David and Bathsheba:
Sin, Cover-up, Condemnation, and Restoration
A four-part Biblical study of grace and healing
Part 3: Condemnation and Repentance
David had sinned, and thought that he had managed to build an effective cover-up plan. He only overlooked one small detail: you can’t hide your heart from
12:1 Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.
2 “The rich man had a great many flocks and herds.
3 “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his
bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he
took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.
6 “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”
Nathan’s parable was a close parallel to what David had done, and had covered up so skillfully. This should remind us that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t hide
from God. We’re much better off if we’re just honest with Him up front — it’s not like He doesn’t already know.
Nathan set David up, and David took the bait. David still had a moral compass — even though he had ignored it in his own situation — and that moral compass screamed
for justice. David, as king, had authority to pronounce judgement on such criminals, and that’s exactly what he did — not realizing that he was pronouncing his own
judgement: the death penalty.
It was then, in verse 7, that Nathan “dropped the bomb.”
7 Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the
hand of Saul.
8 ‘I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would
have added to you many more things like these!
9 ‘Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife,
and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.
10 ‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’
11 “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your
companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.
12 ‘Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.'”
David was reminded, as I often need to be, that God is bigger and smarter than we are. Nathan, who hadn’t been a party to any of this incident, recited back to
David EXACTLY what he had done, in painful detail, and pronounced God’s judgement on the king. On top of that, David had already pronounced his own death sentence
— he was backed into an uncomfortable corner.
It’s important to understand the dynamic of this situation. Nathan literally risked his life bringing this accusation before the king. The king was the sole
power-broker of government; he could have told one of the guards to kill Nathan on the spot. He could have denied his sin, and argued with Nathan (and with God). He
could have defied them and continued in his denial. The choice was David’s to make. Nathan understood the risk, yet also understood that obedience to God, even to the
point of death, is better than long life of rebellion and disobedience.
I recently heard Robert Lewis teaching about this moment of decision in David’s life. Lewis pointed out that David could have continued in denial, with words such as
“I did NOT have sex with that woman.” Instead, the element of David’s being that made him “a man after God’s own heart” rose up within him — what Lewis calls
“the face of the king” — and David, face-to-face with himself, made the most noble statement of his life:
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Samuel 12:13a)
There were none of the blame-shifting “but” phrases that typified Saul, his predecessor to the throne. There were no excuses, no spin, no double-talk or legalese
waffling. David saw his situation clearly, and dealt with it boldly. With his admission of guilt, it would have been fully justified if God had carried out the
sentence pronounced upon him by his own judgement and struck him dead on the spot. David confessed his sin, and expected to die for it.
It is when we are truly honest with God that we find His mercy and grace:
And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13b)
This was an important defining moment in David’s life. He confessed his sin, and was prepared to accept his punishment of death. Instead, God showed His grace by
forgiving David, and allowing him to live. For the rest of his days, when David opened his eyes in the morning, he knew that he was alive for one reason and one reason
only: the sheer grace of God. That turning point changed the direction of David’s life, and deepened his relationship with God to a level he had never known
before. Understanding God’s grace will have the same effect on you and me.
Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance. It illustrates that David’s repentance was not just a “sorry, I’ll try to do better” sort of thing, but a deep, heartfelt plea
to God for forgiveness, healing and restoration:
1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.
David didn’t try to shift the blame for his sin. This Psalm doesn’t contain one single word of self-justification. David didn’t try to blame Bathsheba for his downfall,
or talk about the enormous stresses and responsibilities in the life of a great leader. He faced his sin head-on, and called it what it was: his sin.
4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.
David understood that, while he had indeed sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba, any sin is first and foremost a sin against God, and his first step of repentance is
confession before God.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
David acknowledged the basic depravity of mankind, himself included. He finally came to the point of “truth in the inmost being,” and was honest with himself about his
7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Hyssop was used under Old Testament law for two rituals of purification. It was part of the purification of one healed of leprosy, and of those who had contact with a
dead body. David saw his sin for what it really was: a deadly disease that could be cured only by God himself. Only the Grace of God can purify us and forgive our sins.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.
David “prayed through” to the outcome of genuine repentance before God: that which was broken begins to heal, as God blots out our sin and creates a clean heart within
us. David’s reference to being “cast away from Your presence” in verse 11 refers back to his predecessor to the throne, King Saul, who failed to honestly repent of his
sin of disobedience. As a result, God withdrew his Spirit from Saul, who lived out his days in misery and torment. David witnessed this chapter in Saul’s life, and asked
not only for forgiveness, but for a renewed relationship, and deliverance from the fate of Saul.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.
16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
18 By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.
Genuine repentance brings forgiveness, restoration and healing, and the end result of that cycle is action. David committed himself to serving God with his restored
life, and leading other needy people to Him. It is not the “sacrifice” of labor that produces favor with God; it is favor with God, through honest repentance, that
produces a willing servant.
Now, there are many who want the story to end with 2 Samuel 12:13, but don’t stop reading — God’s not finished yet! In fact, He’s just getting started!