COMFORT In Times Of Guilt And Grief
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” … David answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” … So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. 2 Samuel 12:13-14, 22-23, 29NIV
Hollywood would love Bible chapters like 2 Samuel 11, because King David’s sins of adultery with the beautiful Bathsheba, and his calculated and cold-blooded murder of her loyal husband Uriah would make an exciting and colorful movie. And Hollywood would do everything possible to play up the drama and intrigue.
But from God’s point of view 2 Samuel 11 is not an exciting chapter, but rather a very sad one that portrays a tragic transition point in David’s life. And for the rest of his life David suffered the consequences of his terrible sins.
Second Samuel 12, however, is an encouraging chapter in several ways. After David was confronted by the prophet Nathan, he immediately confessed his sin. As a result, we see God’s plan of restoration at work and David comforted in the assurance that his sins were forgiven. Because David’s sins had displeased God, His plan included severe discipline. Discipline is always part of God’s work of restoring a sinner to fellowship with Him. Let’s examine this chapter in more detail to appreciate how God can comfort us in times of guilt and grief.
David thought he had successfully covered up his sins by marrying Bathsheba as soon as the mourning period for her murdered husband ended. But the sin was not hidden from God’s allseeing eye. We read at the end of chapter 11 that “the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (11:27).
About a year went by between chapters 11 and 12. We might get the impression that David had covered up his sins so well that even he had forgotten about them! But from the Psalms we learn that David’s conscience was overwhelmed with guilt, and the hand of the Lord was heavy upon him during this period. These are David’s own words: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me, and my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4). And in Psalm 51 we read David’s confession as seen from its title: “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.”
Consider these lines from Psalm 51: “Have mercy on me O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You … only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight … Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create within me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me … Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness” (51:1-4,9-10,14).
Even before the prophet Nathan confronted David, God was working in David’s heart. He was overwhelmed with his guilt, because his sins were responsible for his separation from the Lord.
GOD COMFORTS US EVEN IN OUR GUILT
The prophet Nathan presented David with an account of a rich man who owned many sheep and cattle. But when a guest came to his home, the rich man robbed a poor man of his one little lamb, a family pet, and killed it for a meal. Of course this story was a parable, but at first David believed it was a real case and became very angry. David’s anger burned against the rich man, and he said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORDlives, the man who did this deserves to die!” Little did David realize that he was judging himself when he pronounced that the guilty man should make restitution! “He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” You can imagine David’s shock when Nathan said: “You are the man!” (12:5-7).
The good news is that David immediately took responsibility and confessed his sins, and God graciously forgave him (12:13-14). Think of the comfort that David experienced in the midst of overwhelming guilt when God declared that his sins were forgiven. And what a comforting truth: God comforts us in our guilt. But the comfort of God in no way condones our sin, nor does it remove the consequences of our sin. Regarding the consequences of David’s sins, as David had pronounced that there should be fourfold restitution for the rich man’s sin, so Nathan outlined God’s fourfold consequences to David’s forgiven sin (12:7-14).
First: “You struck down Uriah the Hittite (Bathsheba’s husband) with the sword … Therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah to be your own” (12:9-10). At least three of David’s sons, Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah, met violent deaths (2 Sam. 13,18; 1 Ki. 2).
Second: “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you” (12:11). In chapters 13-18 we read of the rape of David’s daughter Tamar by her half brother Amnon, the murder of Amnon by Absalom and AbsaGrace & Truth Magazine • February 2010 19 lom’s rebellion against his father David and attempt to usurp his throne. At the end of David’s life, another son attempted to take the throne which David had promised to Solomon (1 Ki. 1).
Third: “I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel” (2 Sam. 12:11). During Absalom’s rebellion, David’s concubines were taken from David’s harem and publicly violated on the roof of the palace (16:21-22).
Fourth: “Because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die” (12:14). Because David had brought great disrepute upon the Lord’s holy name, the child born of David and Bathsheba’s adulterous relationship became ill, and despite David’s pleading prayers he died.
There are consequences to sin. Sometimes they are agonizing, even when the sin has been forgiven. For the rest of his life, David had to live with the consequences of his sin, and we too may suffer the long-lasting consequences of our sins. But praise the Lord for 1 John 1:9 which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” No matter how big the sin, there is genuine and full forgiveness, and this reality brings God’s comfort to our guilt-ridden hearts.
GOD COMFORTS US IN OUR GRIEF
The Bible does not teach that all children born as a result of adultery die, nor does it teach that we are not to grieve the death of a child. But the fact that David was comforted after his child’s death is significant, as it teaches us that God can and will comfort us in the midst of grief. “David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate” (12:20). When David’s servants asked him about his actions, which seemed inconsistent to them, he responded: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (12:22-23).
In Psalm 23 David was confident that when he died he would “dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” So when he said, “I shall go to the child,” he most likely meant that he looked forward to joining his child in “the house of the LORD.” Thus this verse appears to support the teaching that children who die before the age of accountability will be in heaven.
This position is supported by our Lord’s statement about young children – “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:14). The work of Christ on the cross was sufficient and provisional for the sin of all the world, so certainly God can save infants and young children, as well as unborn children who die. Nowhere in Scripture is anyone damned for ignorance. At the same time, Romans 1 makes it clear that no one with rational capability is ignorant. But babies and very young children are not yet capable of making rational decisions. Thus 2 Samuel 12:23 may also support the teaching that, by God’s grace, babies and children who die before the age of accountability are covered by Christ’s redeeming blood.
Even if some conclude that there is not enough scriptural support in 2 Samuel 12 for the doctrine that children who die go to heaven, this passage clearly teaches that God will comfort us in all our troubles, including our grief following the death of a loved one. Second Corinthians 1:3-4 says that “the God of all comfort … comforts us in all our troubles.” The word “troubles” refers to anything which presses in on our spirits, and grief falls into that category, with no exception made about what may cause our grief. So even in cases where we are totally at fault and the grief is the result of our own mistakes or sin – or even part of God’s discipline – God will comfort us in our grief if we turn to Him.
WE’VE GOT TO MOVE ON
In 12:24-31 we see David moving on – in his marriage to Bathsheba, in his job as king, and in his defeat of Israel’s enemies. He didn’t do anything drastic or dramatic, like committing suicide or leaving the throne. He didn’t continue to lie on the floor in grief or do anything desperate, as his servants had feared (12:18). Instead, he bathed, dressed in clean clothing and worshiped the Lord. He prepared to resume his responsibility as king by eating a meal. He moved on in life with the responsibilities God had given him. He had been chastened by the Lord, had fasted and prayed, had responded to the Lord’s discipline through the prophet Nathan, had confessed his sin and had been restored to fellowship. David received the comfort that only God can give in the midst of guilt and grief. God picked up the pieces in David’s life in a wonderful way – including the birth of Solomon by his wife Bathsheba – even though David continued to face the consequences of his forgiven sin.
What is the application? You’ve got to move on! If you’ve sinned, don’t live the rest of your life in depression or despair. Don’t feel that you can never be useful to God again. Confess your sin. Acknowledge your guilt. Ask for forgiveness and, if possible, make reparation to anyone your sin has harmed. Get restored to fellowship with the Lord. Respond to His comfort in the midst of your guilt and grief. Accept the consequences of your forgiven sin, and let the Lord pick up the pieces and put your life back together. Don’t live in the past. There will be scars, but fulfill the responsibilities God has given you. You can do it because His comfort is available in the midst of your guilt and grief.
By David R. Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org