The Cover of the Cross: The Answer to All Our Problems
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, August 13, 2000
Copyright © 2000, P. G. Mathew
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."
2 Samuel 12:13-14
This passage tells us how God deals with the sin of his people. The Bible tells us that God will pour out his wrath upon those who sin against him. Unbelievers do not like such declarations. But God is a holy, righteous God. It is he who told us "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" and "The wages of sin is death." The Bible clearly teaches that the cost of sin is spiritual, physical, and eternal death.
But God also delivers his people from the wrath of God. How does he do it? Through the cross of Christ. As we put our trust in Jesus Christ alone, who suffered divine wrath in our place, God will cover our sins with Christ's blood. Then he will tell us, "You shall not die." These are the gracious words we find God speaking to David in the passage we are studying today.
The Answer to All Our Problems
Second Samuel 11 and 12 speaks of a horrible sin committed by a believer. King David was a believer, but in this passage we read that he committed great sin. In these two chapters we learn how to solve the problems of our own creation.
The answer to our problems lies not in ourselves but in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed are all those who dwell in the shadow of the cross of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In Isaiah 45:22 God tells us, "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other," and in Proverbs 28:13 we read, "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." This is, of course, speaking about true confession and repentance. I have known people who are always confessing but never renouncing. Such confession is not authentic. In this study we will examine what authentic repentance and confession is all about.
What is our natural inclination when we sin? To cover up. This pattern began in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve, and we see it continued in all of us. We tend to deny, delay, deflect, dismiss, and diminish our sin, rather then confess it. But these tactics only serve to aggravate our serious problem. A lie never solves a problem. There will always be some evidence to convict us. Additionally, as believers, we must know that we always sin before the very eyes of the Lord Almighty. But when we confess and renounce, God will cover our sins.
David engaged in cover-up, but finally he was made to see his problem and God's solution. Then he sang, "Blessed is the man whose sins are covered." The cross of Christ covers all our sins, and that is why we glory in the cross of Jesus Christ.
David the Believer
Let us first look at David's condemning crime. There was a time when David was a nobody, which is what many of us also were. But God in his grace chose David to be Israel's king, as we read in 2 Samuel 12:7-8: "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more."
It was the Lord, not man, who chose David to be king. Even David's father Jesse did not think much about his youngest son. But God made David king of all Israel, and we know that in the early days of his life's work, David completely relied on the Holy Spirit and God's holy word. We find this demonstrated in his encounter with Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17:45 David told the Philistine giant, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." David refused to trust in his own strength. Even though he was just a nobody, he knew he could trust in God.
In 1 Samuel 16:13 we read how the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power from the moment he was anointed by Samuel, and throughout the book of 1 Samuel we see how David trusted in God to fulfill his purpose for his life. In fact, David spared the life of his enemy Saul several times because he trusted in God alone to put him on the throne. In 1 Samuel 24:10-11 David himself told Saul, "This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, 'I will not lift my hand against my master, because he is the Lord's anointed.'"
We read also that David had a habit of prayer. When he heard Saul was killed, David's first response was to pray, "God, what do you want me to do now? Should I go to Judah?" In 2 Samuel 5:17-25 we read that David prayed to God before he went out to war.
Additionally, David loved the ark of the Lord. In 2 Samuel 6 we read that when he brought the ark back to Jerusalem, there was great celebration and rejoicing. David was a man after God's own heart, and we see the nature of David's heart when he spoke to Nathan the prophet about his desire to build a temple to house the ark of the Lord. God told him, "No, you are not the one to build, but I will build you a house. I will give you a dynasty, and your son will be King of kings and Lord of lords forever."
Finally, in 2 Samuel 9 we read how David showed mercy to the house of Saul by calling Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, to come and live at his court. This was a politically incorrect thing for a king to do. The normal course of action would be to wipe out all the descendants of Saul. But David trusted in God and relied on him for everything; thus, he was not threatened by Mephibosheth. That is why the Bible tells us David was a man after God's own heart.
David's Condemning Crime
David started out in total reliance on God, but by the eleventh chapter of 2 Samuel, he had become a very powerful, very arrogant man who thought he did not need God. David had gone from God's deputy and representative to being as despotic and indulgent as a pagan king.
In 2 Samuel 11:1 we read, "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army." Lazy, self-indulgent, luxuriating David probably was thinking, "Let somebody else fight the war." "But David remained in Jerusalem."
David no longer wanted to fight the Lord's wars. And not only did David send everyone else out to fight the war while he stayed home, but he also sent the ark of the Lord out to the Ammonite city of Rabbah, which in New Testament times was called Philadelphia and is modern Amman in Jordan. So the presence of God, represented by the ark, was in the field while God's deputy-king David was luxuriating at home. David had become so arrogant that he would not go to the battlefield even when the ark of the Lord was there. "Let somebody else fight against the Ammonites," David probably told himself. "I'll just let the army, under the leadership of Joab and the Lord, take care of it. Yes, I know this is the usual time for kings to go off to war, but I want to stay in Jerusalem and enjoy a vacation."
Let this be a warning to all of us: Laziness is a terrible condition which breeds terrible sin. What was David saying? "I deserve a long vacation and I'm going to take it now." But a lot of terrible things can happen on vacations, unless we are very careful.
The Bible tells us that one evening "David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace." He had been sleeping, but he got up in the cool of the night and took a walk on the roof, from which he could see a beautiful woman taking a bath. At that moment Satan tempted David, and he gave in to the temptation. I am sure he first just glanced at the woman but then he began to gaze more intently until he decided to get the woman to come to him.
David began to commit adultery the moment he saw Bathsheba. In Matthew 5:28 David's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, speaks about adultery, and perhaps he had David in mind when he said, "I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." But in this situation, David, as a believer in God, should have known better. He should have remembered the example of the patriarch Joseph, who also was tempted to commit adultery, as we read in Genesis 39. When Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph, he told her, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Gen. 39:9) and when she persisted in her efforts, he ran from her. That is why Paul told young and old alike, "Flee sexual immorality."
What happens when we don't flee sexual immorality? I heard recently that many people today, both men and women, are addicted to the pornography that comes through the Internet. Their family life is destroyed and their income suffers because of this sin. I was also told the divorce rates among Pentecostals and Baptists are greater than that of non-believers.
David glanced, he gazed, and he sent someone to find out who this woman was. Was not David a married man? Yes, in fact, David had, not one wife, but several of them. Maybe he was not getting along with them. We do not know. But the servant came back to David and said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Bathsheba was also the granddaughter of Ahithophel, David's trusted counselor. She was the daughter of Eliam, one of David's mighty men, and the wife of David's trusted warrior, Uriah the Hittite, a pagan who had become a child of God and was living a holy life.
We don't know why David fell into such serious sin. Maybe he was suffering from midlife crisis. After all, he was about forty years of age. If this is true, I hope those who are suffering from midlife crisis will look to the Bible, where God gives this commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." I am sure King David knew this commandment because, in accordance with Deuteronomy 17, he had a copy of the Scriptures and knew he was to read it every day and live in conformity to it.
But David had probably stopped reading the Bible, stopped praying, and stopped availing himself of the means of grace God provides for his people. This happens when we become arrogant. We will not pray; we refuse to look into the Book, and we become self-sufficient, thinking we don't need any grace.
So when the word came into his mind, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," I am sure David said, "Forget about it. I am going to commit adultery. Who are you, Lord, to tell me what to do? I am the king!" And we are told he despised the Lord by violating his commandment. David, the shepherd of Israel, had been commissioned by God to take care of his people. Instead, he abused his authority and harmed both himself and God's people.
In 2 Samuel 11:27 we find the summary statement of how God reacted to this horrible crime. "But the thing David had done displeased the Lord." The Bible tells us that whatever we do, whether we eat or drink, we should do all for the glory of God. It says we are to do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, seeking to please the Lord who saved us by his mercy and grace. But here we are told that David displeased the Lord.
From 2 Samuel 12:9 we learn that David despised the word of the Lord by his sin, and in verse 10 Nathan, the man of God, told David, "You despised me." But who was David really despising when he despised the word and the man of God? He was despising God himself. When we despise the word of the Lord as it comes to us from his book, from our parents, or from the minister, and when we treat these God-given authorities with contempt, we are despising the Lord himself, because it is his very word that we despising.
David was determined to do what he wanted, so he slept with Bathsheba and sent her home. But some time later he received a message from her: "I am pregnant." Oh, this was a problem! Bathsheba was telling David, "You are in trouble. Don't you realize I am pregnant by you and not by my husband?"
Through his arrogance and self-indulgence, David created a lot of problems both for himself and for many other people. He displeased the Lord and despised his word, of which he had a copy. Had he obeyed the Lord, gone to war, and been with God's people and the ark, David would not have been in this condition.
What happens when we commit sin? We immediately try to cover it up. In 2 Samuel 11:5 we find a statement of David's problem: "The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, 'I am pregnant.'" And in verse 6 we find David's solution: "So David sent this word to Joab: 'Send me Uriah.'"
The Big Cover-Up
The second point we want to examine is the big cover-up of David. Like David, we want to solve our problems without God. We make a mess of things, and then we aggravate and multiply our problems. Having committed adultery, David now resorted to deception. He sent a messenger to Joab in the field and said, "Send Uriah the Hittite to me. I want to know how the war is going." This was pure deception.
Uriah went to Jerusalem and gave David a report. In verse 8 we read, "Then David said to Uriah, 'Go down to your house and wash your feet.'" This is a euphemism, a Hebrew way of saying, "Go home, relax, and have sex with your wife." He already committed adultery, and now he was trying to cover up his sin through deception.
"Go home!" David told Uriah, but Uriah refused to go. When David found out the next day that Uriah had not gone home, he was very disappointed. He was trying to solve his big problem and it was not working. So he summoned Uriah to come and asked him why he had not gone home.
Now, listen to what a holy man, Uriah, told King David: "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink," and notice, he had understood David's language, "and lie with my wife?" Uriah knew what David was telling him to do. But what did Uriah say? "As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!"
Uriah was simply acting in accord with the usual procedure when the army of Israel was in the field. In fact, David himself had a policy, which we find in 1 Samuel 21:4-5, that when his men were at war, they did not have sex with their wives. Perhaps this is one reason David had not wanted to go to Rabbah to fight the Ammonites. He may have stayed behind in Jerusalem to indulge his appetite.
The first time David sent Uriah home, Uriah did not go, so David invited Uriah to see him again. This time he caused him to become drunk. Think about that-a believer making another believer drunk so that he will forget his principles, stumble out, and go home when he was not supposed to. There was only one problem with this new plan of David: Even though he was drunk, Uriah still refused to go home. He spent the night sleeping on a mat among David's servants.
David's attempts to cover up his crime through deception were not working. Finally, he knew there was only one thing he could do to deal with the situation: He had to get rid of Uriah. In 2 Samuel 11:14-15 we read, "In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, 'Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.'" We must observe something amazing here: Even though both David and Uriah were believers, God did not tell David not to do this, and he allowed Uriah to be killed. This is a mystery, that God did not interfere or intervene in this situation. He let sin work and let his own child, Uriah, be murdered.
In 2 Samuel 11:23-24 Joab sent a report to David, saying in essence, "It's all taken care of. Uriah is dead." The matter was reported to Bathsheba and she mourned, as the custom was, for seven days, probably. After the period of mourning was over, David sent for Bathsheba and took her as his wife. No one knew what David had done, and I am sure he thought his problem was solved. But everything David did had been done in the presence of God.
Confession of the Crime
Do you think David's problem was solved by his cover-up? No. In 2 Samuel 12:1 we read, "The Lord sent Nathan to David." God sent his minister, his prophet, to David to confront him because David's sin, ultimately, was not against Uriah or others, but against God. The very essence of sin is enmity toward God and God must deal with it. That is why Joseph cried, "How can I do this wicked thing and sin against God?"
So Nathan told David a parable about a rich man with a lot of sheep and a poor man who only had one ewe lamb, which he loved dearly. He said that when someone visited the rich man, instead of taking one of his own sheep, he took the ewe lamb of the poor man and killed it for the feast. (PGM) What was David's reaction to this obvious injustice? "As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!" he declared in verse 5, even though a capital crime had not been committed. In other words, David was saying the man should die because his crime was so heinous.
Then God spoke through Nathan to David, saying, "You are the man!" In other words, Nathan was saying, "David, you are the criminal in this matter! You thought you had solved your problem. You committed adultery and murdered Uriah and think that no one knows about all these things. But God knows and you stand guilty before him."
Oh, what a surprise for David! The moment he thought his problem was solved and his sin covered, he realized it was not so. So the third point is David's confession of his crime through the conviction brought about by Nathan. Let me tell you, David did not confess right away. He should have confessed early on, but he did not. We read about this in Psalm 32:3-4 where David says, "When I kept silent. . . ."
But it is miserable for a Christian to hide sin, as David says, "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." In this psalm we see David wilting like a plant in the summer without water. He was groaning and suffering, both physically and psychologically, all because of unconfessed sin. But despite all this misery, David did not open his mouth and confess, "I have sinned," until Nathan confronted him.
We see a similar situation in the New Testament church as well. In 1 Corinthians 11:30 we read, "That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep." Certain members of the Corinthian church were suffering greatly because of sin. When we are living with unconfessed sin, we are living in continuous misery. There will be no relief for us, especially if we are the people of God.
Finally, David confessed his sin. "I have sinned against the Lord," he said. In the Hebrew his confession comes in only two words-a very short yet very authentic confession. "I have sinned against the Lord."
Acknowledgment of Sin
What is sin? It can be defined with one word: against. Sin is against. It is against yourself, your spouse, your children, and your church. But not only that, sin is primarily and fundamentally against God. "Against you, you only, have I sinned," David prayed in Psalm 51:4. In Luke 15:21 the prodigal son says, "I have sinned against heaven and against you." In Genesis 39:9 Joseph asked, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" Sin is against God. Yes, it is also against you, against your wife, against your children, against the church. But, ultimately, sin is against God.
Why do we sin? Because we have a sin nature. David speaks of this in Psalm 51:5, saying, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." Some people claim to be Christians, yet they hate the doctrine of original sin. Let me assure you, if you hate this doctrine, you are not a Christian. A Christian will embrace that doctrine.
But David did not use the fact that his sin nature was inherited and unavoidable to excuse himself from sin. He readily acknowledged his culpability, telling Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Observe how many times he uses the word "my" in Psalm 51. Within the first three verses it appears five times, demonstrating that David was accepting full responsibility for his sins. So we read, "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." Then David says, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. . . ." This is authentic confession.
David only spoke two words to Nathan, but it was authentic confession also: "I have sinned against the Lord." This is in stark contrast to David's predecessor Saul, who "confessed" two times before Samuel. In 1 Samuel 15 he used the same words David used, saying, "I have sinned," yet Saul was a phony. He never repented authentically, as his subsequent life showed. Pray that when we confess, we will confess truly, and when we repent, we will repent truly.
In Psalm 51 David used several words to speak of his sinful condition. First, he used the word "sin," which means to miss the mark. What is the mark we should aim at? We must strive to glorify God and enjoy him forever. As sinners, we miss the bull's eye of pleasing God in all things we do. He also uses the word "transgression," which means deliberately using all our will against the will of God. It is also called rebellion. He uses the word "iniquity," which means twistedness and perversity. It stands in stark contrast with God's way, which is righteous and straight. Then David uses the word "guile," or "deceit," which is self-deception. By piling up all these words, David was expressing the horribleness of his sin.
God Deals with Sin
What can a person do about sin? In Psalm 51:7 David prays, "Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean." The word "cleanse" or "purge" as found in Psalm 51 is an interesting word. It means "to un-sin" or "to de-sin." We must realize that it is impossible for us to take our own sin away, but with God it is possible. So David was praying, "O God, do something so that I will be completely justified, as though I never sinned. Un-sin me! Purge me!" And later on in the psalm he says, "Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." In other words, David is saying, "O God, I know I am like a foul garment. Please wash me and cleanse me and blot out my transgressions! Erase my transgressions! Un-sin me!"
When David told Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord," what did God do? In 2 Samuel 12:13-14 we read, "And Nathan told David, 'The Lord has taken away your sin. You shall not die.'" This is amazing. God granted David instant forgiveness the moment he confessed his sin. We see the same idea in Psalm 32:5: "Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, 'I will confess my transgression to the Lord'-and you forgave the guilt of my sin."
How thorough is God's cleansing when he forgives our sins? In Psalm 51:7 David prayed, "Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Whiter than snow! We cannot get that type of cleansing anywhere in this world, but that is what happens when God forgives our sins. This cleansing is the ministry of the blood of Jesus Christ.
Additionally, in Psalm 51:1 David prayed, "Have mercy on me, O God." These words tell us David was truly confessing and repenting. He was not asking for justice because he knew he was guilty. All he could say to God was, "Have mercy on me. . . ." but then he added, "according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion." In other words, David was saying, "O God, I know I am a sinner, but I want your unfailing love. Though I am unworthy, show me your great compassion."
This is what we will say when we truly repent, truly confess, and truly acknowledge that we are sinners. We will come to God, saying, "O God, I have nothing to base my plea on. Have mercy on me and show me your lovingkindness, your great compassion." When we do this, God will show mercy to us, as we read in Ephesians 2:4, "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved."
The Basis of Forgiveness
Throughout the Bible we read such scriptures as, "The soul who sins is the one who will die" (Ezekiel 18:4), "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), and "The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18). These are universal truths. How, then, can anyone come to God and say, "Just forgive me," as David did?
David did not make his request for forgiveness without thought. When David said, "O God, purge me with hyssop," I am sure he was referring to the procedure for cleansing a person of leprosy. This was done through the blood of sacrifice, as we read in Leviticus 14. He understood there was no other way for God to justify him and pronounce him clean except through the shedding of blood. In the same way we must understand that only through the blood of Christ shed on the cross can we be cleansed of our sins. That is why we glory in the proclamation of the gospel.
This is the big cover-up of God! When we try to cover up our sin, we are damned. But God can cover it all up because he presented his Son as a sacrifice of atonement. He punished him so that he may un-sin and justify us. We must keep this in mind.
But there is one other point we must make from this passage. Even though David's sin was forgiven, there were consequences to his sin. No one can escape the chastisement of God. So David told Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord," and Nathan told David, "The Lord has taken away your sins. You are not going to die."
But then Nathan continued, "But. . . ." I hope we will think about that "but" when we sin. What were the consequences to David's sin? In verse 10 we read, "Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house. . . ." and in verses 11 and 12 we read, "Before your very eyes 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." Then Nathan said, "The son born to you will die." Oh, but not only one. Four sons of David were killed because of David's sin.
From this passage we see that God will use severe measures to chastise us. Our sin affects our children, our children's children, and others, and there will be trouble until our sin is dealt with. Additionally; our sin affects our reward in heaven. Now, I am not speaking about justification. When we repent and confess our sins, we are forgiven and justified, and we shall not die. But when we sin, we will suffer consequences, both now and hereafter. In light of this, I hope we will all be very careful when we are tempted to sin.
Has God Covered Your Sins?
What about you? Has God covered your sins? In Isaiah 1:18 we read, "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.'"
What is the big cover-up of God? The blood of Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 53:5 we read, "By his wounds we are healed." Christ died for our sins.
I pray that you will repent truly and confess truly. If you do, God will un-sin you and justify you. Just as a leper goes through a certain ceremony and is pronounced clean by the priest, so also God will ask our great high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, to pronounce you clean and you will be whiter than snow. That is justification. All your sin will be blotted out, and you will begin to rejoice.
Have you been reluctant to confess your sins to God? Have you felt his heavy hand upon you? Is your mouth taped shut? If so, I pray you will open your mouth and tell God, "Against you, you only, have I sinned. Have mercy upon me. Blot out my transgressions. Cleanse me with hyssop and I'll be whiter than snow. Forgive all my sins." I guarantee you, if you confess and renounce, you will find mercy in God. He will spread upon you the cover of his blood and everything will be all right.
May God have mercy on all of us. As we confess our sins, may he blot out our transgressions and make us whiter than snow. May he apply the blood of Jesus Christ into our lives, that we may rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, both now and forevermore. Amen.
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Copyright © 2000, P. G. Mathew
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