A few years ago there was program on the Investigation Discovery Channel called “I Almost Got Away with It”. The story of David and Bathsheba would have been a perfect one for that show, especially the part where the prophet Nathan confronted David. David thought that he had committed the perfect crime by having an affair with Bathsheba and covering it up by killing her husband. Unfortunately, he was caught by the one true, perfect, all-seeing and all-knowing God. David forgot that God sees everything that his people do. It reminds me of the line from the Christmas song “Santa Clause Comes to Town” that goes like this:
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows when you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake.
This passage deals with the ethical and moral failings that have plagued Christians throughout history. Greed and selfishness cause believers to do whatever it takes to get something that they want. Believers and non-believers have to accept the consequences of their actions.
The world has no sympathy for honesty these days. Sure, people give it lip service, and we tell our children to be honest, but if we stop and think about it, many of us would rather have our children be shrewd than honest. We teach them to be suspicious, to protect themselves and to ward off people like the typical used car salesman or politicians.
The story tells us about ourselves and our sinful nature, how we covet what is not ours, and how we often try to cover up our sins. Our sinful nature often causes us to forget who we are and who we are supposed to be. Our sins cause us to discover our true nature, and it is far from what we imagine ourselves to be.
We, like David, are not perfect. We often sin and either try to cover it up or think that our sin will not be discovered. We need to remember that God sees all and knows all-including our sins. God’s Word presents people as they are, not as later writers wish they would have been. To quote Numbers 32:23, “…be sure that your sin will find you out”. Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s fall from grace is a good example. He had it all–fame, fortune and a successful ministry—but one moment of indiscretion with a prostitute hurt him. His confession to God even made it into the video for the song “American Dream” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1988. It follows the line “Now you think about reaching out, maybe get some help from above”, which is repeated twice. He might have thought that he could get away with it, but he got caught. As another verse of the same song goes:
Reporters crowd around your house
Going through your garbage like a pack of hounds
Speculating what they might find out
It don’t matter now
You’re all washed up
In fact, it was only a few years later, when he got caught with a prostitute again, that he and his ministry were washed up for several years.
Nathan used his story as a case for David to judge. In Nathan’s story, the traveler represents David’s lust, and the lamb is Bathsheba. The story itself represents the commandments David broke-the ones regarding adultery, murder and coveting. It makes the point that no one can misuse God-given authority and power for selfish ends.
Nathan rebuked David, but he did so indirectly through the story he told. Nathan used a story that reminded David of his youth to break through David’s resistance and bring him to a place of true repentance. We do not have to go looking for other people’s faults or sins, but sometimes we can’t ignore them. Like Nathan, we must correct others in love with the hope of restoring them, and an approach bathed in prayer and led by the Spirit will accomplish more than our own self-righteous arguments ever can.
Jesus outlined a good approach to use when correcting sinners in Matthew 18:15-17:
- Confront the sinner in private. If he/she listens to you, great!
- If the sinner does not listen to you, go with two or three others and confront him/her. Two or more witnesses will be able to back up what happens.
- If the sinner refuses to listen to you and the witnesses, bring it before the church.
- If the sinner refuses to listen to the church, he/she is to be removed from the church.
David “saw the light” when he was confronted with his sins. The enormity of his crimes and the condemnation by Nathan represent conviction by both the earthly judge Nathan and the heavenly judge God. You might be thinking that if it says in the Bible, “Judge not lest ye be judged”, Nathan broke this commandment. You must remember though that Nathan was an agent of God, and God is the one who judges people either directly or through people such as Nathan or other good Christians.
The story of David, Bathsheba and Nathan reflects the battle between our struggle to live the Christian life and the earthly life that constantly tempts us. This conflict reminds us of our constant need for grace and forgiveness. We, like David, are only human. There will be times when we will stumble and fall in our Christian walk. We gain insight into our weaknesses so that we can improve our control over our weaknesses.
The story also reflects a sense of entitlement. Here was David, the boy who became king, who had more opportunity and power than anyone could imagine and had everything he wanted. He had a sense of being entitled to privileges. This sense of entitlement led him to give in to temptation. Unfortunately, the situation still exists today. For example, some experts claim that the 2008 recession was caused by corporate greed-greed that led American banks to make mortgages available to people who could not afford them. The result was the failure of several American banks, and like the old saying goes, “When America sneezes, Canada catches the cold”. American politicians told the banks that what they did was wrong, just like Nathan told David that what he did was wrong.
We must be careful that we do not fall into an attitude of self-indulgence. We must also keep as far away from evil as possible. Evil and sin diminish the respect others have for us, weaken our authority and cause unnecessary headaches.
We need more people like Nathan today-people who are not afraid to tell us what we need to hear. We need more people who will tell us the truth no matter how hard it is to say or hear. Nathan and people like him are motivated to speak the truth because the holiness and beauty of God are offended by the wickedness of sinful people. Sin is the great problem keeping people from the knowledge of God. Even when people shrug their shoulders and say, “Everyone else is doing it”, we must stand firm and say that this is wrong. When sin is public, visible to all and scandalous, those who know this have a duty to speak up and use words of strong condemnation. The word of forgiveness follows quickly when we admit out guilt. God’s forgiveness and abundant mercy are now available through Jesus.
This story is also an example of our hunger. We are hungry for control of our lives. We are hungry for a world that is not controlled by sin and our sinful human natures. We often try to satisfy that hunger with material goods, alcohol, drugs or sex (like David did). The only way that our hunger can truly be satisfied is by the true bread of life-that is, our faith in Jesus. Jesus said in John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world”. Just like the 5,000 people were still hungry after Jesus miraculously fed them with the five barley loaves and two fish, we will still be hungry if we try to satisfy our hunger in the way the world wants us to satisfy it.
This story is not about sin as much as it is about forgiveness. When David was confronted with his sin, he repented and was restored by God-even though he still had to accept the consequences of his actions. It is better for us to confess our sins before we are forced to do so by getting caught. When we do, the burden of guilt will not be able to limit our spiritual growth and our worship and prayers will not be hindered.
We have to repent of our sins so we can be restored by God, but we must also be prepared to accept the consequences of our sins. God’s anger toward sin is righteous anger. God will not let sin go unpunished. It is this righteous anger that leads to restoring our relationship with God. God cares about how we live our lives. If we show contempt for God’s law, we will be punished. God does not take our actions lightly, but if we deal with our sin genuinely, openly and immediately, God will lessen the severity of our discipline.
We often try to straighten out our own problems like David did, but Jesus has already straightened our problems for us. He put our sins away. He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross at Calvary. We do not have to do anything more than what Christ has already done for us. All we have to do is accept what he did, repent of our sins, and accept him as our Saviour.
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- Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible software package
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- Rev. David Shearman, “John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Year B-Season after Pentecost-Proper 13 Ordinary 18”. Retrieved from http://lectionary.seemslikegod.org/archives/year-b-season-after-pentecost-proper-13-ordinary-18.html