As a result of his victory over Goliath, David instantly became a national hero. After Saul’s death, David ascended the throne and skillfully led and united Israel into a powerful nation (2 Sam. 5:1-5).
One spring evening, when he should have been leading his men in battle (2 Sam. 11:1), David “walked around on the roof of the palace” and saw a beautiful woman bathing (2 Sam. 11:2). The middle-aged monarch who had conquered numerous external foes now faced a dangerous internal threat — a giant called lust.
Rather than face and strike down this inner Goliath “in the name of the Lord Almighty” (1 Sam. 17:45), “David sent someone to find out about” the woman (2 Sam. 11:3). Lust then drew its sword and, with one swift blow, struck down the man after God’s own heart (2 Sam. 11:4-5).
David made no attempt to confess his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. When he learned that Bathsheba was pregnant (2 Sam. 11:5), David orchestrated a scheme to cover up his sin that resulted in the murder of Bathsheba’s husband (2 Sam. 11:6-16). David felt confident he had covered his tracks. However, the Holy Spirit picked up the foul scent of his sin and followed it to the palace.
David kept up appearances on the outside, but was suffering on the inside (Ps. 51:3) because the Holy Spirit was doing His job of conviction (Ps. 32:4a). Sadly, David chose to resist that conviction and continued to remain silent about his sin for almost a year (Ps. 32:3a).
12:1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.
Over a period of time, David’s conscience became numb and unresponsive to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. Therefore, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin.
12:2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle,
12:3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
12:4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
Nathan cleverly told David a powerful story of a rich man’s oppressive act against a poor man who had nothing except one little ewe lamb (v. 3). Nathan described how the rich man had callously exploited the poor man by taking his only lamb.
12:5 David burned with anger [a righteous anger or moral indignation] against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man [the rich man] who did this deserves to die [David said the man deserved to die even though this man had not committed murder (theft of a lamb not a capital crime)]!
David responded to Nathan’s story with moral indignation (v. 5). Although theft of a lamb (v. 4) was not a capital crime, David said the rich man deserved to die (v. 5). He then ordered that the merciless rich man make restitution for his crime by paying for the lamb four times over (v. 6; see Ex. 22:1).
Like David, many people today neither understand nor acknowledge the seriousness of sin. Some people try to justify their sinful behavior with statements such as “Everybody’s doing it,” or “It’s OK as long as I don’t get caught.” Others have a Teflon coating and refuse to accept any responsibility for their sin. Still others think they can sweep their sin under the rug or try to cover one sin with another.
We must understand that we cannot hide our sins from God and that our sins always have terrible consequences. One answer to the question, What can I do about my sin? is that I must realize sin’s seriousness.
12:6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
David clearly recognized the seriousness of the rich man’s sin but failed to see the seriousness of his own sin. David “burned with anger” (12:5) against the rich man who “had no pity” on the poor man (12:6). Ironically, David had not yet come to terms with his own lack of pity for Uriah (see 2 Sam. 11:14-15).
David was quick to condemn the rich man for taking the poor man’s lamb even though he was guilty of the greater crime of taking another man’s wife. Like David, many people are better at seeing others’ faults than facing their own (see Matt. 7:3-5).
12:7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.
Nathan drove home the point of his story with four words that sliced through the callus that had formed around David’s heart — You are the man! (v. 7). David instantly felt the sting of Nathan’s dramatic statement.
Like the rich man in Nathan’s story, David was guilty of having misused his position of power to exploit a less powerful man. Nathan reminded David of all God had given him (v. 7). David lacked for nothing (v. 8). And yet, like the rich man in the Nathan’s story, he took what did not belong to him.
12:8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.
12:9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
Nathan accused David of despising or scorning the word of the Lord (v. 9). Proverbs 13:13 states, “He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.” In many ways, our lives are a commentary on this verse. We despise God’s Word when we do what is evil in His eyes (v. 9; see Ps. 51:4).
We must always keep in mind that God sees everything we do (see Ps. 139:1-3). We can never do anything behind God’s back. The fact that God sees everything we do should serve as an incentive to holy living. In addition to realizing sin’s seriousness, a second answer to the question, What can I do about my sin? is that I must face my own sinfulness.
12:10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
The Bible teaches that no person can sin with impunity (see Col. 3:25) or violate the law of the harvest (see Gal. 6:7). Although David confessed his sin and received forgiveness, he nonetheless would suffer consequences. Nathan told David the sword would never depart from his house because he had despised God (v. 10).
Nathan said David’s family would experience terrible calamities, including the brutal, public ravaging of his wives (see 2 Sam. 16:20-22). The personal calamities David experienced included the deaths of Bathsheba’s baby (v. 14; 2 Sam. 12:15-19) and David’s sons Amnon (2 Sam. 13:32), Absalom (2 Sam. 18:14), and Adonijah (1 Kings 2:25).
12:11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.
12:12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
12:13 Then David said to Nathan [obeyed the Lord by courageously confronting David about his sin], “I have sinned against the LORD [all sin is against the Lord; cf. Ps. 51:4; we must first own then disown our sins].” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die [cf. Deut. 22:22].
Nathan’s powerful story and bold accusation accomplished their intended result. David accepted full responsibility for his actions. The powerful monarch could have had Nathan killed or evicted from the palace. Instead, David listened to the courageous prophet and humbled himself and repented. He admitted to Nathan that he had sinned against the Lord (v. 13).
When Saul, David’s predecessor, violated the command of the Lord, he said, “I have sinned” (see 1 Sam. 15:24). David however understood that he had sinned against God (v. 13; see also Ps. 51:4). We too must realize that all sin is against God. Before we can ever say yes to sin we must first say no to God. When we say no to God we not only despise His word (2 Sam. 12:9), we also despise Him (see 2 Sam. 12:10).
Nathan’s accusation caused David to come to grips with where and how far he had actually wandered from God. David turned and began his journey back to God when he said, I have sinned against the Lord (v. 13). Nathan then assured David that God had taken away or forgiven his sin (see Ps. 32:1-2). He also assured the penitent monarch that he was not going to die (v. 13), as prescribed by the Mosaic law (see Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22).
Facing and admitting sins often is a difficult and emotional experience. However, some people are too proud to hear and accept the truth about their sinful actions. Others react angrily to those who point out or even suggest they have done wrong. Some people make excuses, search for loopholes, or point to extenuating circumstances when confronted with their sin. Others try to go on with their lives and act as though nothing happened.
However, before we can receive forgiveness from God we must first confess our sins. We must own up to and then disown our sins. We must acknowledge and then abandon them. In addition to realizing sin’s seriousness and facing our own sinfulness, a third answer to the question, What can I do about my sin? is that I must admit my sins.
12:14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
The Bible also teaches that no person sins in a vacuum. The consequences of our actions impact the lives of others and the reputation of God. Sadly, David’s sin had given the enemies of the Lord an opportunity to show utter contempt or to point a finger at Israel and God (v. 14).
Perhaps this is what David had in mind when he wrote, “May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the Lord Almighty; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me, O God of Israel” (Ps. 69:6). We too must remember that as a result of our sin we can damage our witness and become a stumbling block to others.
The Bible teaches that sin brings terrible consequences, and some temporal consequences may not be removed even when God has forgiven the sinner. When we are faced with temptation, we need to remember that sin’s sting is deadly.
We must understand that sin is a clever merchant who is open for business twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Sin has a large sales staff trained to offer convenient service. Sin offers quick delivery and a variety of payment options. But sin always requires payment and charges a very high interest rate.
Sin may give a person what they want but it will always take what they have. In addition to realizing sin’s seriousness, facing our own sinfulness, and admitting our sins, a fourth answer to the question, What can I do about my sin? is that I must remember sin’s consequences.
Note: What can I do about my sin?
C = Come to terms with God about your sin. Understand what He has to say about it and what you should do to avoid it in the future.
O = Own up to your sins. Do not try to excuse or justify sinful acts.
N = Never try to hide your sin. God knows all your hiding places.
F = Forsake your sin. Do not repeat the things that will distance you from God.
E = Envision the consequences of your choices.
S = Say “yes” to God. Do not scorn God or His Word.
S = Say “no” to sin. The free cheese in the mouse trap really isn’t free!
12:15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill.
12:16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground.
12:17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
12:18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
12:19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
12:20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
12:21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”
12:22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’
12:23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
12:24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him;
12:25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.
12:26 Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel.
12:27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply.
12:28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.”
12:29 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it.
12:30 David took the crown from their king’s head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city
12:31 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.