What a Difference Forgiveness Makes

Based on: 2 Samuel 12:9-14

You have seen commercials and advertisements, whether on TV, in the paper or on the Internet, that show you “before” and “after” pictures so you can see what their product will do.  It may be cleaning supplies, beauty products, plant growth, or whatever, but none of them can compare to the difference in a person who is forgiven by God.  Today as we see King David forgiven by God, we will look at the “before” and “after” pictures of his spiritual life.

Over the summer we have heard about a variety of people who were ancestors of Jesus Christ.  Jesus was one of their offspring and received his humanity through them, but they all needed and looked forward to Jesus coming.  As we see in this account from King David’s life, King David needed the “Son of David” to forgive his sin.

God called David “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22).  That is high praise coming from God, but that does not mean David was perfect.  He was like the rest of us – a sinner who needed a Savior.

Even though God had blessed David, turning this shepherd boy into the king of Israel, David gave into the temptation of wanting more than God had given him.  He saw another man’s wife and wanted her for himself.  He committed adultery with her and to cover up his adultery he arranged for her husband’s death.  

Look at the mess David got himself into.  He sinned against the 10th commandment when he coveted Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah.  He sinned against the 6th commandment with his adultery.  He sinned against the 5th commandment when he arranged for the death of  Uriah; the 8th commandment with his deceptions to cover it all up; the 3rd commandment because, as Nathan told him, he “despised the Word of the Lord” by doing all this; and he sinned against the 1st commandment by putting his own desires above God’s will.  It was a disaster.  The mighty Goliath could not cause David to fall, but Satan through Bathsheba did.

King David deserved death. Murder and adultery both carried the death penalty in ancient Israel.  Even worse is the spiritual death penalty he deserved, as God would one day say through Ezekiel, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”  

It was already happening.  David was already dying as a result of his sin.  Sin separates us from God who is the source of life.  Death is a consequence of sin.  Every funeral here at St. John’s is a reminder that all of us deserve death.  We all sin.  The fact that everyone dies is proof that all sin.

King David would eventually die physically because of his sin, but he was already dying spiritually.  What should David have done when he realized his sin?  Repent.  He should have come to God right away with his sin and ask for forgiveness.  Then the connection to God that is destroyed by sin would be restored.  

But he did not.  He chose to try to hide his sin and keep it to himself.  When you do this you only destroy yourself and your faith.  King David later wrote, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3-4).  Sin was causing David to waste away from the inside out.  Like a plant in the heat of summer without rain, he was whithering away.

Since it seems that the child conceived in that adulterous relationship was already born, it was at least nine months before Nathan the prophet came to David.  God let David carry this burden.  He had opportunity to repent.  But just like Adam in the Garden of Eden and just like many of us, David was not going to go to God with his sin.  It had to be God who came to David.  

In love and mercy God sent Nathan to tell David of his sin.  God didn’t punish David by sending enemies, disease, or death.  God sent David’s pastor to warn David about his broken relationship with God.  Nathan went right to the point: “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?”  This isn’t primarily about adultery with Bathsheba or the murder of Uriah.  This is first and foremost about your relationship with God.  You offend God with your sin!

How did David respond when confronted with his sin?  The way you and should respond when made to realize our sin: “I have sinned against the Lord.”  It is a very simple and straightforward admission of guilt.  David does not try to make excuses or minimize his guilt.  He simply says he has sinned and by doing that he trusts in God’s mercy.

Forgiveness is immediate.  “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”  When there is repentance we do not delay in proclaiming the Gospel with clear and certain language.

Nathan’s words of forgiveness to David and our words to a repentant sinner are only effective because of Jesus.  God took our sins away from us and gave them to Jesus as he hung there on the cross.  Because he died, we will not die.

Look at the difference God’s forgiveness makes.  David’s sin broke his connection to God, and the forgiveness given by God through Jesus Christ restored David’s relationship with God.  David was physically and spiritually dying, but now has eternal life with God.  He was wasting away, but now he has God’s blessing – growing like a plant watered by God’s rain.

King David wrote in one of his psalms, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).

The punishment for sin is gone for all eternity, but here on earth David, along with the rest of us, must deal with the consequences of sin.  It is a mistake to think that because we are forgiven our lives are immediately back to normal.  God told David through Nathan that others would commit some of the same sins against David. Sin so often produces more sin.  Worse than that, the son that was born to David and Bathsheba would die.  It doesn’t seem fair that this innocent child would die as a consequence of David’s sin, but that’s the way sin works.  Our sin very often hurts others more than it hurts us.  

The consequences of sin are not a punishment for those who have received forgiveness.  God uses them.  Sometimes they remind us of our sin and keep us humble – they remind us that we need God’s grace and mercy.  Sometimes, as with David’s child who died, the consequences of sin send a message to others that God does not take sin lightly.  If David’s son were to live then others would have reason to ridicule the God of Israel.  They could say, “What kind of God allows adultery and murder?  What a foolish God the God of Israel is.”  David realized God’s grace in his judgment and after his child died, the first thing he did was go to the temple and worship God.

Just like the commercials we talked about earlier, we see a sharp contrast when we look at King David before and after his repentance and forgiveness.  And, just like David, our sin-broken relationship with God is now perfect, and we are no longer withering away in spiritual death, but growing and vibrant in God’s blessings.  God’s forgiveness turns death into life.

Amen.

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