2 Samuel 11-12: Sin
May 18, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
These two chapters are some of the most famous in the Bible, and for good reason. They are masterfully told, and they describe a calamitous situation. The story is set by the little detail that it is spring when kings go to war, but David stays at home (11:1). Spring is also the time when young men look to sow wild oats. And David, rather than fighting, is wandering. First mistake. Keep your eyes on seeking God’s kingdom above all, on Christ and his spiritual war, and other temptations will not seem so pressing.
Then “it happened” (11:2). David “saw” (11:2), he “sent” (11:3), and he “took” (11:4). At each step there was an opportunity to say “no,” but with each “yes” the rolling disaster took shape. Why was Bathsheba bathing in view of the king’s rooftop? We cannot say, but it does not appear entirely innocent. And if it were, it is certainly unwise. That said, the text lays no blame at Bathsheba. It is David’s fault. It is possible, by contrast, that effectively what we are reading about is rape—not forcible (there is no sense of that in the text), but by virtue of the power differential between the king and this beautiful woman.
Having seen, sent, and taken, David now tries to cover his tracks. He brings back Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, and urges him to “wash his feet” (11:6-8), a euphemism for enjoying his wife. But Uriah refuses. He is a good man, and he will not enjoy the delights of his home while his comrades are facing the travails of battle (11:9-11). How different is David! Note the honor the New Testament author accorded to Uriah by calling Bathsheba simply and only “Uriah’s wife” (Matt. 1:6).
Because Uriah refuses to comply with David’s scheme to make it seem as if Uriah is the father (11:12-13), David then resorts to murder. He sends a letter to Joab to tell him to put Uriah in the forefront of the battle, then suddenly retreat, and so leave Uriah to die (11:14-15). This is horrendous, evil, disastrous, calamitous, despicable. Why should the life of such a man be in the hands of a king acting like an evil dictator?
David marries Bathsheba, once the niceties of mourning have passed (11:26-27). All is well—but it is not. The LORD is “displeased” (11:27).
So the Lord sends Nathan (12:1). David “saw,” “sent,” and “took.” Now God “sends” his prophet. In a piece of extraordinary diplomacy—rebuking a king is never to be taken lightly—Nathan touches the closest part of David’s heart, the most original and youngest part, a story about sheep (12:1-4). The shepherd king would “get” this story and its injustice. Perhaps he knew people from his distant past who had behaved a bit like this. David is incensed at the injustice of the story and declares his judgment “the man deserves to die” (12:5). Nathan: “You are the man!” (12:7).
To David’s eternal credit, the man after God’s own heart repents. “I have sinned” (12:13). Brothers and sisters, none of us is without sin. If we are caught in some sin, the only safe response is David’s: “I have sinned.” Do not cavil, do not dissimulate, do not give excuse or moderate. David did not say, “Well, but it was her fault, for she was bathing.” Or, “Well, but Uriah refused to do what I asked.” Or, “It was Joab who arranged his death.” Or even, “Uriah was killed in battle.” It is simply “I have sinned.” The depth of his sense of repentance is revealed in the famous penitent Psalm 51.
The Lord forgives David, but there is still to be consequence for his sin. His son must die (12:14). David pleads before God, but God’s judgment must fall. And it does (12:18). How beautiful are these words: “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (12:23). One day David will see his son again, but not in this life.
Another child is born, the famous Solomon, who is much loved by God and is given the nickname Jedidiah to indicate the place he occupied in God’s heart (12:24-25).
Dear friends, if you “see,” do not “send,” and if you “send,” do not “take.” And if you do sin, be quick to repent: “I have sinned.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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