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Lesson 12: The Truth About Consequences (2 Samuel 12:10-14, and chs. 13-19)

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Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.” He was right, but we tend to disbelieve him. We live in a day when many Christians, even Christian leaders, shrug off serious sin by saying, “We’re under grace.” If you preach against sin and for holiness, you’re labeled as an unloving, judgmental legalist. Concepts such as God being angry with sin or sinners and inflicting consequences for sin are viewed as outmoded. “It won’t reach the baby boomers,” we’re told. But R. W. Dale was on target when he said, “It is partly because sin does not provoke our own wrath, that we do not believe that sin provokes the wrath of God.”

Scripture is clear: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7-8). The principle applies to those under God’s grace.

In our study of David’s life, we saw this principle last week as David’s infant son, conceived through David and Bathsheba’s adultery, died. I would rather not deal with this topic any further because it seems negative and unpleasant. But the Bible does not drop the subject so quickly. Second Samuel 13-19 is an account of David’s reaping what he had sown. This sad picture of David’s grief and misery is a “severe mercy” from the Lord (to use C. S. Lewis’ term), intended to impress on us the principle of sowing and reaping, so that we will fear the Lord and hate and avoid the sin which would destroy us. The principle taught here is that

In grace, God forgives all our sin, but He does not remove all the consequences of it.

It’s crucial to understand this because it affects both our relationship with God and with one another. If we don’t understand how God deals with us, we will grow angry and withdraw from Him when He disciplines us. And if we don’t understand how God deals with us, we can’t relate properly to one another, since God’s forgiveness and love are the models for us in our relationships (Eph. 4:32-5:2).

1. In grace, God forgives all our sins.

Note 2 Sam. 12:13. In His grace, God completely forgives all the sin of those who repent and put their trust in Jesus Christ. The wages of sin is death--not just physical death, but spiritual death, which means eternal separation from God. If there is even the slightest sin which remains unforgiven, then we cannot be assured of eternal life. We would still be under the just condemnation of a holy God. But God does not forgive partially; He forgives completely. All sin, for the believer, is under the blood of Christ (Rom. 8:1). Forgiveness means (at least) 2 things:

A. Forgiveness means judicial pardon.

Forgiveness is an instantaneous judicial action on the part of God. God knows that we are guilty and condemned, sitting on death row. But He signs His name on the pardon and we are freed from condemnation and guilt. But there are two crucial differences between God’s pardon of our sins and what often happens in a governor’s pardon of a guilty criminal on death row:

(1) God’s pardon is based upon the satisfaction of His justice. God never compromises His justice in showing mercy. He never sacrifices His righteousness on the altar of His love. The two exist together in harmony. This is often not the case in our civil government.

The way God maintains both His love for us as guilty sinners and His righteous condemnation of sin is through the cross. On the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sin--not just physical death, but also spiritual death--as he bore our sins and experienced God’s wrath: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Christ fulfilled God’s righteous demand against our transgressions so that God can maintain His holiness and yet pardon sinners (Rom. 3:26). How does He do it?

(2) God’s pardon is conditioned on our repentance and faith. This, too, is contrary to many pardons granted in our civil government, in which the criminal claims innocence or extenuating circumstances as the basis for pardon. In the world, pardons are granted to those who deserve them; with God, pardons are granted only to those who know that they do not deserve them. God does not extend His pardon to those who minimize or excuse their sin, but only to those who confess their sin and put their trust in God’s provision for that sin (1 John 1:9). Forgiveness means God’s judicial pardon. Because the guilt is removed, forgiveness also means

B. Forgiveness means restoration of fellowship.

Guilt results in estrangement. We know this from our relationships with one another. You can’t enjoy close fellowship with a person if you have wronged him or he has wronged you unless the matter is cleared up. Since God’s forgiveness removes the guilt, it removes the source of estrangement, and fellowship is restored. Psalms 32 and 51, which David wrote in the aftermath of his confession, show the restoration of fellowship in David’s relationship with God. So God’s forgiveness which He extends to a repentant sinner means a complete judicial pardon and a restoration of fellowship between God and the pardoned sinner.

God’s forgiveness is the model and basis for our relationships with one another (Eph. 4:32-5:2). David understood God’s forgiveness toward him, but he didn’t seem to make the connection when it came to dealing with his wayward son, Absalom (2 Sam. 13 & 14). The results were tragic.

In chapter 13 we are given the sordid account of how David’s oldest son, Amnon, lusted after and forcibly raped his beautiful half-sister, Tamar (Absalom’s full sister). David’s response was to get angry (13:21), but he didn’t do anything about it! How could he? He was guilty of lust and adultery himself, so he couldn’t confront his son for his sexual sin. Absalom’s response was bitterness (13:22) and revenge. He let things simmer for two years, and then murdered Amnon (13:28). How could David confront his son for murder, when he had committed the same crime? But Absalom fled to live with his maternal grandfather (13:37-38). And David grieved over the loss of two sons, one to death and the other to exile.

Eventually David resolved his grief over Amnon, but he still grieved for Absalom (13:39). It’s often easier to get over grief from the death of a child than it is to get over grief from a wayward child. You realize that a dead child is not coming back, so you can finally come to terms with the loss. But with a wayward child, there’s always the hope that things will be restored.

Joab, who always was looking out for number one, sensed that David wanted to bring Absalom back (14:1). He also probably thought that Absalom would be the next king. If Joab could pull off a reconciliation between David and Absalom, he would be in good standing for years to come. So he enlisted a woman to come and tell David a sad story. She was a widow with two sons. One had killed the other and now the rest of the family was demanding the death of the surviving son. She asked for a merciful intervention. Setting aside justice in favor of love, David said, “As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground” (14:11).

Then the woman sprung the trap and applied her story to David and Absalom. David reluctantly agreed to let Absalom come back. But for over two full years after he returned Absalom was not allowed to see David face to face (14:24, 28). David was lenient in letting Absalom return without any confession of wrongdoing. But he tried to make Absalom pay for his crime by withholding love and fellowship. So, unlike God’s forgiveness in which there is confession on the sinner’s part; and pardon, restoration of fellowship, and some sort of consequences from God, you have a kind of undefined, halfway “forgiveness” that only deepened Absalom’s rebellion and alienation from his father.

I want to apply this lesson to our relationships with one another, especially in the family. Many parents make the mistake David made. Instead of dealing with their children’s disobedience through confession on the part of the child; and pardon, restoration of fellowship, and some sort of consequences from the parents (as God deals with us), parents will extend a partial “forgiveness” without any repentance on the part of the child. They bail the kid out of the consequences of his wrongdoing. But then they angrily withhold love as the way of making the child pay for the wrong. But it doesn’t clear up the relationship. It only breeds further alienation and rebellion. We must forgive as God in Christ has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32): judicial pardon and restoration of fellowship in response to confession. But forgiveness does not mean removal of all the consequences of sin.

2. In grace, God does not remove all the consequences of sin.

We need to understand that this is just as much a part of God’s grace as His forgiveness is. If God forgave and also wiped out all the consequences of our sin, we would never learn the seriousness of sin and we would go right out and sin all the more. We would not learn to fear God. We would not apprehend His righteousness nor see any need to do so. Like Absalom, we would plot rebellion and know nothing of submission. So God, even though He pardons all our sin and restores fellowship, graciously imposes ongoing consequences.

I want to trace briefly the consequences which David reaped as a result of his sin. Nathan the prophet predicted them in 12:10-11, 14. I want us to feel something of the grief and anguish which came upon David as a father and as a ruler as a result of his sin, so that we will be fearful of sinning.

A. David had sown death; he reaped death.

David had murdered Uriah. As the rich man in Nathan’s parable needed to restore four-fold the lamb which he had killed, so David would give up four sons in death, although he did not live to witness the death of the fourth. First, the baby conceived in adultery died (12:15-19). Second, Absalom murdered Amnon (13:28-29). Third, Absalom was slain in the rebellion against David (18:14-15). Finally, after David’s death, his son Adonijah was killed by Solomon for trying to usurp the throne (1 Kings 2:24-25). David barely had a rest from one period of grieving to the next.

There is hardly a more piteous scene in the Bible than David’s lament over Absalom’s death (2 Sam. 18:33): “And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And thus he said as he walked, ‘O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you. O Absalom, my son, my son!’” Remember that scene when sin entices you!

B. David had sown sexual sin; he reaped sexual sin.

David had never curbed his lust for women, and he finally crossed the line from polygamy to adultery. Nathan prophesied the consequences (12:11-12). The first crop to spring up was Amnon and Tamar (chap. 13). The second, which literally fulfilled Nathan’s prophecy, was Absalom (2 Sam. 16:20-22). To take over a king’s harem was to usurp his throne. Ahithophel knew that Absalom’s action would cut off the possibility of reconciliation between David and Absalom. But put yourself in David’s place--feel the humiliation of knowing that your son did such a shameful thing in full public view!

C. David had sown deceit and betrayal; he reaped deceit and betrayal.

David had tried to deceive Uriah into thinking that the child conceived by Bathsheba was his own instead of David’s. When that didn’t work, he betrayed Uriah by sending his own death warrant back to the battlefield in Uriah’s own hand.

David reaped deception and betrayal in the person of Ahithophel. He was David’s trusted counselor (15:12; 16:23). It is most likely that it is Ahithophel David refers to in Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” He was David’s “Judas,” and if his counsel to Absalom had been followed (concerning pursuing David), David probably would have been killed (2 Sam. 17:14).

Why would Ahithophel defect from David to Absalom? We have a clue if we piece together two Scriptures (2 Sam. 11:3 & 23:34): Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather! After what David had done to his granddaughter and her husband, he was ready to join Absalom in rebellion against David.

Do you get the picture of how the consequences of David’s sin played out in the years afterward? David’s family was in a shambles with murder, sexual sin, alienation, and bitterness. David’s kingdom was in a shambles as Absalom forced him out of the palace and usurped the throne. A man’s family and his life’s work are probably the two most important things in his life. David saw both of these crumble in direct response to his sin. He paid on awful price for a night of pleasure!

A Jewish father took his little boy to the ritual bath for the first time. When they jumped into the cold pool, the little boy shivered and cried, “Oy, papa, oy!” His father led him out of the pool, rubbed him down with a towel, and dressed him. “Ahh, papa, ahh!” purred the little fellow, tingling with pleasant warmth. “Isaac,” said the father thoughtfully, “do you want to know the difference between a cold bath and sin? When you jump into a cold pool you first yell ‘oy!’ and then you say ‘ahh!’ But when you commit a sin you first say ‘ahh!’ and then you yell ‘oy!”

Conclusion

You may be thinking, “Okay, that happened to David. But God doesn’t deal so severely with everybody. He doesn’t make everyone bear the consequences of their sin. David was under law; we’re under grace!”

But what does Paul say? “Be not deceived!” He wouldn’t say that if there wasn’t the distinct possibility that we could be tricked on this matter. Deception looks one way to the eye, but in reality it is another way. On the surface, it looks as if you can get away with sin and that many righteous deeds go unrewarded. But it is not so! God is not mocked! There are three things you must understand if you would not be deceived by sin:

1. Grace is free, but not cheap. You cannot earn or merit God’s grace. It is not dispensed to those who work hard to clean up their lives. It is not given to those who promise to try harder. It is completely free to us!

But it is not cheap. It cost God the very life of His only Son to be able to provide complete pardon for us as a free gift. God cannot wink at or paper over sin. Grace is free to us, but the price to God was the cross.

The world would deceive you into thinking that you have to earn grace and that it’s cheap. Don’t be deceived! When you see that grace is free to you, but very costly to God, it will make you love Him more and hate sin more.

2. Sin is cheap, but not free. You can buy into the sin market very inexpensively. It didn’t cost David a thing to lie with Bathsheba--not that night, anyway. Young person, it won’t cost you any loneliness or hardship at first to compromise your purity before marriage. Sex is easy, readily available, and inexpensive in terms of personal sacrifice and discipline--at first! But when you buy into so-called “free sex,” you find that it turns out to be costly in the long run (especially in this day of epidemic sexually transmitted diseases!), and you end up being enslaved, not free.

Little Bobby went to visit his Aunt Mary. When he arrived, Aunt Mary asked him what he would like to eat. He said, “Well, I love your pancakes and whenever we have pancakes at home I’m allowed to eat only three. So I’d like to have as many as I can eat.”

The next morning, Aunt Mary kept piling the pancakes on little Bobby’s plate. Bobby kept on eating and eating as fast as he could. When he had polished off a dozen or so, he began to slow down. Then, with a very unhappy look on his face, he stopped completely. Aunt Mary asked, “What’s wrong, Bobby, don’t you want any more pancakes?” Bobby said, “No, I don’t want any more. I don’t even want the ones I’ve already had.”

Sin is like that: At first, it seems great. But after you gorge yourself on it for a while, you grow sick of it and begin to say, “I don’t even want the ones I’ve already had.” Sin is cheap, but it’s not free--you pay a terrible price in the long run.

There’s a third principle you must understand if you do not want to be deceived by sin:

3. Freedom is always in sowing, never in reaping. Comedian Fred Allen saw things clearly when he said, “Most of us spend six days each week sowing wild oats, then we go to church on Sunday and pray for a crop failure.” We like to think that we are totally free creatures. We are not. The only freedom we experience is in the realm of sowing. You are free to sow ragweed seeds in your garden this spring; but once you sow them, you are not free to pick roses in the summer. You are free to sow, but not to reap.

Some of you may be thinking over your past and thinking, “Oh no! I’m in for a rough road ahead! I’ve sown some bad seeds in my past.” That may be true. But if you will submit to God’s discipline, as David did, God will bring beauty even out of your ashes. Many of David’s psalms were written out of the crucible of his later troublesome years, and they show us a man who drew close to the Lord and trusted Him even as he experienced His discipline in reaping what he had sown. God eventually gave David and Bathsheba another son named Solomon. By God’s grace, Jesus Christ is descended from him!

You cannot undo your past. But you can do something about your present and future. You can sow to the Spirit today and tomorrow and the next day. “Walk by means of the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). If you sow to the Spirit by walking in the Spirit, you will eventually harvest a crop of the fruit of the Spirit. The truth about consequences is that, sooner or later, everybody sits down to a banquet of them. Make sure your banquet is the fruit of the Spirit, not the lusts of the flesh!

Discussion Questions

  1. Does God ever “cause a crop failure” when we’ve sown to the flesh? Support your answer biblically.
  2. Should a fallen spiritual leader be restored to leadership if he repents? Why/why not?
  3. How would you answer the critic who said, “God isn’t fair to afflict the children because of the parents’ sin”?
  4. How does a parent know when to be gracious in bailing out a child who has sinned and when to impose consequences?
  5. Should we forgive those who are not repentant? Does God? What about Jesus’ words from the cross?

Copyright 1993, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character Study, Forgiveness, Grace, Hamartiology (Sin)