Two Dimensional Justice

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! … 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 and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him … by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD.”

2 Samuel 12:7-14

It’s one of the best known stories of the Bible, King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the arranged murder of her husband. It shows how frail our heroes are, and the evil things even the best of us are capable of. “The man after God’s own heart” was so comfortable in his power that he was willing to commit and justify seduction (or rape) and murder.

The Lord informed the prophet Nathan of what happened. He went to David with a made-up story that illustrated a similar outrage. David declared that such offenses ought to be judged, at which point Nathan revealed that he had actually been painting a picture of David’s recent actions.

If David had already been willing to commit murder as part of a cover-up, why did he not execute Nathan? Given his response in Psalm 51, I think it was because of how Nathan characterized the King’s actions. The prophet did not simply point out the wrong he had done to two people. He reminded David that in wronging them, he had “despised” and “utterly scorned” the Lord God.

This broke David. In his mind, he suppressed what he had done to a couple. But nothing could ever, ever justify sin against the Holy Lord God. God’s anger brought real and unavoidable consequences, but the worse thing was how David disrespected God through shameful behavior.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Psalm 51:4

In spite of the tragic repercussions that David would have to live with, Psalm 51 is a model of confession, contrition, repentance, supplication, forgiveness and restoration. It illustrates what it means for a sinner to have a heart for God. David might still live with wronging others, but he could not live with offending the amazing God who loved him.

… our two dimensional concepts of justice … fail to see why sin against our neighbor is so wrong. Our God is too small and our concepts of sin too innocuous … [David’s] sin is larger than murder and adultery, as our own society conceives of them. It constitutes defiance of the Most High and a breaking of his laws …

God is your brother’s keeper. He is the God of the girl or fellow you seduced, of the neighbor you snubbed, of the customer you shortchanged. You wrong your neighbor, but you sin against God.

John White, Daring to Draw Near

God created even those who do not know or honor him; they are in his image. He especially treasures those who treasure his Son. In either case, when we wrong others, the worst part of it is how we despise our Creator and Father.

The question that hangs over the American church is whether we still have a heart after God’s heart. We cannot walk with our Lord, let alone deal with deep social problems, as long as our sense of righteousness refuses to look up. I know that I can be as weak as David when it comes to minimizing my own contribution to the social ills that plague our nation. Perhaps, in my two dimensional way of thinking, I’ve learned to live with that. But can I still do so when I recognize how it despises my Savior and my God?

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