And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 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.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”
2 Samuel 12:1-14
Think of 2 Samuel 11 and 12 as two portraits hanging side by side in a gallery. The first is a devastating, gut-wrenching portrait of sin, and the second is a breathtaking, soul-stirring portrait of grace. These pictures are so different—why would anyone hang these pictures next to each other? In a strange, beautiful way, they seem to belong together. Sin seems less horrifying without the portrait of grace, and grace seems less glorious without the portrait of sin. So what do we discover as we study these two portraits in David’s life and in our own?
Grace is God pursuing us in the midst of our sin. “And the Lord sent Nathan to David” (2 Samuel 12:1). In chapter 11, all we see is David sending, using, and manipulating people for his own selfish ends. The Lord appears to be absent, and David appears to get away with it. “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Sam. 11:27). When we sin, God’s silence does not mean His absence. He comes after us. He breaks in. He sends someone to bring the word that cuts like a surgeon’s knife to hurt so that it can heal. Do we welcome God’s gracious pursuit? Where would we be if the Lord never interrupted?
Grace is God revealing the depth of our sin to us. “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in His sight?” (2 Sam. 12:9, 10). In chapter 11, all we see is David doing wrong and trying to cover his tracks. We can’t see his heart, but the Lord does. Of course David has broken the law, but the deeper problem is a broken love. Sin is more than dysfunctional behavior; it is disordered love. When we should be loving God supremely and loving our neighbor as ourselves, we are loving ourselves supremely and harming our neighbor. We are despising the word of the Lord, and therefore we are despising the Lord of the word. If we don’t realize the depth of our problem, we will never appreciate the wonder of God’s remedy. Are we able to say, “I am the man (or woman) who has despised the word of the Lord”? Do we know our sin well enough to know our need for His grace?
Grace is God giving us nothing less than Himself when we deserve nothing less than judgment. In chapter 11, all we see is David playing God and living like the Lord doesn’t exist. With his self-righteous response to Nathan’s story, David effectively condemns himself. “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die” (2 Sam. 12:5). Though we’re inconsistent in applying it, we all have a standard of justice that knows what such treachery deserves. Yet when we deserve nothing less than judgment, God gives us nothing less than Himself. How can this be? That must’ve been David’s question, and it should be ours. How can we, who have done what is evil in God’s sight, somehow become righteous in His sight? Ultimately, the only answer is the cross of Jesus Christ, where the graciousness of grace overwhelmed the sinfulness of sin, where the Lord Himself suffered what we deserve in order that we might enjoy what He deserves.
Oh Lord, be gracious to us today. We welcome your life-interrupting, sin-revealing grace. We know what we deserve, and so we cast ourselves upon Jesus. By Your grace, send Nathan to us, and send us like Nathan to others. Show us how we have despised You, and create in us a heart that loves You. May we never lose the wonder that, by Your grace, You have put away our sin and given us Yourself.