Lessons from David

Last week, we discussed how the story of David illustrates the fact that God can use unlikely people to accomplish his will. That’s an important lesson, and one which I think is uplifting and encouraging to people. Today’s lesson is less encouraging, but it is of vital importance: Sin Has Consequences. 

Second Samuel 11 relates the story of David and Bathsheba. It tells how, “at the time when kings go out to battle,” King David stayed at home while Joab and his army had gone to fight (the implication is that if David was where he should have been, none of the problems of 2 Samuel 11 would have happened in the first place).

While at home, David is walking out on the roof of his house and looks out and sees Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (who was away with the army), bathing. David lusts after her, and using his power as king, has her brought to him and sleeps with her. Later, David receives word that Bathsheba has become pregnant.

David calls Uriah the Hittite back from the battlefront, ostensibly to get a report of how things are going, but really because he is wanting to cover up what he has done. He assumes that Uriah will take advantage of his time at home to be with his wife, and no one will be the wiser when Bathsheba becomes visibly pregnant (remember, there were no DNA paternity tests or “Who’s the father?” daytime talk shows in those days).

But there is a problem: Uriah’s loyalty is so great that he refuses to enjoy the comforts of being at home:

Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”

(2 Samuel 11.11)

When David’s plan to cover up the sin doesn’t work, he decides that the only way to hide what he has done is to get rid of Uriah, so he sends word to Joab, the commander of the army, to make sure that Uriah is put in harm’s way in battle. And that’s exactly what happens: Uriah is killed in battle, the message is relayed to David, and David is pleased, because he thinks he has gotten away with his sin.

After Bathsheba mourns for her husband Uriah, David makes her his wife and she bears a son for him.

And perhaps we would think that everything was okay (as David did) were it not for the fact that chapter 11 ends with these ominous words: “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.”

God sends the prophet Nathan to confront David about what he has done. Nathan does this by telling David a story:

“There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”

David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”

(2 Samuel 12.1-14)

And what the prophet Nathan said came to pass: David and Bathsheba’s child would die, despite David’s prayers and fasting. Later on, the nation of Israel would be torn by a bitter civil war, as David’s own son Absalom fought against him.

The lesson that David learned was that it doesn’t matter who you are; sin has consequences.

You might think that this was a lesson that David would have already learned from Saul. After all, Saul had been hand-picked by God to be the first king of Israel, but after he disobeyed God’s commands concerning the Amalekites, God rejected him. Saul became a bitter, jealous, and tormented shell of the hero he had been, and ultimately, lost his kingdom and his life because of his sin. But none of that seemed to make much of an impression on David: he had to learn this lesson himself.

For us, too, sin has consequences. Some of those consequences are physical. David’s sin led to the death of his child and civil war with Absalom. A man who decides to drive himself home after having too many drinks loses control of his car, crosses the center line and kills someone in the oncoming lane. In anger, a woman says a few careless words about a friend behind her back; the friend finds out, and the friendship is ruined. A teenage girl decides to have sex with her boyfriend, and then later discovers that she is pregnant.

Sin has spiritual consequences as well. Paul says in Romans 6.23 that “the wages of sin is death.” Your wages are what you earn for what you do; it is the amount of money you get as compensation for your work. What Paul is saying is that when we sin, what we earn, what we deserve, is death. This is because sin separates us from God. God is holy and pure, and He cannot tolerate sin. He is also the source of spiritual life, and when we sin, we separate ourselves from Him and the life He provides. The only thing that is left for us, the only thing we deserve, is death.

Sin has consequences. That’s the bad news. The good news…we’ll talk about next week.