“David’s Great Fall and God’s Gracious Restoration”
(2 Samuel 12:7, 13-14 – Pentecost 4 – July 7, 2019)
2 Samuel 12:7, 13-14 – Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”… So 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.”
Dear fellow believers in Christ – Redeemed, Restored, and Forgiven by the Lord:
Our text takes us to the city of Jerusalem, into the palace of Israel’s famous King David. But things are not as they once were. David, who was known for his rejoicing, is now downcast and gloomy. Though he is used to speaking to God as a friend to a friend, now his lips are sealed in silence. Once, the halls of the royal mansion resounded with the psalms and spiritual songs of Israel’s singer. But now David’s voice and harp are quiet. Peace and joy have left his heart. Why this change? He has committed a terrible wrong. Israel’s king and saint has fallen.
Let us recount the recent history. While the army of Israel was out fighting battles against the enemy, this time King David had chosen to stay behind in Jerusalem. One day, while walking on the roof of the palace, he saw a woman named Bathsheba bathing. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, one of David’s brave and faithful soldiers who was off to war. One thing led to another, and David entered an illicit affair with Uriah’s wife. When Bathsheba conceived, David tried to cover up his sin of adultery by yet another sin. He sent a letter to Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, telling him to send Uriah to the front lines where the battle was the fiercest. Then Joab was to retreat from Uriah so that he would be struck down by the enemy. The plot worked. Uriah fell in battle. Thus to the sin of adultery, David had added murder. But that was not all. Now to murder was added hypocrisy and deceit. Bathsheba entered a period of mourning. David too put on a false show of sympathy for his fallen hero, Uriah. But as soon as the customary time of mourning was past, David had Bathsheba brought to the palace and she became his wife. In time, the son of their sinful affair was born.
Our text leads us to consider “David’s Great Fall and God’s Gracious Restoration.” We ask: 1) How could he fall so terribly into sin? and 2) How did God graciously restore him?
1) How could he fall so terribly into sin?
Normally, we remember David for his great trust in the Lord. For example, we think of the time when David fought so valiantly against the enemy giant Goliath when he was still young. We remember David as the one whom the Holy Spirit inspired to write many Psalms in Scripture. Therefore, how could such a great man as David fall so terribly into sin?
First, we notice that it happened during a period of idleness. Idleness and laziness are the devil’s workshop. While Israel’s armies were off to war fighting against the enemy, David was lounging around the palace taking life easy. He was shirking his duty as Israel’s king and leader. Shirking one’s God-given calling follows naturally from leaving God out of one’s life. More specifically, we are talking about spiritual idleness that leads to a fall.
How often it happens. A person begins to stay home instead of going to God’s house, for reasons of laziness and worldly interests. He feels less and less need for being in God’s Word and partaking of the Lord’s Supper, less and less need for forgiveness and strengthening in the faith, less and less need for mutual fellowship and encouragement with other believers. First He neglects his spiritual needs, becoming lazy toward God. Then he shirks his Christian calling and duty. He serves himself instead of God. He gives up fighting the good fight of faith. So it should come as no surprise when he ends up falling into some grievous sin, and into a path of impenitence, just like David.
May this lesson teach us never to lay our spiritual armor down, never to cease to live for God and true faith above all. The people of God had gone out to battle in the name of the Lord, but David had lingered at Jerusalem in the name of his own interests, and he fell.
Along with idleness, we see that David fell because he did not turn away from temptation. While walking on the roof of the palace, he witnessed that sight of Bathsheba which he should not have seen. He should have turned away at once, praying for strength.
We live amidst a perverse and adulterous world. Scenes of immorality and seduction pop up before our eyes in advertisements, in movies, on the internet, in picture and in print. Scripture exhorts us to flee temptation, like Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s seductive wife. Guard your senses and guard your heart. Remember that you are living in a daily spiritual battle. Satan wants your soul. Keep your guard up against temptations to evil all around. David failed to do so and fell.
But along with this, he also failed to keep vigilant watch against a treacherous enemy living within his own heart. When a person becomes a Christian, he is not yet rid of the Old Adam. The sinful nature is something that clings to him all the way to the grave. We must be on guard against our sinful nature lest we fall into temptation. Jesus warned us: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Consider the variety of temptations we face through life, temptations which may change in form or strength as we age. In certain times of life we may find ourselves dealing with temptations to sexual immorality, like David. But at other times, we are just as strongly tempted to live with bitterness of heart, harboring an angry and unforgiving spirit – a spirit akin to murder, which ruins not only our relationship with people but with God. There are temptations to doubt, despair, and unbelief in God’s promises. There are temptations to take pride in our success, our wealth, our reputation – idolatrous pride that leaves no room in our heart for God.
James 1:14-15 warns: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” We know Satan’s ultimate goal in every temptation. It is to lead us away from caring about our relationship to Christ, the Savior of sinners. It is to lead us to a state of impenitence, spiritual death, and finally eternal death.
Nothing can guard us from temptation and evil but the grace of God working in us. We all continually need God’s Spirit working in our heart through His Word and Sacraments. Through these means of grace, He convicts us of our sin and brings His forgiveness in Christ to us. By these means He strengthens us for the daily battle, and keeps us in true faith unto eternal life.
2) How did God graciously restore him?
Now let us see how God graciously restored a man who had fallen so greatly into sin. Time passed with the nine months of Bathsheba’s pregnancy, then her period of mourning, and finally David taking her to be his wife. For so long, David had been walking in a state of impenitence and unbelief, living a lie on a path to hell. But now the gracious Lord sent His prophet Nathan on a rescue mission, to show David his sin and bring him back to repentance and spiritual life.
The prophet presented a case for the king to judge. Nathan reported two men who were neighbors. The one was rich in flocks and herds and the other was poor. One day a visitor came to the rich man’s house. The rich man wanted to provide a meal for his guest, but was unwilling to take from his own flock. Instead, he took his poor neighbor’s one and only pet lamb and had it prepared. Nathan wanted to hear the king’s verdict on this. 2 Samuel 12:5-7 reports: “David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.’ Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’ “
In a moment, David saw all that he had done, all that he had been trying to hide for so long. God had so richly blessed him in life with more than he could ask for. In return, he had sinned so horribly against God and his poor neighbor. Conviction pierced his heart like an arrow. He bowed his head. Tears ran down his cheeks as he sank down before God in repentance.
The account continues with David’s confession and the Lord’s absolution: “So 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. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die’ ” (2 Samuel 12:13-14).
For seven days David withdrew, fasting and praying in behalf of his son. He spent the nights lying on the floor, brokenhearted over his terrible fall. If ever there were words that expressed grief and humiliation, it is those we read in Psalms 32 and 51, where David would write of his utter sinfulness. But in these, we also hear of his trust in God’s gracious forgiveness to save him.
Notice David’s response when the sword of God’s Law cut to his heart and the Holy Spirit convicted his conscience. He made no excuses. He did not blame anyone else. He did not point to difficult circumstances in life. He made a simple and straightforward confession of his sin.
As long as a sinner takes a defensive stance against God’s Law, seeking to justify himself in his way, unwilling to make such a confession of his sin before God, there is no true repentance. Through Scripture, we find that where repentance is sincere, confession is simple and straightforward. David says: “I have sinned against the LORD.” Jesus spoke of the tax collector in the temple who prayed: “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). So too as we come before God as miserable sinners, let us do away with all self-justifying hypocrisy and hiding. Let us sincerely confess our sins in thought, word, and deed, desiring to amend our sinful ways, seeking only God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Jesus our Savior.
As we see in our text, where there is sincere repentance, there immediately follows God’s gracious restoration. Through His servant, God declares His unconditional forgiveness. Instead of casting away the miserable sinner who has fallen so terribly, God fully restores him. God removes our sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), never to be held against us. This is because God, in His infinite love, gave His own Son to pay for our sins in full. On the cross Jesus became as the chief of sinners, taking all our horrible sin and judgment on Himself.
It is for the sake of Jesus alone that God declares: “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” We are not going to receive the eternal death and damnation we deserved. Instead, God has restored us to His favor. He has lifted us up from our fallen state. He has united us with His Son through baptism and faith, making us His children. He has covered us completely in Jesus’ perfect righteousness, that we may inherit eternal life with Him.
David would have to face some bitter consequences of sin in his life. The child born to him and Bathsheba died. And as Nathan also declared from the Lord, the sword would now never leave David’s house. There would be treachery and rebellion within the royal family. David’s later years would often be marked by mourning and heartache over the temporal effects of sin.
There are times when we too must face lingering pains and regrets related to sins of the past. But like David, we can cast all our burdens on the Lord, knowing that we live each day in His grace – for God declares us redeemed, restored, and forgiven in the name of Jesus. And like David, we gladly come to God’s house of worship, eager to hear His gracious Word and receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Supper, for our forgiveness and strength of faith. We cling to our Savior’s words of eternal life daily, strengthened by His promise that one day He will deliver us at last from all sin and its effects, when He brings us into His perfect heavenly home forever.
Then, being restored through God’s gracious promises in Christ, we can say with David in Psalm 30:11-12: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.