Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 12:1-15 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 3/20/2016 in Novato, CA.
2 Samuel 12:1-15
“The LORD Also Has Put Away Your Sin”
2 Samuel 7 was still in effect. That was the promise that God gave to David that God would establish from his lineage a king over an eternal kingdom. After all this great sin of David which we read about last chapter, God would still keep his promise that he made to David in 2 Samuel 7. But of course 2 Samuel 7 also talked about what God would do if David’s descendants sin. On the one hand, God told them he would not take away his love like he did with Saul. But on the other hand, God did say that when David’s descendants sinned, that God would chasten them. Well, David gets to experience that himself here. No, God does not remove his love from David. God does not retract his promise to establish David’s kingdom forever in his offspring. But David had sinned, and he had sinned horribly, so God would also keep his promise to chasten. And David experiences that chastening here. And it has the desired effect. It brings repentance to David’s heart. And so this is the topic we get to consider today. We get to think of how God chastens those whom he loves. And we are reminded that his chastening is not opposed to his grace and mercy. God’s chastening is actually part of how God shows us pity and compassion as an expression of his love. Let us consider this topic as we study today’s passage, for we too know the chastening of God that comes from his love for us.
And so in our first point for today, let us consider Nathan’s parable, and David’s verdict in response to it. You see, when we read Nathan’s parable, we recognize that it’s a parable about David. We can see the parallels. The rich man of the parable reminds us of how richly blessed King David was. The poor man clearly brings to mind Uriah, who of course was relatively poor compared to David. The poor man’s beloved sheep in the parable clearly resembles Bathsheba. In fact, the description in verse 3 especially brings this out when it talks about how the beloved sheep was like a daughter to the poor man. You see, the Hebrew word for daughter is bath, which of course is part of Bathsheba’s name, her name meaning the “daughter of an oath”. So that little hook on her name clues us in too. So we see the players in David’s sin represented in this parable. And of course when Nathan describes how the rich man wouldn’t take from his own flocks to provide for his guest, but stole the poor man’s one beloved sheep, we again see the connection. This gets at how David stole Bathsheba from Uriah in his adultery with her. This action of David was not only wrong in general, but it was especially wrong since David himself had so many wives and concubines already. And so as we read this parable, we understand and see how it’s about David and the great sin we read about last chapter.
And yet David himself does not seem to understand this at first. David doesn’t seem to realize that this was a parable. Remember, as the king, one of his job duties was to be a judge over the people. People could bring their cases to him and the king’s job was to give a verdict based on the laws of God. And that is what David does here. Notice his response in verse 5. First, he has an emotional response. His anger was greatly aroused. That’s a right response to the crime described in this parable. Nathan’s parable was a heart wrenching story, and David evidently thinks it is a real story, and gets angry at the injustice described in Nathan’s account. Verse 5 then records what David thinks this rich man deserves. He thinks this man deserves death. By the way, our pew Bible’s translation here is not quite right. If you read the NKJV or KJV here, it makes it sound like David is issuing the death penalty for this rich man. But if you compare the other major translations, you’ll see they report David as saying that this man deserves to die. The literal Hebrew uses an idiom that says that this man is a “son of death”, which meant that he deserved to be dead.
And this fits well with the context. You see we then go on to read the rest of David’s verdict in verse 6. David say the rich man must pay back fourfold to the poor man for what he did. In other words, he would have to give four sheep to the poor man to replace the one sheep that he had stolen. Why did David come up with that figure? Well, that answer is clear. It’s what God’s law demanded. Exodus 22:1, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.” And so David’s verdict for this man to pay fourfold was not some arbitrary number, but it was David sitting in his judicial capacity declaring the legal punishment that was according to the law.
And so put this together with verse 5. David’s actual verdict says the man has to pay back fourfold, because that’s what the law demands. But David thinks the man deserves worse than that; the man deserves death because of the circumstances of the crime. But of course, David in his judicial capacity couldn’t give the man death, because the law only required a fourfold return. So David’s verdict issued the letter of the law, but he speaks to how the spirit of the crime would suggest a greater penalty. But look at why David thought that a harsher punishment would be fitting in this case. It’s at the end of verse 6. David says that the man did not have pity. David is appalled that this rich man would not have had pity and concern for the poor man’s only prized and beloved lamb. Instead the man was so ruthless and selfish. And that infuriated David so much that he wanted to give the man a punishment greater than the law demanded; but of course David would have been bound by the law.
By this leads us then to our second point. Because no sooner does David issue this verdict, that God turns the tables around on David. God then rebukes David and chastens him. We see this in verse 7 by the mouth of Nathan the prophet. Nathan says to David, “You are the man”. In the Hebrew just two words, attah haish (my Hebrew professor liked to quote that a lot). I would imagine this to have been very startling to David, to have the events turn so quickly on him. We’re not told what David was thinking when he issued his verdict in light of the parable, but we can’t help but notice his hypocrisy. David had not taken pity on Uriah when he stole his wife and engineered his murder. David had done something far worse than the rich man of this parable, far more heinous. We talked about that last week as we considered how horribly sinful his actions were in last chapter. And yet now, probably about 9 months later, he somehow can issue this verdict without any apparent recognition of his own hypocrisy. Maybe he had an internal struggle, but we are not told about it. All we are told is David’s immediate righteous anger at what he thought was a great evil by the rich man of this parable. Well, David’s anger would have been right in that case. But he should have had an even greater emotional response to his own great wickedness in the matter with Bathsheba and Uriah. Unfortunately, as a side note of application, we can be so much like this ourselves. We can be so quick to point the finger at other people and condemn them, while excusing our own sinfulness. This can be especially the case when you have managed to hide your sins from others. But the hypocrisy is still hypocrisy even if no one catches you, for God sees and knows the truth.
God’s confronting then of David’s sin and exposing of his hypocrisy begins in verses 7-9. There God recounts to David all God had given David. He was anointed King over all Israel; delivered from King Saul’s hand; all of King Saul’s house and wives were delivered to David’s keeping; David was given the reign over both Israel and Judah. So many blessings! And then look at how God finishes this list: “And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!” This whole description reminds us of the rich man in the parable who had so much. David had so much, and God would have given him even more if he had asked. Of course we remember here 2 Samuel 7 were God had already promised much more to David. We remember David’s prayer of gratitude in response to that promise; how David rightly praised God for all this grace. But then David did this.
And so then as we read on, we find all the ways God will chastise David in this matter. As we look at God’s chastening, we see a lex talionis principle here. The lex talionis principle is a legal principle stemming from God’s law that says the punishment should fit the crime; an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. And so we see some of that in God’s rebuke and chastisement of David. Look at verse 10. God says the sword will never depart from David’s family. The lex talionis principle here comes from the previous verse. David had used the sword of the Ammonites to kill Uriah by the sword. We will see the sword within the house of David in the future chapters, especially in matters with Absalom, but not only with him. The Bible will go on to record four sons of David dying. Besides the first, which is this first child born to him and Bathsheba, the other three will clearly be as a result of this sword coming from within David’s family. Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah will each die in the midst of conflict from within David’s house. Absalom will kill Amnon after Amnon rapes his sister. Absalom will die in his quest for stealing his father’s throne in a failed coup attempt. Adonijah will get put to death on the order of King Solomon when he makes a move to try to take the throne from Solomon. And what is telling too, is that each of those three sons’ deaths in part include the coveting of women that were not theirs to have. That should remind us of David’s own sin here in that regard. And so scholars tend to recognize that the four sons of David that then die from this point on, clearly reflect the very fourfold sentence that David had issued for this rich man in the parable. In other words, David did in a sense pay back fourfold. That too is another lex talionis notion seen here.
The last bit of lex talionis that we see here is in verses 11-12. That’s what talks about how from David’s own house will come one who will take his wives and lie with them in public. We’ll see David’s son Absalom do this in 2 Samuel 16 that he takes some of David’s concubines in a very public fashion, after Absalom commits treason and declares himself king. The lex talionis idea is explained in verse 12; since David’s sin was done privately, God will then bring the chastisement publically. That gets at the way in which David tried to so horribly cover up his sin. God’s chastisement is fitting for David’s crime.
So let’s acknowledge the obvious. This is a pretty rough chastisement that God has decreed for David. Surely this will be quite difficult for him to endure. We’re going to be reading many chapters in 2 Samuel where we see the fallout of this chastisement. How difficult these times will be for David, a man after God’s own heart. And yet this is what we find in the Bible. And it’s what we hopefully each know firsthand. Chastisement is not enjoyable. But godly chastisement is good. Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” And Jesus says in Revelation 3:19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. And so God’s chastisement is for our good, and is meant to grow us, and where needed for us to repent.
And that is exactly what David did. This leads us to our third point. To consider David’s repentance and God’s pity to David. We see after all that God had told him, we see David’s response in verse 13. David says, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Now we know David will go on to further express his repentance to God in what we have, for example, in Psalm 51. But for here, the text records these few words. “I have sinned against the LORD.” That too is only two words in the Hebrew. But actually sometimes in this situation, less words are better. I think of Saul when Samuel confronted him on his sin that ended up resulting in God rejecting him as king. There Saul started with the same words, but he kept on talking. 1 Samuel 15:24, “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.’” When you think carefully about the words there of Saul, he basically makes an excuse for his sin. He’s saying, Yes, I sinned, but, it’s because I was afraid the people would do something bad to me if I didn’t. We’ve heard it before too. “I sinned, but it was because of that serpent who tricked me.” Or, “I sinned, but it was because of that woman you gave me.” Too often our confessions turn from a confession to an excuse. But not David here. His few words actually serve him well. And his Psalm 51 which deals with the aftermath of this particular meeting with Nathan, go into more detail of how truly repentant David was.
David’s immediate repentance here is great, but David’s repentance is quickly eclipsed in grandeur by the great pity that God shows to David. Verse 13, Nathan says to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” Remember the point earlier about pity. David was upset that the rich man from the parable hadn’t shown pity. But we pointed out how David himself had not shown pity. But that is not what God does here. God shows great pity. Think of the contrast here. When David issued a judgment, he said he wanted to give the rich man something more than what the law demanded, because he thought the man deserved it. But here, God is giving David far less than what the law demanded, even though surely David deserved it, even more than the rich man from the parable. Remember, the law prescribed the death penalty for adultery and murder. But God is instead choosing to have pity on David.
It’s interesting, however, that God then chooses to let him know at this point specifically about how this new son to David and Bathsheba will die. God had already talked about the sword that will come in David’s family. We know it will result in four deaths of sons, as we mentioned. Three will come later, but the fourth is this child right here, the one born to him and Bathsheba. Now, in a sense, you could think of how four sons of David will die in some sense for his sin. But at least with the other three, Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, we’ll see how their deaths are also the clearly result of their own personal wickedness. But there is something different with this newly born son of David and Bathsheba. Surely this son is born into sin and is guilty along with all other humans, if nothing more than for the guilt of Adam’s first sin. But this child certainly hasn’t done anything yet like what David did here, or like what Amnon, Absalom, or Adonijah will do. And yet he will die too for David’s sin.
And so there is something particularly typological about this fourth son, this one born to David and Bathsheba who will die, while David is allowed to live. This son dies really because of David and Bathsheba’s sins, when David and her do not. And yet we know that this son cannot ultimately atone for David and Bathsheba’s sins. Instead there would have to be a 5th son that will have to die because of this sin. There will be another son born to the line of David and Bathsheba. And he’s the real reason why David didn’t have to die here. He’s the ultimate reason why God could say that he has put away David’s sin. I of course refer to Jesus the Christ, of the line of both David and Bathsheba. Innocent Jesus gave up his life for David’s sin. God so loved David that he gave his only begotten Son, precious and beloved, to die in David’s place. In this, God showed great pity to David.
And we know that Jesus’s death was not only for David and Bathsheba. It was for all who have repented and turned in faith to him for forgiveness and grace. And so I urge you again with the gospel. I implore you again on Christ’s behalf. Be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Turn and believe in him and be saved.
Brothers and sisters, I end today’s message with a final point of application to us. In verse 14, God told David that he needed to chastise David in this, because his sin had “given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.” Let us recognize that in our own lives. It brings shame on Christ and his church and the gospel when professing Christians commit such heinous and notorious sins. It gives the enemies of Christ great occasion to slander God and his redeemed people. We’ve all seen it happen. Let this be an exhortation to us to continue to pursue holiness.
To be fair, there is indeed forgiveness and grace even should we sin so horribly. We’ve been reminded of the pity and mercy and grace of God in this way, even in today’s passage. And so if you fail in such a big way like David, it doesn’t mean that there is no longer any grace available to you. No, this passage shows that there is. Of course, I don’t say that to give us a license to sin, but to remind us of how great God’s grace is. And in light of that, he wants you to not only know his forgiveness, but he wants to grow you in righteousness. And so that means as we commit sins after having become a Christian, though a true believer won’t lose their salvation, we should know that God may bring chastisement in your life. It surely won’t be enjoyable in and of itself. But the Word of God reminds us today that it is for our good. And it’s for God’s glory. And it’s for the good of the church. And it is a witness to even the enemies of our faith. God can accomplish all these things in our chastisement.
And so brothers and sisters, recognize God’s grace even in the chastisement. Rejoice in his grace and love and pity that spares our lives, not just for this age, but for eternity, even while chastening us now for our own good. Praise be to the Lord! Amen.
Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.