11. David and God (Nathan) (2 Samuel 12)
A couple of years ago, my wife Jeannette and I went to England and Scotland with my parents. Each night we stayed at a “bed and breakfast” as we drove through Wales. There were a number of farms, but not so many towns in which to find a place to stay for the night. We saw a “bed and breakfast” sign and traveled along the country road until we found the place -- a very quaint farm. We saw several hundred sheep in a pasture, a stone trestle, and stone barns. It looked like the perfect place, and in many ways it was. What we did not realize was that the stone trestle was a railroad trestle for a train that came by late at night, a few feet from the house where we slept. Two cows also calved that night. I have spent my share of time around farms, but I have never heard the bellow of a cow that was calving echo throughout a stone barn.
In addition to the hundreds of sheep in a nearby pasture, there was a small lamb in a pen, very close to the house. It was a frisky, friendly little fellow, and we loved to play with it. We were somewhat perplexed as to why this fellow was kept by himself, away from the rest of the flock. The farmer's nephew came by, and I asked him. It took a while to understand his strong accent, but finally I realized he was telling me this was a “pet lamb.” The problem was that he said it as though it were one word, “petlamb.” This was obviously a separate category, distinct from the category of mere “sheep” or a “lamb.” This “pet lamb” was given a special pen, right by the house, and a lot more attention and care than the rest.
Now this little fellow was one lamb among a great many. Nevertheless, he enjoyed the distinction of being regarded as a “pet lamb.” In the story which Nathan tells David, it is not quite the same. Nathan tells David of a “pet lamb” who is the only sheep of a poor farmer. This lamb does not live in a pen outside the house; it lives inside the house, often in the arms of its master, and eats the same food he eats. This is the story Nathan tells David, which God uses to expose the wretchedness of David's sin. It is our text for this message, and once again, it has much to teach us, as well as David. Let us give careful heed to the inspired words of Nathan, and learn from a lamb.
David has become king of both Judah and Israel. He has, in large measure, consolidated his kingdom. He has taken Jebus and made it his capital city, renaming it Jerusalem. He has built his palace and given thought to building a temple (a plan God significantly revises). He has subjected most of Israel's neighboring nations. He has done battle with the Ammonites and prevailed, but he has not yet completely defeated them. The Ammonites have retreated to the royal city of Rabbah, and as the time for war (spring) approaches, David sends all Israel, led by Joab, to besiege the city and to bring about its surrender. David has chosen not to endure the rigors of camping in the open field, outside the city. He has chosen rather to remain in Jerusalem. Sleeping late, David rises from his bed as others prepare to go to bed for the night. David strolls about the rooftop of his palace and happens to steal a look at a beautiful young woman bathing herself, perhaps ceremonially, in fulfillment of the law.
It is not due to any intent on her part, nor even any indiscretion. She is bathing herself as darkness falls, and being poor (see 12:1-4), she does not have the privilege of complete privacy, especially when the king can look down from the lofty heights of his rooftop vantage point. David is struck with her beauty and sends messengers to inquire about her identity. They inform David of her identity, and that she is married to Uriah, the Hittite. That should have ended his interest, but it does not. David sends messengers who take her, bringing her to his palace, and there he sleeps with her. When she cleanses herself, she goes home.
It all seems to be over. David is not looking for another wife; he is not even looking for an affair. He is looking for a conquest. That should have happened on the battlefield, not in the bedroom! Things take a very different turn when Bathsheba sends word to David that she is pregnant. David first seeks to cover up his sin by ordering Joab to send Uriah home on furlough, ostensibly to give David a report on the war. David's efforts to get Uriah into bed with Bathsheba begin as subtle hints, then change to veiled orders, and then turn crass as David seeks to get Uriah to do drunk what he will not do sober. When these efforts fail (due to Uriah's noble character), David sends Uriah back to Joab, with written orders to Joab to put him to death in a way that makes it seem like a casualty of war. Joab does as he is told and sends word to David: “Mission accomplished.” It is here that our story resumes.
Responses To Uriah's Death
Bathsheba's response to the death of her husband is as we would expect, as we would also hope. From what the text tells us, she has absolutely no part in David's plot to deceive her husband, let alone to put him to death. Undoubtedly, she learns of Uriah's death in much the same way every war widow does, then or now. When she is officially informed of Uriah's death in battle, she mourns for her husband. We cannot be certain just how long this period of mourning is. We know, for example, that if a virgin of some distant (i.e., not Canaanite) nation was captured by an Israelite during a raid on her town, the Israelite could take her for a wife after she had mourned for her parents (who would have been killed in the raid) for a full month (Deuteronomy 21:10-13). As I will seek to show in a moment, I believe Bathsheba's mourning is genuine, and not hypocritical. I believe she mourns her husband's death because she loves him.
David, on the other hand, does not even bother to go through the pretense of mourning. He does not even try to be hypocritical. When other mighty men of Israel died, David led the nation in mourning their loss. David mourned for Saul and his sons, killed in the battle with the Philistines (2 Samuel 1). David mourned the death of Abner, wickedly put to death by Joab (2 Samuel 3:28ff.). He even sent a delegation to officially mourn the death of Nahash, king of the Ammonites (2 Samuel 10). But when Uriah is killed “in battle,” not a word of mourning comes from David's lips. He is not sorry; he is relieved. Instead of instructing others to mourn for Uriah, he sends word to Joab not to take his death too seriously.
When Bathsheba's mourning is complete, David sends for her and brings her to himself as his wife. I do not see him bending down on his knees, proposing. I do not see him courting her, sending her roses. I see him “taking” her once again. The question in my mind is, “Why?” Why does David take Bathsheba into his house as one of his wives? I do not think he is any longer trying to “cover up” his sin; it is far too late for that. She must be “showing” her pregnancy by now, and it is hard to imagine how all Israel cannot know what has been going on. It appears that at this point, David is not trying to conceal his sin, but to legitimize it. Whatever David's reasons may be, they are hardly spiritual, and they are most certainly self-serving.
Nathan has a response to the death of Uriah too, which is taken up in the first part of chapter 12. But let us save that until after drawing your attention to something which has been going on in David's life that we have not seen from our text, and which the author of Samuel has not recorded. But David himself discloses this to us in one of his psalms, written in reflection of this incident in our text.
David is Divinely Prepared for Repentance
3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.
Psalm 32 is one of two psalms (the other is Psalm 51) in which David himself reflects on his sin, his repentance, and his recovery. Verses 3 and 4 of Psalm 32 are the focus of my attention at this point in time. These verses fit between chapters 11 and 12 of 2 Samuel. The confrontation of David by Nathan the prophet, described in 2 Samuel 12, results in David's repentance and confession. But this repentance is not just the fruit of Nathan's rebuke; it is also David's response to the work God has been doing in David's heart before he confesses, while he is still attempting to conceal his sin.
In these verses, David makes it clear that God is at work even when it does not appear to be so. During the time David tries to cover up his sin, God is at work exposing it in his heart. These are not times of pleasure and joy, as Satan would like us to conclude; they are days of misery. David is plagued with guilt. He cannot sleep, and it seems he cannot eat. He is not sleeping nights, and he is losing weight. Whether or not David recognizes it as God who is at work in him, he does know he is miserable. It is this misery which tenderizes David, preparing him for the rebuke Nathan is to bring, preparing him for repentance. David's repentance is not the result of David's assessment of his situation; it is the result of divine intervention. He has gone so far in sin that he cannot think straight. God is at work in David's life to break him, so that he will once again cast himself upon God for grace.
Nathan Tells a Shepherd a Sheep Story
1 Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 “The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. 3 “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him. 4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man's ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
5 Then David's anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 6 “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”
There are several important things to note about this meeting between Nathan and King David.
First, note that Nathan is sent to David. Nathan is, of course, a prophet. However it comes about, he knows what David has done. If you will pardon the pun, David cannot pull the wool over his eyes. His words are, in the final analysis, the very word of God (see 12:11). If Nathan is a prophet, he is also a man who seems to be a friend to David. One of David's sons is named Nathan (2 Samuel 5:14). David informs Nathan of his desire to build a temple (chapter 7). Nathan will name Bathsheba and David's second son (12:25). He will remain loyal to the king and to Solomon when Adonijah seeks to usurp the throne (1 Kings 2). Nathan does not come to David only as God's spokesman, he comes to David as his friend.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).
Second, note that Nathan is sent to David. Twelve times in the last chapter the word “sent” is employed by the author. A number of these instances refer to David “sending” someone or “sending” for someone. David is a man of power and authority, and so he can “send out” for whatever he wants, including the death of Uriah. Now, it is God who does the “sending.” Is David impressed with his power and authority? Has he gotten used to “sending” people to do his work for him (like sending Joab and all Israel to fight the Ammonites)? Let David take note that God is sending Nathan.
Third, Nathan comes to David with a story. In the New American Standard Bible, this is not just a story, but a kind of poetic story. In my copy of the NASB, the words of the story are formatted in such a way as to look like one of the Psalms.43 It took me a while to take note of this, but if this is so, it means that Nathan comes to David prepared. Under divine inspiration, I am sure God could inspire a prophet to utter poetry without working at it in advance, but this does not seem to be the norm. Nathan comes to David well prepared. He is not just “spinning a yarn;” Nathan is telling a story, a very important story with a very important message for David.
Fourth, Nathan's story is a “sheep story,” one that a shepherd can easily grasp and with which he can readily identify. David was a shepherd boy in his younger days, as we know from the Book(s) of Samuel (see 1 Samuel 16:11; 17:15, 28). I wonder if in those lonely days and nights David does not make a “pet lamb” of one or more of his sheep? Did this sheep eat of his food and drink from his cup? Possibly so.
Fifth, the story Nathan tells David does not “walk on all fours” -- that is, there is no “one to one correspondence” with the story of David's sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. The sheep (which we would liken to Bathsheba) is put to death, not the owner (whom we would liken to the sheep's poor owner). I think it is important to take note of this fact, lest we press the story beyond its intent.
Why a story? Why not just let David have it head-on, with both barrels? Many will point out that this is a skillfully employed tactic, which gets David to pronounce judgment on the crime before he realizes that he is the criminal. I think this is true. David is angry at this “rich man's” lack of compassion. If he could, he would have this fellow put to death (!). But as it is, justice requires a four-fold restitution. But having already committed himself in principle, Nathan can now apply the principle to David, in particular.
As I understand the Bible, there is more to the story than this, however. Our Lord frequently told stories. Why was this? Was it because He was trying to “put the cookies on the lowest shelf”? Was He accommodating His teaching to those who might have difficulty understanding it? Sometimes our Lord told stories to the religious experts, who should have been able to follow a more technical argument. I am thinking in particular of the story of the Good Samaritan, as recorded in Luke 10. A religious lawyer stood up and asked Jesus a question, not to sincerely learn, but with the hope of making our Lord look bad before the people. He asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turned the question around. This man was the expert in the Law of Moses, what did it teach? The man answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Luke 10:27). In effect, Jesus responded, “Right. Now do it.” That was the problem with the law, no one could do it without failing, and so no one could earn their way to heaven by good works.
The lawyer knew he was in trouble and tried to dig himself out (bad choice). He (like many lawyers then and now) thought he could get himself off the hook by arguing in terms of technicalities. And so he had a follow-up question for Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus did not debate this man on his own terms. He was not willing to get into a word study in the original text. Instead, Jesus told a simple story, the story of the Good Samaritan. At the end of the story, Jesus asked a simple question,
36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:36-37).
The lawyer was in trouble; the story had no technicalities over which to argue. It brought the issue home, with little ground for quibbling over details. When push came to shove, the lawyer knew our Lord's functional definition of “neighbor” was absolutely right. He had nowhere to hide. The story did the trick; it cut to the heart of the matter, while avoiding trivial details to quibble over for hours. It was not the lawyer who made Jesus look bad with all his minutia but Jesus who made the lawyer look bad with a simple story.
That is part of the reason Nathan told David this story. It was never meant to be a makeover of David's sin; it is meant to expose David's sin in principle, in a way that cannot be denied. Having done this very well, Nathan then presses on to deal with David's sin specifically.
The story Nathan tells David is very simple. Two men lived in the same city; one was very rich and the other was very poor. The rich man had flocks and herds.44 The rich man did not just have a large flock and a large herd; he had many flocks and many herds. We would say this man was “filthy rich.” The poor man had but one ewe lamb; this was his “pet lamb.” He purchased it and then raised it in his own home. The lamb spent much time in the man's lap and being carried about. It lived inside the house, not outside, being hand fed with food from the table and even drinking from its master's cup. Some of you cannot even imagine what this is like. It is a horrifying thought to you. How could anyone treat an animal that way? I have only one response: Obviously you haven't been to our house lately to be greeted by two cats (who, to the dismay of my wife, can be found around -- and sometimes on -- the table) and four dogs (none of them are ours, technically).
The rich man had a guest drop in for a visit, and as the host he was obliged to provide him with a meal. The rich man decided upon lamb, and yet he was not willing to sacrifice one lamb from all those he owned. Instead, he took the poor man's lamb, slaughtered and served it to his guest, so as not to suffer any losses personally. He not only let (i.e., forced) the poor man to pick up the tab for the meal, he deprived this man of his only lamb, and one that was like a member of the family.
I hope I am not guilty of attempting to make this story “walk on all fours” when I stress the same thing the story does -- that there is a very warm and loving relationship between the poor man and his “pet lamb.” Considered along with everything else we read about Uriah and Bathsheba and David, I must conclude that the author is making it very clear that Uriah and Bathsheba dearly loved each other. When David “took” this woman to his bedroom that fateful night, and then as his wife after the murder of Uriah, he took her from the man she loved. Bathsheba and Uriah were devoted to each other, which adds further weight to the arguments for her not being a willing participant in David's sins. It also emphasizes the character of Uriah, who is so near to his wife, who is being urged by the king to go to her, and yet who refuses to do so out of principle.
David does not see what is coming. The story Nathan tells makes David furious. The David who was once ready to do in Nabal and all the male members of his household (1 Samuel 25) is now angry enough to do in the villain of Nathan's story. In some ways, David's response is a bit overdone. He reminds me a bit of Judah in Genesis 38, when he learns that Tamar, his daughter-in-law is pregnant out of wedlock. Not realizing that he is the father of the child in her womb, Judah is ready to have Tamar burned to death. How ironic that those who are guilty of a particular sin are intolerant of this sin in the life of others.
David identifies two evils that have been committed by this fictional rich man. First, the man has stolen a lamb, for which the law prescribed a fourfold restitution (Exodus 22:1). Second, David recognizes what he views as the greater sin, and that is the rich man's total lack of compassion. David is furious because a rich man stole and slaughtered a poor man's pet. He does not yet see the connection to his lack of compassion for stealing a poor man's beloved companion, Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. The slaughtering of Uriah is most certainly an act which lacks compassion. The crowning touch in David's display of righteous indignation is the religious flavoring he gives it by the words, “as the Lord lives” (verse 5).
7 Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 'I also gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! 9 'Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. 10 'Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' 11 “Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 'Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.”'
David has just sprung the trap on himself, and Nathan is about to let him know about it. The first thing Nathan does is to dramatically indict David as the culprit: “You are the man!” In stunned silence, David now listens to the charges against him. David thinks only in terms of the evils the rich man committed against his neighbor, stealing a man's sheep and depriving him of his companion. Put another way, David thinks only in terms of crime and socially unacceptable behavior, not in terms of sin. In verses 7-12, Nathan draws David's attention to his sin against God and the consequences God has pronounced for his sin. Note the repetition of the pronoun “I” in verses 7 and 8: “It was I who. . .
- . . . anointed you king
- . . . delivered you from the hand of Saul
- . . . gave you your master's house and your master's wives
- . . . gave you the house of Israel and Judah
God speaks to David as though he has forgotten these things, or rather as though he has come to take credit for them himself. Everything David possesses has been given to him by God. Has it been so long since David was a lowly shepherd boy that he has forgotten? David is a “rich” man because God has made him rich. And if he does not think he is rich enough, God will give more to him. David has begun to cling to his “riches,” rather than to cling to the God who made him rich.
I fear some of us tend to miss the point here. We read Nathan's story and we hear Nathan's rebuke as though David's sin is all about sex. David does commit a sexual sin when he takes Bathsheba and sleeps with her, knowing she is a married woman. But this sexual sin is symptomatic, according to Nathan, and thus according to God. God is not just saying, “Shame on you, David. Look at all the wives and concubines you had to sleep with. And if none of these women pleased you, you could have obtained another woman, just one that was not already married.” Nathan tells David the story of a rich man and a poor man. God tells David through Nathan that all that he possesses (his riches) He has given to him. God will even add to David's riches (and not just to his harem). David's problem is that his possessions have come to own him. He is so “possessed” with his riches that he is unwilling to spend any of them. He wants “more” and “more,” and so he begins to take what isn’t his to take, rather than to ask the divine Giver of all he has.
We can see now why David wrote these words in Psalm 51:4: “Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned.”
First and foremost, David's sin is against God. He has ceased to humbly acknowledge God as the Giver of all he possesses. He has ceased to look to God to provide him with all his needs -- and his desires. David has not only ceased to ask God to supply his needs, he has disobeyed God's commands by committing adultery and murder. David's sin against God manifests itself by the evils he commits against others. Nathan outlines these, employing a repetitive “you:”
You despised the Word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight.
You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword.
(You) have taken his wife to be your wife.
(You) have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.
Nathan now proclaims the irreversible consequences to come upon David and his family due to his sin:
Therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife
I will raise up evil from your own household
I will even take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your companion
He will lay with your wives in broad daylight
You did this secretly
I will do this openly, before all Israel, and under the sun.
The evil David commits against others is clear disobedience to the revealed Word of God. David is a “man after God's own heart,” and yet in this instance, David “despised the Word of the Lord.” While David does repent and the guilt of his sin is forgiven, these consequences will not be reversed. These consequences are just; they fit the crime David committed. He used the sword of the Ammonites to kill Uriah, and so the sword will not depart from his house. He took the wife of another man, and so his own wives will be taken by another, another from his own house.
The consequences are not only appropriate, but intensified. David took one man's wife; another will take several of his wives. This happens when Absalom rebels against his father's rule and temporarily takes over the throne. Following the advice of Ahithophel, Absolom pitches a tent on the roof of David's palace (the place from which David first looked upon Bathsheba) and there, in the sight of all Israel, sleeps with David's concubines as a declaration that he has taken over his father's throne and all that goes with it (2 Samuel 16:20-22). While David seeks to commit his sins in private, God sees to it that the consequences are very public.
The story goes on as you well know, but we shall stop here, having focused on Nathan's divinely directed rebuke of David. In our next lesson we will give thought to David's repentance and to the immediate consequences of his sin. But let us close this message by considering some very important lessons for us to learn from David's sin and Nathan's rebuke.
(1) Nathan is a prophet, but he is also an example of a faithful friend. Proverbs puts it this way:
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).
I do not know how many people I have known who refused to rebuke or even caution someone close to them, thinking that they are being a friend by being non-condemning. A good friend does not let us continue on the path to our own destruction. Nathan was acting as a prophet, but he was also acting like a friend. Would that we had more prophet-friends. Would that we were a prophet-friend to one on the path of destruction.
Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back (Proverbs 24:11).
(2) God sees our sin, even when men do not. Our sins never slip past God unnoticed. The wicked refuse to believe that God sees their sin, or that if He does, that He will deal with it:
And they say, “How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?” (Psalm 73:11; see 2 Peter 3:3ff.)
God may delay judgment or discipline, but He will never ignore our sin.
20 So Moses said to them, “If you will do this, if you will arm yourselves before the LORD for the war, 21 and all of you armed men cross over the Jordan before the LORD until He has driven His enemies out from before Him, 22 and the land is subdued before the LORD, then afterward you shall return and be free of obligation toward the LORD and toward Israel, and this land shall be yours for a possession before the LORD. 23 “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:20-23, emphasis mine).
(3) God is under no obligation to stop us from sinning. Sometimes people justify their sin by saying something like: “I've prayed about it and asked God to stop me if it is wrong. . . .” When God does not stop them, they somehow assume it must be right. God could have stopped David after he chose to stay home from the war, or after he began to covet Uriah's wife, or after he committed adultery, but instead He allowed David to persist in his sin for some time. God even allowed David to get away with murder, for a time. God's Word forbade David's sins of coveting, adultery, and murder. God's Word commanded David to stop, and he did not. God allowed David to persist in his sin for a season, but not indefinitely. God allowed David's sin to go full circle, to reach full bloom, so that he (and we) could see how sin grows (compare Genesis 15:12-16).
(4) David's sin was not intended as an excuse for us to sin, but as a warning to all of us how capable we are of sin. I have heard it said more times than I wish to recall, “Well, even David sinned. . . .” What they mean is, “How can you expect me not to sin? If David, as spiritual as he was, sinned as he did, then how can you expect me to do any better?”
If we look very carefully at the Bible, we will see why stories like that of our text were written. They were not written to encourage us to sin, but to warn us of the danger of sin, and thus to encourage us to avoid sin at all costs. After outlining the major sins of the nation Israel in the wilderness in 1 Corinthians 10:1-10, Paul then applies the lesson of history to the Corinthians, and thus to us:
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:11-13; see also Romans 15:4-6).
Let me press this matter even further. David did not plan to sin, as many who try to use his sin as an excuse do. David “fell” into sin; those who would use his sin for an excuse “plunge headlong” into sin. There is a very important difference. In addition, David's sin was the exception, not the rule:
Because David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5, emphasis mine).
(5) David's sin, like all sin, is never worth the price. I have actually had people ask me what the penalty for a certain sin would be, planning to do it and then be forgiven. There are those who toy with sin, thinking that if they sin, they may suffer some consequences, but that God is obliged to forgive them, and thus their eternal future is certain and secure, no matter what they do, even if intentionally. I know of one situation in which a church leader left his wife and ran off with the wife of another, planning to later repent, and then expecting to be welcomed back into the fellowship of that church. This is presumptuous sin, sin of the most serious and dangerous kind. Rather than open a “can of worms” at this point in this message, let me simply say this: “No one ever chooses to sin, and then comes out of it with a smile on their face.”
I used to teach school. From time to time the principal would call a misbehaving student to his office. I will never forget when one of my students was called to his office, and then returned with a smirk on his face. One of my students protested publicly, “Will you look at that? He went to the principal's office and came back with a smile on his face!” My young student was absolutely right. Being called to the principal's office for correction should produce repentance and respect, not a smile. In those few times when I found it necessary to use the “rod” of correction, I purposed that no student would come back into the room with a smile, and none did (including the principal's own son, I might add, who was not even in my class).
I have never met a Christian who chose to sin, and after it was all over felt that it was worth the price. David's sin and its consequences should not encourage us to sin, but should motivate us to avoid sin at all costs. The negative consequences of sin far outweigh the momentary pleasures of sin. Sin is never worth the price, even for those whose sin is forgiven.
(6) It was the story of the slaughter of a lamb which exposed the immensity of David's sin. It is the story of the slaughter of The Lamb of God which exposes the immensity of our sins. Isn't it amazing that David was so blinded by his own sin that he could not see it? It was by means of the story of the slaughter of a poor man's pet lamb that David was gripped with the immensity of the sin which was his own. David could see his own sin when he heard the story of what appeared to be the sin of another.
That is precisely what the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ does for us. We were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). We were blinded to the immensity of our sins (2 Corinthians 4:4). The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, His perfect life, His innocent and sacrificial death, His literal and physical resurrection are all historical events. But the gospel is also a story, a true story. When we read the New Testament Gospels, we read a story that is even more dramatic, more amazing, more disturbing than the story Nathan told David. When we see the way unbelieving men treated our Lord, we should be shocked, horrified, and angered. We should cry out, “They deserve to die!” And that they do. But the Gospel is not written only to show us their sins -- those who actually heard Jesus and cried, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” -- it is written so that the Spirit of God can cry out in our hearts, “Thou art the man!” When we see the way men treated Jesus, we see the way we would have treated Him, if we were there. We see how we treat Him today. And that, my friend, reveals the immensity of our sin, and the immensity of our need for repentance and forgiveness.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is “Good News.” The “Good News” is that the death of our Lord, which reveals the immensity of our sin, is the immense work of God by which He can and will forgive us of our sin. By His innocent and sacrificial death, Jesus died in our place, paid the penalty for our sins. He bore ours sins on the cross! And by trusting in His death, burial, and resurrection, we die to sin and are raised to newness of eternal life, in Christ. The Gospel must first bring us to a recognition of the magnitude of our sin, and of our guilt, and then it takes us to the magnitude of God's grace in Jesus Christ, by which our sins can be forgiven. Have you come to see how great your sins are before a holy God? Then I urge you to experience how great a salvation is yours, brought about by this same God, through the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a Savior!
His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin (Proverbs 5:22).
“But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36).
Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion (Proverbs 28:13).