Nevertheless, because by this deed you have treated the LORD with utter contempt, the son born to you will surely die."
2 Samuel 12:14. - (THE PALACE.)sin of David and other godly men, observe that -
I. IT IS RENDERED ALL THE MORE CULPABLE AND CONSPICUOUS BY THEIR PREVIOUS EXALTATION. Culpable, inasmuch as their profession of godliness, especially when hired with eminent position, increases their responsibility, and furnishes special motives to a consistent course of conduct; conspicuous, inasmuch as their apparent superiority to others:
1. Attracts the attention of men to them more than others, and makes it impossible that their failings should pass unnoticed.
2. Naturally leads men to expect more from them than others.
3. Produces a deeper impression by the contrast exhibited between what is expected from them and what is actually done by them. The transgression of David was in itself great; but it was all the greater, in the view of men, because committed by one of his acknowledged piety, and "in the fierce light that beats upon the throne, and blackens every blot."
II. IT IS CALCULATED TO EXERT A MOST INJURIOUS INFLUENCE ON OTHER MEN. The sin of every man has a baneful effect on his fellow men; but that of a godly man, in an eminent degree, by:
1. Causing them not only to despise him, but also others, who are associated and identified with him in religious faith and service, as (like him) unworthy of respect, insincere, and hypocritical.
2. Inciting them to contemn religion itself; doubt the Word of God, distrust the reality of piety everywhere, and even speak evil of God himself; wherein it is commonly implied that sin is sanctioned by religion, or at least is not prevented by it because of its essential weakness. A false impression of the requirements and character of God is given.
3. Lessening the restraints of holy example, hindering the acceptance of the truth, multiplying excuses for neglect, encouraging indulgence in sin.
4. Affording means of opposition to the faith, whereby others still are made to stumble. "This observation gives us a deep insight into the whole position of David. In him the good principle had attained to supremacy; the godless party had seen this with terror, and now they mocked piety in its representative, who, because he held this position, ought to have kept watch over his heart the more carefully, and afterwards made use of the first opportunity of throwing off the burdensome yoke" (Hengstenberg). "Towards the heathen Israel's duty was, by obedience to God's Word and commands, to set forth the theocracy, and bring it to honour and recognition. Transgressions of God's command by the king himself must lead the heathen to heap shame and reproach on Israel and on Israel's God" (Erdmann).
III. ITS INJURIOUS EFFECT ON OTHERS DEPENDS UPON THEIR OWN CHARACTER. It is only "the enemies of the Lord" who despise the Lord, his Word, or his people.
1. Their enmity disposes them to make use of the sin of another as a reason in favour of the course upon which their heart is already set; thus silencing the voice of conscience. increasing their pride and self-deception, and confirming themselves in unbelief and disobedience.
2. It also indisposes them to regard it in a proper manner; to consider the strength of his temptation, the depth of his penitence, the earnestness of his aspirations after righteousness; that the conduct of one man does not prove the character of all with whom he is associated, still less the truth of the religion they profess, or the character of the God they serve; that it may not be sanctioned by God, but forbidden, reproved, and punished by him; that it is not the standard of practice, which is found in the Law of God alone; and that "every man must give account of himself to God." Those who stand may be led by it to take heed lest they fall, and those who fall to hope to rise again; but the enemies of the Lord see in it nothing but an excuse for persisting in the evil of their way. "Bees will collect honey and spiders poison from the same plant, according to their different natures" (Scott).
3. Their sin is not lessened by the sin of another, but rather increased by the use they make of it. Nevertheless, "all conduct of ours which tends in the slightest degree to strengthen that system of false reasoning, by which sinners confirm themselves in their sins, and undermine the faith and practice of others, is sin of the deepest dye" (Thompson).
IV. ALTHOUGH IT MAY BE PARDONED, IT CANNOT GO UNPUNISHED. "The child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.,
1. To manifest the justice and righteousness of God. The penalty of death which he had incurred was transferred from the guilty father to the innocent son.
2. To humble him more deeply on account of his sin, and to produce in him "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11). "For the most grievous sins a provision of mercy is so made as to secure long and humbling recollections of the aggravated guilt" (Halley).
3. To counteract the evil effects of his sin, and "that the visible occasion of any further blasphemy should be taken away." "God in his wisdom did take away this child, because he should have lived but to be a shame unto David" (Willet). This was only the beginning of a long course of chastisement in his family (ch. 13.), his person (Psalm 41., 55., 39.), and his kingdom (ch, 14.). Judgment was mingled with mercy; yea, it was itself the chastisement of love. "What was the answer to his prayer? First, the death of Bathsheba's child. Next, the discovery of hateful crimes in his household. Finally, the revolt of the beloved Absalom. These answers to a prayer for forgiveness? Yes, if forgiveness be what David took it to mean - having truth in the inward parts, knowing wisdom secretly" (Maurice). - D.
I. FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN IMPUNITY. A man may be pardoned, and nevertheless he may be punished. God forgave David, yet bereaved him. And this no exceptional case; simply a notable illustration of a general law. In all ages sins of penitent men are forgiven them; in all ages penitent men have to endure the punitive results of the very sins that have been forgiven. Whatsoever they sow, that they reap, however bitterly they may repent having mingled tares with the wheat. Abraham sinning by taking Hagar to wife — sin forgiven, but strife and discord in his tent. Jacob deceived his father, defrauded his brother. God forgave him his sin, yet he had to eat bitter fruit of it through long years of labour, and sorrow, and fear. Peter sinned: was forgiven; yet had to go softly many days, to brook the pain of the thrice-repeated reproach, to find his sin recoiling upon him years afterwards (Antioch).
The child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
Essex Remembrancer.True excellence consists not so much in the singular display of one or more commendable dispositions, as in the combined and duly regulated exercise of the whole range of moral perfections. Here it is that the superlative excellence of the Divine character is discovered; and here is detected the imperfection by which the brightest specimens of human excellence are still marked. How difficult is it for man to combine a decided and appropriate expression of his dis, approbation of the crime with that forbearance and mercy which, on many grounds, may be due to the criminal. Stern severity which exaggerates the real nature of the error, and entirely overlooks the avowed and apparently sincere contrition of the offender, too often usurps the name and place of just and necessary correction. While, on the other hand, a weak and mistaken tenderness sometimes so far relaxes all correction as to appear like connivance at what is evil, and to leave it after all matter of just suspicion how far the conduct in question is regarded as really deserving condemnation. Here, as in every case, the Divine conduct exhibits a pattern which should ever be kept in mind, and to which our own should, as nearly as possible, be conformed; justice, holiness, and mercy, are all shown in harmonious exercise.
I. THE REPENTANCE AND PARDON OF DAVID.
1. The sincerity of David's repentance.
2. The assurance he received of Divine forgiveness: "the Lord also hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die." This may be intended to assure him of deliverance from the legal demerit of his crime.
3. The close and intimate connection between the repentance and forgiveness of David. Here two remarks suggest themselves(1) His repentance preceded the assurance of Divine forgiveness.(2) The assurance of Divine forgiveness followed immediately on the expression of David's repentance.
II. THE AFFLICTIVE DISCIPLINE TO WHICH DAVID WAS NOTWITHSTANDING SUBJECTED (ver. 14.)
1. The nature of the visitations he endured. In the manner in which God corrects his erring people, there is often so close an analogy between the sin and the punishment as cannot fail to make the connection evident to themselves, and to all aware of the real state of the case. This remark is strikingly illustrated in the case before us.
2. The reason assigned for the infliction of these visitations: by such conduct he "had given great occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme."
3. The consistency of these visitations with the full and free forgiveness of which David had been assured. That these points are consistent with each other we must feel assured, from the fact that God has connected them. God still corrects, even where he pardons his backsliding people.(1) To render distinctly apparent his own abhorrence of their sin. That there could be no just reason to think the contrary, even independently of their chastisement, is admitted; but sinners might be ready to pretend there was. There shall be no room for this; and therefore, while God will show that he loves and pities the offender, he will also show he hates the offence.(2) To warn other Christians from being beguiled by so fatal an example. For the parent to allow one member of his family to sin without correction is but preparing the way for the offences of others. The due exercise of discipline in one case may be the happy means of salutary caution to others.(3) As a probable means of preventing the hardening influence of his transgression on the minds of sinners.(4) As a preservative against further declension on the part of the same individual. In conclusion, let the humbled and penitent backslider be encouraged to hope for pardon while he views the grace that was shown to David.
II. THE MEANING AND MERCY OF PUNISHMENT. One very obvious reason why God does not detach their natural results from our sins even when He forgives them is that to do so would necessitate an incessant display of miraculous power, before which all law and certainty would be swept away, and our very conceptions of right and wrong confused. But though this familiar argument may prove a sufficient answer to reason, it has no balm for a wounded heart. To reach that we must consider the moral effects of punishment on the individual soul. And here David's experience will help us much. For it teaches how —
1. Punishment deepens both our sense of sin and our hatred of it. Before punishment David not conscious of his transgression, nor alive to its enormity, tie was blind to personal application of Nathan's parable until the prophet turned upon him. But then how deep his shame! Stands self-revealed, self-condemned. And this deep sense of personal guilt is a common and wholesome result of punishment.
2. Punishment deepens self-distrust and reliance upon God. David, who was but now so hot in his indignation against the wicked rich man, in whom he recognised no likeness to himself, finds that so far from having any right to judge or rule others, he has misjudged, he cannot rule himself. Now that he suffers the due reward of his deeds, he utterly distrusts himself; he can think no good thought, do no good act, offer no acceptable worship, save as God inspires and sustains him.
3. Punishment puts our repentance to the proof. It was not simply fear of judgment which led David to exhaust himself in confessions of guilt. It was rather shame and agony of finding himself out. Not even his child was foremost in his thoughts. It is not so much as mentioned in the psalm in which he poured out his soul before God. What touched him much was the awful estrangement which had crept in between his wilt and God's. It was this which lie sought God to remove. Hence, when the child dies, David bows to the will of God. His penitence is put to a decisive test, and surmounts it.
(Samuel Cox, D. D.)
Homiletic Magazine.God is a God of infinite mercy to forgive sin, and vet "He will by no means clear the guilty." He will surely visit iniquity by fixing its consequences upon the sinner, and even also upon others for his sake. But, stated in this way, the principle is not readily acceptable to us. The righteousness of it does not tie upon the face of it. If God forgives the sin, why does He not also clear away the punishments and all the evil consequences of it? Surely, we say, "The way of the Lord is not equal."
I. SIN PENALTIES THAT CAN BE REMOVED, SUCH AS REST ON THE SOUL. Sin has a twofold aspect, and calls for a twofold treatment by God. Every sin is both an act of transgression and a spirit of self-will. It has a sphere related to the body, and a sphere related to the soul. What, then, are the soul penalties which attach to sin inevitably? They are put into this expressive sentence, "The soul that sinneth it shall die." But this soul-penalty of sin can be remitted, put away, forgiven, lifted off the soul for ever. "The Lord hath put away thy sin, thou shalt not die." The true sphere of the atonement made by our Lord Jesus, in His life and in His cross, is precisely this sphere of soul-penalties.
II. SIN PENALTIES THAT CANNOT NOW BE REMOVED — PENALTIES AND CONSEQUENCES OF SIN COMING ON OUR BODIES. In the Divine wisdom and goodness man's life on the earth has been arranged under certain conditions and with certain limitations.
1. Men and women are set together in family and social circles, so that the actions of any one of them shall affect the rest of them for good or for evil. No man is permitted to stand alone, the results of his conduct must reach to the good, or the misery, of somebody else.
2. God has appointed the order in which family and social life should be arranged and conducted. Keep the Divine order, and all will go well with us.
3. Sin, in its outward, aspect, is the infringement of this Divine order, the breaking of these gracious and holy laws.
4. To every such infringement a natural penalty is attached. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." The redemption provided in Christ Jesus does not immediately touch these natural penalties of sin. The forgiving God "by no means clears the guilty." The child of the drunkard or the sensualist will not have the spirit of drink or of passion taken out of him, nor will he be renewed from his physical deterioration, because his father becomes a Christian. Consequences of sin stretch on until they get altogether beyond hand-grasp. Thick and heavy were the penalties which David had to pay for his sin. Can we vindicate the ways of God in this? Open two points.(1) If it were not thus, adequate impressions of the evil and hatefulness of sin could not be kept before the eyes of men.(2) These penalties which abide are not merely judicial, they have, in their own way, a gracious remedial power. The whole creation groans — "waiting for the redemption," full and final redemption, that is surely coming.
(Homiletic Magazine.)I. GOD'S CHASTISEMENTS. Bathsheba's little child was very sick; it was the child of sin and shame, but the parents hung over it; for seven days the mother watched it, and the father fasted and lay on the earth. Two years after one of his sons treated his sister as David had treated Uriah's wife. They say a man never hears his own voice till it comes back to him from the phonograph, Certainly a man never sees the worst of himself until it reappears in his child. When presently Absalom's rebellion broke out it received the immediate sanction and adherence of David's most trusty counsellor, whose advice was like the oracle of God. What swept Ahithophel into the ranks of that great conspiracy? The reason is given in the genealogical tables, which show that he was the grandfather of Bathsheba, and that his son Eliam was the comrade and friend of Uriah. The most disastrous and terrible blow of all was the rebellion of Absalom. Such were the strokes of the Father's rod that fell thick and fast upon his child. They appeared to emanate from the malignity and hate of man; but David looked into their very heart, and knew that the cup which they held to his lips had been mixed by heaven, and were not the punishment of a Judge, but the chastisement of a Father.
II. GOD'S ALLEVIATIONS. They came in many ways. The bitter hour of trial revealed a love on the part of his adherents to which the old king may have become a little oblivious. It was as though God stooped over that stricken soul, and as the blows of the rod cut long furrows in the sufferer's back, the balm of Gilead was poured into the gaping wounds. Voices spoke more gently; hands touched his more softly; pitiful compassion rained tender assurances about his path; and, better than all, the bright-harnessed angels of God's protection encamped about his path and his lying-down.
III. GOD'S DELIVERANCE. The raw troops that Absalom had so frostily mustered were unable to stand the shock of David's veterans, and fled. Absalom himself was despatched by the ruthless Joab, as he swayed from the arms of the huge terebinth. The pendulum of the people's loyalty swang back to its old allegiance, and they eagerly contended for the honour of bringing the king back. Many were the afflictions of God's servant, but out of them all he was delivered. When he had learnt the lesson, the rod was stayed. Thus always — the rod, the stripes, the chastisements; but amid all the love of God, carrying out His redemptive purpose, never hasting, never resting, never forgetting, but making all things work together till the evil is eliminated, and the soul purged. Then the after-glow of blessing, the calm ending of the life in a serene sundown.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The Thinker.1. The permission of evil is an insoluble mystery. Perhaps the only light which ran be thrown upon it is to be found in the words of St. , "God has judged it better to work good out of evil than to allow no evil. For seeing that He is supremely Good. He would in no way permit evil to be in His works, unless He were also Almighty as well as Good, so as to be able to bring good even out of evil. In dealing with evil, He manifests His perfections — as the light of the sun becomes the rainbow with its beauteous colours, when it falls on the dark, dissolving cloud. The wisdom of God, for instance, becomes visible in the way in which, notwithstanding the interruptions and collisions of sin, His purposes are worked out. "Any one can be a pilot on a calm sea."
2. Our thoughts are directed to a very remarkable instance of the permission of evil. It is remarkable, when we remember the description of David from the lips of Samuel, "The Lard hath sought Him a man after His own heart." Some take the expression in its widest extent — one who is in mind and will clearly and fully conformed to the mind and will of God; whilst others seem to interpret it of one trait in David's character — that of benevolence towards enemies. Perhaps the incongruity of the Divine estimate of David and his subsequent conduct is confined to his fall.
I. THE PUNISHMENT FOR SIN.
1. It is first to be noticed that the sin itself had been pardoned. The history shows us that pardoned sin may have penal consequences. The removal of the guilt (culpa) does not necessarily include the removal of the penalty (poena). David was pardoned for the breaches of the sixth and seventh commandments, although the guilt of sin is not transferable (Ezekiel 18:20), the penalty is. The death, which was the penalty of David's sin, was inflicted on the child.
3. Then the necessity for the punishment by the death of the child is traced by the Prophet not only to the intrinsic evil of the sin, but to the accidental aggravation which belonged to it from the circumstance that it was the king and prophet who had done this thing, and therefore had caused grievous scandal — "had given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme" (ver. 14).
4. In this instance, the terrible list of calamities which were to befall David and his house are distinctly traceable to David's sin. They were its punishment and medicine. Suffering was necessary to show the Divine abhorrence of evil; and the Jew, who ever regarded sin and suffering as closely linked together, would be quick to read the signs of Divine wrath.
II. HOW DID DAVID BEAR IT?
1. The child is "very sick." For seven days the glow of life still lingered in the wasting form, and the king fasted and prayed, and fell prostrate upon the earth before his God, neither changing his apparel nor eating bread. This is not only a picture of natural affection, but also of evident anxiety for a sign that the wrath of God was stayed. Whilst we have here what Paley calls the "naturalness" of Scripture, we have also the penitent seeking a mark of restoration to Divine favour.
2. "While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept," etc. It has been asked whether it was right to pray for the continuance of the child's life, after the Prophet's declaration that the child should "surely die." In other words, whether David was trying to change or bend the Divine will into conformity with his will, after that will had been declared. Either David believed the wards of the Prophet, or he did not. If he believed them, and yet prayed, that would be madness; if he believed not, that would be sin (Tostatus). The answer seems to be this: David regarded the declaration of Nathan as minatory. He thought to avert its accomplishment by prayer and fasting and tears. He was not certain about the Divine will: and God's threatenings, like His promises, are conditional.
III. WHAT WAS HIS STAY?
1. Belief in another world. "I shall go to him."
2. No mock immortality could be this — the survival of matter, of fame, of ideas, of race, or of some vague, shadowy existence — a transient air-people." But a solid belief in a continuance of our personal existence, and in future personal recognition — "I shall go to him" — that alone could sustain the mourner in the presence of death.
IV. LESSONS: —
1. Here is an instance of the terrible truth, "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23), and that temporal penalties follow upon forgiven sin. Hate sin.
2. Let the sinner seek, as David, by prayer and self-affliction and tears, to avert sin's penalties, until there is some irrevocable manifestation of the Divine will.
3. Imitate His constant conformity, when that will has been made clearly known.
4. Let the hope "full of immortality" be our stay in our dark hour. .No "counterfeit immortality," but the continuance, in s higher sphere of being, of the conscious, complete, personal existence, now certified by Christ's resurrection. This can give patience in suffering and solace in death.
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