What would it be like it King David came to your church to offer his “testimony,” especially related to God’s grace and his pain regarding his three sons?
At New Covenant Bible Church yesterday, my pastor David Sunday gave a Scripture-saturated sermon (weaving together 2 Samuel and the Psalms), creatively presenting such a testimony.
I’ll reproduce the introduction below, but again, you can read the whole thing here.
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath!” (Psalm 39:7-13).
You may recognize those words from the 39th Psalm.
But I remember them as the anguished outcry of my soul.
I wrote them when God’s rod of discipline was heavy upon me. I was spent by the hostility of his hand. All that was dear to me had been consumed like a moth drawn into the fierce intensity of a candle’s blaze. I felt I could bear God’s rebuke not a moment longer.
My name is David. King David. The son of Jesse, chosen of the LORD to be Israel’s anointed King.
You may know me as “a man after God’s own heart.”
But to be honest, I have a hard time ever seeing myself that way. “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3).
Oh, please don’t misunderstand: I love God with all my heart! There’s nothing I desire more than him. My soul thirsts for him, my flesh yearns for him like a desert traveler gasping for water.
But often I have gone astray like a lost sheep. Grievously I have sinned against the LORD.
Many of my sins are hidden—hidden from you, and even unknown to me—but the Searcher of Hearts knows them all.
And some of them you know too. You have heard the sordid tale of my sin with Bathsheba. I hate to talk about it, it pains me whenever I think of it—but as long as I live, I’ll never be able not to think of it.
I exploited her. I demeaned her. I violated her. Then I deceived her husband, and when he proved to be a better man than I, I discarded him. I set him up to be killed as he was loyally fighting my battle.
I was—I am—a moral monster.
In the weeks and months that followed, outwardly everything appeared normal—I married Bathsheba, she was expecting a baby, and the Kingdom was prospering. I went to meetings, I gave speeches, I sat on my throne giving judgments, keeping as busy as a King can be, doing my utmost to put the whole debacle out of my mind.
But day and night God’s hand was heavy upon me. Inwardly, I felt like my bones were wasting away. My strength was dried up like a stream in the July desert (Psalm 32).
I’d go to the temple, but couldn’t pray.
I’d open the Torah, but couldn’t concentrate to read it.
And worst of all, I could not repent. I could not bring myself to acknowledge what I had done.
- I was comatose in my own wretchedness.
- I was blinded by my own hypocrisy.
- I was senseless to the bounty of God’s grace towards me.
- And I was reckless in the face of sin’s consequences.
Those were some of the darkest days of my life. But I could not see that the darkness was inside me. The Enemy was within the citadel of my soul.
Then one day the prophet Nathan came to me. He told me the story of two men in a certain city, one was filthy rich, and the other, dirt poor. And the rich man robbed the poor man of the only thing he had–one little ewe lamb who grew up with him and his children.
When I heard this, I was furious! I could think of nothing but finding that wicked man and sentencing him to death.
Gladly I could have killed him with my own sword, because he did such a thing and had no pity.
That’s when Nathan’s gaze pierced my soul. He arrested me with his eyes, and I knew I was caught before he spoke a word.
To this day, I shudder when his next words echo in my mind: “You are the man!”
At last, I was stripped of my defenses. The monster within me was unveiled. My icy heart was melting. And I found myself trembling at the Word of the LORD, as Nathan drove the two-edged sword till it penetrated my inmost being–you can read of it in 2 Sam. 12:
“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 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'” (2 Sam. 12:7-12).
What could I say? Though my whole world was crashing down upon my head, it came almost as a sweet relief to finally be found out—and as impossible as it was for me to admit it all those months, there seemed to appear before me a fountain of cleansing; I could hardly wait to dive in and lose all my guilty stains.
Honestly, with a broken and believing heart, I confessed: “I have sinned against the LORD”—that’s all it took, and the floodgates of God’s mercy opened wide.
Mercy there was great, and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me.
Nathan said to me, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
To this day, I cannot get over it—“My Lord, what love is this, that gave so freely? That I, the guilty one, may go free?”
- God has created in me a clean heart.
- He has restored to me the joy of his salvation.
- He has put a new song in my heart, a song of praise to my God.
- He has not dealt with me according to my sins, nor repaid me according to my iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
- Bless the LORD, O my soul! And All that is within me, bless his holy name!
How sweet it is to be forgiven! How sweet it is to know that when I stand before God, he will not see me as a sinner—he will receive me as a saint—a man after God’s own heart!
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).
But there is something very serious I need to tell you this morning. In doing so, I hope to spare you enormous pain in your lifetime.
It’s been many years now since my sin with Bathsheba. I know I’m forgiven, and I believe with all my heart God won’t hold my sins against me in the Judgment.
But it still stings.
Years have passed, all of them riddled with pain: I’m still suffering the consequences of my sins.
I’d do anything if I could go back to the point when lust first started rising in my heart, and repent then. If only I could change my vote—if only I could deny my lusts the power of reigning in my heart.
But I can’t. I let the cancer grow. And God has been doing surgery on my soul ever since.
Know this, my friends: forgiven sins may still sting.
Be sure of this: pardoned sins can produce lasting pain.