Dear radio friends,
Today I want to call your attention to an incident in the life of David.
David was one of the outstanding persons in Old Testament history. He was a man who, the Bible says, was after God’s own heart. But he was also a man who was beset often with sin and who had, as a child of God, to struggle against his sin.
I want to call your attention to a very dark and terrible blot in the whole history of David in order that today we might consider the deep and horrible reality of sin. The dark and horrible blot that I refer to was the event in David’s life when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. He took Bathsheba, though she was married to Uriah, and then had Uriah her husband killed in a battle against the Ammonites.
My reason for calling attention to this event in David’s life was not that I would play the part of a modern biographer who delights to debunk the heroes of the past. Nor do I simply set out to look into this part of David’s life to pander after the modern interest in and craving for pornographic literature. And certainly I do not look into this event today because I think that the Christian life is nothing but hopelessness and the gloom of sin.
But I look into it from this point of view: There is no point in trying to consider the theme of God’s grace and love until the Spirit has first given us to understand the truth of sin – and then to understand it time and time again. We have to consider, as Christians, the truth of sin because it is a reality for you and me. Only when God, by grace, gives us to know what our sin is can we see the cross and understand a little of the amazing love of God in Christ. By nature, you and I like to keep the truth of sin somewhat abstract and theoretical, divorced from our actual life. Oh, we see it in the world, we see it in others, and we see it in ourselves. But always we would like to keep that sin in ourselves somewhat abstract – not specific. We really do not want to see the reality of that sin. We want to be shielded from its darkness.
If only we could remember that although we cannot see God and hear Him, He sees and He hears what is in our hearts, and that at any moment He stands before us as the Judge of all that transpires in our hearts. What a difference that would make in how we treat sin and how we think of it. We must know the horrible reality of sin in us. Sin must be exposed so that grace might be known as grace.
King David, when he committed the act that I referred to, the sin of adultery and murder, was a child of God. David stands out in the Bible as one of the greatest of men in the Old Testament. There were many graces of God at work in him. He was loyal, faithful, courageous. There are many things about David that we admire and love. Perhaps nothing more than this: David was noble. By God’s grace, David could act without self-interest. He was a noble man. In his early days, when king Saul sought to kill him, David had two opportunities to kill Saul. Both times David spared him. Later on, when a man comes to tell David of Saul’s death, David was overwhelmed with sorrow. He treated Saul’s descendants with kindness. David was, indeed, a noble, generous, and faithful man of God.
But, at the same time, David was capable of one of the most cowardly, lustful, and selfish acts revealed in Scripture. He took another man’s wife and he murdered the man. If you read of that event in II Samuel 12, it is almost unbelievable how this man, David, who in the past had borne such insults against himself, could now plot the death of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. How do you explain it? How could he? Was it a weakness? Was it a phase? Was it the devil? No. It was sin.
You see, when you know the reality of sin within yourself, then you understand why and how David could do what he did. It was sin in him. Are you and I any different than David? When God gives us to see the truth of sin in ourselves, then we do not want to argue anymore about the doctrines of God’s grace. We must want to thank God for those doctrines and believe them with all our heart and mind and soul.
We read in II Samuel 12:13 this conversation between Nathan the prophet and king David. This is after David has been confronted by the prophet Nathan and David has confessed his sin. We read: “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” David said, “I have sinned against the Lord.” The sin that he was confessing was an overwhelming and blinding force in his life. We have to see that first of all. Sin is an overwhelming and blinding force of itself. The angels tremble when they see sin. And if we are in our right spiritual mind, we will too. Sin is not something to play with, to underestimate. Sin is not something that is manageable, containable, negotiable, or trainable in your life. But the horror of sin is that of itself it is a power which takes hold of us, manipulates us. It convinces us that what we are doing is OK, justified. And at the same time, that sin controls our actions.
The Scriptures teach that sin within the child of God is not a dormant thing, that sin is not a redeemable thing, that sin is not something that is to be retrained or reformed. Sin must be crucified; it must be put to death by the power of Christ Jesus.
Our sinful actions are not, therefore, mere weaknesses, something to be explained in terms of culture or our rearing or our lack of education. The remedy for sin is not more training, better decision-making, informed choices. The remedy for sin is found only in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Christ alone can deliver us from sin.
Now the power of sin was seen in the life of David. David’s sin with Bathsheba controlled him so that he swept aside all other interests and considerations, all interests of his family and all considerations of the nation over which he was king. Lust, when he saw Bathsheba, was the sin that gripped him. At the expense of everything else, he was going to have his own way in sin. And apparently all the nobility of God’s grace is overthrown in him. Lust seems to make a different man out of him.
I refer to the fact that, to have Bathsheba as his wife, David saw that he would have to kill her husband Uriah. And he gave an order to do that, in Uriah’s own hand. Uriah was one of David’s most worthy soldiers. In his very hand David sent a note to Joab his general to have Uriah placed in the forefront of the battle so that Uriah would be killed. Joab does what David requests and sends back a report of the battle. The battle had gone badly against the men of Israel. Joab shows, when he sends back his note, that he was not only a good general, but he knew something about the power of sin. He sends a report back to David about the battle. In that report he says, “Things have not gone well.” Something of a mistake was made. He had placed men under the wall where they were exposed. He knew that David, as a warrior, would be annoyed. “Why did you place men so close to the wall, Joab? You ought to know better.” Then Joab, at the end of his note, tacks on these words: “Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” Joab knew that under the grip of his sin all of those other things of the lives of his men being wasted would be unimportant to David. David wanted only one thing: Uriah’s wife. He did not care about the cost. Think of it! Men killed because David wanted his own lust.
Think of that when you are under the grip of rage and temper and you are beside yourself. There is a voice within you warning. But that voice scarcely counts. Rage and self-hurt are in control. And then we say things that we will bitterly regret afterwards. We blow up, no matter the hurt and the consequences. Jealousy, envy, and malice all work the same way. They consume us. A jealous person cannot think of anything but the object of his envy. The fact that the Lord has given us everything that we need, that He has made us, that He has saved us – none of that matters anymore. I want what that other person has. I want to look like he does. I want to have the friends he does. A desire for revenge is the same. Oh how men and women will risk everything for their lust. For a drink, a man will compromise and lose his wife and children. For gambling, a person will stake everything he has on a chance. What is this? It is sin. Sin controls. When you compromise your faith and you walk in the way of sin, and then you say, “Oh, but I can stop, I’m in control,” the Bible says that you and I are, at that moment, fools. Sin sweeps everything aside. It controls.
In David it not only controlled him but it paralyzed his judgment. Do you not think that David, upon some reflection, knew where it was going? Upon a little reflection he could see that he was flaunting God’s law of the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and God’s law of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Do you not think that David knew what he was doing was wrong? He certainly indicated that he knew that when Nathan the prophet came to him to convict him of his sin. Perhaps you will remember that Nathan told him the parable of a poor man’s sheep and of a rich man who took that poor man’s sheep and killed it for his guests. David responded in fury against that action. He certainly knew right from wrong. But, you see, David could not see it in himself.
David was one of the wisest men in the Old Testament. Yet he was guilty of a sin which even a little child could tell him was wrong, shamefully wrong. To take another man’s wife, and to kill that man? Oh, yes. We know. But we can set our heart upon something. We can set our heart upon someone other than God. And, oh, how clever we can be at twisting and perverting what we know to be the truth. That is why when God brings us to true repentance we know we have no excuse for our sin. Our sins are indefensible. In the words of Scripture, we condemn ourselves. We have nothing to say. And if we still make excuses for ourselves and for our sin, then we are under the delusion of sin. Sin is a mighty power. The sin of David was utterly indefensible. It deserved punishment.
Now it is very important that that truth be brought out in a very clear manner to you and to me. That is the value of what we read in the Scriptures. In II Samuel 12:1-7, Nathan, as I said, brought this parable to explain to David what he had done. But that parable, and David’s response to the parable, proved a point. The point was this: According to David’s own judgment, he was totally inexcusable. He had no defense for what he had done. Every plea and excuse was removed that he could possibly offer. And the Scriptures show us that the knowledge we are given as a child of God will always be to condemn ourselves, to show us that our sin is indefensible before God. That is the work of God’s grace – to bring us to that point first – so to speak, to take the ground right out from under our feet and to stop the justifying and defending of our sinful actions. David condemned himself.
As I said, Nathan brought a parable to David to show him what he had done. He said, There were two men in one city: the one rich, the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds. The poor man had nothing save one little ewe lamb which he had brought up and nourished. It had grown up together with him and his children. He treated it as a daughter. The rich man received friends. Instead of taking out of his own herd to feed them, he took that poor man’s little ewe lamb and slaughtered it and fed it to his guests.
When David heard this as he sat on the throne of judgment as God’s king before men, David’s anger was kindled against the rich man. He said, “As the Lord liveth, that man shall surely die.” He had no pity. David diagnosed the root of the sin – self-absorption, cutting off the feelings of another, living totally for oneself.
It was then that Nathan the prophet pointed his finger at David and said, “You are the man. That’s what you did, king David.”
You see, when David, not looking at himself first of all, heard actually what he had done, he delivered a verdict without the slightest hesitation. Removing himself from the sin, looking impartially, he could see how horrible that act was and that it deserved punishment. There were no grounds to defend it. It was utterly abominable. That rich man who took the poor man’s little lamb – where does he come off? There is no excuse for that!
But then, you see, the grace of God gave David to see himself, his own sin. Then David no longer would say concerning Bathsheba, “Well, you know, it was meant to be. We just had to be together. You know, I can’t deny myself. And you know one battle takes one man as well as another.” All of those horrible words and thoughts were stripped from David and he stood naked before God in his sin.
Sin exposed – has that happened to you? You see, it is the whole purpose of the power of God’s Word to penetrate and expose your sin. What church do you attend? Does the preaching of the church expose your sin? Does it show you what you are, and that your only place of refuge, by the grace of God, is the cross of Jesus Christ? Does the preaching of the Word of God that you hear in your church not make you feel good about yourself, but show you what you are of yourself and point you to the only way of escape, through the blood of Jesus Christ? The purpose of God’s Word is exactly that. It is the act of God’s mercy to pierce through that hard heart of yours, to slay you, and to remove from you your self-justifications.
You see, we are not impartial judges of our own hearts and actions. We are not good judges of ourselves. We need the Word of God. We would always be on the defensive. We would always color our actions in the best possible light. We can become remarkably clever at explaining why we do what we do. We like to persuade ourselves, dupe ourselves into thinking that all is well. The other person, after all, is worse than I am. Really, there is nothing wrong with me!
It is pride. Every one of us, fallen in Adam, exalts himself and will not look at himself in the light of God’s Word. It is the grace of God which exposes sin and shows us that we are indefensible. It takes the ground right from under our feet.
That grace goes farther, stripping away our excuses and exposing us. But that grace must always give us to see our sin in the light of God. That was David’s confession: “I have sinned before the Lord.” Now David had certainly sinned before others, too. He had sinned before the whole nation of Israel. He was the king, after all. He had sinned before the nations of the world. Kings of the nations in those days, just like today, looked at each other. And, oh, how the wicked kings liked to hear about this one, of what the king of Israel had done. Israel, who worshiped Jehovah as the only God – look at what their king did! He functions just like we do. He is no different than we are. Oh, the ridicule that was brought upon God’s name.
All of these things weighed upon David, too, as God brought him to repentance. Yet, the source of his sorrow was decidedly God-ward. “I have sinned against God – in the light of all of His grace, and mercy to me. I have sinned against Thee. Thee only have I sinned against,” he says in Psalm 51.
But that is not the end of it. Oh, there is the glorious grace of God.
For the reply of God came to him, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin. Thou shalt not die. The Lord hath put away thy sin.” Oh, wonderful words, words that mean that God, through Christ, erased our sin from His book, not simply put it away to be retrieved possibly in the future. That word “put away, forgive” means “send away” – send away in everlasting forgiveness, send away in this way, that God actually placed them upon His Own Son upon the cross. He poured out the wrath and the judgment that our sins deserved so that those sins are put away in this sense: they are forgiven, they have been paid in the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the gospel, II Corinthians 5:21, “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Oh, glorious gospel: Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, came, of the grace of God, to take the position of all those elected of the Father and to offer Himself upon the cross for their sins, to remove the guilt and the penalty and thereby to open the door of heaven for them. He suffered. He endured the cruel death of the cross, bearing all the judgment of God against us. In Him God has pardoned the sins of His people. All our sins – those utterly inexcusable, indefensible, perverted sins. He has paid the price.
And He has given grace, the grace of the Holy Spirit, to see and repent of our sins and to turn to God, now with a new heart, not a heart of lust but a heart passionate and desirous to be obedient to Him.
David was brought to repentance. The life that God had given to him was preserved and brought to repentance.
Have you thanked God for this? Do you know the gospel of God’s grace of forgiveness? Do you know what God has done through Jesus Christ? Do you show forth gratitude? Do you thank Him?
Then, you must understand that the grace of God has a purpose to hollow you out, to expose your sin, but not to leave you in despair, not to leave you simply with yourself, but to fill you with His grace.
No, we do not want to argue about the doctrines of God’s grace. Salvation is entirely of grace. There is no human merit in it. Salvation is not due to any human power. We do not want to argue about that when we know the power of sin. In the light of the power of sin that we see within ourselves, oh, how grace appears so lovely and so beautiful. Christ, and Him crucified, so that now sin is not an invincible power, but the grace of God is the mighty, irresistible reality in our lives.
May God bless this word to our hearts.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word. Bring it to our hearts with power and assurance. Amen.