David is described, before he even graces us with his presence in the Scriptural story, in the following terms:
“The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people” (1 Samuel 13 v 14).
The final comment on his life and example, over 1,000 years later is the same:
“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13 v 22).
So how confronting is it then when we read yesterday and today’s first reading in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12? How is it possible that a man whom God describes as someone ‘after his own heart’ could possibly commit these most terrible of sins—adultery and murder? How could a man whom God loved so much, seek to conceal from God what he had done? He tried to cover his sin by committing another and seemingly was content that he had succeeded. But God had seen what he had done and the record says, ‘what David had done displeased the LORD’. They are ominous words.
At this stage, we also know how David felt. In writing about this incident David says:
“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32 vv 3, 4).
What David’s words reveal is that using human methods to cover over our sin and wrongdoing, is like using fig leaves as clothing. How useful is that? It might work for a short time, but when the fig leaves dry out they become hard and scratch, causing us irritation and pain. So too David’s attempt at covering his sin. He groaned because he knew things were not right. His relationship with God had been affected and his conscience, which was so aligned with God’s instructions was ‘beating him up’!
But it needed Nathan’s story to break through David’s self deception. God confronts David with his sin when Nathan comes, possibly one year or more later, and tells him a story. The feeling in this story is deeply emotional and powerful. It is personal and compelling. The record tells it all:
“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 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!” (2 Samuel 12 vv 1 – 6).
Who was this rich man? Who could possibly do such a low and utterly disgraceful act? David was so enraged by this man’s actions that he pronounced this rich man’s death sentence! Finally, David is confronted by God who had seen every vile part of David’s sin and was mightily displeased.
YOU are the man! It is you, David! You are the rich man! It is you who did such a thing and had no pity! It is you who deserves to die!
Nathan’s words to David highlight how God considered David’s sin. Nathan says David had:
• Despised the word of the LORD (v 9)
• Despised me—the LORD (v 10)
• Shown utter contempt for the LORD (v 14)
It is hard for us to contemplate that a man like David—a man after God’s own heart—could possibly behave in such a manner. Nevertheless he did. But there is an element of the story that serves as a warning to us as well. Nathan’s description of David’s sin is that it was a ‘traveller who came to him’. Nathan’s parable seems to be suggesting that this sin of David was an unusual event. It was not David’s habit to commit adultery and murder. Sometimes our sin is not like that. There may be a sin which we ‘entertain’ or cultivate and instead of being a ‘passing traveller’ it becomes a regular ‘guest’ in our life. Before very long, our ‘guest’ has become a ‘permanent resident’! According to the Hebrews writer, we must ‘throw off everything that hinders and get rid of the sin that clings so closely to us’ (ch 12 v 1).
Why is this story recorded in God’s Word? The fact that it is, reveals an evidence that this book is like no other. It IS God’s Word, because in this book, God’s heroes’ lives are recorded faithfully, revealing their strengths and weaknesses, their successes and their failures and always showcasing God’s grace in forgiving their sin and disobedience. For that reason, we should be thankful. If it is a story about David, it is a story that has its application to you and me!
David lived under the same covenant under which we live. It is a covenant which provides forgiveness for sin. In two of his Psalms (nos 32 and 51), David records how his actions are a compelling lesson for those who, like him, trust in God’s promises. His sin was not excused under any circumstances. But when we sin, like David we can be forgiven our sin and can rejoice in God’s salvation. His words in both Psalms are reassuring for each of us:
“How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven, whose sin is pardoned. How blessed is the one whose wrongdoing the LORD does not punish, in whose spirit there is no deceit…..I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, ‘I will confess my rebellious acts to the LORD.’ And then you forgave my sins. For this reason every one of your faithful followers should pray to you while there is a window of opportunity…..You are my hiding place; you protect me from distress. You surround me with shouts of joy from those celebrating deliverance. I will instruct and teach you about how you should live. I will advise you as I look you in the eye.” (Psa 32 vv 1 – 8)
“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love! Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts! Wash away my wrongdoing! Cleanse me from my sin! For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin. Against you—you above all—I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. But you are just when you confront me, you are right when you condemn me. … Look, you desire integrity in the inner man, you want me to possess wisdom. Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure; wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven! May the bones you crushed rejoice! Hide your face from my sins! Wipe away all my guilt! Create for me a pure heart, O God! Renew a resolute spirit within me! Do not reject me! Do not take your Holy Spirit from me! Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance! Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey! Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways, and sinners will turn to you. Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me! Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your deliverance!” (Psa 51 vv 1-14)
As we commence another week, we have reason to reflect on David’s words. David says that his sin and God’s gracious act of forgiveness will be celebrated by others. He would teach rebels such as you and I, about God’s merciful ways. Ultimately, he would be surrounded by others whose shouts of joy would celebrate God’s deliverance. Let this then be our prayer:
“Open my lips, Lord and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (51 v 15, 16).
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