2 SAMUEL 12:1-14
WE ALL sin many times. No matter how sorry we are, we may wonder: ‘Does God hear my sincere prayers of repentance? Will he forgive me?’ The Bible teaches this comforting truth: Although Jehovah never condones sin, he is willing to forgive a repentant sinner. This truth was clearly demonstrated in the case of King David of ancient Israel, according to 2 Samuel chapter 12.
Imagine the setting. David is guilty of serious sins. He committed adultery with Bath-sheba, and when efforts to cover over the sin failed, he arranged to have her husband killed. David then kept silent about his sins, maintaining an appearance of innocence for a number of months. Jehovah, however, was watching. He saw David’s sins. But he also saw that David’s heart was not beyond repentance. (Proverbs 17:3) What would Jehovah do?
Jehovah sends the prophet Nathan to David. (Verse 1) Guided by holy spirit, Nathan approaches the king with tact, knowing he must choose his words carefully. How can he remove the veil of self-deception and get David to see the enormity of his sins?
Nathan sidesteps David’s defenses by telling a story that is sure to reach the heart of a former shepherd. It is about two men, one rich and one poor. The rich man had “many sheep and cattle,” but the poor man had “but one female lamb.” The rich man received a visitor and wanted to prepare a meal. Rather than use one of his own sheep, he took the poor man’s only lamb. Evidently thinking that the story was true, David is outraged and blurts out: “The man doing this deserves to die!” Why? “Because he did not have compassion,” explains David.—Verses 2-6.
Nathan’s parable has achieved its intended purpose. David has, in effect, indicted himself. Nathan now tells him plainly: “You yourself are the man!” (Verse 7) As Nathan speaks for God, it is clear that Jehovah takes David’s actions personally. By breaking God’s laws, David has shown a lack of respect for the Lawgiver. “You despised me,” God says. (Verse 10) His heart pierced by the stinging rebuke, David confesses: “I have sinned against Jehovah.” Nathan assures David that Jehovah forgives him, but David will have to live with the consequences of his actions.—Verses 13, 14.
After his sin was brought out in the open, David penned what is now Psalm 51. In it, David poured out his heart, revealing the depth of his repentance. By his sins, David had despised Jehovah. But once the contrite king experienced the beauty of divine forgiveness, he could say to Jehovah: “A heart broken and crushed, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) Few words could be more reassuring to a repentant sinner seeking Jehovah’s mercy.
Preparing a lamb for a visitor was a hospitable gesture. But stealing a lamb was a crime, the penalty for which was fourfold compensation. (Exodus 22:1) In David’s view, the rich man acted mercilessly by taking the lamb. He thereby deprived the poor man of an animal that might have provided his family with milk and wool and even have served as the beginning of a flock of sheep.