He said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:22-23
A little context for this is in order, I think. David stayed home from the war, saw Bathsheba taking a bath on the roof of her house, committed adultery, murdered Bathsheba’s husband, and tried to cover the whole thing up. The prophet Nathan comes to David and lays the whole thing out as a parable. When David gets livid with the guy in the story, Nathan pulls the rug out from under David and lets him know that he (David) is the guy in the story. Nathan then has the enjoyable duty of telling David that his sin is forgiven but also the unenjoyable duty of telling David that the son born to David and Bathsheba will die as a consequence of David’s sin.
David’s sin with Bathsheba and the other sins that came along for the ride illustrate a point: Sin has consequences. Sometimes, we decide that we’re going to sin and are then surprised when the consequences follow. We think that God is punishing us or disciplining us when the truth is that sin’s consequences arrived. Some of us commit sexual sins, then think that the STD contracted or the pregnancy or both are judgments of God, forgetting that those are natural consequences of sexual activity. Some of us lie, then are shocked when our friends decide they no longer want anything to do with us and do not trust what we say. Some of us steal, then are puzzled about why no one trusts us with their things. There are those among us who would point at the things that follow sin and say that those are God’s judgments and it’s not always true. Bathsheba’s pregnancy was a completely natural next occurrence to her and David having sex.
Then there are the times when we think that God is disciplining us or judging our sin and we’re right. Sin has supernatural consequences. David’s sin with Bathsheba resulted in pregnancy (natural consequence), but his murder of Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) resulted in David’s own house becoming a place where violence simply would not stop (the very next chapter details some of this). Nathan had to inform David that the baby born of the tryst between David and Bathsheba would die. Was this natural or supernatural? I don’t know. I’m inclined to think it a supernatural consequence of the sin, since Nathan tells David that the baby will die because David’s sin gave the enemies of the LORD ammunition for attacking God’s character. And this tells me something as a father: Sin can have relational consequences. God said to Moses that He (God) would visit the sins of the fathers on the children for a few generations (third and fourth), but that He would bless the generations of those who love Him for thousands of generations. As a father, my sin can impact my daughter. As a husband, my sin can impact my wife. As a brother, my sin can impact my siblings. A good metaphor for sin is a nuclear bomb. A nuclear blast will destroy quite a bit in the initial blast, but the radiation left behind can cause harm for generations—harm to people who never saw the explosion. Sin is like that. No one may see the blast but me, but the lingering effects poison the area.
David recognized that his sin caused the death of the boy. He fasted and prayed while the boy was still alive, but stopped when the boy had died. David’s reasoning? I’m alive and the boy is dead. I cannot raise the dead or undo what caused his death, but I will eventually die and be reunited with him. David kinda preemptively yanks the rug out from under the notion of praying for the dead since he stops praying once the boy is dead. David says, in effect, prayer is for the living.
One last thing I see is that repentance has consequences—and these are good ones. We have a tendency to think of consequences as negatives, but the word simply means a thing that happens as a result of another thing. The consequence of working out is better fitness and more defined muscles and better self-image. The consequence of eating healthy is better health and possibly weight loss. The consequence of repentance is restoration to a right relationship with God. David recognizes his sin when Nathan shows it to him and David repents on the spot. It does not stop the consequences of sin, but it does bring about the consequence of restoring David’s relationship with God. And, if we read the psalms, we know that David was in agony between the time he sinned with Bathsheba and the day he repented. Not physical agony, but spiritual and emotional.
What does all this boil down to? Every action has consequences—natural, supernatural, and possibly relational. My sin can impact my physical well-being as well as my spiritual well-being as well as those who care about me. Likewise, whatever righteous things I do can impact my physical, spiritual, and relational life and the lives of those who care about me. I must weigh my actions and consider their possible consequences—both negative and positive.