2 Sam. 12:1-14
I've got to nominate Nathan as one of the bravest and wisest men in Scripture. He was called to a job that no one would've volunteered for: Personally confront and accuse the King of wrongdoing and call him to account. Although David was a good man and was theoretically under the Law, you never could tell in situations like this. One word from David could make his life very unpleasant and short.
You also have to admire his tactical approach. I remember reading a book about persuading people, and it emphasized that telling a story can lower someone’s defenses like nothing else. His allegorical fiction had its intended effect: David was furious with the offender who had stolen the beloved lamb. His hypocrisy was striking—he was all bent out of shape over stealing an animal, when he himself was guilty of stealing an innocent man’s wife and life. Don’t you think it would make a great scene in a movie: Nathan points his finger at David and exclaims “You are the man!”
I’ve mentioned before that the preceding chapter was the low point for David, but this is a turned corner for him, and his nobler qualities start shining through. Think about all the responses that he could've made. He didn’t threaten Nathan to silence, he didn’t plot and arrange murder #2, and best of all, he didn’t make any excuses for his behavior. Notice the huge difference between David and Saul when confronted by a prophet in 1 Sam. 13:1-11. Saul coughed up a list of excuses for his disobedience, and God was most definitely not impressed. When Nathan brought David face-to-face with his sin, the next words out of his mouth were “I have sinned against the Lord.” No denials or excuses. Just straight up confession and (implied) repentance.
And please note the next words out of Nathan’s mouth: “The Lord has taken away your sin.” And where did that sin go? It didn't just disappear into the ether. Where did the Lord take it? As New Testament believers, we know that his sin (along with yours and mine) was placed upon the Lord Jesus on the cross and was judged there.
David had committed two crimes worthy of the death penalty under the Law (adultery and murder), but he'd been pardoned. But notice the second half of the pronouncement: He'd been forgiven by the Lord, but would still have to bear some earthly consequences for his sin. This story illustrates the perfect balance in Scripture. 1 John 1:9 is one of my favorite promises in the Bible, and it’s very clear: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Theoretically, I could pull out a gun, shoot a man dead, and then ask God to forgive me, and he will. What the Lord does not promise, however, is to spare me from the electric chair or prison. In fact, I can expect quite the opposite. Forgiveness from God is free for the asking, but the earthly consequences might affect me for a lifetime.
So today’s reading has messages for two groups of people. If you think God could never forgive that sin, look at David and take heart. If you're tempted to sin just because you know God’s grace will cover it, look at David and take a step back.
Father, thank you for the full, free forgiveness I have in Christ. Lord Jesus, your precious blood saves from wrath and makes me pure. The words "thank you" seem so inadequate, so let me demonstrate it with my life.