“And the LORD sent Nathan unto David” (2 Samuel 12:1). As a prophet, it was Nathan’s job to speak on behalf of the LORD. Typically, the prophets received messages of judgement that they had to deliver to God’s people. In David’s case, Nathan was given a parable to share with David in order to get David to judge himself. God wanted David to see the seriousness of his sin without becoming defensive about it.
Nathan told David the story of a rich man who took a poor man’s lamb in order to feed a traveler that came to visit him. (2 Samuel 12:1-4). After hearing the story it says in 2 Samuel 12:5-7, “David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die…And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.”
According to Mosaic Law, the penalty for adultery and murder was death, so David was deserving of the death penalty, but that is not the punishment he got. After David heard what his punishment was going to be (see 2 Samuel 12:10-12), “David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:13). David knew he deserved death and realized that God was being merciful to him. His confession of being a sinner was an acknowledgement that God was right in judging him. “And Nathan said unto David, the LORD hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Samuel 12:13).
It says in 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Although David confessed his sin, he could not be forgiven because Jesus had not yet paid the penalty for it. The term put away or ‘abar (aw – bar´) in Hebrew, “is sometimes used of ‘passing over’ a law, order, or commandment as if it were not binding” (5674). In this instance, God made an exception for David and did not act according to his own law.
What God did for David could be considered a miracle. When God does something miraculous, he goes against the laws of nature; what would normally happen does not. Up until this point in his life, it can be assumed that David had not broken any of God’s commandments. In spite of his perfect track record, David’s sin would have cost him his life if God had not intervened.
God, in his wisdom, chose to make an example of David’s life. The message the LORD brought to David through Nathan was harsh and yet David saw God as merciful and wanted his relationship with him to be restored. In the end, David lost the child that was conceived through his act of adultery. After he was told of his child’s death, David said:
While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
Immediately after the child’s death, we see that David’s favor with the LORD is restored. Two events mark another turning point in David’s life. First, his son, and successor to his throne, Solomon is born by Bath-sheba and second, the children of Ammon are destroyed completely.
And David comforted Bath-sheba his wife, and went unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him…And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it. And he took their king’s crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with precious stones: and it was set on David’s head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance. (2 Samuel 12:24, 29-30)