Dealing with Sin

Chatswood Baptist Church

2 Samuel 12


‘Dealing’ with Problems

When problems pop up in life – when we stuff things up or face obstacles and frustrations; one response is to deal with them properly, but often we’re tempted to ‘deal with it’ in the mobster-‘make it go away’ kind of way. The alarm goes off for work and we ‘deal with it’ by pressing snooze. The baby wakes you up in the morning, and you ‘deal with it’ by turning off the baby monitor. You’re looking after you friend’s pet while they’re on holidays and it runs away, so you ‘deal with it’ by looking for a replacement that looks exactly the same. In other words, not really dealing with the problem, just trying to cover it up.

If you’ve been here for the last 2 weeks, you’ll know that King David has been ‘dealing’ with his sin in this kind of ‘making it go away’ kind of a way. He has majorly stuffed up, and by trying to make the problem go away, he’s just spiralled deeper and deeper into sin, making everything much worse. During a chance walk on his rooftop one night he happens to see a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing. Instead of walking away, he makes the wrong decision. He lets his desires rule, and he commits adultery with this woman. And then things spiral further as he tries to ‘deal with it’ by covering it up. He does everything possible to hide his sin, ironically by sinning more and more, so that in the end he has orchestrated the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, one of his faithful soldiers, and killed many other innocent men. By the end of the chapter, David appears to have ‘fixed’ his problem, but of course, we know he hasn’t dealt with it at all. God is not blind to what he’s done, and he’s not happy about it.

Really dealing with sin – with our selfish decisions and mistakes – doesn’t mean covering it up. It means facing it, owning up to the consequences, and somehow coming out the other side. An what we see in 2 Samuel chapter 12 is God helping David (with a strong hand!) face up to his sin, so that he might really deal with it. Not ‘deal with it’ by covering it up, but by owning it before God, come what may. So we’re going to step through this chapter and see how God helps us deal with sin. We’re going to see that grace exposes sin, that we need to see sin for what it really is, that we need to accept there is always a price for sin, that throwing ourselves on God’s mercy is our only hope, and that in the end, we need a king who actually deals with the sin of our hearts, and doesn’t just rearrange political boundaries.


(1) Grace exposes Sin

So the first thing to appreciate from this story is the sheer fact that God graciously exposes David’s sin. Because God loves us, he graciously exposes our sin.

Verse 1 opens with the simple statement that ‘The LORD sent Nathan to David.’ It’s easy to skim past this statement and get into the details of the story, but we don’t want to miss the fact that GOD sent Nathan to David. God didn’t need to send Nathan to confront David with his sin. God could have just struck him down like he struck down Uzzah when he reached out to grab the holy ark of God. He could have just let David rot away in his deceit and sin so that his heart became more and more calloused before finally condemning him at the end of his life. He could have abandoned David to his sin.

But God knows what David seems to have forgotten – that buried sin will kill him in the end. And for all his anger at David, God still loves him. So God sent Nathan to confront David with his sin – to expose it and get David to face it squarely. God sends Nathan to David to help him actually with it.

And this is what God has always done, right through the story of Scripture. From the beginning, God has graciously exposed sin so that we might do something about it, rather than simply abandoning us to it. God sent his prophets to his people again and again, exposing their sin and warning them of its consequences. He did it out of grace and love.

When you’ve got a chunk of salad stuck in your teeth, or you’ve gone to the bathroom and you’ve forgotten to zip up your fly… you want your friend to say something don’t you? You want your friend to expose the problem – to tell you the bad news – so that you can face it and fix it.

Even when the bad news is much harder to swallow – when it’s about how we’ve been behaving and relating to people… when it’s about sin in our lives – even then, ultimately it’s good to be told the truth isn’t it? Grace exposes sin, so that we might do something about it.

So be thankful for the warnings of scripture. Be thankful when God doesn’t let you continue hiding your sin. Be thankful when he sends a true friend to speak difficult words to you. Don’t bite their head off or try to justify yourself. Be grateful for the grace that exposes sin, rather than letting it slowly ruin you.

And learn to love people like this – show grace to others by speaking directly to people about how they’ve hurt or disrespected you rather than just writing them off. Not in an indignant, harsh way. Not in anger or resentment. But graciously revealing the truth so that sin doesn’t ruin our relationships.

So that’s the first point – grace exposes sin. God graciously confronts David with his sin, and he continues to do it in our lives by his word, his Spirit and his people.


(2) We need to see our sin for what it really is

Flowing on from this, we see that what God does when he graciously exposes our sin is to help us see it for what it really is. To find forgiveness and healing from sin we need to see our sin for what it really is.

It’s like those old TV ads designed to help people quit smoking – the ones that show all the tar that builds up in your lungs and the all the other stuff that goes wrong in your body. They’re trying to say, “You think ‘this’ is smoking? No, this is what smoking really is. Smoking is pouring 150ml of tar into your lungs every year. It’s not just a bad habit…”

We need to see our sin for what it really is – we need to stop trivialising or justifying it. So long as we think of our sin as just ‘unfortunate mistakes’ – bad decisions, or bad habits with unfortunate consequences – then we will never find forgiveness or healing. We need to see our sin for what it really is. And to do this, we will need to see it from another perspective – ultimately from God’s perspective.

You see what God does, very cleverly, is to help David see his sin clearly without realising that he was looking at his own sin. When Nathan comes to David, at first he doesn’t indicate in any way that he’s there because of what he’s done to Bathsheba and Uriah. He simply launches into a story about two the men… the poor, downtrodden man with his one, precious little lamb, and the greedy, callous, rich man who just takes and takes without regard for anyone else.

And when David hears how this arrogant man just took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and slaughtered it to prepare dinner for his guest, he is outraged! He burns with anger against this man and cries out, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

And of course, we know David has fallen hook, line and sinker for the trap. He has just declared judgement on himself. And Nathan now wastes no time replying back – “You are the man!” You are this man David. This is what you have done. You thought you could just take and take and that it didn’t matter. All that outrage and disgust you feel at this man? That’s how God feels about you and your sin.

It’s always easier to see the sin of others for what it really is than our own isn’t it? We are so good at justifying our own behaviour, minimising the effects on others and exaggerating the reasons why we needed to do something. But when we can step back and see our behaviour and attitudes from an objective standpoint, the excuses fall away and we see the horror of our sin. That’s the brilliance of Nathan’s strategy – the story creeps in behind David’s self defences and reveals the true nature of his sin from God’s perspective.


The arrogance of sin

The main thing that stands out to us from the story itself is just the sheer arrogance, selfishness and greed of David’s behaviour. The rich man in the story is so full of his own importance. He’s so callous towards the poor man, treating him like nothing as if he doesn’t really exist, snatching the little lamb away without a thought.

Now it’s easy for us to shake our heads at David, thinking, “how could you…?” And yes, the parable obviously reflects the particular sin and circumstances of David. But we know don’t we, that all sin flows from that same distorted view of ourselves in relation to people around us. We think we are more important. What we want matters more. How we are affected by things is more significant. So we take, we react, we fight, we… whatever. All sin flows from pride, selfishness and greed, and it’s ugly.


Scorn for the provision of God

But secondly, as Nathan goes on to call David out on his behaviour, he highlights how sin is scorn for the kindness and provision of God. When we sin, we’re throwing God’s grace back in his face. It’s not pretty.

Nathan goes on from verse 7 to recount the many ways that God has blessed David – giving him the throne, protecting him from Saul over and over again, giving him wealth, wives, all of Judah and Israel! And he would have happily given more! But what does David do in response? He throws it back in God’s face by taking his neighbours wife. He behaves like the Israelites rescued from slavery in Egypt by complaining to God about the food. Sin is scorn for what God has graciously given us by casting it aside and demanding more – demanding what is not ours to take.

It’s easy to see how a man committing adultery is scorning what God has given him and demanding more, but can you see how you’re doing that each time you ignore what God says and just do what you want?

Instead of being content with what God has given you, you demand more, you take more. All sin is like Adam and Eve in the garden, scorning all the good things God has graciously provided, and grasping for what he hasn’t.


Contempt for God and his Word

And finally, we need to see that sin is in essence contempt for God and his word. In verses 9 and 10, God explains that when David did these things, striking down Uriah and taking his wife, he was despising him and his word. Whatever other attitudes and motivations were going on, at heart, he was despising God and his word. He was showing contempt for him. Again down in verse 14, Nathan explains that in doing this, he has ‘shown utter contempt for the LORD’.

The Gottman institute for marriage research explains that one of the four things that will destroy a marriage is contempt. Contempt is that open disrespect for another person. It’s not just complaining about behaviour or even criticising the other person – it’s showing you don’t respect them. Often it’s in the form of outright attack: “You’re such a child, you couldn’t think of another person’s needs before your own if your life depended on it. You’re pathetic…” But we can do to each other by blatantly disregarding the other persons feelings and wishes – just treating them like they don’t really matter. And that’s what we are doing with God when we throw his wisdom and authority back in his face by doing exactly what he’s told us not to do.

When God has said something is evil, but we go ahead and do it anyway, we are showing contempt for God and his word. We’re not just making a ‘mistake’ or a ‘bad decision’… We are scorning the word of our maker, sustainer and saviour. Sin is not trivial – contempt for God is ugly.


Finding mercy through admitting the reality of our sin

We need to see our sin for what it really is – this is what God graciously does for us when he exposes sin in our lives by his word. And when we finally see it for what it is, we can own it, confess it, and repent from it. And only then will we really deal with our sin and find forgiveness and healing.

After Nathan confronts David and his sin is laid bare, David responds with the simple, but very true words, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Next week we will more fully explore David’s response as he records it in Psalm 51, but the essence is here. After all his attempts to hide and deny his sin, he sees it for what it is and admits that he has sinned against the LORD.

And you know that it’s not easy to admit you’ve made a mistake. It’s not easy to admit before others that you have sinned. And the higher your status in society, the harder it is. David had just declared that someone in his situation deserves to die. He knows that the Law of Moses does in fact call for his death. And at this point, David could have further abused his position of power by banishing Nathan (or worse!) for daring to speak against him like this. But he doesn’t. By God’s grace, now, finally, by seeing his sin for what it is, he admits – I have sinned. I am in the wrong.

And what is God’s response to this admission? Nathan replies, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” God shows mercy. He didn’t owe this to David. He didn’t have to forgive him. But he wanted to. In fact, he sent Nathan to expose David’s sin, to rub David’s face in the reality of it, so that he might confess and repent… so that he might show mercy.

If we want to find healing and forgiveness from sin, if we want to fix what’s broken in our lives, we need to get to the point where we admit to ourselves, to God and to others that we have sinned, and we need to see that sin for what it really is. And it’s only then that we can and will throw ourselves on the mercy of God with any hope of redemption.

And for us, it’s not just a possibility. We have the wonderful promise of the gospel that all who come to Christ and repent of their sin will find forgiveness. There is no doubt. David didn’t have this promise in all its fulness, but we do. All the more reason not to hide our sin, but own up and throw ourselves on God’s mercy.


(3) There is always a price to pay for sin

The third thing, though, that we need to appreciate from this story is that there is always a price to pay for sin. We don’t admit our mistakes and own up to sin to avoid consequences – we do it because we’ve seen it for what it really is and we know that if we want to experience any kind of reconciliation with God and healing from our sin, we need to confess it and ask for mercy. Part of owning up to our sin is accepting that there are consequences. Even when we experience the blessing of forgiveness, there are consequences for sin and there is a price to pay for it.

Despite the fact that God wants to grant forgiveness to David, he doesn’t hold back on bringing about terrible consequences for his actions.

First, in verses 9 and 10, God declares that because David has struck down Uriah with the sword, the sword will never depart from his house. David’s lust led to despising the word of the Lord, first in adultery and ultimately to the point of orchestrating murder, and so this kind of lustful greed and violence will plague his own family from now on.

God goes on to explain, Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.

And if you thought this was just big talk to make David feel bad, wait till you see what comes next in the book of 2 Samuel. From chapter 13 onwards, it reads like a tragic Shakespearean play fulfilling these very words. There is the horror of rape, revenge, betrayal, violence and adultery, all within David’s own family. In chapter 16 we even get to the point where one of David’s sons, Absalom, in an attempt to force the nation’s hand to choose between him and David as king, he actually pitches a tent on the Royal palace and one by one, sleeps with all of David’s concubines.


‘Natural’ consequences

At one level, what we see in the tragedy of the chapters to come is like the ‘natural consequences’ of David’s action. The Bible commentator Joyce Baldwin gives the overarching title of those chapters, ‘Like father, like son.’ Not that David’s sons had no hope but to behave in such terrible ways, but that David’s example and actions would have far reaching consequences in the morality of his own family.

We know the reality of the consequences of sin in our lives, in the ongoing brokenness of this world, even when we know we are forgiven. If you lie to your friend or your spouse, you might be able to find forgiveness and reconciliation, but you’ve damaged the relationship. You need to re-establish trust. If a youth leader stumbles and is sexually intimate with one of the youth, he may find forgiveness – if he is repentant he will even ultimately find complete healing from his sin through the grace of God in the age to come – but in this life, he will never be a youth leader again. Sin has consequences, for us and for people around us, and David was going to see just how messy and painful those consequences can be.


The judgement of God

But as ‘natural’ as the consequences of sin can be, God is also actively punishing sin. God explains that he is going to bring calamity on David – it won’t just ‘happen’. God determines that the sword will not depart from the house of David because of what he’s done. There is a price to pay.

And of course, we see this ultimately in the declaration that the son born to David through Bathsheba will die. This is not a ‘natural’ consequence of adultery – this is terrible, awful punishment. Because David has shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to him will die. There is always a price to pay for sin.

Now, I’m assuming when you read this, you can’t help but ask, why? Why make the baby suffer and die for the sinful actions of David? Why make Bathsheba suffer in this way? How is this fair? Why would God do this?

To some extent, I can’t really answer this question. To some extent, this passage still disturbs me. But I think what is clear to me is the two basic points we’ve talked about: firstly, our sin affects others, and we need to understand that; and secondly, that there is always a price to pay for sin. David deserved to die for his sin. The law demanded it. But he didn’t. Someone else died as a result of his sin. Now, I don’t think this passage is saying that the baby ‘paid for’ the sin of David, and that the death of this son ‘atoned for’ David like an animal sacrifice. But he did die for David’s sin, whereas David didn’t. There is price to be paid for sin.


Remember the price of your sin

And I think in both the announcement that the sword will never depart from the house of David, and that the son born to him will die as a result of his sin, in both these judgements, I think we see a pointer to the ultimate price paid for sin.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, the great son of David, announces that he died because of our sin – he died because of it, and in our place. And so we see that the sword plagued the house of David right up to the point that it killed the very son of God – the one who would rule on the throne of David forever.

We need to remember that there is always a price to pay for sin. Quite possibly there will be consequences in this life, even when we know we are forgiven. And of course, that forgiveness wasn’t free. There was a price to pay. Jesus died because we sinned. It was our sin that held him there. Our forgiveness is not cheap. God doesn’t just ‘take away our sin’ – he puts it on Jesus, who suffers in our place.

And that’s meant to motivate us not to sin. Jesus’ sacrifice is big enough for anything and everything we might ever do. We don’t need to wallow in guilt or worry. But the fact that Jesus has had to suffer for our sin should make us pause and pull back our hand. It should cut our hearts as we face up to our sin, owning the reality of the consequences, and it should motivate us to gratefully obey God, rather than continue to heap up sin onto Christ.


(4) Those who know God’s mercy trust in God’s mercy

So, we’ve seen that grace exposes sin, and God does that by helping us see it for what it is and owning up to it so that we might find mercy, but also by helping us understand that there is always a price to pay for sin. At this point we’ve reached the climax of the story with David’s confession, and I just want to make two final points briefly from what we see in the second half of the chapter as the story is resolved.

Firstly, I think what we see from verse 15 through to verse 25 is that those who know God’s mercy, trust in God’s sovereign mercy. This might not strike you as obvious from the passage, but I think that’s what we see as we witness David first desperately pleading with God for him to spare the life of the child and then calmly accepting the outcome and finally finding peace through the birth of Solomon.


Trusting by pleading

From verse 15, we read that After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.”

David is very aware that he has experienced mercy. His sin is taken away, so he doesn’t experience the judgement he deserves. Even in the midst of the judgement announced on his family, he is very aware of how merciful God has been to him. And so in the face of this judgement being threatened against his child, he throws himself further on God’s mercy, pleading with God to relent. Having experienced God’s mercy as his only hope, he asks for more, knowing it’s his only hope.

And I think it’s helpful to appreciate how David’s trust in God motivates him to desperate pleading.

It’s not like he just sits back ‘trusting God’ to do the right thing. He pleads, he begs, he fasts, he weeps, he wears sackcloth. He’s like a man desperately doing whatever he can think of to show his wife how sorry he is and begging for mercy after doing something really dumb. Trusting God isn’t doing nothing, it’s putting our energy into calling on him to act.


Trusting by accepting God’s decision

And then, when the child finally dies, we see David continuing to trust in God’s sovereign mercy by accepting God’s decision. As you can see from verse 18, David’s attendants were afraid to even tell him that the child was dead, because of how desperate he had been while the child was sick. But he shocks them all by cleaning himself up and going to worship at the temple and then going home to eat. When they ask him why he’s not wailing and weeping, he explains, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

It wasn’t that he didn’t care. He had shown how much he cared when it mattered. But now he couldn’t change anything, and he accepts that God has made his decision. And I think his response shows he understands that trusting in God’s mercy means trusting in his decision, whether or not he has answered your prayer. David understands that you can’t manipulate God into doing what you want with any amount of sackcloth and fasting. He’s not bitter when God doesn’t answer his prayer. He understands that God’s decision to show mercy is God’s decision.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to grieve after we lose someone and ‘there’s nothing we can do’ – the Bible doesn’t give us that message overall at all. But there is a sense in which trusting in God’s sovereign mercy means not holding on to the grief and not letting it define us. David accepts God’s decision and then comforts Bathsheba, and they accept God’s love and blessing for this child.

This isn’t easy, but the more we know God’s mercy towards us – the more we grasp how freely it is given and how this decision belongs to God and God alone – the more we can trust in his sovereign mercy, come what may.


(5) A King who deals with Sin

Finally I think the final section from verse 26 to the end, in the context of the whole narrative of chapters 11 and 12, highlights what God is really on about in this world. Ironically, in reporting to us the conquest of the Ammonite city of Rabbah, I think we’re meant to see that this whole business of conquering cities to ‘establish’ the kingdom of God means nothing if sin is going to rule in the heart of the king. The hope of the kingdom of God needs a king who actually deals with the problem of sin.

We saw weeks ago that chapters 8-10 of 2 Samuel are a picture of God establishing his good kingdom on earth through his king, as a tangible picture in history of what was to come through Jesus in the end. David conquered his enemies and established the nation of Israel so that God’s people could enjoy the rest of God in his good land, under his good rule. And the very beginning of chapter 11 and the very end of chapter 12 continue that story. They tell of David’s armies, and David himself, conquering the Ammonites as he establishes the people of God in the promised land.

But in the midst of that picture, there is a big hole torn into it with the devastating sin of the king. Is this really God’s king? Is this really God’s kingdom?

And so chapters 11 and 12, in the midst of this broader narrative, are like a picture within a picture, showing what it really means for God to establish his kingdom. God is ultimately interested in capturing our hearts and redeeming them from the deceit of sin, rather than conquering cities. These chapters anticipate the problem with the ‘historical’ kingdom of God and highlight why we always needed a different kind of king, a different kind of saviour, a different kind of salvation.

We need a king who exposes our sin, reveals it for what it is, pays the price for it, and redeems us from it. We need a King who owns our sin for us and overcomes it, so that we can own up to and find forgiveness and healing from it.