XXVIII David Arraigned for Sinning
Arraigned for Sinning
2 Samuel 12
Approximately a year went by after David committed his great sins involving Bathsheba and Uriah before he was ar-raigned by Nathan for his evil. We calculate this passage of time by the fact that when David was arraigned by Nathan, the child which had been conceived through adultery had already been born (v. 15). During that year or so before Nathan, under the orders of God, brought David face to face with his great guilt, David experienced some painful inward arraignment, however. “God may suffer His people to indulge the lusts of the flesh and fall into grievous sin, but He will not allow them to remain content and happy in such a case; rather are they made to prove that ‘the way of the transgressor is hard’ [Proverbs 13:15]” (Pink). It was a miserable time for David because of the inward arraignment as he himself testifies in one of his Psalms: “When I kept silence [refused to confess his sin], my bones waxed old through my roaring [cry of inner anguish] all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture [life juices like the sap in trees] is turned into the drought of summer” (Psalm 32:3,4). During those months between committing his terrible sins and finally acknowledging his guilt when arraigned by Nathan, David lost much of his joy and zeal for life, and “his communion with God [was] interrupted . . . he penned no psalms, his harp was out of tune, and his soul like a tree in winter that has life in the root only” (Henry). Truly “the pleasures of sin [are only] for a season” (Hebrews 11:25)—and that season is very short.
In our study of this Divinely ordered arraignment of David for his great sin regarding Bathsheba and Uriah, we will consider the condemnation of David (vv. 1–12), the contrition of David (v. 13), the chastisement of David (vv. 10–12, 14–25), and the conquering by David (vv. 26–31).
A. THE CONDEMNATION OF DAVID
When the right time came on God’s calendar, “the Lord sent Nathan unto David” (v. 1) to let David know that God was displeased about David’s iniquitous conduct. God’s displeasure about this conduct was clearly stated in the last verse of the text for our last chapter: “The thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:27). Now in our present text is reported how God informed David of this displeasure and what the results of this displeasure would be upon David. It was a message that would cut David to the quick and smart as no other message ever smarted that David had received from God.
To examine this condemnation of David for his adulterous evil, we note the pursuit in the condemnation, the person delivering the condemnation, the parable for the condemnation, and the particulars about the condemnation.
1. The Pursuit in the Condemnation
The very first thing we note in God sending a prophet to David to arraign David for his sin is the fact that it was God Who took the first step to bring about David’s repentance. We noted this truth about God seeking the sinner in a previous study which concerned David and Mephibosheth. Men have a big sin problem and need the Divine physician desparately. But unlike what they do normally when they have physical problems, men do not seek the Divine physician for their sin problem. Rather, the Divine physician seeks the sinner. Christ said He was come “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Early in the beginning of man’s history, God demonstrated this pursuit of the sinner. When Adam and Eve sinned, they did not seek God but hid in the Garden. So God pursued them to bring them back to Himself. Likewise God sent His prophet Nathan to speak to David concerning the great sin problem in David’s life and to bring David back into fellowship with God.
The fact that God pursues us to heal us of our sin problems underscores the tremendous grace of God. David would not come to God and confess his sin; but God had to go to David first to prompt the confession. Even though David’s life was in great anguish over his sin (Psalm 32:3,4), he still would not come clean with God. So God in grace pursued David to bring him to God for cleansing from his sin.
2. The Person Delivering the Condemnation
“And the Lord sent Nathan unto David” (v. 1). Nathan was the agent that God chose to send to David to condemn David for his great evil and to bring David to repentance of his sin. We note the calling of Nathan and the character of Nathan.
The calling of Nathan. Nathan’s calling was that of a prophet (v. 25). As a prophet, Nathan was God’s preacher. Here he had a message to proclaim against sin. A prophet in the Old Testament had various duties which at times included making predictions about the future. But one of his main tasks in Old Testament times was to preach against sin. The prophet was God’s great spokesman to lift up the standard of holiness among the people. Preaching against sin did involve some prophesying, however; for it would involve predicting what the future for the unrepentant sinner would be and what the judgment would be for the sin (as was the case in the message for David).
The calling of a prophet to arraign David for his evil reveals the practice of God in His dealing with the sin problems of this world. It is the practice of God to send preachers to deal with the sin problems. God does not send some shrink or psychologist or psychiatrist or psychotherapist or government bureaucrat or some social worker to be His agent to deal with the sin problem. When Israel had become a degraded nation under Ahab, God sent the prophet Elijah. When Israel again fell into great sin and moral and spiritual decay, God sent other prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, Malachi, and others to deal with the sin problem in the land. Later in the New Testament, God sent John the Baptist, that great preacher who was the herald of Christ, to arraign the Israelites for their sin and also to arraign wicked King Herod for his adulterous life. Peter was God’s agent to deal with the sin of Ananias and Sapphira in the church. The history of man right up to our day illustrates this practice of God to send preachers to deal with the sin problem. Not once has mankind ever experienced a revival through the work of a shrink or psychologist or psychiatrist or psychotherapist or government bureaucrat, or some social worker. Always it has been God’s preacher that has been God’s agent to deal with sin and to bring men back to God.
Our day needs to sit up and take note of this fact, for we have demoted the preacher and promoted the psychologists and other like people in dealing with our problems. Conferences which used to only have preachers for speakers are now having “Christian” psychologists and other professional counsellors as some of the speakers. No wonder we are not dealing with the sin problem as we ought. No wonder the standards about adultery, divorce, and other sins are so compromised. These people being substituted for the preacher try to mix the unholy, worldly philosophies of the ungodly with Christianity in order to solve sin problems. But God does not work that way. He sends preachers to proclaim what His Word has to say about the sin problem and how it can be solved. All those other worldly experts either water down the Word of God or outright scorn the Word of God and make the foolish mistake of trying to correct behavior problems without dealing with the sin problem. Many of them, in fact, do not even acknowledge the fact of sin let alone the authority of God’s Word.
The character of Nathan. The prophet Nathan was a man of high character. He had the character needed to be assigned by God to deal with David. In this we discover another practice of God. This practice has to do with the character of those He sends to deal with sin problems. He chooses people of the highest character to be His preachers. Let us never forget this truth. Let churches take seriously the character qualifications given for the pastor in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1–7). It only makes sense to have men of the highest character to do the condemning of sin. If men lack character, their condemnation of sin becomes a study in hypocrisy. Holy men of God are the ones God wants lifting up the holy banner of God.
We note here three important aspects of Nathan’s high character which were especially needed for the task of condemning David. He was faithful to God’s Word, obedient to God’s orders, and courageous in God’s service.
First, he was faithful to God’s Word. We saw this aspect of Nathan’s character when God told Nathan to inform David that David could not build the Temple as David had desired and as Nathan had earlier approved. “The word of the Lord came unto Nathan” (2 Samuel 7:4) giving him a message about the temple building that was not the most palatable to deliver to David, but Nathan delivered it faithfully—“according to all this vision [God’s message to Nathan about what to tell David], so did Nathan speak unto David” (2 Samuel 7:17). That faithfulness to God’s Word was really needed in the current situation before us in which Nathan must rebuke David; for Nathan’s message to David was one that many would want to water down, change to a more conciliatory message, and leave out much of it. But if you want to be chosen of God for His service, you must be faithful to His Word. You must proclaim God’s Word with integrity. You must not mix it with the poisonous philosophies of this world (which the psychologists and other like folk do—trying, as an example, the fatal folly of mixing Freud with faith). Rather, you must declare “all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) without hesitation or apology.
Second, he was obedient to God’s orders. Nathan’s obedience to God’s orders, as well as his faithfulness to God’s Word, was also illustrated in his dealing with David about building the Temple. Nathan was obedient to God’s orders whether the task was a pleasant task or not. How much more pleasant would it have been for Nathan to have told David that God approved the Temple building. Furthermore, how much more pleasant would it have been for Nathan if he had not been ordered to go see David about his sin. No true man of God has ever found it a pleasant task to go to one of his parishioners and deal with them about some sin in their life. But if one is going to be God’s preacher, he must be obedient to God’s orders regardless.
Third, he was courageous in God’s service. As a prophet, Nathan would always find that courage was necessary in order to proclaim God’s Word faithfully and to be obedient regardless of the orders. In no place would more courage be required of Nathan and would Nathan’s courage be greater than in his coming to David and denouncing him for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. The reason he needed so much courage was that “his mission was as perilous as it was painful; and might, if it failed, have cost him his life” (Dale). Going to David was indeed very dangerous. It has always been dangerous to rebuke royalty for their sins. As an example, John the Baptist lost his life because he dared to rebuke Herod for a sin similar to David’s sin. Had Nathan lacked courage, he would never have been chosen by God for this task, and he never would have done the job. But Nathan had the courage. And we must have the courage if we are going to be used of God. Some view the ministry as a place for weaklings and the effeminate and timid. But those who look at the ministry that way have no concept of what the ministry is all about. To be God’s man will require tremendous courage at times. It is a battle in which many dangers are present and, therefore, one from which cowards will quickly retreat.
3. The Parable for the Condemnation
The first part of Nathan’s message to David was a parable. This parable was used to mirror David’s sin to David, and it did the job excellently. We see this fact in the relating of the parable by Nathan and the reaction to the parable by David.
The relating of the parable. The parable Nathan related to David consisted of a story about the two, the traveller, and the thievery which in revealing detail pictured very accurately the vile evil of David regarding Bathsheba and Uriah.
First, the two. “There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up; and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter” (vv. 1–3). One can easily see the comparison of David to Uriah in this part of the parable. David had the riches and many women (which the flocks and herds represent as will be seen shortly in the parable). But Uriah was not rich and only had one woman. But she was very dear to him as “lay in his bosom” emphasizes. Also, the phrase, “It grew up together with him,” suggests that Bathsheba and Uriah knew each other long before their marriage and that Bathsheba was even a childhood sweetheart of Uriah. Some want us to believe that David had known Bathsheba when they were both young, but that is Hollywood’s idea (it was in their film of David and Bathsheba), not the Holy Word’s report. If anyone knew Bathsheba from her youth, Scripture indicates, via this parable, that it would be Uriah. When making assumptions about Bible characters, get your ideas from the Holy Word, not from the perverted ideas of Hollywood.
Second, the traveller. “And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but he took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him” (v. 4). The traveller represents the unholy desire that came to David regarding Bathsheba. Three things can be said about this unholy desire. (1) The traveller enters. He “came” to David (the “rich man” of the parable). Evil thoughts and desires do come to people. But it is not a sin to be tempted. The sin is in the yielding to temptation. As others have said, you cannot stop the birds from landing, but you can stop them from building a nest. David, unfortunately, let them build a nest as we note next. (2) The traveller entertained. The rich man entertained the traveller, for he prepared him a meal. Likewise, David fed his evil thoughts with much time and attention. That is a sure way to be defeated by evil thoughts. Evil thoughts must be starved of affection and attention or they will capture and corrupt you. (3) The traveller enthroned. The rich man “dressed it [the lamb] for the man that was come to him.” The traveller parabolically takes on the position of master here while the rich man is the servant. This is the progress of evil if we do not quickly stop it—it goes from a caller to the crown, from the guest to the governor. Sin works on society this way, too. Homosexuals, as an example, first ask to simply be accepted by society. But their history indicates that soon they will seek to rule over everyone else. Note this work of homosexuals in Sodom and in the progress of their influence in our society.
Third, the thievery. The rich man in the parable would not use one of his own lambs from the multitude of his herd to feed the traveller. No, he would take the poor man’s only lamb to feed the traveller. This is thievery, and it is thievery of the worst kind in that it is not a poor man stealing but a rich man stealing. The picture is that David had many wives by which he could satisfy his sexual appetite, but he stole Bathsheba to satisfy his sexual appetite. Adultery is thievery among its many other sins. Bathsheba belonged to Uriah; to commit adultery with her was to steal her from Uriah. Killing Uriah to marry her really underscores the thievery.
The reaction to the parable. David reacted very angrily to the parable. His “anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (vv. 5, 6). This reaction of David was harsh and hypocritical.
First, it was harsh. It went too far in punishment. Restoring the lamb fourfold was correct (see Exodus 22:1), but the death sentence was certainly not. No law in Israel required a man to die because he had stolen a lamb. A stolen lamb had to be restored fourfold, but the thief was not killed. Israel’s civil laws have never been improved upon by any other set of laws. Israel’s laws were fair and just. They were neither too lenient or too harsh. Would that the laws of our land were like that today. David’s harshness is another reminder that immorality makes men hard and cruel. But as we noted in our last chapter, you disrespect the beginning of life and you will disrespect the ending of life, too.
Second, it was hypocritical. How hypocritical David was in this judgment of the rich man in the parable. David had done much worse than just stealing a lamb. He had stolen a lady and killed the lady’s owner! Yet, he was not judging himself harshly. He was not even condemning himself at all, for he was not displeased with his conduct (2 Samuel 12:25). But, in contrast, he was “angry” with the man who stole one lamb and condemned the man to death. How easy it is for the sinner to see other people’s sins but not his own. The sinner has “two sets of names for vices: one set which rather mitigates and excuses them, and another set which puts them in their real hideousness” (Maclaren). That which is stinginess and selfishness in others, the sinner calls economy in himself. That which is murder in others, the abortionists calls “rights” when it involves themselves. That talk which is lying to others, politicians call talk spoken in the interest of national security. That which is called talebearing in others, the news media calls news reporting when they do it. What is called persecution by others is called separation of church and state by the ACLU. The ungodly tell us that reading the Bible in school must be stopped because it is offensive to some (the one or two atheists who complain), but they insist that pornography must not be stopped (though it greatly offends a whole lot more than are offended by Bible reading in the schools) because that would be an infringement on the freedom of expression. The feminists shout harassment when the harassed woman is a liberal; but if the harassed woman is a conservative, they turn the other way. If churches spread AIDS as the homosexuals do, the churches would be closed down within days by the government; but any negative action against the homos for spreading AIDS will result in judgment in our courts for those who dare imply that the homosexuals are perpetrators a terrible disease. Hypocrisy reeks with an unholy stench be it from the godly or the ungodly. Let us all examine our hearts and root out any hypocrisy which is there.
4. The Particulars About the Condemnation
After David condemned the rich man for his thievery of the lone sheep of the poor man, Nathan had David where he wanted him. Nathan could then proceed with the application of the parable and speak to David about all the particulars of the condemnation. These particulars spoke of in our text involved the identifying of the sinner, the inexcusableness of the sinning, the inventory of the sins, and the infliction for the sinning.
The identifying of the sinner. “Thou art the man” (v. 7). The angry outburst of David against the rich man was followed by Nathan’s short, but pungent, verbal charge against David. “Thou art the man” is a statement that will live as long as time. “If ever a word from human lips fell with crushing weight and with the illuminating power of a gleam of lightning, it was this” (Keil). In the Hebrew the words, “Thou art the man,” are only two words. Thus, to David this statement from Nathan was like a one-two punch, to use boxer’s language; for it leveled David. Any thought that he was successfully hiding his sin went out the window with “Thou art the man.” Any hope that maybe God was not going to judge him for his evil ended quickly with “Thou art the man.” We cannot help but admire Nathan’s courage to condemn David so plainly and forcefully. This application of the parable to David illustrated “the highest degree the holy boldness and faithfulness of the prophet. He could not tell but that his honest plain-spoken rebuke would bring upon him the same fate as that of Uriah the Hittite. His example is especially to be noted by all whose office binds them ‘to rebuke with all authority’ [Titus 2:15]” (Maclaren).
The inexcusableness of the sinning. After identifying the sinner, Nathan next shows the inexcusableness of David’s sinning. This indictment is true of every sinner. None have any excuse for sinning. Of all sinners it can be said, “They are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). No one will ever be able to stand before God and have a legitimate excuse for sinning. It just won’t happen.
The inexcusableness of David’s sinning was at least fourfold. Position, protection, possessions, and power eliminated any legitimate excuse for David’s vile conduct. Like the great possessions of the “rich man” in the parable, these four things were great blessings in David’s life and should have inspired David to holy living and kept him from his gross evil sin.
First, position. “I anointed thee king over Israel” (v. 7). A king ought to act like a king. David’s vile sins were certainly not royal conduct. When God gives a person a high position, that person must act accordingly. Christians have a high position, such as “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), and, therefore, ought to act very nobly. Many professing Christians, however, want the prestige of the high position but not the responsibility of the high position. They like being “royal” in position, but they do not want to be “royal” in faithfulness in serving Christ.
Second, protection. “I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul” (v. 7). Over twenty times Saul tried to kill David. But Saul never succeeded. In many of those attempts by Saul to kill David, God miraculously intervened to spare David. Being protected so wondrously by God, David simply out of gratitude should have lived faithfully for God instead of turning against God in his sinning regarding Bathsheba and Uriah.
Third, possessions. “I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom” (v. 8). David had all the women he needed. This especially makes his sin with Bathsheba inexcusable. Any sexual desire by David could quickly be gratified by one of his many women. But like the rich man who had large flocks (many wives), he chose to steal from the poor man who only had one lamb (wife). How inexcusable this was.
Fourth, power. “I . . . gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah” (v. 8). We noted above his “position” as king. Here we note the “power” that was given him as king. There is a difference. Some monarchies, such as the one in Great Britain, have the prestige of the royal position but not the power. But David had more than just the prestigious title and anointing as king—he was given both Judah and Israel to rule. He was given much power! He could have and should have used that power to protect the people under his rule rather than pollute them.
The inventory of the sins. If David was not on the hot seat before in listening to Nathan’s message, he really was put on the hot seat when Nathan detailed David’s sins. Nathan put David’s sins into four categories. They consisted of sin regarding the Scripture, sin regarding the sword, sin regarding the spouse, and sin regarding the sinful.
First, sin regarding the Scripture. “Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight” (v. 9). This is where all sin begins. “It is contempt of the Divine authority which is the occasion of all sin—[it is] making light of the Law and its Giver [“thou hast despised me,” see v. 10], acting as though its precepts were mere trifles, and its threats meaningless” (Pink). Tell me what a man’s attitude and attentiveness to the Word of God are, and I will tell you what his conduct is. Many churches are evidencing by their pushing the Word of God to the back burner in their programs that they despise the Word of God. This makes these churches incubators of evil, for when the Word is dishonored, conduct will become defiled. Much blame for the great rise in evil in our nation can be laid at the feet of churches and pulpits who have forsaken the Word and thus have encouraged evil. If we want righteousness in our land, we must give due honor to the Word of God.
Second, sin regarding the sword. “Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (v. 9). David never touched Uriah with the sword. But David gave the orders that would permit others to kill Uriah. Hence, in God’s book, David was guilty of murder. God sees the hearts and the motives and, therefore, knew David had murder in his heart. He who hires a killer or schemes for the murder or who knowingly in any way aids the murder is in God’s judgment guilty of the murder just as much as he who did the actual killing. It is good to know how God judges, for one day you will have to face God in judgment. Live according to how God judges if you want to meet God in eternity with delight instead of damnation.
Third, the sin regarding the spouse. “Thou . . . hast taken his wife to be thy wife” (v. 9). Again, the world would not call that a sin. After all, Uriah was dead, so taking Bathsheba as wife was legitimate. However, God saw all the murderous manipulations that went on for David to gain Bathsheba as his wife. No way could that marriage be anything but sin. The fact that later Solomon came from it does not change that fact. It simply shows the grace of God, not that the end justifies the means. Our land has made a number of laws to legalize many immoral deeds such as prostitution, divorce, and homosexualism. But such man-made laws do not overturn or invalidate God’s laws. They only encourage men to sin more.
Fourth, the sin regarding the sinful. “Thou . . . hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon” (v. 9). David joined hands with the sinful enemy of Israel to hurt one of the faithful of Israel. How terribly wicked was this! God takes an especially hard view of this cooperation with the sinful world to do harm to His people. In fact, God does not even want a wronged saint going to court before the ungodly to get justice from the saint who did the wrong (1 Corinthians 6). The Pharisees, who claimed to be staunch worshippers of God, joined hands with the wicked Herodians to crucify Christ in another example of this vile unity. The same principle is seen when church members unite with the unholy and unfaithful to attack their pastor. Dragging in delinquent church members who have not attended the church in years just to get enough votes to vote out the pastor is no different than using the sword of the Ammonites to do your dirty deeds.
The infliction for the sinning. If Nathan has not yet taken all the wind out of David’s sails of disobedience, this next part of his message will; for it deals with judgment. Nathan details some of the evils that will come upon David because of his sin. As David’s sins were categorized into four categories, so the infliction for sinning is put in four categories—death, defiance, defilement, and disclosure.
First, death. “The sword shall never depart from thine house” (v. 10). Violent bloodshedding would plague David’s family as a result of David’s sin. David had sowed some violent bloodshedding in killing Uriah, and it would now plague his family. The first case of it was the murder of Amnon, his eldest son, by Absalom, which we will see in our next chapter. Later Absalom was killed in battle against David, and still later Adonijah was slain by Solomon because of Adonijah’s subtle insurrection scheme. Death would also come to the family via sickness as the child conceived of adultery would soon die. David will learn of that fact from Nathan shortly. All these deaths emphasize that sin brings death (Romans 6:23).
Second, defiance. “I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (v. 11). Revolt against David’s rule came especially from Absalom. The rebellion of this man against David caused a short civil war in Israel. It was a terrible ordeal for David and also for the nation. But when you trouble the home (as David did), you will trouble the nation.
Third, defilement. “I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun” (v. 11). This was especially fulfilled in what Absalom did to David’s concubines during the revolt against David. When Absalom’s army entered Jerusalem after David had fled during this revolt, “Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do. And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father’s concubines, which he hath left to keep the house . . . So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Samuel 16:20–22). What a shameful defilement of David’s women. And how interesting to note who advised Absalom to do this very defiling deed—it was Ahithophel the grandfather of the woman (cp. 2 Samuel 11:3 with 23:34) whom David defiled. Ahithophel was David’s counsellor who had defected to Absalom. After what David had done to his granddaughter, one cannot be surprised about the defection and about the defiling counsel.
Fourth, disclosure. “For thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun” (v. 12). The humiliating inflictions of David would be very public, The bloodshedding in his family, the revolt of his family, the defilement of his women—all would be very public acts. David would be covered with public humiliation and shame. The thrills from the sin may be very great, but they are very short in duration. Then comes the troubles. And the pain of the troubles is far greater than any pleasure of sin, and the duration of troubles goes on and on and on and even for eternity if not put under the blood of Christ.
B. THE CONTRITION OF DAVID
When Nathan finished the stinging indictment of David for his wicked deeds regarding Bathsheba and Uriah, “David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord” (v. 13). What a noble response! Contrition followed condemnation; repentance followed rebuke. This is not always the case, however. In fact, this is not normally the case. Rebuke is too often followed by rejection and more rebellion.
To further study David’s repentance which followed Nathan’s pointed and pungent rebuke, we will note the character of his repentance, the copy of his repentance, and the consequences of his repentance.
1. The Character of His Repentance
The noble character of David’s repentance can be seen in at least four ways. It can be seen in the acknowledgement of his sin, in the absence of excuses for his sin, in the acceptance of the punishment for his sin, and in the attitude about the rebuker of his sin.
The acknowledgement of his sin. “I have sinned against the Lord.” (v. 13). This noble acknowledgement was brief in words but broad in wisdom. In confessing that his sin was “against the Lord,” David acknowledged who was the most dishonored by his sin and what were the great dimensions of his sin.
First, the most dishonored by his sin. Our sin dishonors men, but the greatest dishonor done by our sin is the dishonor it brings to God. Nathan spoke of this dishonor when he told David, “By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (v. 14). David spoke of this dishonor not only here but later when he wrote, “Against thee [God], thee only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). “It is from its relation to God that sin derives its principal malignancy. Its chief heinousness consists in its being a violation of God’s law, a contempt of his authority, and a practical denial of all his attributes. If any sin whatever could deserve to be marked with superior infamy on other considerations, it would surely be the crimes which David had committed. Yet, in adverting to these very actions, David passes over their criminality in relation to man, and notices them only as offenses against God. This shows that he had just views of his conduct” (Simeon).
Second, the great dimension of his sin. That David did not mention that he had also sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah and many others did not mean he was denying he had sinned against them. Making God the one he sinned against simply recognized the greatness of his sin. If our sin is only against man, it is not nearly as great as being against God. But our sin is also against God, and that greatly increases the dimensions of our sin. Confessing that he had sinned against God said that David was not watering down his sin and trying to make it a lesser sin than it was but was acknowledging it in all its evilness. This is a mark of true repentance. Those who will not acknowledge the great evilness of their sin are not truly repenting.
The absence of excuses for his sin. David did not make any excuses for his sin. Though Nathan’s charges against him were very great, yet David made no attempt whatever to extenuate his guilt. How uncommon this is. Most men are loaded with alibis. Adam blamed Eve for his sin, and Eve blamed the serpent for her sin (Genesis 3:12,13). Abraham blamed circumstances for his lying about Sarah being his wife (Genesis 12:12,13; 20:11). When Aaron was indicted by Moses for leading the Israelites into sin at Sinai, Aaron blamed the people (Exodus 32:23) and providence (“there came out this calf” [Exodus 32:24]) for the problem. Saul, David’s predecessor on the throne, was especially quick to excuse his sin. When Samuel rebuked Saul for his impatience in making an offering, Saul blamed Samuel, the people, and the Philistines for his sin (1 Samuel 13:11). When Samuel rebuked Saul for sparing the livestock and the king of the Amalekites during the war against the Amalekites, Saul again blamed the people (1 Samuel 15:15). Our day has become absolutely ludicrous in excuse-making for its sins. We blame such things as grandmother’s dreams for our failures, or we blame society in general for its attitudes as the cause of our faults and guilt feelings. Preachers are blamed by delinquent parents for the waywardness of the parents’ children because the preacher did not, as an example, start enough youth programs at church. God, of course, always gets the most blame. He is blamed for wars, diseases, famines, and any other tragedy that occurs. It never seems to occur to our society that “I have sinned against the Lord.” True repentance comes when we take the blame upon ourselves. Where real repentance is, “The penitent will be more ready to aggravate his guilt, than to palliate and excuse it” (Simeon). Those who claim to be repenting of their sin but still offer many excuses to tone down their sinfulness are not truly repenting. They simply want the honor of repenting but not the humility and honesty of true repentance.
The acceptance of the punishment for his sin. When Nathan charged David with his sin, he told David of the punishment that was going to come for his sin—which punishment we detailed a bit earlier. This punishment was very, very grievous; yet David never complained. Those who truly see their guilt before God will not complain about judgment. They know they deserve it. But those who fight the punishment and complain that it is much too severe are those who have not begun to repent (cp. Cain in Genesis 4:13). Often we see this problem in church when some person who has committed some great sin such as adultery is not permitted to serve in some office in church. These people complain bitterly, accuse the pastor and church of lacking love and forgiveness, and either start a division in the church or leave the church to go elsewhere. But a mark of true spirituality is to perceive one’s unworthiness. Jacob certainly recognized his unworthiness when he said, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant” (Genesis 32:10). His attitude, unfortunately, is seldom seen in our age—an age which makes a habit of watering down evil and complains about any punishment for their sin.
The attitude about the rebuker of his sin. Another evidence of the great character of David’s repentance was the fact that he did not attack his rebuker. David did not rail against Nathan or tell him never to come to the palace again or order his guards to arrest Nathan or have Nathan killed. “It is so common for men to be offended when a servant of God remonstrates with them, and to impute their interference to an unworthy motive and to the desire of some one to hurt and humiliate them, that it is refreshing to find a great king receiving the rebuke of the Lord’s servant in a spirit of profound humility” (Blaikie). Many are those who have rebuked folk for their sin who have had the rebuked sinners turn upon them viciously. Jeremiah was thrown in prison and in a miry pit because he dared to rebuke his people for their disobeying God about the Babylonians. John the Baptist, as we noted earlier, was beheaded because he rebuked Herod and Herodias for their marriage—and it is still perilous to rebuke divorced people for remarrying. Many preachers in our day have been run out of their pastorates because they dared to uphold the standard of righteousness which was a rebuke to many of their members. Today the attack on policemen by those arrested is simply another example of the lack of repentance by the guilty. Rebuking sin is very necessary, but it can also be very perilous. True repentance, however, will never have part in attacking the rebuker. Rather, it will give honor to the one who rebuked them. David certainly did this, for Nathan never fell out of favor with David. Even in David’s last days, we still find Nathan in good favor with David (1 Kings 1).
2. The Copy of His Repentance
In Psalm 51 we have a written copy of David’s great repentance of his sins after Nathan rebuked him. The heading of the Psalm states this fact clearly: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” To give a detailed exposition of this Psalm is not the purpose of this study, but we do want to take a brief look at it here, for it is so inseparably connected to David’s repentance. To look briefly at this great Psalm of repentance, we will note nine highlights in it. They include grace, guile, guilt, grief, gladness, guide, glory, gifts, and goodness.
Grace. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (v. 1). The person who is truly repentant recognizes he has no merits because of his sin, therefore, he seeks God’s grace. It is the mercy of God, not the merits of man that needs to be proclaimed more among mankind. It is the grace of God, not goodness of man that needs more emphasis today. Salvation comes when the sinner recognizes the truth that he has no merits to be accepted by God and that it is only by God’s mercy the sinner can be saved. “For by grace are ye saved” (Ephesians 2:8) is the theme of the truly repentant and truly redeemed. “Amazing Grace” is a popular song, but we fear its great theology is not understood well by most folk who sing the song.
Guile. David speaks more about his guile in this Psalm than about anything else. In at least nine verses (Psalm 51:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 14) of the nineteen in the chapter, David refers to his guile. A description of his guile is found in the words “transgressions” (v. 1), “iniquity” (vv. 2, 5), “sin” (vv. 2, 3, 5), “sinned” (v. 4), “evil” (v. 4), and “bloodguiltiness” (v. 14). The defilement from his guile is spoken of indirectly by the words “purge,” “clean,” “wash,” and “whiter than snow” in verse 7 and “clean” in verse 10 all of which emphasize David’s great need of being cleansed from the filth of his sin. The dishonoring by his guile is spoken of in verse 4 where David says, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.” As we noted a bit earlier, the great guile of any sin is that it is against God.
Guilt. We noted above that David made no excuses for his sin. He accepted full guilt. In Psalm 51 he does the same by acknowledging his guilt in the fact of his sin and in the fairness of his punishment.
First, he acknowledged his guilt in the fact of his sin. David said, “I acknowledge my transgressions . . . deliver me from bloodguiltiness” (vv. 3, 14). David does not pass his guilt off on others; he takes the sole blame for his sin. This is the attitude of one who is truly repentant. Any effort to diminish the guilt either by watering down the sin or by passing it off on someone else reveals the lack of sincerity in a professed repentance.
Second, he acknowledged his guilt in the fairness of his punishment. David said, “Thou [God] mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (v. 4). David respectfully accepts God’s judgment of him. Accepting one’s punishment is another mark of true repentance as we noted earlier. Saying God is “clear” when He judges says that you got what you deserved and that God was justified in the punishment He gave you. Those who argue about the punishment from God are unrepentant and have a poor sense of guilt.
Grief. Sin causes grief, and David mentions this in this Psalm of repentance. David’s grief spoken of in Psalm 51 is threefold. First, there is the grief of sadness of mind—“my sin is ever before me” (v. 3). Second, there is the grief of sickness of body—“the bones which thou hast broken” (v. 8). Third, there is the grief of the fear of separation from God—“Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (v. 11). People generally experience much grief in the first two areas of David’s grief—mind and body. But not very many experience much grief in the third area—separation from God. They demonstrate this lack of grief by the fact that they do not care to read the Word of God, to be regular in attendance in the worship of God, to be involved in the work of God, and to walk with God. But until one is genuinely grieved over any separation from God, his repentance is worthless.
Gladness. Sin takes away gladness, but true repentance will bring it back again. David speaks several times of this truth in this Psalm of repentance. He says, “Make me to hear joy and gladness” (v. 8), and “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (v. 12). How gigantic is the lie that speaks of the great joy that sin brings. How gigantic also is the lie that mocks God’s people for their holy ways by saying that to walk a holy life means “you can’t have any fun.” The way to happiness is holiness. That is the message of this Psalm of repentance. It is also the message throughout the Scripture. As an example, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8) says the same thing; for “blessed” means “happy.”
Guide. “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (v. 13). David was no guide to men when he was sinning. But when he repented of his sin, he again became a guide to the lost and could lead them to the Lord. This verse reminds us that sin disables us from serving God and can even remove us permanently from many places in God’s service. The great ship of service for God will be shipwrecked when we allow sin to permeate our life. The feebleness of the church in our time is a testimony of that fact. The church is by and large powerless. The reason is sin. Of course, many churches try to make up for lack of power with an abundance of promotional programs. But promotional programs are no substitute for power. Purity is the only way to get the power back.
Glory. Sin dishonors God. Nathan emphasized this truth when he was condemning David. He said to David, “By this deed [David’s sins] thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.” But repentance changes things from dishonor to honor. Hence, David said, “My tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise” (vv. 14, 15). We were created to honor God, but sin will stop that everytime. You do not have to be famous or have a fortune to honor God, but you do have to be faithful to Him in obedience to His Word.
Gifts. “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (vv. 16, 17). What can we give God that will delight Him? A repentant heart! Some folks try to buy off God with big monetary gifts. Others think that being very active in church will delight God. Money and service have their place, but they are no substitute for repentance. The gift of gifts for God is a repentant heart; for when God has your heart, He has your all. “My son, give me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26) is God’s plea.
Goodness. David closes the Psalm by seeking the goodness of God to be the portion of His people. “Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion” (v. 18). The truly repentant heart sees the great need of Divine blessing, and, therefore, seeks it. Sin seeks after the pleasures of evil as though they were the great blessings of life. But the repentant heart knows better. It knows that we do not need the things that our lusts cry for, but we do need God’s blessings. There is no “good” in sin. “Good” is in God.
3. The Consequences of His Repentance
“And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (v. 13). There are many wonderful consequences of repentance, but no consequence is so great and wonderful as forgiveness. This is the consequence we emphasize here from our text. The words showing Divine forgiveness—“put away thy sin”—literally mean “caused to pass over” (Dale). This act is illustrated by the death angel passing over the houses of the Israelites that had the blood put on the doors the night of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. From our text we learn that the forgiveness of David was immediate, Divine, free, life-giving, and affirmed.
Immediate. As soon as David said, “I have sinned” (v. 13), his forgiveness was announced. This shows the readiness of God to forgive sin, a truth many are ignorant of to their great loss. G. Wood said in The Pulpit Commentary, “It startles us that so great a sinner should have been so speedily pardoned, so soon assured of pardon. We might have deemed some delay more suitable. But God is every ready to forgive; he waits only for the sinner’s penitent confession. There is no reason for delay of forgiveness except the sinner’s impenitence and unbelief. The moment these are subdued, pardon is granted.” That God is ready to forgive is confirmed by David himself in the Psalms when he said that God was “ready to forgive” (Psalm 86:5). The problem is that God is more ready to forgive than sinners are ready to repent. The readiness of God to forgive certainly manifests the great grace of God.
Divine. Nathan said that “The Lord” (v. 13) was the one who forgave David’s sin. Nathan did not say, “I forgive you.” He said that God forgave David. It is God’s forgiveness that we need the most. It is nice to have men forgive us, but men’s forgiveness results only in temporal forgiveness. God’s forgiveness results in eternal forgiveness. Seek His forgiveness first and foremost when you are seeking forgiveness.
Free. Forgiveness came to David when he repented. He was not required to pay penance, to give a particular amount of money, or do some other like deed. Forgiveness is based on repentance by the sinner, not on penance by the sinner. The introduction of penance for the forgiveness of sins is a wicked philosophy which has fleeced people of much money, much truth, and much spiritual blessing.
Life-giving. “Thou shalt not die” (v. 13). This refers to two different deaths. First, it refers to physical death. The law demanded that the adulterer die (Leviticus 20:10). David would escape this. Second, it refers to spiritual death which sends one to hell. “The fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). The repenter never experiences this second death.
Affirmed. “Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (v. 13). Here Nathan affirmed that David was forgiven. Since Nathan was God’s spokesman and spoke God’s Word, we have emphasized here the truth that forgiveness is affirmed by the Word of God. It is not affirmed by our feelings. Our feelings can bring much doubt. The fact that David repeatedly asked for forgiveness in Psalm 51 suggests he lacked assurance of his forgiveness at times. That is not unusual. Many saints of God often have dark times when feelings overcome them and they doubt their salvation. But the confirmation of our forgiveness will be found in the Word of God. When doubts fly about your soul, seek the Word to attack the doubts.
C. THE CHASTISEMENT OF DAVID
Shortly after David’s repentance, the announced chastisement for his sins began. This chastisement would follow David the rest of his life. Much of what is written of David in Scripture following his tragic sin with Bathsheba is simply a narration of the many stripes of chastisement which came upon him. Nathan had in summary forecasted the main features of the chastisement (vv. 10–12) when he arraigned David for David’s evil conduct. Now in the text before us, we see the first wave of this predicted chastisement come upon David. It involves the death of the child that was conceived through adultery with Bathsheba. To examine this particular chastisement of David, we note the place of chastisement, the purpose of chastisement, the principle in chastisement, the performance in chastisement, and the pity in chastisement.
1. The Place of Chastisement
“Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” (v. 14). Sin may be forgiven, “Howbeit” chastisement will still come. Chastisement has a Divinely appointed place in the life of every disobedient child of God. Repentance and forgiveness will not eliminate it. David repented as nobly as any one has ever repented of his sin, and God forgave him, but David still experienced great chastisement for his evil conduct. A good number of folk think that when they repent and are forgiven, no more punishment ought to occur. If someone is disqualified from some church office for a time or is disciplined in some other fashion at church for some sin, it is not unusual for them or someone else to complain that “God has forgiven them, why cannot the church forgive them?” These complainers have much to learn about chastisement. They need to learn the “Howbeit” of our text. They need to learn that forgiveness does not eliminate chastisement and that chastisement does not mean the chastened one is not forgiven. David’s sin was forgiven, but chastisement followed him the rest of his life. The Psalmist stated this practice of God well when he said, “Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions [evil deeds]” (Psalm 99:8).
2. The Purpose of Chastisement
When we understand something about the purpose of chastisement, we will appreciate it much more. From our text we can readily perceive that chastisement has at least a twofold purpose. It is to honor God and to hinder guile.
To honor God. “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” (v. 14). The first purpose of chastisement is to honor God. David’s sin brought great dishonor to God. As we noted earlier, the principle guile of sin is that it dishonors God. But chastisement would recapture God’s honor. It will clear God’s name. It will show that God is still to be honored as a holy God. Therefore, David’s sin, though forgiven, will receive due punishment so mankind will not think that such conduct does not bother God. Scripture stated that “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27). Chastisement expresses that in terms everyone can understand. All judgment upon sin whether it is remedial (chastisement) or non-remedial is to honor God. For Him to let sin go unchecked is a shame to Him.
To hinder guile. The tragedies and losses and sorrows which came to David as chastisement for his sin would discourage future sinning. It would discourage future sinning in both the chastened one and the observing one.
First, it will discourage sinning in the chastened one. The writer of Hebrews states that chastisement “yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). Chastisement is a deterrent and a preventive to repeating the sin by the sinner. God will through chastisement rub the sinner’s nose in his sin enough to make the sinner loath his sin with great hatred. All of this, while it is not “joyous, but grievous” (Ibid.) at the time, will result in much blessing later on. The Bible’s instruction on chastening children shows this hindering work of chastisement well. As an example, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction [chastisement] shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). The sick attitude of our society about not spanking one’s children today is a great promoter of evil. Instead of hindering evil, that attitude helps evil.
Second, it will discourage sinning in the observing one. Others besides the chastened one are discouraged from sinning by the chastisement. All punishment for sin, whether it be remedial or non-remedial, is instructive to the innocent. “Smite a scorner, and the simple [innocent] will beware” (Proverbs 19:25) and “When the scorner is punished, the simple [innocent] is made wise” (Proverbs 21:11) are two texts in Scripture which emphasize this fact. In the Divine instructions for Israel regarding the punishment of false prophets, this principle is also seen clearly. God says, “Thou shalt stone him [the false prophet] with stones, that he die . . . And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you” (Deuteronomy 13:10,11). God will do nothing to encourage sinning. He will never permit repentance to encourage sin. If someone lives like the devil and then repents and gets saved, that person will still experience many troubles from his past sinful life. His repentance for salvation will not be any encouragement to young people to think that they can sow their wild oats, then get saved and forgiven without paying any price for their evil conduct. His experience will only be a discourager to living in sin. The drug addict that repents and gets saved will experience many great troubles even though he has repented, and these troubles will do anything but encourage others to want to be a drug addict. The converted harlot is forgiven and escapes hell, but the venereal disease she has contacted in her harlotry will wreck and ruin her body and mind in due time though she is redeemed and, thus, be a great warning to others about the peril of living a life of immorality. All of these chastisements certainly provide great discouragement to others about practicing these sins. Punishment is indeed a deterrent to crime for both the sinner and the observer of the chastisement regardless of what the so-called “experts” of our day say. With crime continually on a rise, it is obvious that the worldly experts who oppose much punishment for any crime do not have a clue as to how to deal with the increase in crime.
3. The Principle in Chastisement
The Bible declares that we reap what we sow. As an example, Paul said, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Life’s experiences will confirm this truth. If we sow corn, we reap corn. If we sow beans, we reap beans. This fact about reaping what we have sown illustrates the principle which is followed in the Divine practice of chastisement, that is, chastisement is generally in the same coin in which the sinner sinned. This was so true in David’s case. David killed Uriah, so God killed the son born from adultery. David committed adultery with another man’s wife, so his wives would be morally defiled. David used part of the army of Israel to do his dirty deed, so part of the army of Israel was used against him by his son Absalom when he rebelled against David which was part of David’s chastisement. David rebelled against the government of God in his sin, so he experienced a great revolt (from Absalom) against his government. Others in the Scripture are also illustrations of the principle of chastisement. As an example, Jacob lied to his father about his father’s favorite son (Esau), and later his sons lied to him about his favorite son (Joseph).
Understanding this principle will help one to discern if his trials are chastisement or not. All trials in our life are not chastisement for some evil conduct we have done. Some trials come from the devil and are permitted by God in order to refine and improve our faith. Some folk like to cover up their chastisement by claiming it is another kind of trial. But when the trial comes in the same coin in which one has sinned, you can mark it down as chastisement. It is important that we recognize chastisement in our life so we learn the lessons chastisement would teach us. Therefore, it helps to know that chastisement often comes in the same coin we have sinned.
4. The Performance in Chastisement
How one reacts to chastisement predicts how chastisement will affect him. Chastisement is to instruct in the way of righteousness. If you do not listen or heed chastisement, you are only adding to your sinfulness and will bring more chastisement upon yourself. Scripture exhorts us to “despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Hebrews 12:5, cp. Proverbs 3:11 and Job 5:17). This is a twofold exhortation on how to react to chastisement. It says not to despise chastisement and not to despair in chastisement.
One despises chastisement by being callous about it, such as not taking it seriously or hardening one’s heart to its meaning; and also by being critical about it, such as complaining that God is not being fair or nice or by blaming Him for your troubles when it was you who brought it all upon yourself by your sin.
One despairs (“faint”) in chastisement when he gives up, feels all is lost, and thinks God has disowned or forsaken him.
How one responds to chastisement reveals just how sincere is his repentance. In our text we get a good look at how David responded to chastisement when the first wave of it hit him with the death of the child conceived through adultery. The chastisement was indeed very rough, but his response was excellent and confirmed the great sincerity of his repentance. He did not despise his chastisement or despair in his chastisement; but he met chastisement with great trust in God. We see this in the supplication, submission, service, and sympathy in his conduct relating to this chastisement.
Supplication. “And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth” (vv. 15, 16). Sickness of the child brought supplication for David. We note six features of David’s prayer. They are the compassion, earnestness, delinquency, wisdom, respect, and strength in his prayer.
First, the compassion in his prayer. David prayed “for the child.” Sin makes the heart of men hard. Sin had made David’s heart so hard he could order the death of Uriah so David could marry Uriah’s wife. But now after repentance, his heart is tender again; for he is tenderly concerned about this helpless child. The great hardness of the hearts of our land is evident in how they accept abortion. Unlike David here, they have no compassion for helpless children.
Second, the earnestness in his prayer. David “fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.” David was very earnest in his praying. We note both the evidence of it and the enemies of it. The evidence of his earnestness was in his fasting and his laying prostrate on the ground. David was not absent-mindedly fumbling with prayer beads or reciting some prayer book. He put forth great effort in prayer. David had his heart in his praying. If our heart is not in our praying, then our praying is not sincere. Blaikie observes that “his earnestness in this was well fitted to show the difference between a religious service gone through with becoming reverence, because it is the proper thing to do, and the service of one who has a definite end in view, who seeks a definite blessing, and who wrestles with God to obtain it” (Blaikie). The enemies of his earnestness are also noted in our text. “The elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth; but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them” (v. 17). You get excited about trivial things and few if any will criticize; but get earnest about spiritual matters and you will be criticized and counselled to change. Even friends (as here) can sometimes be an enemy of your spiritual zeal and dedication.
Third, the delinquency in his prayer. We do not criticize David in his praying for the child at this time, but the point we make here is that he should have been as earnest in praying long before now, for it would have kept him from having to pray here in great sorrow. If we would pray as earnestly before we get into trouble as we do after we get into trouble, we would not get into all the trouble that we do. Furthermore, disappointment regarding your prayers not being answered (David’s child died) may be that you are praying after you got into trouble (as David was) instead of before.
Fourth, the wisdom in his prayer. David sought God’s mercy in his praying. His seeking of Divine mercy is confirmed in his focusing on God’s grace when explaining his conduct to his servants, “Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?” (v. 22). David did not seek help in chastisement through merit but through mercy. One cannot improve on that attitude in prayer whether in praying in chastisement or at other times.
Fifth, the respect in his prayer. For the chastened soul to be on his knees praying indicates respect for God. It shows he is not despising the chastisement. To despise your chastisement is to despise God Who ordered it.
Sixth, the strength in his prayer. Not only did David not despise his chastisement, but neither did he despair in his chastisement. The strength of David’s praying here tells us that he was certainly not giving up. He was not quitting. Though God had brought David under the heavy hand of chastisement, David did not “faint” (Hebrews 12:5).
Submission. “And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died . . . when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead; therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. Then David arose from the earth.” (vv. 18–20). David accepted his chastisement humbly. He did not lash out bitterly at God when death came to the child or even when sickness came to the child earlier. He was not critical of God in all of this sorrow and tragedy. He did not complain about his loss. Hence, he did not despise his chastisement. “For David to abandon himself to the wailings of aggravated grief at this moment would have been highly wrong. It would have been to quarrel with the will of God” (Blaikie). But David humbly submitted to God’s will in the chastisement. How unlike many, however. When chastening comes, they complain that God is harsh, mean, and uncaring. They turn against God and harden their heart. But, as we noted earlier in this study, those who truly repent of their sins submit to God’s chastisement without complaint.
Service. “Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshiped” (v. 20). Following the death of the child, David would serve the Lord in worship. He had his own worship service in “the house of the Lord” (where the ark was located). This worship by David of God is not only instructive regarding chastisement, but it is also instructive regarding all worship of God. We note this fact in the preparation for worship, the priority of worship, the persistency in worship, and the perspective from worship in this worship service David had during in his chastisement.
First, the preparation for worship. David “washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel” before he went to his worship service. We need to prepare appropriately for worship services. We have heard of some who because they failed to wash before they came to church took up four or five seats around them, for no one could sit near them because of their body odor. Also, while we do not need to dress up like a fashion show when going to church, nevertheless the apparel we wear to church is important; for it reflects respect or lack of respect. You wear a suit to an occasion, and it shows much more respect for the occasion than wearing a dirty pair of dungarees! We need to remember that fact when going to church. David showed respect for God and for worship by the way he prepared himself for the worship service. We need to do the same.
Second, the priority of worship. We note that it was after David worshiped that “he did eat.” David had been fasting when praying for the child. Therefore, he would be more hungry than normal. But he still put worship ahead of eating. He put spiritual food above physical food. Usually folk do just the opposite. Most people are more concerned about the stomach than the soul. The stomach must be filled, but the soul can starve to death for all they care. Those people who only show up for the suppers at church and not the sermons at church have the same priority problem.
Third, the persistency in worship. David did not let his troubles keep him from the worship service. Though a member of his family had just died, he did not skip worship. “Weeping must never hinder our worship” (Henry). Sorrow must not keep us from the church service. Many folk do not come to church when troubles mount in their lives, yet that is the time when they need most to be in church. Persistency to worship regardless of your life’s situation signals true repentance be it for some sin you have committed or for salvation.
Fourth, the perspective from worship. Worship promotes a good perspective of life. David certainly evidenced this in his comments to his servants after his worship. David’s conduct after the death of the child really perplexed his servants, and so they said “unto him [after he had worshiped], What thing is this that thou hast done? Thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat” (v. 21). David’s response was, “While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (vv. 22, 23). The servants expected that after the death of the child, David would carry on in great sorrow and despair. But David did not do that. Instead, he worshiped then ate. This was not disrespect but reflected the perspective of faith that for believers “ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). David evidenced a good perspective here regarding his behavior and regarding the babe. His perspective regarding his behavior was not one of despair. When the child died, he accepted it as God’s will and went back to his life’s duties as he should. His perspective regarding the babe was that he would one day be reunited with the babe. This text has always been a comfort to the redeemed who have lost a young child who had not yet reached the age of accountability. A great reunion day is coming for God’s people. Such knowledge will help comfort God’s people when death separates them from their loved ones.
Sympathy. “David comforted Bathsheba his wife” (v. 24). This kindly act by David instructs us in consideration of others, curtailing of our troubles, and conduct of couples.
First, consideration of others. David did not wallow selfishly in his own sorrows. In spite of his own sorrows, he looked at the sorrow of others and attempted to comfort them. Here he comforted Bathsheba who was also sorrowing over the loss of the child. Those souls who have truly repented will not be self-centered. They will be considerate of others. Sin had made David very selfish, but repentance made David just the opposite.
Second, curtailing of troubles. In seeking to comfort others in their troubles when he himself had big troubles, David would learn here that one of the best ways to curtail one’s own sorrows is to comfort others in their sorrows. Joseph also demonstrated this lesson. Though he was in prison in Egypt, he sought to comfort several others who were in prison. This action eventually led to his release from prison. Helping others is always a good way to alleviate your own troubles. Do not let your own troubles keep you from helping others in their troubles, otherwise you will limit blessings for both others and yourself.
Third, conduct of couples. David could have berated and blamed Bathsheba for all the sorrow. But he would have been hypocritical in such behavior and would have added to their problems instead of lessening them. In David’s kindness, we have a lesson here for husbands and wives who have made a mess of their lives through immorality with each other—who have had to get married, had a child out of wedlock, etc. Do not seek revenge; repent instead! You have treated each other in an unholy way; now treat each other in a holy way. Do not increase your aggravations by more poor behavior towards each other but try to decrease them by treating each other better. “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
5. The Pity in Chastisement
“She bare a son, and he called his name Solomon; and the Lord loved him. And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord” (vv. 24, 25). Scripture says, “The Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11). He certainly was here in David’s chastisement. We note here the proof of it and the perversion of it.
The proof of it. The birth of Solomon showed God’s pity and grace. The name “Jedidiah” which God gave for Solomon emphasized this fact, for the name Jedidiah comes from the same root word as David and means “beloved of the Lord.” More grace is seen in Bathsheba having two children in the line of Christ—“Solomon” (Matthew 1:6) and “Nathan” (Luke 3:31, 1 Chronicles 3:5). How great is God’s grace towards sinners. David certainly did not merit a Solomon; neither do we merit a “greater than Solomon” (Matthew 12:42).
The perversion of it. Some want to make this Divine pity regarding Solomon a license to sin. There are always some who like to pervert the grace of God to justify and encourage sin. Two perverted arguments often heard about this act of Divine grace regarding Solomon have to do with the approval of the marriage of David and Bathsheba and the arrival of Solomon.
First, the approval of the marriage. Some folk insist that in giving Solomon to David and Bathsheba, God sanctioned their adulterous marriage which earlier He disapproved (2 Samuel 11:27). But Solomon’s birth does not sanction the guileful marriage—his birth only emphasizes the grace of God. Though the marriage was a sullied one, God did not demand they break it, for that would only have added to the evil. But keeping the marriage in tact does not in any way sanction the evil that brought it to past! “To marry her whom he had before defiled, and whose husband he had slain, was an affront to the ordinance of marriage” (Henry). The birth of Solomon does not change that fact.
Second, the arrival of Solomon. Some pervert the grace of God in the birth of Solomon by saying that if David had not sinned there would be no Solomon. That is not true! Such a statement makes God weak and turns “the grace of our God into lasciviousness” (Jude 1:4). If God can bring a Solomon out of a sinful situation, how much more could God also have brought a Solomon out of a sanctified situation. If David had not sinned, there would have been a better Solomon. Sin never promotes blessing; it only diminishes blessings. Think how much better it would have been to have Solomon without the sin problem.
D. THE CONQUERING BY DAVID
Our text makes a sudden change in subject matter. It now returns to the war which Israel was having with the Ammonites. The war had become a prolonged war (F. C. Cook states that the war could have lasted “at least two years”). It was David’s dilatory absence from this war that led to his sin, and it was this war that David used to kill Uriah. Now the conclusion of the war is reported in Scripture.
The location in Scripture of the report on the war’s end is very instructive. While it seems to be a very different subject than the narrative about David’s arraignment for his sin, it is not. It follows in perfect sequence in regards to David’s repentance and chastisement for his sin. While it is possible that the ending of this war took place before David’s arraignment and repentance—for “it is often the habit of Jewish writers of Scripture, when the stream of public history has been broken by a private or personal incident, to complete at once the incident, and then go back to the principle history, resuming it at the point at which is was interrupted” (Blaikie)—it is by no means necessary to make that conclusion. But whenever the war finished, its location in Scripture is most instructive. We will look at this war from that standpoint for the lessons we glean from it.
To examine the conclusion of the war with the Ammonites, we note the rules of warfare, the rebellion of Joab, the return of David, and the retribution on evil.
1. The Rules of Warfare
Right at the beginning of this text on the finish of the Ammonite war, we are instructed regarding some rules about warfare—about victorious warfare that is. We see them in the steadfastness and in the strategy in the fighting.
The steadfastness in the fighting. “Joab fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and took the royal city” (v. 26). It had been a hard fight against Rabbah. The city was not captured in the early stages of the war (2 Samuel 11), and its capture came after repeated efforts by the Israelites. It was the steadfastness of Joab and his army that was a big factor in capturing the capital of Ammon and gaining the victory over it.
Steadfastness is always necessary to conquer evil. Evil is too earnest and too strong to be conquered by half-hearted efforts. Hence, no sin, no temptation can be defeated without steadfastness. Lack of strong dedication in the Christian life forecasts failure in the Christian life.
The strategy in the fighting. It was necessary for Joab to take the “royal city” (v. 26) and “the city of waters” (v. 27) in order to conquer the Ammonites. The wisdom of the strategy of capturing control of the water supply (city of waters) and the power supply (royal city) is obvious. Capturing the water supply would cut off life, for the Ammonites or anyone else cannot live long without water. Capturing the king (the royal city) would cut off the power of the land and enfeeble it. Without a king, the land is also finished.
This strategy instructs us in both how we must conquer evil and how evil tries to conquer us. In order to conquer evil, we must go for the heart of the evil instead of nibbling away at the borders and hedges. Trying to develop a vaccination for AIDS instead of going after homosexualism and other deviate life-styles which spread AIDS is trying to capture the land without capturing the water and power supply. In order to conquer us, the enemy of God’s people and God’s work aims for the water and power supply everytime. As an example, in the church the enemy puts great effort into attacking the Word of God (water—Ephesians 5:26)) and the Son of God (king). You take the Word of God and the Son of God out of the church and you have a church that is worthless and defeated.
2. The Rebellion of Joab
“And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters. Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it; lest I take the city, and it be called after my name” (vv. 27, 28). What an insulting message to King David from Joab! But David has no one to blame but himself. As we mentioned in our last study, getting Joab to help him murder Uriah was going to cost David much in respect from Joab. After that vile killing, Joab was quite independent of David, and here is the first major example of it recorded in Scripture. Joab, the army general, can send a disrespectful message to the king and get away with it because he knows about the king’s wickedness.
Sometimes we think that if we lower our standards and become more like the world, we will be able to appeal more to the world. But that is a lie from hell. David, in killing Uriah, lowered his standards to those of Joab (who had murdered Abner). But this lowering of his standards down to Joab’s standards did not increase Joab’s respect for David. It greatly decreased it! The church is greatly disrespected by the world today and justifiably so, for the church is corrupt and compromising. If the church wants the world to give it respect, be it grudgingly or not, it is holiness that will do it, not compromise. Let the church lift up the standard of holiness high. Many will scorn the standard, but lowering the standard will not gain true respect but lose it.
3. The Return of David
“And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it” (v. 29). Letting the location of this text in the narrative of Scripture determine the lesson here, we have a lesson regarding repentance and its relationship to our duty. We see the evidence, earnestness, and enrichment of repentance in David’s returning to the war with the Ammonites.
The evidence of repentance. David’s sin was encouraged by his failure to do his duty. He should have been leading the war (2 Samuel 11:1), but he tarried in Jerusalem which was inexcusable and evidence of dilatory conduct. But now that he has repented, David is seen returning to duty. He now goes forth to battle as he should. This return to duty is evidence of true repentance. If one truly repents of his sin, he forsakes his sin and gets on the right path. Some say they have repented, but we note they are not obeying God’s orders for their life. Repentance involves turning away from sin and getting on the right path. Failure to return to your duty indicates you have not repented.
The earnestness of repentance. Gathering all the people together and traveling to Rabbah and engaging in war took a lot of energy. It manifested that David was indeed earnest in his repentance. It was not half-hearted action. He put his heart into his repentance. Many who claim to have repented of their sin certainly do not evidence much earnestness about it. Such folk do not have their heart in it because it is not real.
The enrichment of repentance. “And he took their king’s crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones; and it was set on David’s head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance” (v. 30). David lost much through sin, but repentance gained much back. Sometimes when conviction hits the sinner, they feel they have lost all. They may have lost much, for sin extracts a big price. But failure to repent and turn back to God will increase the loss. The sooner one repents the better it will be. Vance Havner wrote a book entitled Lord of What’s Left with a small chapter in the book of the same title. The message is applicable to many situations. One situation is to those who think they have lost all by sin and think there is nothing left for them. You may have lost much, but do not pine away the rest of your life in vain regret and self-condemnation. That will only result in losing more. There is still some life left, and you need to be a good steward of it. Let Christ be “Lord of what’s left,” and you will recoup some of your loss. In fact, you may be surprised at how much you can still gain from what’s left. David lost much from his sin which he could never regain. But he did not make the mistake of setting and pouting away the rest of his life. He did much after his sin, for he let God be Lord of what’s left. In fact, David did more with the fragments of the life he had left after his sin than most people do with their whole life.
4. The Retribution on Evil
Great retribution came upon the Ammonites at the conclusion of the war. We note the judgment in their retribution and the justification of their retribution.
The judgment in their retribution. The judgment upon the Ammonites from the Israelites consisted of the loss of their glory, their possessions, their freedom, and their lives.
First, they lost their glory. “And he took their king’s crown” (v. 30). The loss of their crown represents the loss of their glory; for among other things, the crown speaks of glory. Sin always takes the glory away. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) states that truth plainly.
Second, they lost their possessions. “And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance” (v. 30). Sin impoverishes mankind. It takes away all that is valuable. Especially does sin result in the loss of the most valuable thing man has—his soul. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Third, they lost their freedom. “David . . . went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it” (v. 29). The Ammonites were captured by the Israelites. That ended all their freedom. Sin destroys one’s freedom. Of course, the devil tries to say just the opposite. He characterizes godly living as restricted living and tries to paint the sinful life as a life of being able to do whatever you want to do “without all those religious rules” hindering you. But such is not the case at all. Sinners become addicted to their sin; they become captives to their evil. They are gripped and enslaved by drugs, tobacco, drink, gambling, and other vices.
Fourth, they lost their lives. “He brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows or iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln; and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon” (v. 31). The parallel text in Chronicles makes it plainer. It says David “cut them with saws” etc. (1 Chronicles 20:3). There are some who cannot accept this bloody retribution (and we can appreciate their repulsion of it), and so they interpret the text to mean that David put them under labor with saws, harrows, etc. Keil, however, says, “The cruelties inflicted upon the prisoners are not to be softened down . . . by an arbitrary perversion of the words into a mere sentence to hard labor, such as sawing wood, burning bricks, etc.” Blaikie adds that “attempts have been made to explain away the severities inflicted upon the Ammonites, but it is impossible to explain away a plain historical narrative.” Also he states, “It was the manner of victorious warriors in those countries to steel their hearts against all compassion toward captive foes, and David, kindhearted though he was, did the same.”
This condemning to death of so many Ammonites reminds us that sin brings death. Paul stated this truth plainly when he said, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Not only is physical death involved here, but spiritual death is also involved. Spiritual death is the worst death, for it is separation of the soul from God to eternity in hell fire (Revelation 21:8).
The justification of the retribution. The justification for retribution upon the Ammonites will be found in what started the war. David had tried to show kindness to the new king of Ammon, but this kindness was scornfully and cruelly rejected (2 Samuel 10). This was a terrible affront to David, and the rejection resulted in war.
A good Gospel lesson is seen in comparing what happened to the Ammonites in their defeat in this war by Israel to what happened to Mephibosheth when he came to David. Both the Ammonites and Mephibosheth were offered kindness from David. One accepted the kindness, the other rejected it. Mephibosheth, for accepting the kindness of David, gained great blessings from David. But the Ammonites, in rejecting David’s kindness, were sentenced to great loss. The two different experiences illustrate the different results that occur when one receives or rejects Jesus Christ (of Whom David is a type). Receive Christ and you gain a new position, a great relationship with Him, security, and other great blessings which were typified in the blessings gained by Mephibosheth. But reject Him and you lose your glory, possessions, freedom and soul as did the Ammonites in rejecting David.