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Life of David

The Way Home

2 Samuel 12; Psalm 51

The story of David and Bathsheba has one particular disadvantage for the teacher: it is so beautifully done that there is very little to add. Let us begin by looking at how God deals with David's sin:

(2 Sam 12:1-25 NIV) 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 deserves to 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 the house of 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 upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie 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 made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, 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 went into his house and spent the nights lying 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 servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, "While the child was still living, we spoke to David but he would not listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate." {19} David noticed that his servants 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 servants 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 fast? 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 lay with 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.


The common belief of Christians is that God will "do nothing" about our sins. Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that sin has no divine consequence. Indeed, some of us extend this to "no earthly consequences." But see the truth portrayed clearly here.

Why God Acts

God moves in this instance for two reasons:

  • First, to show that hidden sin cannot remain that way. So many of us think, like David, we are so clever that no one will ever find out. It is not so. Even if it comes out during the Judgment, it is not so.
  • Next, in this instance, to show us that no one is exempt from the consequences of sin. No one - not the rich and the powerful, for David is a king. No one - not even the one who walks so closely to God that he was called a "man after God's own heart." Past service is no cover to present sin.
How God Acts

God has a particular style.

  • He likes to work by means of a messenger. This is fitting for most of us, because it gives us the choice: repentance or defiance. Defiance is easy when the messenger is human like we are; and God will not force us to repent. He sends his messenger in frail human form so that the choice will be ours - alone.
  • He sends a clear indication of the sin. It is not just some vague mention that the books are a little out of balance; it is specific to the case. Often, this is our conscience; here it is the prophet.
Consequences of Sin

We like to justify our sins on the ground of "nobody got hurt - it's a victimless sin." God does not work that way; sin has consequences.

  • The consequences are parallel to the sin. David commits adultery, a sin against faithfulness and sexual purity. For this he will get Absalom's revolt, in which his own son will betray his father for the crown - and this will come from a case of rape in his own household. David commits murder, and therefore the sword will never leave his house.
  • What is done in secret will be seen in public. God understands that we tried to hide it; therefore, He will expose it.
  • There will be consequences to the innocent as well as the guilty. The child, for example, dies - for what fault of its own? Think how Bathsheba must have felt when it was told to her that her first born child was dead. Indeed, the consequences go far beyond his household. The enemies of God hear about it, and pronounce him a hypocrite - and thus are barred from learning about the one true God.

One thing is crucial in understanding the consequences of sin: David repented. These are the consequences of sin on a man who repented.

  • So many of us think, "All I have to do is pray for forgiveness, and nothing bad will come of it." Do you think that God is so easily fooled? Do you think he will neglect your instruction? Do you think he will neglect the instruction of those around you?
  • This is the consequence for a man who repents. Think, then, of what God would need to do for one who refused to repent.

It is our great good fortune and gift that David is a poet; his repentance is documented for us in Psalm 51 - the way home.

The Way Home

(Psa 51 NIV) For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. {2} Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. {3} For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. {4} Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. {5} Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. {6} Surely you desire truth in the inner parts ; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. {7} Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. {8} Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. {9} Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. {10} Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. {11} Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. {12} Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. {13} Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. {14} Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. {15} O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. {16} You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. {17} The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. {18} In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. {19} Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Asking Mercy and Pardon

The first step - and it is only the first step - is to go to God and ask his mercy and pardon. This should not be a formality, however. You are not entitled to it.

The basis for asking for pardon is simply this: God is merciful, and God is compassionate. We ask for pardon based upon his character. What you must not do is to ask pardon on the basis of your own merit (what is your righteousness to God).

Nor should you ask pardon of God on the basis of your circumstances. You may feel that you have much in the way of mitigating circumstance. Perhaps you do; the Lord is just and will consider these things. But you have no standing to use them as basis for pardon - only his love and compassion bring that.

Note how David phrases this: he asks to be "washed" or "cleansed." The metaphor is a very powerful one. It is as if sin is so much dirt and stain clinging to what should be an immaculate soul. Indeed, this is the nature of the fallen world. Man was created good; sin has stained him.

David asks for the "joy of your salvation" - some sign that God has indeed forgiven him. Do you take God at his word in this? David did, and was given Solomon as a sign of the return of God's favor.

Acknowledge the Sin

Most of us are good at asking pardon - but we would just as soon not mention why. See how David does it here:

  • Sin is against God. He is the one who is righteous; any sin is an offense against him. Because he is the one who is completely righteous, he is the one who can judge us with justice. Because he is completely righteous, he is the one who will hide his face from us until we do repent.
  • Sin is a result of our nature. Acknowledging the fact that he is a sinner, indeed from his birth, David does not try to deceive God (as we so often do). There is no sense of "I'm really a good guy" here. He admits that he is so much a sinner that there is nothing he can do to atone for it (verse 16). So often we try and "make it up to God." It won't work. He will not bargain with sin - or the sinner.
  • David names the specific sin. We are often good at confessing that we are sinners - but no details, please. That's as useful as going down to the police station and turning yourself in as a criminal - but for no specific crime. David calls it bloodguilt (verse 14) and so it is.
Restoration of spirit

The mercy is asked; the sin confessed, now we must have restoration - a return to the fellowship of God. There are two key attributes of this:

  • The pure heart. Notice that David asks God for this. No matter how hard we try, we cannot create a pure heart in ourselves. It's like restoring virginity. The clean heart is a steadfast one, full of the joy of salvation. How does God do this? Notice in verse 11 one of the rare instances of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. He is the agent of God's cleansing. In the New Testament we see him sent to convict the world of sin and judgment; here we see him as the one who creates the pure heart.
  • The Broken Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is to reside within you, creating that pure heart, he must have no rivals. Your own spirit should not be there to proudly resist him. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." It is because the poor in spirit, the broken in spirit, do not resist the Holy Spirit. The poor in spirit have the love of God as their first love - and love him with all heart, soul, mind and strength.
Return to the work

If repentance produces no action, I would question its reality. If you are forgiven, you will do something about it. As the old Scottish motto has it, "Saved - to Serve." David mentions the two aspects of the return to service of the sinner:

  • Sinners being turned. This would correspond to evangelism for us. Is there any greater testimony than that of a repentant sinner?
  • Righteous sacrifice. For the Christian, this would represent the good works of charity and other service to be performed.[1]


Some as you read this will think, "That's nice. A very concise view of the chapters in question." You will have missed the point if you do.

My purpose here is to point out to you the way home. If I may, let me be your "Nathan" this day, though I know no details. Like Nathan, I would point out to you that no sin can remain hidden forever - and that no one, whether by past service or circumstance, is exempt from the righteous judgment of God.

I would ask you, then, to do these four things:

  • Go to God, basing yourself upon his mercy and grace alone, and ask his pardon. If you are able, show him you mean it by asking the pardon of the one you might have offended. David didn't have that chance with Uriah. Take advantage of it if you can.
  • Acknowledge your sin as being against God, who is the fountain of righteousness. Do not excuse yourself; do not offer to make it up to him; just be specific and admit it.
  • Ask him for his restoration. We are to be ambassadors of reconciliation for Christ, and his reconciliation will come first to us. Crush your proud spirit; ask his Holy Spirit in to rule in its place.
  • When he grants your plea - when, not if - then turn with gladness to the work he gives you. Reach out to the lost, telling them your story not as one who is proud of righteousness but rather one who is glad of forgiveness. If it is given to you to do good works, do them acknowledging the one who forgave you.

[1] Romans 12:1

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