3 Lessons from Davids Fall and Forgiveness

Editors’ note: 

Take part in TGCs Read the Bible initiative, where were encouraging Christians and churches to read together through Gods Word in a year.

As we face our sin, we have to navigate between two unbiblical ditches. One is despairing that our sin is beyond forgiveness. The other is carelessly thinking we can violate Gods commands without experiencing painful repercussions.

The fall of David in 2 Samuel 11 is one of the saddest accounts in all of Scripture. Yet it also has great value as it offers us hope about the greatness of Gods forgiving gracewhile also warning us about the terrible consequences of sin, even forgiven sin.

As we reach 2 Samuel 11, David is at his pinnacle. His throne has been established, his enemies have been subdued, and preparations are being made for building the temple in Jerusalem. Then suddenly David falls into heinous sin when he steals a mans wife and then has her husband murdered as part of the coverup (2 Sam. 11). The Lord then sends the prophet Nathan to confront David over his sin (2 Sam. 12). David repents. God forgives. But David still has to suffer the consequences of his sin.

There are at least three practical lessons we can learn from the aftermath of Davids sin in 2 Samuel 12.

1. Gods Amazing Grace to Those Who Repent

When David is confronted by Nathan, he confesses: I have sinned against the LORD (2 Sam. 12:13). Then Nathan the prophet declares, The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die (v. 13). Gods forgiveness of David includes:

  • Temporal judicial forgiveness. The Lord sets aside the requirement of the law that murderers and adulterers be put to death (Lev. 20:10; 24:17). Davids life is spared, and his throne is not taken from him.
  • Spiritual forgiveness. God reconciles David to himself. David later writes, Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity (Ps. 32:12). Paul later uses the example of Gods forgiveness of David to show that Gods way of salvation has always been to the unworthy, by grace through faith (Rom. 4:48).

While Im saddened by the account of Davids great sin, Im thankful that these events are recorded in Scripture.

While Im saddened by the account of Davids great sin, Im thankful these events are recorded in Scripture. What wonderful hope Gods grace offers to sinners like us, especially when were aware of how shameful our sins are. God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). He saves the sexually immoral and murderers who repent (including abusers and those who have been involved in abortion). God invites sinners to run to him for compassion and abundant pardon (Isa. 55:67)

2. Forgiven Sin Still Has Consequences

While its wonderful to read of Gods lavish forgiveness, we should also pay careful attention to the painful and fitting consequences the Lord brought upon David for his sin. Were told Davids chastisement was necessary both to uphold the Lords reputation (2 Sam. 12:14) and also to teach future generations that sin has consequences (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4). As I’ve studied the latter part of Davids life, Ive often wondered if it would’ve been easier on him not to have lived to see the horrible events of his final years (recorded in 2 Sam. 1324).

Just consider how Gods words through Nathan played out:

  • The sword shall never depart from your house (2 Sam. 12:10). God shatters the peace and stability David had spent a lifetime establishing, as his kingdom is torn apart by two civil wars.
  • I will raise up evil against you out of your own house (2 Sam. 12:1112). The shameful sexual sin and murderous violence in which David engaged secretly is practiced openly by his sons, Amnon and Absalom.
  • The child . . . shall die. (2 Sam. 12:14). The baby conceived by Davids sin died seven days after he was born (2 Sam. 12:1523).

Many professing Christians take sin far too lightly. The example of David should remind us that God doesn’t.

Many professing Christians take sin far too lightly. The example of David should remind us that God doesn’t. As Calvin asked, If God did not spare his servant David, what right do we have to expect to be exempted? I have counseled sexually immoral believers who have contracted a disease and were divorced by their spouses. Ive known child abusers who have gone to prison. Ive counseled men who lost their jobs for looking at porn at work.

God forgives sin with great grace and at great price. Such love should motivate us to flee from sin and pursue righteousness (2 Tim. 2:22). But if love wont, then the consequences of sin might (1 Tim. 5:20).

3. We Need a Better King Than David

This is a central theme in 1 and 2 Samuel. While David surpasses those who came before (and after) him as leaders in Israel, he still falls short of what Gods people need. While his good qualities as the man after Gods own heart point ahead to Christ, his fall into sin reminds us that we need a worthier king.

Jesus, the Son of David, is the flawless leader who never failed when he was tested. He had no sins to cover up. He never once abused his power. Israel’s daughters were safe with him. Moreover, it was because of God’s plan to put Jesus forward as a propitiation 1,000 years later that he was able to forgive the sins of Old Testament saints like David (Rom. 3:2526), along with all the rest of us who fall short of Gods standard (Rom. 3:2324).

Wonderfully Balanced

Scripture is wonderfully balanced. While Gods grace encourages sinners to turn to him for forgiveness, his chastisement should also encourage us not to take sin lightly (Heb. 3:15; 12:5). Davids example reminds us that forgiven sin still has consequences, but that bitter consequences don’t mean we’re not forgiven.

Forgiven sin still has consequences, [but] bitter consequences dont mean were not forgiven.

Behold the kindness and severity of God as you read 2 Samuel 12. Don’t doubt God’s willingness to forgive even the greatest sins, and dont test God by indulging in sin while assuming you’ll be able to repent later. Many other sinners (including Saul and many of the kings who followed David) were hardened in their rebellion and did not find repentance. Dont use the pretext of forgiveness to rationalize your sin. Sin is never worth it.

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