Why Was God Merciful to David, the Murderer, and Why Do You and I Need a Nathan in our Lives? #264 David and Bathsheba, Part 2
Hello friends and happy Wednesday to you! I am happy to report – and praising God – that this afternoon, we in central coast California, the Monterey/Salinas area, saw our air quality go into the moderate range for the first time in 8 days – it had been unhealthy or hazardous for 8 straight days, which is incredible. This Wednesday evening, I’d like to extend an invitation to you listeners to join us at 7pm Pacific for a livestream Bible study called: Pandemic Victory: Overcoming the Enemies of Our Souls. Tonight, at VBC Salinas on Facebook, we are discussing how to overcome doubt, and it won’t be a simple pollyanna discussion of doubt, but a real and authentic one. If you’ve struggled with doubt before – and if you are wrestling with doubt now, in the midst of a most difficult year, please allow me to encourage you to join us – I believe you will receive strengthening from God’s Word!
Today we are finishing up our discussion of David and Bathsheba from yesterday. Our readings for the day include: 2nd Samuel 12, Ezekiel 19, Psalms 64 and 65 and 2nd Corinthians 5, which once again contains a powerful nugget of truth that we should review before we begin discussing our focus passage. First of all, notice Paul’s motivation for ministry…fear! Surprising right, but it’s probably not the kind of fear you’re expecting:
11 Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people.
2nd Corinthians 5:11
Also, notice Paul’s discussion of the tents of our human, fleshly bodies. The older I get, the more this passage resonates with me:
For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. 2 Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment. 6 So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2nd Corinthians 5:1-7
SO many wonderful truths in this little chunk of Scripture. We walk by faith and not sight. Our bodies are not eternal, but will one day be replaced with bodies that don’t die, wear down, get injured or betray us in any one of millions of ways. Some of you listening have painful autoimmune disorders, some have cancer, some have struggled with body-image issues, and some live in constant pain for one reason or the other. This is all because your body is only temporary and it has been imminently compromised by the fall…but do not despair, because your current tent is not your eternal home. If you are groaning in your body right now, then know that one day you will be delighted in your heavenly body!
Today we consider how David, a man after God’s own heart could have ever committed such a grievous set of sins as he did – murder, sexual abuse of power, lying, conspiracy and adultery – and have ever found forgiveness. We will learn much about the character of God today – much more so than the character of David. Let’s read our passage:
Nathan is the human hero here, confronting King David in a very dangerous situation with so much wisdom and grace and the proper amount of power. Once David’s eyes are open, he admits his sin, confesses it and seeks the Lord again, but because God is just – there must be discipline. Honestly, it is a heart-wrenching chapter. Here’s a word from Tim Keller again to help us process what is going on:
Everything in David’s life is about to blow up, and he doesn’t even know about it. He doesn’t even realize it. So what does David get? What does God do?
God sends Nathan, and Nathan tells him a story. When Nathan the prophet comes to David, as you see, he tells him a story. It’s an interesting story, and it’s kind of a sad story, but almost all interpreters agree David’s response to it … Did you notice? David’s response is over the top. I mean, listen. Lamb-stealing … what a shame, but it’s not a capital offense.
In any legal code anywhere we know, stealing a lamb, especially a rich man stealing a lamb, is not a capital offense, but David gets furious. He says, “This man deserves to die! Does this man think there’s no justice in my kingdom? Who is this man?” Nathan, in the most direct sermon application ever in history, says, “You are the man.”
One of the questions that comes up right away is … Why didn’t Nathan just get to the point? If Nathan wanted to say, “You’ve sinned,” why didn’t he get right to the point? What’s with him monkeying around with a story? David’s conscience is beginning to wake up. That’s why he’s over the top. That’s why he’s starting to say, “This man deserves to die.” He knows. He’s feeling. He senses it, probably at a kind of semiconscious level.
When his conscience begins to awake, Nathan moves in. Why? Because God has sent Nathan not to do condemning, but to do converting. God does not send a sword to smite David, but a scalpel to take out the tumor. In other words, God is calling David to repentance. “Wake up!” Repentance is his only hope now, the only way possible for him to put his life back together again.
So what is repentance? Repentance is killing the habits of your heart that are killing you without killing yourself. How do we do that? Let’s get on to it, but let me just say something really briefly. This is New York, and I’m sure there are a lot of great people in this room, a lot of talented people and good people and maybe eventually, or maybe even now, prominent people, but no matter how great you are, you’re not like David. Is there anybody in this room whose life people are going to be discussing 3,000 years from now? I doubt it.
Nobody in this room is the equal of David; yet look at what happened to him. If it can happen to him, it can happen to you. Because David couldn’t repent, it happened, and only because he learned to repent was he able to get out of it. If it happened to him, it can happen to you. How important is repentance. Hear the call to repentance. Now how does it happen? How do we learn it? If this is so critical, if this is the thing that makes or breaks your life, how do we learn it?
First, as I already mentioned, we have to see the context of repentance. I’d like to be brief, but it’s pretty important. New Yorkers especially feel like, “Okay, so you say repentance is a way to bring deep, permanent change to my life. Fine. That’s very interesting. So what are the steps? Put it in a sermon. Put it in a lecture, PowerPoint, or a book. Give me the steps for how to do deep change, and then I will do them. I’ll work through them on my time and in my terms.” Nuh-uh. It doesn’t work that way.
You never know you’re sinning when you’re sinning. Sin never feels like sin. Look at David. When he sent for Bathsheba, he didn’t feel like a sinner. He felt like a lover. When he actually gave the order for Uriah to be killed, he didn’t feel like a sinner. He felt like a general. Generals always are giving orders they know are going to result in the deaths of people. I mean David was probably saying, “Well yeah, he’s going to die, but you know what? He could have died yesterday. He could have died tomorrow. It could happen anytime.” David was self-deceived.
Your greatest flaws, the habits of your heart that are killing you the most, by definition are the ones you don’t see. That’s why they have control over you: because you don’t see them, because you don’t want to know, because you don’t want to see them, because you don’t want to know anything about them.
Therefore, even if I give you a little list (which I’m about to), “Here’s how you go about repenting. Here’s how you go about finding the parts of your heart that are killing you and learning how to permanently change them,” even if you go off and say, “Okay, I’m going to work on my biggest flaws,” you don’t know what they are. By definition, you couldn’t know what they are. Do you see that? If you sit down with your list, you’re going to go after some red herrings, some things you probably need to change but are probably not the big ones.
Well then, how are we going to ever find out? How are we ever going to be led into life-changing repentance? The answer is friends; spiritual friendships, radical community. Nathan was David’s friend. He wasn’t just a cleric. You know that if you read the whole narrative. David would never, ever, ever in a million years have seen what he saw without Nathan.
Now I would like to publicly thank God (which I have at every one of my services here today) for the Nathans he sent me over the years without which I wouldn’t be here. I would not be here without my Nathans. I want you to know I was never as good to my Nathans as David was to this one. David admits Nathan is right. He immediately (as we’re going to see) says, “You’re right.” I’ve never said that to a Nathan the first time around. It takes me weeks, months, and maybe even years before I finally go to a Nathan saying, “I guess you were right.”
Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend …” Do you have Nathans in your life? Have you deputized people to be Nathans? You’re dead without them. In fact, even the Nathans of your life wouldn’t be Nathans unless they had Nathans. We’re dead without Nathans. Do you make it safe for people, or when they come and talk to you about what’s wrong with you, do you get too devastated or too upset or too angry?
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
One more word about the Lord’s justice and ‘paying’ for our sins. There will indeed be times that we pay a heavy price for sin, but we will never have to pay the ultimate price for sin, because Jesus has paid that ultimate price. Maybe you have had a rough day, or will have a rough day, but the fact that Jesus has paid the price for the sins of all of those who have been saved by Him is something worthy of your thanksgiving and joyful truth…rejoice in that, dear brothers and sisters…as bleak as life gets for us, we have a Heavenly dwelling to look forward to – because of Jesus. We don’t have to earn entry into it, and we don’t have to pay the severest and deepest cost of our sins…Jesus has already done so. Thanks be to God!