A carefully constructed wall of deceit falls with bone crushing power. The impact knocks the air from your lungs and slowly restricts your chest as you struggle to draw another breath.
That’s how I imagine David’s world as the seconds pass after Nathan’s declaration. The blood, that had only moments before beat violently in David’s temples, now hurriedly retreated and drained from his face.
He was undone.
What had been concealed with the blanket of deception, had now been stripped naked and exposed for all the world to see.
The Almighty had drawn up David’s sin from the secret place and displayed it publicly.
The closing words of 2 Samuel 11 state that, ‘but the thing that David had done displeased the Lord‘.
2 Samuel 12:7–14 (ESV) — 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ ” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”
As I read through this sordid tale of sin and deception, it leaves me wondering, what was it that displeased God so much? I mean, take a look at David’s hit list!
- Adultery (with, at least, an implied abuse of power that denied Bathsheba any real choice in this relationship)
- Pre-meditated murder
Numerous commentators would also add the betrayal of a number of men in this issue as well, not at least Uriah who was, most likely, the same Uriah who was a part of David’s infamous 30. Some scholars suggest that Bathsheba may have been the grand-daughter of David’s long-time and trusted advisor. Even if these aren’t the case, ‘betrayal’ could easily be added to our list of sins.
This leaves us with our original question, what was it that displeased the Lord? In addition, what sparked the wording of David’s admission of guilt in 12:13, “I have sinned against the Lord“?
I think that as we move back through the text we can pick up some important clues. 12:9 finds God asking the probing question, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord?“. In addition, 12:14 states, “by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord“; two very significant issues! Apart from the list of obvious behavioral failures, these dual indictments begin to point us to an underlying problem in David’s life.
It may be good to pause here a moment and break down what I think is the clearest statement of David’s guilt in this passage. The statement made in 12:14 is very interesting, ‘by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord‘. This phrase, made up of three distinct clauses, gives us valuable insight into the relationship between sinful behavior and sin itself. ‘By this deed‘ and ‘utterly scorned the Lord‘ are linked with the powerful clause, ‘you have‘. Those two words, ‘you have‘ form an inescapable finger of blame. God points squarely at David and says, “you“; not anybody else; no place to shift responsibility here; this was David’s to own. “Have“, David accomplished something; his actions achieved something. So here’s the link. ‘By this deed‘ (here is where we insert the long list of sordid failure) ‘you have‘ (David’s personal responsibility for what’s coming next) ‘utterly scorned the Lord‘.
Sin has so twisted our view of the world, that we have even twisted our view of sin itself. As bad as the list of sinful behaviors are, in David’s case, verse 14 moves us to identify the real problem. We all utterly scorn the Lord, and our behavior both proves this, and condemns us in it.
This leaves me with a second question. How is it that God would continue to describe David as a ‘man after God’s heart’?
Acts 13:21–22 (ESV) — 21 Then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’
In an attempt to resolve this, it is vital we turn now to David’s response to the exposure of his sin. Here is what we can learn about repentance from David as he pours out his heart to the Lord as recorded for us in Psalm 51.
David throws himself on the mercy of God and His ability to forgive sin.
Psalm 51:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
David is aware of his own sinful actions.
Psalm 51:3 (ESV) — 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
David knows the root of his problem is rebellion against God Himself.
Psalm 51:4 (ESV) — 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.
David admits his natural state of sin.
Psalm 51:5 (ESV) — 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
David recognizes what God desires of him.
Psalm 51:6 (ESV) — 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
David recognizes that God is his only hope for new life and a future.
Psalm 51:7–12 (ESV) — 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
This is the staggering good news of the Gospel.
Because sin is a ‘heart issue’, salvation is also a ‘heart issue’. While sinful behavior has natural consequences, a heart that scorns God can only be cured as it breaks before Him in repentance.
No amount of moral rehabilitation can earn your ticket to heaven.
Making a moral sacrifice will never be enough.
This is how David says it:
Psalm 51:16–17 (ESV) — 16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
What glorious and amazing news. God does not despise a broken and contrite heart.
It was good news for David.
It is spectacular news for us!
In Paul’s declaration of this significant news, he calls to us through his letter to the Romans.
Romans 5:1–11 (NLT) — 1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. 6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
To the praise of His glory!