Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.Nathan and David
2 Samuel 12:7
Holy Scripture leaves us in no manner of doubt as to the general character of David (1 Samuel 13:14). So that we cannot doubt of David's favour and acceptance with God before he sinned so grievously. Moreover, his own writings have come down to us as witness of his affection towards God; his Psalms say plainly what his mind must have been, for we still use them, as they have ever been used in the Church of God both by Jews and Christians, as the best expression of our devout affections towards God; we can find no language so fit in which to clothe our own offerings of praise, or prayer, or thanksgiving; no words of Repentance so deep and earnest as those in the fifty-first Psalm, where David confesses before God the very sin referred to in this chapter.
But, notwithstanding all this, we see David here speaking to Nathan like a man whose conscience made no answer to the parable of the prophet; we see him so devout before his sin, and so penitent afterwards, yet apparently (for the moment) quite unconscious of his great offence; so that he needs to have his own righteous indignation turned backwards by the prophet's word upon himself; to be plainly told—'Thou art the man'.
I. We have before us, then, in David's conduct under the reproof of Nathan, an instance of one of the saddest effects of sin; we see that, so long as it is willingly entertained by us, sin overpowers the conscience and destroys it—that, so long as sin is living and reigning there, the soul is dead, for the Holy Spirit is grieved and silent, or has departed from us; and, so long as this is the case, all hope of recovery or deliverance is at an end. Whatever our sin may be, we may yet be saved, if we find grace to repent of it. But the very first consequence of sin is a deadness and insensibility of soul; with every advance in sin our own chance of retreat is more and more cut off, and our hope taken away; it brings, as it were, its own judgment with it.
Surely we leave this fact out of our calculation when we think or speak of an act of sin as a solitary and independent thing; that our consciences will still remain as now, and forget that our whole conscience is becoming darkened, and the whole man changed by it. This fact will explain why good men have spoken so strongly of their own sinful state, in a way which may sometimes have seemed to us overdone and untrue; for it is a reward and consequence of holiness that, as men advance therein, the spiritual faculties become more enlightened; just as it is a consequence of sin persevered in that the conscience becomes darkened and dead. This, again, should lead us to fear the danger of making false calculations as to Repentance. If we reckon and rely on a future Repentance, it is plain that we do it because we wish to enjoy the pleasures of sin now. And what is this but choosing sin and all its consequences?
This alone is clear—that Repentance will never be so easy as now; that every delay must make it harder and harder, and remove it further out of our reach; that our love for God and holiness will grow weaker and weaker; and the desire for better things, and the knowledge of them, will fade together from our souls. Now is the accepted time, and Now the day of salvation. Now—before the power of sin is confirmed, or the Holy Spirit has finally departed from us. This, then, is the one great lesson which we may learn from the record of David's sin. We see him stand before the prophet unconscious of his guilt, and it needs that the prophet should say to him, 'Thou art the man,' in order that he may see himself in the parable set before him.
II. We may very well, then, take this warning of the blinding power of sin to ourselves, from the words spoken by Nathan to David. But who shall speak them to ourselves? Who shall point to God's Word, when they set before us our sins, or say to us, 'Thou art the man of whom these things are spoken'? We must undertake to do this for ourselves. We are bound to read or hear the Word of God with this view, that we may apply it to our own state. For, if we will not judge ourselves, we shall be judged and condemned of God; our sins will never be confessed or repented of; self-deceived and dead in sin, wholly ignorant of our own state in the sight of God, day by day we shall be ripening for His judgment; and this, because we never took God's Word to ourselves when it spoke of sin and its consequences.
2 Samuel 12:7
It is not the story of David's sin, and its punishment, with his bitter repentance, and ultimate forgiveness, which I desire to deal with now, but the great principle of self-judgment illustrated in the scene.
I. The first thing that strikes us is the blindness and infatuation of the man to have missed the application of the parable. It seems an almost impossible state of self-deception, which could let him flare out in indignant virtue against the supposed culprit, and never once dream that the case could apply to himself. But it is not such an impossible thing as it looks, nay, it is even one of the commonest facts of morals, and one which we can easily illustrate any day among ourselves. We nod assent to a general statement of right and wrong, accept principles, even give our unbiassed judgment on concrete cases that are mentioned, and yet never make the personal application. Conscience works out correctly in an abstract case, when there seems no personal interest. Till we come to the bar naked, without veils and excuses and palliations, as David was tricked into doing, we never do justice against ourselves.
II. In religion we are, if possible, more easily biassed by personal considerations. The self-deceit we are speaking about would seem incredible but for facts like this case of David. It is not incredible to the man who knows his own heart and the deceitfulness of sin. David must have previously deluded himself, or he could not have been so insensible. We are all right on the general principles of religion, but personal religion begins exactly where we leave off. Our great necessity is to relate our particular case to the general law. In assenting to the judgment, which Nathan meant to rouse in him about the rich man, David was passing judgment on himself unconsciously. This is the stumbling-block in the way of all amendment, that sin is not accepted as such; we do not recognize; the word has not come to us, striking us dumb: 'Thou art the man'. We must discover, and acknowledge, and confess our sin, before forgiveness is possible—discover first of all self-revelation, self-judgment, self-condemnation, these represent the first task of religion. Till we have come to grips with self, we cannot come to terms with God.
III. Rigorous self-judgment is the first requisite of moral life, to turn the light in on self. Many religious people are worms of the earth, with their whole nature corrupt in their general confession, and very fine gentlemen in detail—never dealing with self in any direct fashion, never hearing once the searching word, Thou art the man. We have seen how hard honest self-judgment is, and yet how essential. Essential—it is not only first, but it is also last. Would you then know the method, the infallible way of putting self to the proof? The method for us is this—bring yourselves, your work, motives, ambitions, inner thoughts into the presence of Christ, and judge them there. He is the Light in this sense also. Until we make Christ our conscience, bringing everything to be judged by the Light, we will keep confusing the issues, and disguising our sins, and finding all manner of self-escape, excuses, and counter-charges
—Hugh Black, Christ's Service of Love, p. 147.
References.—XII. 7.—R. J. Campbell, Sermons addressed to Individuals, p. 227. H. Montagu Butler, Harrow School Sermons, p. 85. H. Scott Holland, Church Times, vol. lvii. 1907. p. 147; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxi. 1907, p. 107.
Confession of Sin
2 Samuel 12:13
The story of David's fall, and David's penitence, confession, and forgiveness, is recorded for us in Holy Scripture in order that we may have plainly set before us the pathway in which every true penitent must walk. Confession of sin is a necessary condition of forgiveness of sin.
I. We must confess our sins. Mark that is something very different from confessing that we are sinners. To confess our sins, our own particular and private sins—the sins in consequence of which we might be compared with our neighbours to our disadvantage—the flaws and defects, the blots and the stains on our own piece of material which make it vile and worthless—the violations of God's Holy Law—this is the only true confession of sin—this is the necessary condition for obtaining the Divine forgiveness.
To do this work of confession aright, self-examination is plainly necessary—systematic and regular self-examination. And if our examination is to be real and efficient, we have a special need of the grace of God. The light of God we shall need to enable us to see our sins, the love of God we need to enable us to abhor our sins. And beyond the daily self-examination, it is plain that there should be regular seasons in our lives when we should make a more thorough and systematic examination. The penitential seasons of the Church—Lent, Rogationtide, Advent—afford us special opportunities.
II. When we sinned, whatever our sin was, we necessarily sinned against God. So when we sinned we had necessarily to make confession unto Him. But our sins are often sinned against our fellow-men. We do them wrong either by word or deed. In such cases it is part of true repentance, it is part of the confession which wins forgiveness, to confess our sins unto man. It is a bitter discipline to undergo, but a most wholesome one. And our Church imposes it upon us.
Confession to God through His Priest has been to many a blessed means of breaking with habits of sin. It has enabled them to lead a holier life. It has led up to the application of God's pardon to their own troubled conscience. They have been enabled to feel that the inestimable gift of forgiveness is theirs.
III. When we have heard the summons, let us confess our sin unto Almighty God; when we have confessed and been absolved, then another summons, a more grateful summons is heard. 'Let us give thanks.' When God has taken away our iniquity and received us graciously, then we render the calves of our lips. And we shall show forth God's praise, 'not with our lips only, but in our lives'.
—F. Watson, The Christian Life Here and Hereafter, p. 1.
Sin Put Away (Easter Even)
2 Samuel 12:13
The point at which we stand today is the only one from which we can really see all the meanings which, whether Nathan was conscious of it or not, lay indeed inside the words which he said to David. The Sacrifice of Calvary is complete, and we are waiting to hear the joy bells of Easter telling us that Christ is risen. He was 'delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification'.
I. The Rapidity of the Pardon.—The first thought which, probably, strikes the mind, is the rapidity with which the penitent received his answer—a rapidity so great that, in fact, the pardon had actually preceded the confession. 'Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.'
II. The Cross is God's Great Effort to 'put away sin' in some way compatible with His love, for sin cannot be near God. Sin cannot live in His sight. Having punished the sinner in Christ, it is as much a just, as it is a loving, act with God to take back the sinner to His bosom.
III. What God Says.—God does not say that that 'put away sin' shall never smart. God does not tell you there shall be no temporal punishment for that forgiven sin! He does not promise that there shall be no loving process of corrective chastisement. He is too wise and too fatherly to say that. But this is what He does say: 'Nevertheless, thou shalt never be separated from Me. Thy soul, through eternity, is safe. Thou shalt not die!'
IV. Then let your Sin Die out of your Sorrow.— Let it die! Let it die from those dark memories and those brooding fears—'even as a dead thing out of mind'. You will be holier when you are free from its cloggings! Why chain yourself to that thing of death? Did Jesus die? Then, by that token that sin is dead. This is the day for great things. May it be ours to realize that we are indeed 'buried with Him,' so that as He was raised even we may henceforth 'walk in newness of life'.
References.—XII. 13.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel, p. 64. R. Scott, Oxford University Sermons, p. 251. J. Vaughan, Sermons Preached in Christ Church, Brighton(7th Series), pp. 112, 120. XII. 13, 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2981. C. Simeon, "David's Humiliation and Acceptance," Works, vol. iii. p. 269. Bp. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii. p. 96 H. Thompson, "Sin of Giving Occasion of Blasphemy," Davidica, p. 127. "Self-recognition," Homilist, vol. x. p. 41. Lewis, "Sin of Scripture Saints," Plain Sermons for Christian Year, p. 430. Woodgate, "Dangers of Ease and Prosperity," Historical Sermons, vol. ii. Edward White, "On the Secondary Consequences of Sin," Mystery of Growth, p. 324; and see Stanley, Jewish Church, vol. ii. p. 91. XII. 20-22.—J. McNeill, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. 1897, p. 158. XII. 22, 23.—W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches (2nd Series), p. 214. XII. 23.—B. Jowett, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1890, p. 81. XIV. 14.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture —2 Samuel, p. 73. B. Wilberforce, The Hope that is in Me, p. 122. H. D. M. Spence, Voices and Silences, p. 291. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 950. G. F. Holden, Church Times, vol. lvii. 1907, p. 415. XIV. 29-31.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x. No. 563. XV. 1-12.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel, p. 84. XV. 12-37.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2995. XV. 15.—A Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel, p. 89. XV. 21.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Holytide Teaching, p. 29. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1512. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel, p. 97. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 420. XV. 30.—K. Moody-Stuart, Light from the Holy Hills, p. 115. XVI. 12.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. p. 392. XVII. 23.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. lii. No. 2995. XVII. 27-29.—Ibid. vol. xxvi. No. 1544. XVII. 50.—C. Silvester Home, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 152. XVIII. 10.—R. Barclay, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. 1895, p. 10. XVIII. 18-33.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel, p. 106. XVIII. 29.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxiv. No. 1433; see also Twelve Sermons to Young Men, p. 505.
The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:
But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.
Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.
Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.
For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.
David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.
And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them.
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?
But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.
Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.
Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.
And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?
But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.
And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.
And Joab fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and took the royal city.
And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters.
Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it: lest I take the city, and it be called after my name.
And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it.
And he took their king's crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance.
And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.