Do not let the consequences of your sins make you doubt God’s forgiveness. Sometimes, when we experience the difficult consequences of what we’ve done, or failed to do, it feels like God is still mad us, like maybe we are not forgiven. That’s a trap of the devil. If you have repented in faith, you are forgiven. But sometimes, those consequences remain. The Lord will give you extra grace to face those things also, if you seek him.
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2 SAMUEL #13. 2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 12
If you are reading this, please pause, and read 2 Samuel chapter 12 first. The message in the text is pretty plain, and I am not going to go over the whole story in detail. So read the chapter, then come back and read the rest of this.
The story at the very beginning of 2 Samuel 12 is a wonderful portion of scripture in many ways. The prophet Nathan tells the story to David. It’s an allegory, or a parable. The beauty of it, is that David hears the story and engages fully with it. He absorbs what happened, and feels very strongly about it. And then, Nathan turns it around and says, “You are the man! The story is about you.”
Besides being a very powerful part of this chapter, I think Nathan’s approach tells us something about the bible. I have said before, and I stand by it, that the whole bible, including the Old Testament, is about Jesus. The first and most important purpose of the bible is to introduce us to Jesus, and to help us get to know him better. So whenever we read any part of the bible, we should ask the Holy Spirit: “Where is Jesus here? Show me Jesus.” But part of getting to know Jesus is also about getting to know the things in our own lives that either help or hurt our relationship with him. So the famous Danish theologian and philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, told people that when they read the bible, they should say, “this is about me.” And I agree with that, at least in the way that he meant. It is about Jesus first, but in a secondary way, related to that, the bible exposes our own attitudes, thoughts and ways of approaching life. In a way, the bible is to us, what Nathan’s story is to David. We are supposed to read and engage. We should ask “where is Jesus?” But we should also ask, “where I am, here? What does this bible passage tell me about myself, in relationship to Jesus?”
Nathan goes on and catalogues the outrageous sins of David. But I don’t think he needed to. Almost all people have a deeply seated sense of justice. Nathan appealed to that in David through the story, and I think David was convicted as soon as Nathan said, “you are the man.”
13 David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
Now, the statement “I have sinned against the Lord,” seems a little inadequate, considering what David had done. I would have wanted more. But God knew what was in David’s heart. And we know what was in his heart at this point in time, because immediately after this, David wrote it down. You can find in the bible in Psalm 51. This psalm was written right after Nathan confronted him about Bathsheba. The whole psalm is still today one of the most powerful expressions of repentance every written. Here is just part of it:
1 Be gracious to me, God,
according to Your faithful love;
according to Your abundant compassion,
blot out my rebellion.
2 Wash away my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I am conscious of my rebellion,
and my sin is always before me.
and done this evil in Your sight.
So You are right when You pass sentence;
God knew that David had repented truly in his heart, and so David was forgiven. I want to remind you how huge this forgiveness is, how amazing God’s grace is. Remember that God didn’t send Nathan to confront David about Bathsheba and Uriah until after the child was born. I suspect that prior to committing adultery, David had been drifting away from the Lord. Probably nothing dramatic, but I would guess that as life got easier and more full for him, he focused less and less on God. In time, he drifted far enough to commit the dramatic sins he did: adultery, lying, conspiracy to murder, deceiving others into conspiracy to murder. Then nine more months passed, without him returning to the Lord or repenting on his own. All told, I would guess that it was a least a year – perhaps several – that David was really not at all on track with God.
I think this is important, because the depth and depravity of David’s sin show us the vastness of God’s forgiveness and grace. This wasn’t just a little slip. This was an attitude of lust, murder, lying and self-reliance that continued for some time. God did not forgive David because it was just a little slip up. He forgave him, because you can’t out-sin God’s grace.
If God can forgive David – who spent at least a year turning his back on God, and did such horrible things – he will certainly also forgive us when we repent. Don’t believe the lie that you have fallen too far, or been away from God for too long. His grace is bigger than that.
Now, David was truly forgiven. But his sin resulted in some bad things. When we read this, it sounds like God said, “I forgive you, but I’m still going to punish you.” Here’s where we must interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament. I don’t think it is so much God actively punishing David, as David reaping what he has sowed.
Think of it this way: If you throw a rock and break a window, the owner of the window may forgive you. But the window will still be broken. Because of the window-owner’s forgiveness, you won’t be prosecuted for vandalism. Because of that forgiveness, you won’t have to pay for the window. But forgiveness does not un-break the glass. There will still be a mess to clean up and a gaping hole in the house.
Or suppose I tell my young child not to touch a hot stove. The child does so. Now, she has disobeyed me. She has also burned her hand. Did I burn her hand as a punishment for disobedience? Of course not. The burn was a natural and unavoidable consequence when she chose not to obey me. In fact, the very reason form my commandment “do not touch the stove” was to keep her from suffering any burn. I will certainly forgive her for disobeying me. But that won’t change the fact that she burned her hand.
Remember, David’s greatest failure prior to this was also due to his sin concerning his relationships with women. He had married six wives prior to this (2 Samuel 3:2-5), and in addition, had several concubines, who were, in effect, legalized mistresses. All this was in clear violation of what the Lord had said through Moses (Deuteronomy 17:14-17). I think when Nathan tells David what is going to happen in his family, it is not just about Bathsheba – it is about his whole problem of lust and ignoring God’s word about marriage. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, it was only another manifestation of what he had been doing already by marrying more than one wife. And so I think the “punishment” here is simply a natural result of what David has done wrong for many years.
There are reasons for what the Lord tells us to do, and to avoid. Very often, he is trying to help us avoid painful consequences.
Now, what about the child dying? How is that a mere consequence of David’s sin? Honestly, I don’t have the answers, I just know Jesus, who does. He doesn’t always share them with us. But I have two thoughts.
First, infant mortality was fairly high in those days. It may be that the child was going to die anyway, and the Lord was simply predicting it, and telling David ahead of time that he wouldn’t change his mind.
Second, in those days it was a very shameful thing to be born as a result of adultery. This is what we call an “illegitimate child.” The other word for such a child is “bastard.” I’m not being crude – that’s what the word means. The fact that even today, that word is a very derogatory and demeaning insult, shows how shameful it was in times past. I’m not saying it makes sense – it is never the child’s fault, of course. But an illegitimate child in those days would have suffered for the sins of his parents all his life. If that child went on to be with Jesus, it was a mercy that he didn’t live long enough to be reviled and cursed and shamed all his life.
Now, I said you can’t out-sin God’s grace. That’s true. I want you to hear that and believe it. You cannot do something that Jesus’ death on the cross did not pay for. But there are two important things to bear in mind, things that are taught by this passage.
First, David was able to receive God’s grace because he admitted he was wrong, admitted his need for forgiveness, and turned away from sin. In short, he repented. You can’t out-sin God’s grace, but God’s grace does you no good if you pretend that you don’t need it. It does you no good if you do not accept God’s judgment upon the evil of your sin, and repent of it. Grace is there and there is plenty of it, but we can only receive it through repentance and faith. I’m not putting it all back on you to repent correctly. But I’m just trying to make sure everyone understands – this isn’t universalism. God offers grace to everyone, but not everyone believes they need it, and not everyone believes he offers it, or that it is sufficient. If someone writes me a check for a million dollars, it doesn’t do me any good unless I
a. Want the money in the first place. This starts with me believing I have a need for it.
b. Believe that the check is valid
c. Put a and b to work by going to the bank and depositing the check.
There is a second thing here. David, when he was confronted with sin, repented. He believed he needed forgiveness. He sought that forgiveness from God, and he received it. He was forgiven. Most of the evidence seems to indicate that after this, he went back to trusting the Lord with all of his heart. Psalm 51 certainly seems to show us that. In addition, when David faces the consequences that Nathan predicts, he remains steadfast in faith, responding like the David of old to trouble and adversity.
So what does all this say to you?
First, read the bible. The bible serves us like Nathan the prophet served David. It shows us God’s perspective on things, it helps us to see things in a new light.
Second, this passage shows us the importance of repentance. Through Jesus, God has done everything needed to restore our relationship with him, and forgive us. But we need to believe we need and to believe he offers it. We need to turn away from our own selfish life, and let our life belong fully to the Lord.
Third, do not let the consequences of your sins make you doubt God’s forgiveness. Sometimes, when we experience the difficult consequences of what we’ve done, or failed to do, it feels like God is still mad us, like maybe we are not forgiven. That’s a trap of the devil. If you have repented in faith, you are forgiven. But sometimes, those consequences remain. The Lord will give you extra grace to face those things also, if you seek him.
Pause right now, and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you.