This morning I read the parable Nathan told David who had committed two grievous sins–adultery and murder. His sins had hardened his heart so Nathan, the prophet had to find a way to get through to him. He used a parable.
“There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
What was David’s response? He became very angry and called for justice for the poor man. “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
Then Nathan revealed to David the purpose of the parable. It was to point out that David was the rich man who wronged the poor man. He said, “You are the man!” Then, Nathan related God’s message to the king, reminding him of how God had anointed him to be king and how God had delivered him from Saul and all the other things God had done for him. “Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.”
David learned what his punishment would be. “From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. “This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”
It was at this point that David confessed, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And we see God’s mercy. “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” David confessed and God showed him mercy. Perhaps this is what David was referring to in Psalm 32:1: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. This also illustrates what the apostle John wrote in his first epistle. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). However, even though David was forgiven his sins, there were still consequences. The child that was conceived in adultery would die (2 Samuel 12:14).
We read that God struck the child and he became ill. David prayed and pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and lay on the ground all night. This lasted for seven days. On the seventh day, the child died but the guards were afraid to tell David. They were afraid of what he would do. However, when David realized and confirmed that the child was dead, he reacted in a way that baffled everyone. He got up from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD and worshipped. Then he went home and requested that they set food before him. And he ate.
When the servants questioned him about fasting while the child was alive and eating now when the child is dead, he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12).
Even God showed David mercy when he confessed, there was still a penalty for the sin he committed. The wages of sin is death and unfortunately, his child died. Although David’s sins were forgiven, he had to live with the consequences. His other children paid for his sins–his daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon; Absalom murdered Amnon; Absalom rebelled against his father, slept with his father’s concubines in public and plotted to kill his father and seize his throne. In the end, Absalom was killed by David’s general, Joab. For one night of lust, David paid a heavy price.
Nathan succeeded in getting a confession out of David by using a parable. He didn’t confront David. Instead he allowed him to see the injustice a poor man suffered at the hands of a rich man so that he could appeal to David’s sense of what was right and what was wrong. It worked. David confessed. His life was spared. He was pardoned. And God’s judgment was still passed.
We read in Psalms 32 and 51 of David’s acknowledgement of his sins, his confession and repentance and God’s cleansing. This teaches us that confession alone is not enough–repentance must follow. The person must turn away from their sins and to God who will create in them a clean heart renew a steadfast spirit within them (Psalm 51:10).
God does not ignore nor overlook sin but He covers it. Covers in this sense means that its (sin’s) guilt is no longer to be imputed, or brought against, the sinner when it is repented of. God can forgive and cover all sin. His grace not only forgives sin but accepts the repentant sinner as though he or she never sinned! That is the power of Jesus, our Substitute, upon whom God lays the sin. In this way Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the repentant sinner.
“David’s repentance was sincere and deep. There was no effort to palliate his crime. No desire to escape the judgments threatened, inspired his prayer. But he saw the enormity of his transgression against God; he saw the defilement of his soul; he loathed his sin. It was not for pardon only that he prayed, but for purity of heart. David did not in despair give over the struggle. In the promises of God to repentant sinners he saw the evidence of his pardon and acceptance.