We stand complete “In Christ Alone.” Let us see God’s unconditional love in the preacher who confronts our sin. Let us see God’s unconditional love in the Spirit who troubles our breast. And let us, again, respond to the unconditional love of God with a hearty prayer of repentance.
David was the recipient of God’s undeserved favor. God, through the prophet Samuel, came looking for this young man. He was the one selected to be God’s messiah. He was the anointed one who was called to shepherd Israel. He was the one specially filled with God’s Spirit and enabled to write inspired poetry. David was granted divine favor in marriage, in business, and in war. Due to God’s predestination and providence, David transitioned from the sheep pen to the palace. And so it is and will be for all of us who have been specially called according to God’s purpose.
However, sadly, David committed several unfathomable sins. He stayed home from battle. He lusted after another man’s wife, then he sought to cover his sin and make Uriah believe the child to be his. When this didn’t work, he encouraged Joab to commit murder with him in order to tie up lose ends. David followed this by adding Bathsheba to his harem of wives. Oh, how far the friend of God fell, and so it is possible for all of us who have been specially called according to God’s purpose.
Yet, God would not allow David to remain in his unreconciled state. With unconditional love, God sent the prophet Nathan to David’s door:
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 …. ” (2 Samuel 12:1-13a)
Yes, with unconditional love, God sent a minister David’s way. With unconditional love God uncovered David’s sin. With unconditional love, God struck David’s heart with grief and repentance. And then hear God’s statement of unconditional forgiveness and compassion for his wandering child:
And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. (2 Samuel 12:13b)
Society might not have been ready to forgive. The church might not have been ready to forgive. However, God was eager and hungry to express his unconditional love. And so it is for those of us who are the “called of God.” Our sin cannot separate us from his love. Nothing can affect the positional relationship we have due to the regeneration of the Spirit, the atonement of the Son, and the predestinating grace of the Father. Agape love is that which we have received. It is unconditional and unwaivering.
However, this is not the end of the story. God continued to show unconditional love to his fleshly friend, but he also chose to exercise uncomfortable discipline. God could have demanded the life of David; this was allowable and expected according to the Mosaic Civil Law. Instead, God harmed the reputation of his servant; he harmed the emotional condition of David and Bathsheba; he promised immenent familial dysfunction, and he took the life of David’s new infant. Out of love for David, Bathsheba, and God’s people then and now, severe consequences flowed forth from the God of unconditional love.
So how should this true story affect us today?
First, let us be careful in our judgment of others. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Only God knows those who are truly his. Many are going to be found in heaven whom we reasoned might not make it. Contrarily, many, who look so good from our perspective, will be found wailing outside the heavenly gate. They will hear the tragic words of Jesus, “Depart from me; I never knew you.” Let us not look at those who commit unfathomable sin and deem them to be hypocrites. They could just be “men after God’s own heart” who have fallen terribly.
Second, let us be careful in our assessment of our own strength. Apart from the grace of God, we can fall similarly. Let us be diligent in communing with God. The Bible is full of saints who prove to be wretched sinners.
Third, let us confess our iniquities and run back into the arms of our Savior. Our position in him was not due to our works. Our position in him cannot be affected by our works. We stand complete “In Christ Alone.” Let us see God’s unconditional love in the preacher who confronts our sin. Let us see God’s unconditional love in the Spirit who troubles our breast. And let us, again, respond to the unconditional love of God with a hearty prayer of repentance. Our sin has affected our experiential relationship, but not our positional relationship.
Fourth, let us be as quick as Nathan in declaring the forgiveness of God to our repentant brothers. Nathan did not wait to see if David’s works proved his repentance. The Father of the Prodigal Son did not wait for his beloved child to prove his faithfulness. Their proclamation of repentance and faith was sufficient. May we be quick to forgive and reconcile as Christ has been quick to forgive us.
Finally, let us not tread on the grace of Christ and reason all will be fantastically glorious after we repent. We will reap what we sow. Yes, sin has consequences, and sometimes they are life-long. God promises unconditional love. He also promises uncomfortable discipline to those who are his children.
Joseph A. Franks IV is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Palmetto Hills Presbyterian Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina. This article first appeared on his blog, and is used with permission.