2 Samuel 12–How The Mighty Have Fallen
More ink is given in the Bible to David—62 chapters in the Old Testament and 59 references in the New Test.—than any other character. Clearly he was a very important person in the eyes of God and man. In 1 Samuel 13:14, David is referred to as “a man after God’s own heart” who God Himself had appointed as the ruler of Israel. In Paul’s first recorded sermon in Acts 13:22, God is quoted as saying, “I have found David the son of Jesse a man after My own heart who will do all My will”. Nevertheless, when David was 45-50 years old he had a train wreck of massive sin. His lust for beautiful women met opportunity in the very beautiful Bathsheba, and David was able to rationalize adultery with a married woman. Afterward with Bathsheba pregnant, his lust to preserve his power and prestige had caused him to murder multiple people including her husband Uriah. Therefore the “cover up” of his terrible sins was in place. Adultery, mass murder, cover up, lies, and obstruction of justice are the most formidable sins imaginable. During the next year, David lived a life of lies, hypocrisy, deception, and a concealed burden of guilt. We know from Psalm 32 and 51 that this repressed guilt ate him alive. He found out the hard way that sin always takes you further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay.
A Different Tone at the Palace
Imagine the scene at the Palace of David during the year of cover up. David had married the widow Bathsheba and suddenly she was showing to be pregnant. Remember all the people “in the know” about the truth of David’s sins—all the Palace servants, Bathsheba’s friends and family, General Joab and many conspirators in the military who had helped David get Uriah killed. Many leaks were made to the press, and the headlines of the Jerusalem Post read “King David denies adultery, explains Bathsheba’s 7 month pregnancy as simply a premature birth.” Every day presented a new story David had to deny. Everywhere he walked, the once respected King heard whispers, rumors were passed, and everyone knew something was amiss.
How Long Oh Justice?
How long would David get away with his crimes? The amazing way of God does not punish sin immediately, but God let’s us experience the natural consequences. Seemingly we would be better off if right after we sinned a lightening bolt would hit us and we’d be forced to do the right thing. Why wouldn’t God prevent us from sinning or strike us immediately after? It would violate our free will, so we must be obedient of our own free will. Otherwise it would not be obedience, which comes sincerely. God does not settle His accounts at the end of each day, week, or month, but when He does settle accounts, He settles them “Big Time”. Part of God’s judgment is to let us go and then experience the full weight of the consequences. Therefore, everything was different in the Palace, at the Tabernacle, and in all the public places. We know from Psalm 32 that David suffered internally and externally with sleepless nights, depression, loss of appetite, and loss of energy as he carried the burden of repressed guilt. As we finish reading the David and Bathsheba story in 2 Samuel 11:27, we know that trouble is coming when we read “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord”. As Hebrews 12:6 says, “Those whom the Lord loves He disciplines”.
At Just the Right Time
“Then the Lord sent Nathan to David”. We read in 2 Samuel 12 that God, after about a year, sent Nathan the prophet to speak to David in a very wise way. God let David feel the full burden of the consequences of his actions for at least a year, and then God used His prophet to confront and convict David of his sin. Nathan was the spokesperson of God that David most respected and listened to, and he would speak to David through a story about two men. This story is actually about David and Uriah and reminds me of the teaching of Jesus to the Pharisees. Jesus wisely used stories or parables to induce the religious leaders to convict themselves, which was what the story of Nathan will accomplish with David. David would bite hook, line, and sinker when Nathan told him the rich man with many sheep stole the one sheep of the poor man. The story was so compelling that David was drawn in and disarmed of all his defenses. The rich man had flocks and herds of sheep, but the poor man had one little ewe lamb, which he raised with his children. This baby lamb ate at their table and was a part of the family. When a guest came to the rich man’s house, he was unwilling to sacrifice any of his own many sheep. Instead he stole the poor man’s lamb and served it for dinner. Now David’s anger burned against that evil man, and David demanded justice be done. The crook must make restitution fourfold, and then he deserved to die. David viewed himself as a righteous judge that God had ordained to rule over Israel and bring justice. This put David in a very vulnerable spot, and set him up for Nathan’s final part of the story. At just the peak of David’s outrage against the evil man, Nathan said, ”You are the man!” Then Nathan quoted God saying God had appointed David as King and God protected him from Saul. God had given David the success, riches, and power in order to lead Israel back to God. Yet David had paid back God’s blessings by taking Uriah’s wife and then killing Uriah. David had sentenced the evil man in the story and then found out the wrongdoer was himself.
Forgiveness with Temporal Consequences
After Nathan finished detailing the horrible consequences that were coming upon David in both the immediate and distant future, David had a choice to make. Should he be like most carnal men and deny and defend, rationalize and justify, or rightly confess his sin and beg forgiveness? David was totally convicted, fell to his knees and said, “I have sinned against the Lord”. We know from 1John 1:9 that “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Therefore David was already saved from the penalty of sin, and now in his repentance he would be saved from the power of sin, and he was restored to fellowship with the Lord. Nevertheless, there would be temporal consequences to his actions. David would not be executed for his crimes, but the child of Bathsheba that David loved would die in the short run. In the long run remainder of David’s life, “the sword shall never depart from your house (family)”. This prophecy of turmoil and violence within David’s family would be fulfilled beyond David’s wildest expectations. All we have to do is read ahead in 2 Samuel 13-18 to discover how bad this mess in his family would be. David’s son would rape his sister, then his other son would murder that son. After that his son would betray him and lead a revolt against David and run him out of Jerusalem. A terrible war would erupt and David’s own men would kill his son Absalom. David would completely lose control of his own family and one disaster after another would result.
Fasting, Praying, and Lamenting, 2 Samuel 12:15-25
“The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick”. Knowing that it was his fault David immediately went into non stop praying and fasting, and he lay all night on the ground weeping and praying that God would have mercy and heal the child. All the members of his household stood by David trying to help him, but after seven days the child died. Then the friends and family were very scared for David’s welfare because they witnessed such grief. If David grieved like that while the child was alive, what would he do when the boy died? He surprised them after they told him by getting up, washing, worshipping God, and then eating. When his servants asked him how he could have been a wreck while the child was alive, but normal after he died, David had a very interesting reply. While the child was alive, he needed to show his remorse and contrition, and maybe God would be gracious and let the child live. Since he was dead there was no reason to pray and fast since he could not bring him back—God’s Will was done. Yet David had a very interesting comment to make that the church has traditionally used to support the view that infants who die are taken to heaven. David said, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” This means that when infants too young to make decisions die, they go to heaven. David was certain he was going to heaven since Nathan had said in 2 Samuel 12:13, “The Lord has taken away your sin”. Therefore David was saying that when he died and went to heaven he would join the child there. Many people believe this was unfair that since David sinned that the child had to die, but upon further review the child got a pass direct to heaven—a great deal. David on the other hand, would have to go on living and bear the terrible consequences of his sins.
The first and foremost thing for us to do is to realize our own sin, and not make it necessary for God to send someone like Nathan to confront us. Instead we need to be convicted, and be willing to go to God in prayer and say, “I am the man!” Lord, forgive me and have mercy upon me. Also, we need to see the value of Nathan’s approach. David was the proud king who everyone was afraid to approach. Yet knowing David’s desire to be a righteous judge of the people, Nathan approached him just the right way so that David would convict himself. Paul said it well in Ephesians 4:15, “speaking the truth in love”. Nathan went to David knowing that David’s cover up was self-destructive, and the best thing he could do was to confess and repent. I know from personal experience when someone is an authority figure it is hard for them to take admonishment. Therefore confronting them with stories designed to reveal the hard truth may be the best way to wake them up. Jesus certainly told many stories to His disciples to reveal the truth, and he even tried to convict the Pharisees with stories. Speaking the truth in love is very difficult and requires planning and good timing. Otherwise it will be taken as criticism. Proverbs 25:11-12 says, “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances. Like an earring of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear”.
Another important application we learn from David is about true repentance. When most people say “I’m sorry” they mean they are sorry they got caught. With true repentance there will be open confession and a desire to make a complete break from sin. The word repentance means to change your mind, and so here it means turn 180 degrees away from what’s wrong and pursue what is right. Someone who is truly repentant will change their lifestyle and try to make restitution.
Probably the most important application is to know and truly believe you are forgiven—as David did. He wrote about it in Psalm 32:1-2, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit”. David wrote this about his recovery from his cover-up period. Before he was miserable, but after he knew he was forgiven he recovered, and lost the burden of repressed sin.