We are going to demonstrate God’s loving mercy and forgiveness with a nifty science trick.
You will need
- Some stiff plastic
- Washable markers
- A large tray or a transparent bowl
- Two small towels
- A large pop/soda bottle
- A torch
- A laser pointer or small torch
You can make the stiff plastic by laminating two empty laminator pockets.
Make a pencil-sized hole near the bottom of the bottle and cover it with sticky tape. Fill the bottle with water, and put the lid on until you are ready
Set up the bottle at the edge of a table with the hole pointing to the edge. This should be sideways on to the viewers so that they will see the stream of water. Put the bottle on a towel, just in case of drips.
Place the other towel in the bowl or tray and put it on the floor below the bottle, where the water will land when you take the tape off. (You might want to test this out in advance!)
Put the torch or laser pointer on a box or pile of books so that it is level with the hole, on the opposite side. If you can lower the lights, it will be easier to see the beam of light.
A laser pointer will work better than a torch, but please remember to treat lasers with respect, as you would a sharp knife. Never let children handle them or let anyone look directly at the beam.
Remove the lid of the bottle before you start.
Pass the plastic around and have folks scribble on the plastic washable markers until it is a complete mess. This represents the mess that sin makes in our lives.
Explain that the light and water represent God’s mercy and forgiveness. Hold the mess up to the bottle and notice that the water does not clean the mess because it stays in the bottle.
Place the mess in the tray below the bottle and turn on the torch.
When we repent, that is the key that unlocks all of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Take off the tape and watch the water pour down and wash away the mess. See also that the light follows the path of the water and lights up the now-clean plastic sheet.
(If you are interested, the light bends by ‘total internal reflection’. It’s how fibre-optics works. You can even catch the beam of light in your hand as the water pours out.)
Shock! Scandal! Newly-wed Queen Bathsheba has baby – after just six months?
You can just see it in the gossip mags. Who’s the father? Certainly not who it should have been! But would you want to be the person to mention it to the king?
Just in case you don’t know the story behind our passage today, let me recap the sordid details: David is the most powerful king ever, he has a massive palace and more wives that he knows what to do with. He fancies Bathsheba, who is the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers. David gets Bathsheba pregnant while her husband is away fighting and then, after much plotting, has Uriah murdered and marries Bathsheba. Honestly, you could put this in Eastenders!
Everyone knows what had been going on – Bathsheba arrives as a new queen complete with bump and everyone mentally counts back three months, but everyone keeps their mouth shut. Everyone pretends that Uriah’s ‘accident’ was just that. Everyone acts like it’s OK.
And everyone knows it isn’t. Including David.
Then David’s best buddy, Nathan, arrives on the scene and tells a story of a lamb and a rich man’s greed and callous disregard for others. David responds oddly. He is furious. A bit too furious. He doth protest too much, methinks. The paying back four lambs is fine, that’s what the law says (Ex. 22:1) – but deserves to die? There speaks a guilty conscience, I’d say.
Then Nathan says what everyone is thinking. “You Are That Man!” Duff … Duff … Duff-duff-duff
A thought, while we’re here, on the role of a prophet – and it’s not what many folks think.
Nathan’s job as a prophet is not particularly to foretell the future. That’s not what prophets generally do. No, really. Prophecy is not primarily about predicting the future. It may happen occasionally – check out those famous bits from Isaiah, for example. But notice, they’re just the famous bits. Not most of it. The vast majority of Isaiah, like every other prophetic book, is not to do with the distant future. Yes, even Revelation.
This is something that is very commonly misunderstood, so just to be sure, I’ll say it again. The vast majority of prophecy is not predicting events in the distant future. Mainly it is pointing out the real issues in the present (like Nathan did) and reminding people of what God has already said about the future consequences of those events. So that’s prediction, if you like, but nothing to do with foretelling the fall of Communism or the end of the world in [insert date of your choice].
Prophecy is more forth-telling than foretelling. In other words, speaking God’s message into a current or imminent situation (often when no-one else will). When there is prediction it’s more pointing out the results of certain actions than giving out next week’s lottery results or predicting the president of the US in two-and-a-half millennia.
So with the nature of prophecy out of the way, let us move on to the real point.
David repents. Fully and immediately. It’s almost like he was waiting for someone to rebuke him so that he could release all the pent-up guilt.
And God? God forgives. Fully and immediately. It’s almost like he was waiting for someone to confess so that he could release all the pent-up mercy.
It was after this incident that David wrote ‘Restore to me the joy of your salvation’ (Ps 51:12). He must have been in a very dark place with that guilt on his shoulders for so long. In these times, God promises that he will speak, and put us back on the right path, if only we will listen. ‘If you stray to the right or the left, you will hear a word that comes from behind you: “This is the way; walk in it.” ‘ (Isa 30:21)
God is merciful, and wants us all to receive his forgiveness. As Matthew Henry commented, “He sends after us before we seek after him, else we should certainly be lost.”
We all need a Nathan in our lives.
Sin, even forgiven sin, has consequences. Bathsheba’s child died. We might recoil at that. Was it cruel of God to take the life of an innocent child? Or do we say that life and death are in the hands of God, and it is not for the clay to rail against the potter?
You are far more ready to forgive than I am to ask for forgiveness.
When I stray, please help me to hear your voice behind me saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it’.
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15 New International Version – UK
When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, ‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
‘Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’
Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”
Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’
Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.’
After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.
New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.