“David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Then Nathan replied to David, “The Lord has taken away your sin; you will not die.”
Then David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord’s house, and worshiped.“ 2 Samuel 12:13, 20.
This is by far one of the most difficult and serious texts in all the Bible, but it is also is one of the texts that most demonstrates the grace that God bestows on us. In order to fully understand the depth of these verses, we must examine the rest of the story.
It was springtime in Jerusalem; the time of year that kings would lead their armies into battle with one another. The army of David was out in the field, fighting against the Ammonites, but David was not fighting with them. He decided to stay in Jerusalem.
One night, David was unable to sleep. He wandered up to the roof of his palace to get some fresh air. As he was on the roof, he looked over to another building and saw a woman bathing. David, filled with lust, had his servants bring the woman, Bathsheba, to the palace, and he slept with her. A few days later, she sent a message to David informing him that she was pregnant and that he was the father.
David was already married at this time, so he was guilty of adultery. To make matters even worse, Bathsheba was married to a man by the name of Uriah, and she was now pregnant with David’s child. Because he succumbed to the temptation of his lust, David was now at the center of an adulterous web. But the course of action he elected to take made matters even worse.
David called Uriah, who was a brave warrior in David’s army, home from the front lines and tried to get him to go home to his wife, in hopes that would make the situation go away. But Uriah refused. He would not sleep in his own bed while the rest of his fellow soldiers were out in the field. David was now running out of options, so he talked to his generals, and he came up with a plan to have Uriah killed in battle. He told his generals to put Uriah in the front of the most vicious fighting and then, once Uriah was in the thick of the fray, the rest of the army was to retreat and leave Uriah all alone to die. David was planning to kill one of his most valiant soldiers; to murder a man who would have willing given up his life for David.
A few days later, David got word that the fighting had intensified, and that Uriah was dead. He thought that everything was taken care of and to further smooth things over, David married Bathsheba. But 2 Samuel 11:27 says it all– “the Lord considered what David had done to be evil.”
After some span of time, in which David continued to believe the situation had gone away, God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David. Nathan told David a parable about a rich man who stole a lamb from a very poor man. The lamb was the poor man’s only possession, and the rich man stole it and killed it. David was outraged by this act and ordered that the rich man pay the poor man back four lambs. But Nathan then explained to David that he was the rich man, and that it was he who had stolen Bathsheba away from Uriah, and then killed Uriah to cover the whole situation up. Nathan went on to explain that God had witnessed the entire thing and He knew all the sordid details, and that God was going to punish David for his actions.
Though David knew the Law of God and knew that his actions were wrong, his sinful nature and lust clouded his judgement. Until being confronted by Nathan, David had not repented. But once he had been jarred out of his sinful stupor, David knew instantly that he was guilty of sinning against God through adultery and murder. David repented of his sins; he asked for God’s forgiveness and mercy.
Here’s where God’s grace comes into play. Though David had committed two very serious crimes–crimes that both carry a penalty of death in the Hebrew law– God forgave David. God spared David’s life. David’s blood would not be shed. However, because David had acted so blatantly against God, there would still be repercussions for his sins. The baby born to Bathsheba would die, and David’s family would be wrought with problems for the rest of their lives. This may seem to be in contradiction to the grace that God just exhibited, but it isn’t. Though God just spared David’s life, He is reminding David that sin still carries consequences, and these consequences, more often than not, hurt other people more than they hurt those who committed the sin. David was being taught a lesson, in God’s grace, and in God’s righteous indignation and intolerance of all sin.
David fasted and prayed for God to spare the child, but shortly thereafter, Bathsheba’s son died. How did David respond to the news of his child’s death, a death which was caused by his own sins? He got up off the floor, on which he had been laying while praying, he cleaned himself up, changed clothes, and went to the Lord’s house to worship. He went straight to God and worshiped Him. How could David possibly worship God after such a chain of events? David knew and understood that God demands us to be righteous people. David knew that when we do not live up to His standard of righteousness, God will chastise us, but only in order to correct our behavior. The form of chastising may be difficult, it may be painful, and it may involve innocent parties, but sin is something that God cannot and will not tolerate. But it is only through the process of being chastised and corrected from our sinful behaviors that we can appreciate the grace that God pours out on us. He loves us enough to forgive us and discipline us, even when we deserve much worse. God is just in everything, we must remember that. No matter how terrible our sins may be, God will forgive us, but only if we humble ourselves before Him and repent and ask for His forgiveness. Then He will correct our behavior and we will be able to get up and go worship Him. We must always rejoice and praise Him for the grace He so willingly gives us.