here right now in this place and moment? Who am I? I’m a forgiven, thankful sinner.
I have already provided gold and silver and bronze and iron and wood and precious stones for this holy house of our Savior God. But now I want to give more. I have my own personal reserve of treasures. It’s my security blanket—my trust fund or retirement plan if you will—in case anything bad should happen. But I would have none of these personal treasures if God hadn’t given them to me first. So today, in humble thanks, I’m also personally giving 220,000 pounds of gold and 520,000 pounds of silver. In your modern currency, this gift would be worth over $4.8 billion. But you know what? This gift is nothing. I would not have one lepton, not one mite of any of it if God hadn’t given it to me first. More importantly, how could you compare this gift to the gift of my greater descendant Jesus Christ who gave himself to die for all my sins? God has given me forgiveness. God has given me life. God has given me salvation. $4.8 billion dollars doesn’t even begin to express my thanks to him.
On this special day, my fellow Israelite people have joined me in humble thanks. What better use of God’s gifts and blessings than to build up his house and build up his kingdom? So my fellow Israelites have gifted on this day gold and silver and bronze and iron worth almost $8.3 billion.
You might think that’s a bit wasteful. More than $13 billion in gifts for a temple? Couldn’t we have built something for a few million instead? Couldn’t we sit on folding chairs or banquet chairs? Couldn’t we have found cheaper materials than gold or silver? Couldn’t we have cut corners to make sure we were more fiscally sound and prepared for the future?
We could have. But we won’t. Our hearts right now are bursting with joy. We are overflowing with a thankfulness that cannot be contained. There is nothing more important to us than finding some meager way that we lowly people can thank our great and glorious God for his love and forgiveness. And right now I can think of no greater way to thank the Lord than to give good gifts to him on this special occasion so that we can worship him and proclaim his wondrous deeds every single day.
Who am I? Who am I am and who are my people, and who are you, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Who are we that we would be allowed in the presence of our holy God here in this holy place? Who are we that we should receive forgiveness and eternal life? Who are we to have such opportunities to serve the Lord so joyfully every day? Who are we? We are forgiven, thankful sinners.
Then won’t you join me today? Won’t you join the Israelites today? Join us in giving thanks to God. Join us in praising him. Join us in giving to him. Join us in serving him. Join us in humility. Join us in thanks. Join us in joy. And join us in this prayer right now:
“Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”
Posted on October 6, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged 1 Chronicles, 1 Chronicles 29, Bathsheba, Church, Compassion, David, Forgiveness, Love, Sermons, Solomon, Uriah. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.