In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
There was Jesus days before His crucifixion, which would gather in millions to His kingdom, mourning over the city where He Himself had been present so long in His temple saying, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone all who are sent to you. How I long to gather you under My wings. But you were not willing."
For there was Jesus standing in the days of David calling out, "David, David, how I long to gather under my protection, but you would not." For David, like Jerusalem and all of us born of Adam's flesh, continually resist Him. We resist His Spirit working through that call to repent. So He took on our flesh, to carry our sin, and take our pestilence on Himself. The Lord who held His sword over Jerusalem so many times eventually sheathed that sword in His own flesh, judging Himself for sins He did not commit, in order to bring an end to the just wrath the Lord's sword brings on sinners. And now His flesh is a life giving gate, that calls, gathers, and enlightens unwilling sinners by getting inside us when we eat and drink it, giving us life instead of death.
In the Old Testament the "sword" is the power to destroy. The "sword of the Lord", therefore, is His judgement against sin. In the New Testament, the sword of Lord is His Word: both His judgement against sin (Law) and His judgement of sinners (Gospel).
We don't understand the Lord's response to David's sin. We don't want to accept it. It seems inconsistent with the gracious God whom we have come to know through Jesus and His cross. Yet that same merciful God is spelled out plain as day to David. For the Lord sent Gad to say, "You have sinned. You have turned away from Me." And then He gives three options, couched in threes. Three is always the number of salvation in God's Word: three years of famine, three months of devastation by your enemies, or three days of the sword of the Lord--the Lord's judgement in the form of disease. David chose wisely. He stuck with the Lord. He cast himself on the mercy of the Lord. Three days of the Lord's Sword. For it is better to be in the Lord's hands for Lord is mercy.
These three days were days of death, yes. Just as our Lord was dead three days. Sure many died, but of those who died and those who lived, how many lived eternally? That's the real score. The tally none of us can number. We know one number. David. His eternal salvation was secured here by the Lord's gracious action.
Many died for the sin of the king was great. Just as your sins in whatever offices you have don't merely impact you, but those whom God calls you to serve and love in those offices. For instance, when a husband or wife cheats on or physically abuses their spouse it not only destroys their marriage, their spouse, and the institution of marriage as one more sad example of how aweful marriage can be, but the children are the true sufferers. For our sins in the callings God gives harm those whom you have been called to be a blessing to. When a pastor preaches a false way of salvation it doesn't only harm him and rob him of the Lord's salvation it sends his listeners to hell. His sin has an impact on others.
It was David's sin, but notice the Lord's action. The Lord sends a prophet. The prophet does not let David off the hook, but confirms the king's sin. Confirms the seriousness of his sin. And assures him of the Lord's love by granting David a trinity of choices. In other words, the Lord sent a prophet to David to repent him. To faith him. And in faith David bets on the Lord, on His grace and mercy. He had learned his lesson: trust in the Lord, not in man. And in faith David intercedes for the people God gave him to shepherd. "Lord, let the pestilence fall on me and my house, not on the nation. It is my fault not theirs. Let me take the blame." By this David becomes a prophecy of David's Son Who would come, Who would take the blame for all sin so that His people would be saved.
Then something weird happes. The Lord commanded David to make an altar in the very spot the Lord was standing. It's weird because the Lord commands David to do priest's work--work the Lord had limited to David's kin from the tribe of Levi. Only Levites could work in the tabernacle. And of the Levites, only those men descended from Moses' brother Aaron could serve as priests.
By this the Lord was foreshadowing how He Himself would take on our flesh in order to avert the curse and death Adam's sin brings on us. The Lord Himself defeated death in that place some thousand years later, at His own cost. Just as David would not take the land and oxen offered by Ornan the Jebusite. The Lord did it at His own cost, offering Himself as the price that stops death in its tracks.
Notice in all of this who has power over sin and death. It is the One who holds the sword. It is the Lord. For the sword of the Lord is His judgement. And the Lord's judgments are His mercies to sinners. You, like David, are a sinner. And while you were yet in sin, on account of the Lord's own sacrifice of Himself 1000 years later near this spot, He declared His judgement of you: forgiven. Just. Not guilty. Scott-free. For the Lord is salvation. True to His word. True to His name. (For Jesus means the "Lord is salvation").
That means David's sin is paid for by Jesus. That means your sin is paid for by Jesus. That means the Lord is not only day by day repenting you, turning you from your sin and the harm it does to others, but He is daily faithing, renewing, and gathering you again and again unto Himself in mercy. For His own body was broken, His own blood was shed that you might be His own and live under him in His kingdom in everlasting innocence and blessedness. This is most certainly true.
In +Jesus' name, Amen.
--Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON