Bread – Punishment

August 9, 2013


Readings for Friday, August 9, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 12:1-14; Acts 19:21-41; Mark 9:14-29; Psalms 88,91,92

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In today’s reading from Samuel, we have the story of the aftermath of David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, but David saw her, thought she was very beautiful, and took her, killing Uriah by a trick in the process. Sort of like what we might do to get something we want.

God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David with his sin by telling David about a rich man who took a baby lamb from a poor man who had nothing so that the rich man could entertain his neighbor. In hearing this story, David of course rises up in righteous anger and says, essentially, “who could do such a thing?” Nathan then says, simply, “You are the man.”

How many stories could be told which, when we hear them, we would be angry about such an injustice, only to have God or our conscience tell us, in our quiet of reflection, that “you are the man.” “You are the evil doer.” “You are the one who has answered viciously, plotted for advantage, conducted murder in your heart, etc.

Yes, we are the people who are involved in these sordid stories of our lives. And we are responsible. And we are guilty. And we are sinful.

David hears Nathan and says “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Sam. 12:13. And in this he is right. Yes, his sin was against Uriah (who he killed), Bathsheba (who he turned into an adulteress), and even his own subjects (who he let down by his lack of integrity and honesty). But first and foremost it was against God. It was against His holy standard of behavior, of right and wrong, of His perfection.

Likewise, our sins are against others, but primarily they are against God’s will in our lives and His rules for living. They are violations of God’s holiness. They are insults hurled at God by us.

For which we deserve punishment. For those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, who have not repented and turned to Him in faith, it means punishment in this world and the next, for all time. For those who are saved by God’s mercy and in His sovereign will through faith in Jesus Christ, there is a different outcome.

Oh, there is punishment, but of a different sort.

Immediately after David has confessed his sin, Nathan has this to say – listen in very carefully: “And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.’” 2 Sam. 12:13-14.

In Christ Jesus, we are like David. The Lord has put away our sin by His sovereign grace, His mercy extended to us who are utterly undeserving of it but receive it anyway. However, God does not take insults lightly and there are consequences. In David’s case, the loss of a child. In our case, punishment may be less or more, but it will be.

When we are saved in Christ, we will receive punishment for our sins in this life, with perhaps even the reduction of rewards in heaven, but “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” Salvation is assured. And so is punishment for our sins. We do not avoid punishment for our sins by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; we avoid destruction in the lake of fire. We do not avoid the consequences of our sin, but we do not die either.

God was not happy with David, and He punished him for his sins against Him. But God was merciful and spared his life, just like He is merciful to those whom He brings to Christ.

Isn’t this the “good news,” actually the best news? Through Jesus Christ the permanent consequences of our sin, death, is overcome and we will live forever in the presence of the Lord. The permanent punishment of death for all eternity is held back because God has mercy and took out His wrath on His Son and our Savior. However, the temporal consequences of sin are real. God will not be scorned. And, for our sins against God, we will be like David, saved and punished – which beats punished and dead for eternity all day long.

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© 2013 GBF

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