A Forgiven King
What has the grace of God taught you?
A familiar pattern in the Bible is unfolding again in the book of 2 Samual. God gives and establishes something great, but the sinfulness of humanity puts a huge question mark over whether God can really succeed. Israel is in the promised land with a good king who loved God and leaned on God for wisdom and understanding. Yet, even David acted out in shameful sin. Will sin ever be taken out of the picture in God’s plans!?
God had made a great promise to David in Chapter 7. That his kingdom would never end. But he also promised that when the king does wrong, God will punish him with harm inflicted by human hands.
David sinned in Chapter 12. He did more than take fruit from a tree but the same principle applies. He saw something that was not his and he was lead to believe that he must have it. Then he tried to cover up his sin so that nobody would be any wiser. He would save face before all of Israel and still be the good king that everybody believed him to be. There was no mention of God in chapter 11 until the very end when we read: “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”
Read 2 Samuel 7:18-29
12 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. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb 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.
4 “Now a traveler 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 traveler 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.”
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
7 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. 8 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. 9 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. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”
13 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. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; 25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.
26 Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. 27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. 28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.”
29 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. 30 David took the crown from their king’s head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city 31 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.
What did you see? (Observation)
- Nathan tells a story (1-6)
- What the LORD said to the murderer (7-10)
- What the LORD said to the adulterer (11-14)
- The death of the child (15-23)
- The birth of Solomon (24-25)
- Another victory story for David (26-31)
Nathan tells a story (1-6)
“The LORD sent Nathan to David…” This is an act of grace! We finished Chapter 11 hearing that what David did displeased the LORD and the next thing we read is that God reaches out to David. God does not abandon his relationship with David. Like a Father to a son, he does not discard David but approaches him. Discipline is not abandonment. We don’t know much about Nathan except for the few stories that he is in but that he was a good prophet to king David. One of David’s sons is even named Nathan! David had approached Nathan for advice in Chapter 7 when he wanted to do something for God. Nathan is now used by God to send a message to the king.
“When he came to him, he said, “There were two men…” How does Nathan approach the king of Israel to tell him that the king has sinned. How does one rebuke a king? You tell him a story! The power of a story is illustrated in these verses as David is drawn to announce his own guilt. It’s not until Verse 7 that we hear the words that the LORD had given to Nathan to speak. Whether the story of the two men was a creation of Nathan or a message from God, we can only imagine. Perhaps Nathan was taking the announcement of sin from God and wrapping it in a story so that David would hear it. The fact is that the whole bible is a story given to us so that we can come to admit that we are not better than Adam or Eve or David and that we all need a Saviour.
“David burned with anger against the man…because [the man] did such a thing and had no pity.” Nathan has lead David to the right conclusion. David has become outraged against a fictional character and is ready to be told that this is exactly what David has done. He acted selfishly, destroying the lives of others and, in the end, showed no pity. Remember his words to Joab in 2 Sam 11:25. Casualties were just par for the course.
“As surely as the LORD lives…” Christians are stereotypically accused of being hypocrites. Well, we are. We quickly judge others but forget that we are guilty of the same or perhaps worse. David declares guilt upon a man in the name of the LORD. As readers of this story we see right through David and want him to see the error of his ways and to change.
What the LORD said to the murdering adulterer (7-14)
“You are the man!” Nathan is now able to deliver the full blow of the powerful, confronting, condemning words of the LORD to David who is able to hear them and be ashamed.
“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…” For the first time in this story, we hear exactly what the LORD wishes David to hear. It is not simply a story left for David to interpret but the blunt truth that he has sinned in an amazing way and it’s time to be served. Note that He is described as the God of Israel which, I’m sure David would understand, is a higher rank to king of Israel. Nathan is not outranking David, he is simply passing on the message he was ordered to give. Preachers and Christians do not have higher authority in themselves but stand charged to deliver news from the Creator of all mankind.
“I anointed you…I delivered you…I gave…I gave…I would have given you even more.” The first point from God to David is that He has given so much to David and would have even kept on giving. I can recall the scenario in the garden of Eden that everything on the planet was given to Adam and Eve and who knows what the potential for the future held to a couple who would love God and love one another. But they took the one thing that was not theirs to take. How important it is to cultivate thanksgiving into our daily routine! Coveting, envy and greed have no place in our lives – but they are there aren’t they?
“Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?” When we sin, we don’t simply do something wrong, but we despise the One who gives us life and words to live by. We do what is evil to the LORD and therefore show contempt for Him. Sin is always relational because it is against the LORD that we always sin.
“You struck down Uriah…with the sword…therefore, the sword will never depart from your house.” David’s first crime dealt with is the crime of murder. He organised for another man to be killed for self gain. The consequences to David will be that he will no longer look forward to retirement from the sword. This is not prescriptive of how God deals with our sin in this life but descriptive of how he dealt with David. We are able to listen in on this incident and see how our God acted justly in responding to David’s guilt. The eye for an eye principle is being followed in spirit if not literally. It is true that Deuteronomy 22:22 says clearly what should happen to David, but God is dealing particularly with David – the king of Israel. We’ll hold our breath for now and listen to the rest of the discipline being placed on David’s house.
“…and took his wife…took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” The second crime dealt with is the crime of adultery. In David’s case, he really took Uriah’s wife completely. But it began by taking her for one night as if Uriah did not exist. God was prepared to keep on giving to David but David felt a need to take something that was not his.
“Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you.” God had promised David that his kingdom would never end. Because of this promise, the penalty would not be the removal of David’s kingdom. But that didn’t mean that his household would be an oasis. God’s promise was to chastise the kings of David’s kingdom like a Father disciplines a son. The promise suggested that this would start with Solomon but it did not need to wait until then. David will be the first king of God’s kingdom to live through the consequences of sin. This account of David’s fall very much resembles that of Adam and Eve. They did not die on the spot, as the penalty implied, but received mercy to live the rest of their lives (and still die) but looking daily at the consequences of their sin – even for one of their own children to kill another. David will watch the calamity on his household and know that he had deserved it.
“You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” See 2 Samuel 16:22.
“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”” After David’s righteous outburst against the rich man in Nathan’s story, he now only says, I have sinned against the LORD. No excuses. No elaborating or placing the blame. This is a response that we want so many of our friends and family to make. Yet it is most common for people to blame their circumstances, or even God (the woman you put here!) David says exactly the right amount of words: I have sinned against the LORD. It’s similar to the words that Jesus would put into the mouth of the prodigal son in his parable about forgiveness. We are not victims of our circumstances. We are sinners who need to confess that in our heart and before God.
“Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” Why doesn’t David need to die? Because the LORD has taken away his sin. This is the tremendous gospel of this account. The sin is not swept under the carpet. The consequences have already been explained and we are yet to meditate on the death of the child born. But the promise from the LORD to David is that his kingdom will never be torn away from him (2 Samuel 7:15) as it had been to Saul (1 Samuel 15:23). The grace of God is based on his promises and not on our merit or deserving. David did not deserve to receive such mercy. But his sin has been dealt with by the LORD. David does say more on his confession or reflections in Psalm 51 (also Psalm 32).
“But because…you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die.” See earlier comments regarding sin being always about contempt for or despising the LORD. David did not only commit the sins but he then covered them up and called them of no matter. I will reserve more on the death of the child for the next section.
The death of the child (15-23)
“…the LORD struck the child…” We will not take from this that all children who become ill and die are a result of someone else’s sin. The Pharisees had this same error in Jesus’ time and were corrected for it (John 9). Just as Joab said to Abishai, “The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” The story in Chapter 12 does not teach us to have no care for a dying child since we look at the grieving of David who knew full well why it was happening. It does not tell us that we ought to expect such harsh treatment from God as a result of our sin either because this is a unique story about the unique character of king David. The message is that David’s sin caused trauma in the household. It will be tempting for a Bible reader to be confused about the mercy of God when this innocent child is punished, but the LORD gives and the LORD takes away – blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21). On the flipside, we might remember that the gift of children is not something we must presume upon either (1 Samuel 1-2).
“The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up…but he refused…he would not eat…the child died…David’s attendants were afraid to tell him…” The sorrow of David and his pertitioning of God through pleading and fasting, night and day, seemed like a mystery to his attendants and elders. They saw it purely as grief and despair when in fact it was an endeavour to change the mind of the LORD. When the child died after 7 days of illness, the attendants feared that David would be even worse! If he grieved so much while the child was alive, how much more once the child is dead. While David is the guilty one in this story being chastised by God, he is able to teach us something at this point. His actions are not out of despair but out of faith that God is good and hears. While the child was still alive, then there was hope.
“He may do something desperate.” They may have feared that David would kill himself or someone else! Who knows. They feared what David had already been found guilty of doing: desperately taking a man’s wife and then killing the man. Now, this repentant man gives us a glimpse into the heart of a servant of God. We readers need to know that the sin of David has been dealt with. David’s actions while lamenting and pleading were the actions of someone who serves the living God.
“…he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped…” This father worshiped God after the death of his son. To worship is to praise God for who he is. In all of life, the LORD is to be praised. David did not hold a grudge against the LORD since the LORD had done exactly as he said He would do. It is one thing to question: what are you doing, LORD? Quite another to question: what right do you have?
“Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” What a profound little gem in the Old Testament about the afterlife. David is amongst the living who cannot bring back the dead. That is a fool’s desperation. The attendants of David worried that he might do something desperate (Verse 18) but David had a rational mind toward death. The gem here is that David talks about going to his son. David will one day die and he states here that he will one day go to him. This could mean anything from “I will return to the dust like that child” through to “I will join him in heaven one day.” What he means will depend on the rest of scripture to interpret (reveal the meaning). Jesus, the true forever King, taught his disciples that he would one day see them in the kingdom of God where there are many rooms. Death, however, is a one way door. We all go through it and none of us return to advise on what happens on the other side. But we know Jesus who has returned. Our knowledge and hope for the future is not based on wishful thinking or theology born out of desperation, but on the sound report from the risen Son of God. For now, David is resolved that it is goodbye to his son until eternity.
The birth of Solomon (24-25)
“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba…” She has been identified as Uriah’s wife for most of the past two chapters in order to underscore the sin of David who had taken another man’s wife. Now that Uriah is dead and God has dealt with the sin, she is now recorded by name and as David’s wife. It will not be forgotten forever since she is not remembered in Matthew 1 as Bathsheba but as Uriah’s wife. Our world is marred by the repercussions of sin everywhere.
“…they named him Solomon.” 2 Samuel informs us that Solomon was the second son born to David by Bathsheba. His name means ‘peace’ which points forward to what will happen in Israel under his reign rather than a reflection on the circumstances of his birth. See 1 Chronicles 22:9.
“The LORD…sent word…to name him Jedidiah.” This name means loved by the LORD. He will be known by the world as Solomon the peace bringer but the LORD will know him as loved. See Nehemiah 13:26. No earthly king can bring peace. But the love that God first shows to us through the LORD Jesus Christ, that is our only peace.
Another victory story for David (26-31)
It is sad how the narrative of 2 Samuel 11 and 12 effects the reading of the rest of David’s story. Before this, we were hearing of the great humility and dependence on God that David displayed. Now, in these final verses, we read of a king who does not sound different at all. He claimed victory where one of his commanders had done the work and he turned his captives into slaves. The changed atmosphere is striking when you compare Chapters 11 and 12 with what we read in the shortened account of 1 Chronicles 20:1-3.
What did we learn? (Meaning)
The LORD our God will not let sin go unattended. And yet He keeps His promises. This means that all who call on the name of the LORD will be saved! Our salvation is based on the promises of God through Christ and not by our own merits. Our world is under the curse of sin. The story of Genesis 3 recounts this and the house of David illustrates this for us now. The forgiveness of sins and the hope of the resurrection are contained in a story about David. The message of the gospel is packaged for us in the story of David’s salvation (just as David’s rebuke was packaged in the form of a sheep farmer story).
Now what? (Application)
Topic A: Packaging our message. One NIV translation titles chapter 12: “Nathan Rebukes David”. But who is it that rebukes David? It is God’s word that David is rebuked by when Nathan says, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…’ But the rebuke from God comes through the mouth of Nathan and is packaged in a story. It is packaged in a relationship already trusted by David. Nathan has permission to speak to David but it is the word of God that Nathan speaks. We can error in two ways here. We can firstly express our own distaste and disgust with people without regard to what the Bible actually says on a matter. Secondly, we can blurt out the message of God into an audience not ready to hear what they desperately need to hear. But the word of God, the truth and hope of the gospel, when packaged in a relationship and the right timing can be more effective on the hearer. Proverbs 15:23, 25:11. Nathan was right but so was his method of communication.
Topic B: The gospel is not fair. David was outraged at the wicked rich man who killed a poor man’s sheep. We too may be outraged to see how low David fell and yet his kingdom was not removed from him nor was his life. Even more so that a child was killed instead of David. Have you ever considered how unfair the gospel is? We all deserve to be excluded from God’s kingdom forever because of our contempt for the One who made us. And yet it is Jesus who dies instead of us. He was more innocent than that child of Bathsheba who died in his mortal sin. If we do not have a solid doctrine of sin then we will not have a solid doctrine of grace either. It is not fair that we despise the work of God and yet are allowed to enter His eternal rest. But it is through the wounds of Jesus that we are healed. It is for our transgressions that he was punished. The gospel is not fair.
Topic C: Good grief. David lost his child. It is a horrible story and it is difficult to shine a light on David after this. We are taught, however, some real truths about the curse of sin and how to proceed with faith. While the child was ill but still alive, David pleaded with the LORD to change his mind. David prayed with all his effort. He was not lost in despair but directed his hope to the living God. Once the child died, David ceased his petition but continued his relationship with God. He worshipped the LORD. He did not disrespect God for doing good in His sight. He also spoke of eternal hope. The reality of sin in this world is that we cannot bring people back. They are gone. But, in faith and hope, we shall see them again. David held to the promises of God, the faithfulness of God and the mercies of God. The curse of sin is real. Death is real. But God is always God. David rose and comforted Bathsheba. The pain may be present but the LORD who brings comfort to all who mourn – He is to be praised. Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.