by Joe Harrington
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
David who is described as a man after Gods own heart.
David who was anointed as Gods chosen king.
David who fought and defeated the giant Goliath.
David who brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem.
David who stands at the head of the long line to eternity.
David who seems almost like a perfect storybook character.
David who has another side.
David who is a sinner.
Todays text starts with the wife of Uriah learning that her husband was dead. But
lets look back just a moment, review the story, and see why he died.
While the army was in the field fighting the enemies of Israel, David was overcome by
lust and committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. Their secret sin
was threatened with publicity when it turned out that she was pregnant. As seems so often
the case with the powerful, Davids thoughts turned immediately to cover-up. He
needed to get Uriah home and with his wife, so that it would seem that the baby was his.
Uriah, being a loyal soldier, did not cooperate with the plan. He refused to enjoy the
pleasures of being home when his friends and comrades were still on the battlefield.
Plan B called for getting rid of Uriah. David then arranged for Uriah to return to
battle where he was intentionally left exposed and killed. Indirect murder. Conspiracy to
murder. David did not fire the arrow, but he was as guilty of killing Uriah as if he had.
We still recognize this legal principle todayCobb County recently prosecuted Fred
Tokars for this exact same crime. He felt that he needed someone out of the way, so he
arranged for her to be killed. Just like David and Uriah. Our legal system says that Fred
Tokars is a murderer. Just like David.
And so, after a short period of mourning, the wife of Uriah becomes the wife of David.
Did she know about Davids involvement in Uriahs death? We dont know, our
narrator never says one way or the other. Our narrator does let us know that she was
shrewd and powerful. She did not hesitate to use that power when it came to insuring that
her son Solomon became king, but we dont know if she was aware of how Uriah died.
Anyway, Bathsheba presented David with a son and they all lived happily ever after.
Wrong! David was anything but happy. He was very much aware of what he had done and of the
fact that it was displeasing to the LORD. Our narrator does not tell us this, he simply
skips forward several months, but David himself tells us much in the thirty-second and
fifty-first Psalms. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before
me. [PSALM 51:3 NRSV:] While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my
groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was
dried up as by the heat of summer. [PSALM 32:3-4 NRSV]
I can just imagine David waking up in the middle of the night, cold with sweat,
dreaming of Uriah. A Uriah who would have had no power against the king when alive, but a
Uriah whose memory had great power to make the king suffer.
And David suffered. He lost sleep. He couldnt eat right. His mind was suffering
so badly that he was physically ill. His body was wasting away, his strength fading. But
his sins were still a secret. Nobody knew, at least nobody but God.
And in Gods good time, God did something. God sent Nathan.
God did not send Nathan right after David committed adultery.
God did not send Nathan right after Bathsheba told David that she was pregnant.
God did not send Nathan right after Uriah was murdered.
God did not send Nathan right after David took Bathsheba as his wife.
God did not send Nathan right after the baby was born.
God sent Nathan when God was ready for David to be confronted with his sins.
God chooses Gods time and God chooses it perfectly. We may not agree with
Gods timing. We may wonder sometimes why God does not act when we think it is time
to act, but Gods timing is always right.
And God sent Nathan, God didnt send Joab, who knew what had happened. After all
he was the one who made sure Uriah was up there where the arrows were flying thickest. God
didnt send Zadok, Davids priest. After all he would have been the one who
performed sacrifices and made offerings on Davids behalf. God sent Nathan. Nathan
the prophet who had described for David the long line to eternity, the long line of the
House of David. Nathan, a friend who has the ear of the king.
Stop here for a minute. Think for a minute that you are in Nathans shoes. He has
been sent by God to confront the king. To confront the king about a matter in which he had
already had one man killed and possibly even others who were not even involved, merely
fighting alongside Uriah. Remember also that David had killed the messengers who brought
news of Sauls death and the messenger who brought news of Ishbosheths death.
Nathan was going into a situation where he could easily loose a friend and his place at
court, and possibly loose his life. Nathan is sent and he goes, we arent told how
much hesitation he may have had, but we are told that he goes.
Nathan approaches the situation carefully, telling David the story about the rich man,
the poor man, and the poor mans little ewe lamb. David, thinking that Nathan is
presenting him with a real story as supreme judge of Israel, is outraged at such an abuse
of power. When he says that the rich man deserves to die, he is not passing sentence, but
rather speaking of his character. He does however call on the law and demand a restitution
using the formula from Exodus 22.
God now has David right where he wants him and uses Nathan to jerk the string,
You are the man!
The full impact of it all hits David and he understands. I have sinned against
the LORD. David confesses, not just that he had broken the laws, that he had done
wrong by Bathsheba, wrong by Uriah. He confesses that he has sinned againt Yahweh who had
put him where he is. Yahweh who had given him Saul's kingdom, given him everything that
Saul had had. and would have given him more. And Yahweh forgives him. Yahweh says through
Nathan, "Now the LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die.
Remember though that the Earthly punishments that Yahweh and Nathan pronounced against
David still applied. The child born from the adulterous union still died. David still had
rebellion in his house. He lost other sons. He continued to live under the sword and
suffer the consequences caused by his sins. But the LORD put away his sin. He no longer
struggled with the same anguish that had plagued him for the last months.
David again tells us in the Psalm how he feels.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, "I will
confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the guilt of my sin. [Psalm
Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Happy are those
to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. [Psalms
Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in
the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright
in heart. [Psalm 32:10-11 NRSV]
But David was special to God, right. Can he forgive any of us in the same manner?
Lets look at a contemporary situation with an extreme case. Some of you may remember
about Jeffery Dahmer. Dahmer was a man who revolts us to extreme. He was a man who invited
other young men into his home, sexually abused them, killed them, cut their bodies into
pieces, and ate them. Most of us would agree that he was an evil man.
If ever our human sensibilities tell us a man deserved to die and to suffer for all
eternity, it would be Jeffery Dahmer. He struggled with the same inner feelings that David
described in his Psalms. He could not be at peace, he couldnt sleep, he
couldnt eat. But God sent Mary Mott. Mary couldnt confront Jeffery face to
face, but she wrote to him, and sent him Bible lessons. He completed them and wrote back
to her. She confronted him with the reality that it was not just the men he killed and
their families that he wronged; he had sinned against God. That was why he suffered
Through this confrontation and with the help of a prison minister named Roy Ratcliff,
Jeffery Dahmer confessed his sins, he repented, and was baptized on May 10, 1994, just
months before he was himself murdered in the prison yard. Just two weeks before he was
murdered, Jeffery told a television reporter that he was at peace with himself and with
God. He still had his prison term to serve, but he was at peace with God.
Do we believe this story? I dont know what is in someones heart, so I
cant say whether or not Jeffery Dahmers repentance was real or not. But God
knows and I can believe that it was genuine. Are we offended that he might be in heaven
for all eternity? Many are, but if we say that, we are saying that some sins are too bad
for God to forgive. I cant say that. If we try to draw a line, how do we know where
it should be. How can we be offended by God forgiving Jeffery Dahmer and not offended by
God forgiving David? Or forgiving me? Or forgiving you?
As someone else said, maybe once every generation or so, God picks someone like Jeffery
Dahmer to be an example for us. God can hold this notorious sinner up and say, If I
can forgive Jeffery Dahmer, I can forgive anyone. If I can forgive him, I can forgive
And we can look to the twenty-third chapter of Luke for another documented example.
When Jesus was crucified, there were two other men crucified along with him. Luke tells us
they were criminals, but does not give us anymore about their history. Matthew and Mark
both say they were bandits, but that doesnt tell us much more. But we know that they
were there. Luke tells us a little about what went on while they were hanging on the
cross. We know that they were guilty of whatever they were charged with because one of
them confessed, And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we
deserve for our deeds. Then professed his faith in Jesus when he said, Jesus,
remember me when you come into your kingdom. We know that he was forgiven because
Jesus then replied, Today you will be with me in Paradise.
Whether our sin is adultery and cover-up and murder; or whether its murder and
mutilation; or whether its coveting our neighbors new car; it is sin and
Gods standard is perfection. God does not care how far short of the mark we fall,
only that we fall short, and we all fall short. And we are told that Gods penalty
for falling short is eternal death. The anguish that David suffered and wrote about is
only just the beginning. But When God forgives our sins, he forgives all of our sins and
imputes to us the perfection that he requires. Then we can rejoice in our forgiveness for
all of eternity.