By Irvin Himmel
It was the time of year when kings were going forth to battle. Israel’s king elected to stay in Jerusalem and let his captain, Joab, lead the fight against the Ammonites. One evening King David walked leisurely on the roof of the palace where he could enjoy fresh air and look out over the city. He saw a very beautiful woman bathing herself. He inquired about her identity, sent for her, and made love to her. She conceived. She later sent word to the king that she was pregnant.
In a frantic manner, the king attempted to conceal his adultery with Bathsheba. Her husband, Uriah, was out on the battlefield serving under Joab. David sent for Uriah, questioned him as if he only wanted information about the war, then urged him to go home and spend the night with his wife. If her husband spent only a night or two at home, no one would suspect that Bathsheba had committed adultery when it became generally known that she was expecting. But Uriah had an extraordinary sense of loyalty to the war effort. He refused to spend the night at home when Joab and the other soldiers were sleeping in the open fields. David managed to get Uriah drunk, but the intoxicated warrior still refused to go home to his beautiful wife.
Unable to execute his first plot due to Uriah’s self-denial and firmness of resolution, David looked for another way to protect Bathsheba from exposure as an adulteress and to conceal his own guilt. It came into David’s mind that if Uriah were dead, Bathsheba could become a part of the king’s harem. (Plural marriages were permitted in those days, and David already had numerous wives and concubines.) So the king wrote a letter to Joab and had Uriah to deliver it. Naturally, the loyal soldier would not dare to unseal the king’s dispatch to the captain. The letter ordered Joab to put Uriah in the hottest part of the battle and pull back from him, leaving him to die at the hands of the enemy.
First, it was lust . . . then plans for an illicit relation . . . then the very act of adultery . . . then attempts at deception . . . finally murder was committed. At an earlier date, David acted heroically in the public slaying of Goliath, the great enemy of God’s people. Now the same David acts cowardly in the secret killing of Uriah, a patriotic warrior who showed remarkable zeal for his nation.
Just as soon as her period of mourning was past, the widow of Uriah became David’s wife. But the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to convict David of his guilt. Nathan used a little illustration that showed the king what a vile sinner he had become. He charged that David had (1) despised the commandment of the Lord, (2) killed Uriah with the sword, and (3) stolen Uriah’s wife (read 2 Sam. 11; 12).
David confessed, “I have sinned.” Out of the mercy of God, David was spared from the penalty of death that was punishment for adultery under the law of Moses. God graciously put away David’s sin. But sin left its ugly mark. David could not bring Uriah back to life. He could not prevent enemies from blaspheming. Some of the consequences of David’s sin could never be erased. This is the lesson I am stressing in this article.
The heavenly Father generously extends forgiveness to us now by the blood of Jesus. Through submission to Jesus Christ, we can be washed and made whiter than snow. But, in many cases, the ugly damage of sin leaves a mark that is permanent.
A man stops at a tavern on his way home from work. He is too intoxicated to drive when he gets under the steering wheel and pulls out into the heavy traffic. There is an awful collision. An innocent child is killed, her mother is paralyzed for the remainder of her life, and another occupant of the car loses a limb. Afterward, the man responsible for that terrible accident obeys the gospel. By the grace of God he is forgiven, but the mark of sin has been made. His being forgiven does not bring back the life that was snuffed out, nor does it restore health to a broken-hearted, paralyzed mother, nor does it restore a missing limb.
A preacher loses his temper and turns on the elders of the church in a rage. He is asked to leave. He stirs up controversy and makes a bid for the sympathy of the members of the congregation. Some side with the elders; others side with the preacher. A “new” congregation is formed at a different location. The church has divided. Eventually, the two groups try to patch things up; confessions of wrongs are made. There is no question that forgiveness can be obtained, but be sure of this one thing: sin has left its ugly mark in that community!
A mother divorces her husband and carries on a clandestine love affair. Her children suffer considerable neglect and abuse. They run away from home as soon as they find an opportunity. In later years she repents and is forgiven. There is no way that she can repair the damage done to her own offspring. Sin has left its ugly mark.
God’s forgiveness removes the guilt of sin, but the effects of sin cannot always be erased.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 16, p. 263
April 17, 1980