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DAVID’S SIN AND REPENTANCE

2 Samuel 11:1-12:31
Key Verse: 12:13

In the last lesson we could see the peak of David’s kingdom. He defeated all the enemy countries around Israel, reigned in justice and righteousness for all his people, and showed God’s kindness to a needy person. He was powerful and glorious, and just and righteous, and very kind. But in today’s passage David sinned and became an obvious sinner, who needed the forgiveness of sin. God’s grace of forgiveness of sin came to him through his repentance helped by a prophet Nathan. In this grace his relationship with God was restored. Yet, the consequence of sin was there right away and would remain in his life and kingdom. God’s grace and justice go together. In this study we can learn of the nature of sin, David’s repentance and God’s grace of forgiveness of sin, and his way of working in the lives of people.

First, David’s sin (11:1-27). In verse 1, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.” In the Near East, kings normally went out to battle in the spring of the year because of the good weather and the abundance of food available along the way. David dispatched Joab, his army commander, with his mercenary soldiers and the army of Israel to continue the battle against Ammonites begun the previous year (10:14). At that time Joab did not attempt to besiege and capture the city of Rabbah because the time was unseasonable. Rabbah was the capital of the Ammonites, about forty km east of Jordan River opposite Jericho. Joab and the army destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.

Now the story goes to David. While his men were in the battle, David remained at Jerusalem, which was not his usual practice. Then what did David do? In verses 2-5, “One evening he got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’ Then David sent messenger to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant.’” What a story! One moment David committed adultery. This sin would affect his whole life. How could David commit such a sin? We can infer two things from the passage. Firstly he roamed around without a clear sense of mission at that moment. Secondly where he was and what he saw led him to such a sin. When one has no clear mission, he is always vulnerable. At the moment when he does not know what to do, he is giving the devil a foothold. And where we are and what we see are critical. We need to control our feet and our eyes. Especially in our time of internet generation, people are so easily exposed to such a scene, even unwittingly and for a second. It goes into the mind and heart, and becomes a poison in the soul. Some may think, “I can control my heart and actions, even if I watch this for a while.” That proud, overconfident thinking goes before destruction. One time of mistake can ruin one’s whole life, destroying all that he has built up. The Bible tells us to flee away from any such people and any such situations, with the prayer, “Lead me not into temptation.” The best example is Joseph. When the wife of Potiphar tempted him to come to bed with her, he not only refused it but he intentionally did not put himself in the place where she would be. And then when it happened that he met her suddenly and she caught him by his cloak, he left his cloak in her hand and ran away (Ge 39:7-12). Paul said to his spiritual son Timothy, “Flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Tim 2:22). There is a funny story of Saint Augustine. When he came across his former girlfriend after his conversion, he turned around and ran away. That was a humble and wise reaction before God. Otherwise there could have been no St. Augustine.

Now David committed the sin of adultery. Surely he thought that such a thing would be just one time of enjoyment. But, totally unexpectedly, the woman became pregnant. What did he do next? He attempted to hide his sin. So David had her husband Uriah Hittite brought to him from the battle. David tried to make him go his home and have time of rest with wife. He even sent a gift. However, it turned out that Uriah the Hittite slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go home. When Uriah was asked about the reason for such an act, Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie down with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing.” David must have thought, “O my God. What a guy!” Uriah was one of David’s mighty men (23:39). Although, a Hittite (cf. Gen. 15:20; Ex. 3:8, 17, 23), Uriah bore a Hebrew name meaning “the LORD is my light,” indicating he was a worshiper of the one true God. At other times David would be so happy to see such a loyal soldier. But not at a time like this. The great loyalty of his soldier was a big burden and frustration to him. Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day and tomorrow I will send you back.” David’s second strategy was to make him drunk. David intended that Uriah would lose his consciousness and go home and sleep with his wife. But even this strategy didn’t work. Even in his drunken state Uriah seemed to be aware of what he had to do. In that evening he went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home. To David, things became more complicated and entangled. Unusually everything went to against him. It is as Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

David’s thought became more and more evil, until he could have the thought of having him killed in the battle. That thought of murdering, which was so cruel, was his last resort to hide his sin. For this unwanted murder David had his commander-in-chief and other soldiers cooperate with him. Finally, Uriah the Hittite died. There is a long detailed description of David’s murdering Uriah, Joab’s putting him in the most dangerous spot according to David’s command, the repeated mention of Uriah’s being dead, Joab’s instructing the messenger how to give King David the account of the battle when the king’ anger flares up, the messenger’s actual report to David and David’s encouraging Joab whatsoever. Why such a long vivid description? I believe that the point is the factuality of the unbelievable event. Such a murder took place. Sin grows and multiplies. There is no good man, in whom sin does not grow. Sin does not subside in a person. Hidden unsolved sin grows and can erupt even to the point of murder. Sin accumulates to the end of one’s life.

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his home, and she became his wife and bore him a son. After sinning he tried to do good, comforting Bathsheba. Humanly speaking, in the story everything seemed to be resolved, since Uriah was gone from this life. However, the author commented, “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.” In this chapter there is no utterance of “LORD” until this description. There was no LORD in David’s heart and no fellowship with the LORD in his life at this point. He could hide his sin before people, but the watchful eye of the LORD was there.

Second, David’s repentance (12:1-31). This chapter begins with the word, “The LORD sent Nathan to David.” What a grace! This is God’s initiative. When Nathan came to him, Nathan said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a 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 traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” Hearing this story 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! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” The story appealed to David’s righteous anger. According to Exodus 22:1, the penalty for stealing and slaughtering an ox or a sheep was not death, but restitution. However, in the parable, the stealing and slaughtering of the lamb represented the adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah by David. According to the Mosaic Law, both adultery (Lev. 20:10) and murder (Lev. 24:17) required punishment by death. In pronouncing this judgment on the rich man in the story, David unwittingly condemned himself to death. Exodus 22:1 demanded a fourfold restitution for the stealing of sheep. There is an allusion here to the subsequent death of four of David’s sons: Bathsheba’s first son (v. 18), Amnon (13:28, 29), Absalom (16:14, 25), and Adonijah (1 Kings 2:25).

On hearing David’s righteous response Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” What a wise and courageous prophet! Nathan continued, “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. 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. 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. 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.’” The LORD reminded David of his sufficient grace, and straightforwardly pointed out his sin striking down Uriah and killing him with the sword and taking his wife to be his own. Particularly the LORD said, “Why did you despise the word of the LORD?”, “You despised me.” Certainly, David did not intend at all to despise the LORD and the word of the LORD. But to God’s eyes he did so. It was because he broke the commandments of God, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder.” Our God is a sensitive God. He feels despised when we ignore and break his command.

Nathan continued, “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. You did it secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” God is accurate, knowing everything accurately. Nothing is hidden in his vigilant eyes. He is not insensitive but really sensitive and responsive. He is the one we are to dread.

In verse 13, Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” This is David’s beautiful repentance. We remember Adam’s excuse, when God asked him, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” He said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” He terribly blamed God and the woman. David could have excused, saying, “At the beginning it just happened. The first cause was the woman there. Why did God place the woman there?”, or “Killing Uriah was not my intention at all,” or “I am a king, and every king does that.” But at the rebuke of Nathan whom God sent to him David did not attempt to rationalize or justify his sin making excuses. Rather, he acknowledged his sin and repented. This is the difference between David and Saul. When God said to Saul through Samuel, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.’ Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” At this Saul responded, “But I did obey the LORD. I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God” (1 Sam 17-21). At God’s rebuke through Samuel, he insisted his own obedience relaying the responsibility on the soldiers. He did not know repentance before God. In human eyes David’s sin seemed to be graver than that of Saul. But David knew repentance; he repented before God.

Then Natan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” According to the law the sin of adultery and murder is death and then such sinners are put into eternal death. But when David repented, God forgave his sins.

After this, David wrote Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. In Psalm 32 David expressed his agony after Nathan’s confrontation. In this Psalm he said, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” He had said at the beginning of this Psalm, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him…” And he also wrote Psalm 51. He said in it, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgression. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me… The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

We thank and praise God for Christ Jesus who shed his blood and died for our sins so that we might come to him, confessing and repenting of our sins. In my Christian life it was not easy to confess my sins, sin of fear of people, fatalism, inferiority complex, inner lust and sinful habits. But when I came to God and repented confessing my sins before God and his people, the Lord forgave my sins and accepted me as I was. I began to have peace and freedom in my life. I was a kind of person who was not easy to acknowledge my sins. But God has led me to learn repentance at each time until now. Several years ago I made a medical error in my work place. I gave a medication to a wrong person, and I was lone working. At that moment my heart weighed down, not knowing what would happen in the individual. One thought in my heart that I should call 911. Then another thought was that I would be fired if I report. And I was known as a pastor and God’s name would be dishonoured. And If I would not report, I would suffer guilty feeling throughout my life. After inner turmoil, I reported revealing my mistake, entrusting all things to God. Then everything was resolved smoothly beyond my expectation. One year later I made the same medical error. At this time I knew that the medication itself would not be a serious problem to the person. But another agony was that I would be known as the one who repeated med errors. Yet, I reported it, again the problem was resolved. I had not been marked as such a med error person. I have learned the importance of confessing before God, entrusting all the matters to God. Those who sincerely say, “I did it”, “I was wrong,” or “I had sinned against the Lord” are beautiful people in God’s sight. May the words of David, “I have sinned against the LORD” be ours at each time, cling to the cross of Jesus. May we come to him with our sins.

Because of God’s reputation among those who opposed Him, David’s sin had to be judged. The judgment would begin with the death of Bathsheba’s infant son. The LORD graciously forgave David’s sin, but the inevitable temporal consequences of sin were experienced by him. Forgiveness does not always remove the consequences of sin in this life, only the life to come.

In the following story we see David’s fruit of repentance amid God’s immediate judgment for his sin. True repentance is recognize God as God deeply acknowledging his sovereignty at any situation. God struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleased with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. 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. 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.” Then David got up from the ground. After he has washed, put 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. His servants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now the child is dead, you get up and eat!” Usually death brings more sorrow. David’s servants could not understand David’s way of acting. David 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.’ 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.” David knew when he had to plead with God for his mercy and grace and when he had to yield to God for his righteous act. The death of the child was the consequence of his sin. He deeply accepted that God is the God of grace and also of justice. He is the sovereign God.

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. Solomon means either “(God is) peace” or “His replacement.”

Both were true of this child. The LORD loved him; and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah. So Jedidiah was the name Nathan named for Solomon, who was loved in the sense of being chosen by the Lord to be the successor on David’s throne, a remarkable instance of God’s goodness and grace considering the sinful nature of the marriage. This could be David’s love relationship with God was restored in his mercy and grace. And in verses 26-31 David’s fighting spirit was restored.

Thank God for the words, “I have sinned against the LORD.” In these words may we be people of repentance to God to the end of our lives!

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