“David’s Sin and David’s Son” (2 Samuel 11:26 – 12:10, 13-14)
Sin has its consequences. But sin can be forgiven. That’s what we learn today in the story of “David’s Sin and David’s Son.”
First of all, though, I suppose we should review who this David fellow was. We’re talking about King David, the king of Israel, one of the most important figures in the whole Bible. If you can think back to your Sunday School days, you probably remember some things about this David. Remember that it was Saul originally who was king of Israel. But Saul disobeyed the Lord, and the Lord rejected Saul from being the king. The Lord told the prophet Samuel to go and anoint David to be the next king after Saul. And even though Saul remained as king for some time, David clearly was rising in fame and in favor. For example, David slew the Philistine giant Goliath. Even so, Saul would go into fits of rage and try to kill David, but the Lord preserved his life. Eventually, Saul died and David became the king.
And the Lord blessed David in his reign. David was gaining victories over the enemies of Israel. The nation was prospering and at rest. David was building up Jerusalem as the capital. He built a great palace. He also wanted to build a great house for the Lord, namely, a temple. But the Lord sent the prophet Nathan with a message and a promise for David: “No, David, you’re not going to build a house for me. I’m going to build a house for you.” Meaning, David is not the one who is going to build the physical temple in Jerusalem. That project will go to the son of David who reigns after him. Instead, the Lord is going to build a house for David, meaning, a royal dynasty, a line of kings. And one of those descendants of David is going to be the greatest king of all, who will have an everlasting kingdom of blessing and glory.
How the Lord had blessed King David! All by his grace and favor. Everything was going so well for David. Even so, as blessed as he was, David still failed and fell at a critical moment. David succumbed to the weakness of his flesh and sinned a great sin.
This is what happened: One day when King David’s troops were off at war, David was hanging around his palace, taking it easy. He went up on the roof of his palace, and from there he could see a beautiful woman bathing. “It’s good to be the king,” David said to himself, and so he had this woman brought to his palace. Even though the woman, Bathsheba, was married–indeed, she was married to one of David’s soldiers, Uriah the Hittite–David took her and had his way with her. Bathsheba became pregnant, and now David tried to cover up his sin. He had Uriah the Hittite brought back to Jerusalem for a little “R & R,” so that after Uriah visited his wife, then people would think that of course Uriah was the father of the child on the way. But when Uriah got back to Jerusalem, he declined to see his wife, because he did not want to have that enjoyment while his brother soldiers were off at battle. So David came up with a Plan B to cover up his sin. He sent a message back with Uriah, to the general, saying that he should put Uriah up in the front lines of the battle and then draw back, leaving Uriah there to die. That’s what happened, and so now Bathsheba was a widow. Now David could look like such an honorable fellow by taking this poor widow in to be his wife. And when she has the child months later, no one will suspect that David did anything wrong.
So David had everybody fooled. Except God. And God was not pleased with what David had done. So the Lord sent David’s pastor–again, the prophet Nathan–to tell David a story. Nathan tells David that there was this rich guy who had a whole bunch of livestock, sheep and cattle, but he looked at a little ewe lamb that a poor guy had, and he wanted it for his own, and he took it. It was the only lamb that the poor man had. Pastor Nathan asks King David what should be done to the rich man who took away the poor man’s lamb. David answers, “The man who has done this deserves to die!”
And Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” David, you have just convicted yourself. You are the man in the story who had so much but took away what belonged to someone else. You took Uriah’s wife. Not only did you take his wife, you also took his life. You, David, you are the man who deserves to die. You just said so yourself.
What Nathan is doing here is helping David to recognize his own sin. He is leading David to repentance, to grieve over what he had done, to confess his sin, and to turn to the Lord for forgiveness. And the word of the Lord does just that. It brings David to repentance. David confesses to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Pastor Nathan pronounces the absolution: “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
Repentance and forgiveness. That’s what the Lord wants for every one of us. The Lord would have us recognize our sin, how we have broken his commandments. This is the preaching of the Law. And when we see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Law, and see our sins and how we have displeased the Lord and lived for ourselves and hurt other people, then we will feel our need for the Lord’s forgiveness and turn to him for mercy. Which the Lord gives us through the ministry of the Gospel. Repentance and forgiveness: That was God’s will for David, and it is his will for each one of us. God does not want to see the sinner dead, but rather to turn to him and live.
So David is fully forgiven. The Lord’s great mercy covers his sins and gives him eternal life. But still, there are some temporal consequences for what he has done. David’s sin leads to the death of David’s son. The child born to Bathsheba soon will die. And from this point on, David’s reign will begin to go downhill. Turmoil and trouble will mark the rest of his kingship. There are consequences to sin, to the stupid, wrong things David had done.
And this is what may happen to us, with the stupid, wrong things we do. Our actions may have consequences, bad consequences that cause us sadness. We bring these things on ourselves sometimes, like David did. And so our life in this world will not always be happy. The bad things that others do to us, combined with the bad consequences of our own sinful behavior, can make this life a vale of tears.
Certainly that was the case for David. That baby boy, David’s son, dies. David, the one who sinned, does not die. Instead, it is David’s son who dies. Where is the justice in that? But look, this points ahead to God’s greater justice, the justice of the Gospel. For it is not we who die, David or you or me. Even though you and I have sinned and deserve to die, we do not die eternally. Instead, someone else dies in our place. Again, it is David’s son. Oh, not that one who died just days after being born to Bathsheba. No, it will be another Son of David, one born centuries later, namely, Jesus Christ.
For Jesus is the son descended from David. Physically descended from David through Mary. Legally adopted into the house and lineage of David through Joseph. Jesus, born in Bethlehem, the city of David. It is this Son of David, Jesus, who will die in the place of all sinners, when he is nailed to a cross just outside Jerusalem. David’s Son dies for David’s sin, and for your sin and mine. This is why your pastor can pronounce the absolution to you today and say, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” And you, dear friend, you can know the peace and the relief that David felt when he wrote in Psalm 32, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” See, the thing with sin is not to try to cover it up, but rather to have your sin covered by the blood of Christ, which it is.
“The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” You shall not die. No, you shall live, live forever, in Messiah’s everlasting kingdom. For Jesus is the Son of David promised from long ago, the great king, the Messiah who has that everlasting kingdom of blessing and glory. And Jesus broke the chains of death when he himself rose from the dead on Easter Day. You have been baptized into Christ, you believe in him and are trusting in him, and so you will share in his resurrection. There is eternal life ahead for all those who trust in Christ. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. Repentance, forgiveness, everlasting life. That’s how it goes, and that life goes on forever.
Brothers and sisters, what are the sins in your life you are recognizing today? Sins of lust? Sins of pride? Sins of unforgiveness toward others? A callous disregard toward the wellbeing of others? Where is the Lord saying to you today: “You are the man! You are the woman! You are the one who has sinned and deserves to die!” The Lord is calling you to repentance today. But it is so that you will recognize your need, turn from your sin, and turn to the Lord for forgiveness. This is the good news for you today: Your sin is covered–not covered up–your sin is covered and atoned for by your Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of David.