Not that long ago, my church’s Sunday school classes covered the life of David. The goal is, in one lesson, to address the earthly consequences of David’s sin — the loss of three of his sons, the loss of his throne, and the loss of his honor.
These stories make up a significant portion of 2 Samuel — and make for a great read. It can be amazing how well these ancient stories hold up as literature, not just history.
For background, the teacher may want to read these posts that cover much of this material. I’ve added a few posts that were written later that should add some additional light on the materials —
The lesson is, of course, a familiar one. God forgives but he doesn’t necessarily protect us from the earthly consequences of our decisions. Be hateful to your wife, and if you repent, God will forgive you — but you may well remain divorced and lonely until you die. It’s just that simple.
“Vengeance is mine”
But there’s much more here. After all, God chose Solomon to be king after David. Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba — meaning that God treated Solomon as a legitimate son and the marriage between David and Bathsheba as real.
The so-called “law of restitution” that some use to prevent remarriage after a divorce would surely require that David not marry a woman he obtained through sin, but David’s repentance and God’s mercy allowed Bathsheba to marry the king, live in the palace, and give birth to Solomon, even though the marriage was the product of the blackest of sins.
Earthly consequences of sin happen — and they can be terrible and they are, sometimes, God’s will. But it’s not the place of the church to impose earthly consequences. We don’t make legal rulings for the sake of causing suffering. That is solely up to God, and even God in all his justness sometimes chooses to limit the consequences of sin. We cannot risk being stricter than God! We are not God’s vindicator.
In short, the fact that David suffered terribly for his sins does not permit us to treat sinners terribly. It’s not our place. Indeed, we see that God’s prophet Nathan stood with David as he suffered his punishment (1 Kings 1).
There are all these great stores in 2 Samuel that we rarely teach or preach on. After all, it all starts with David being forgiven for adultery and murder. And there are children in the audience.
(2Sa 16:5-10 ESV) 5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6 And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8 The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”
9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.”
10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?'”
David, having been thoroughly shamed — dishonored — by Absalom, who drove David from the palace and slept with David’s harem — finds himself being insulted by Shimei.
David’s general, Abishai, begged permission to kill him, but David refused. After all, David said, this might be from God, too.
Later, when David returned in victory to Jerusalem,
(2Sa 19:18-23 ESV) And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was about to cross the Jordan, 19 and said to the king, “Let not my lord hold me guilty or remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. Do not let the king take it to heart. 20 For your servant knows that I have sinned. Therefore, behold, I have come this day, the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet my lord the king.”
21 Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?”
22 But David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be as an adversary to me? Shall anyone be put to death in Israel this day? For do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?” 23 And the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king gave him his oath.
This time, Abishai really wanted to kill Shimei. David had been vindicated. David’s right to the throne was re-affirmed by the hand of God!
But again, in unspeakable mercy, David refused the request. This should be a day of celebration. No one should be killed on such a day!
David was a man of unspeakable mercy. Sometimes his softheartedness hurt him, making it too tempting for his sons to seize his throne. But we see in David’s mercy the heart of God.
Just so, there’s the wonderful tale of Mephibosheth (say that one 10 times quickly!)
(2Sa 9:6-10 ESV) 6 And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, “Mephibosheth!” And he answered, “Behold, I am your servant.”
7 And David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”
8 And he paid homage and said, “What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?”
9 Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. 10 And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.
When Absalom drove David out of the palace, Ziba lied to David telling him that Mephibosheth had supported Absalom’s coup. Mephibosheth could not flee with David, being lame.
(2Sa 19:24-30 ESV) 24 And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. He had neither taken care of his feet nor trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in safety. 25 And when he came to Jerusalem to meet the king, the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?”
26 He answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me, for your servant said to him, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go with the king.’ For your servant is lame. 27 He has slandered your servant to my lord the king. But my lord the king is like the angel of God; do therefore what seems good to you. 28 For all my father’s house were but men doomed to death before my lord the king, but you set your servant among those who eat at your table. What further right have I, then, to cry to the king?”
29 And the king said to him, “Why speak any more of your affairs? I have decided: you and Ziba shall divide the land.”
30 And Mephibosheth said to the king, “Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home.”
Mephibosheth had a claim to the throne as son of Jonathan, Saul’s oldest son. David had cared for him out of love for Jonathan, and David’s mercy was rewarded with Mephibosheth’s loyalty.
Not only does sin have consequences, so does doing the right thing.
[Note to teachers: I think the stories (true stories) work better as stories than as a moralizing class. The stories teach their own conclusions, and most students will not be familiar with these tales. We just don’t cover the sex, murder, and rebellion in middle school Bible class.
Great story telling requires that you fall in love with the characters and the tales. You have to savor the stories as stories. Do that, and your students will go home and read The Story’s pages for themselves. Passion for the stories will be contagious.]