deer caught in headlights May 2 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 1Chronicles 20:1; 2Samuel 11:1-12:24a; Psalm 51; Psalm 32

Guilt and Forgiveness

In our American culture it seems that “experts” and others want to blame guilt on unfortunate backgrounds and religion. They are ready to accept any explanation to assuage guilt feelings. What is the problem with this? The Bible says the Holy Spirit convicts and convinces us of sin (John 16:8). As a deer is caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, the Holy Spirit shines His light upon our guilty souls. Guilt can be useful to lead us to repentance, but suppressed guilt can be harmful. King David had suppressed guilt.

In today's Bible reading King David is wildly successful in his military campaigns. Under his leadership the boundaries extend into the territories of other nations. As he grows older, however, his morality slips. Instead of accompanying his generals when they go out to war, David stays home. He is bored and it is spring time. Boredom and not being where we should be often causes us to sin. David sees Bathsheba, the beautiful wife of Uriah (one of his better soldiers), bathing on the roof of her house. David sends for her and commits adultery with her. When she informs him she is pregnant, David tries to cover up his misdeeds. First, he brings Uriah home to “report on the battle”. He then sends Uriah home to spend time with his wife. But Uriah is a dedicated soldier and does not go home and sleep in his own bed with his wife while the armies of Israel are sleeping in the fields. Next, David gets him drunk, but again Uriah does not go home. Failing in these two attempts, he finally puts her husband on the front battle lines and orders Joab to withdraw his men so Uriah will be killed. The plan works, but David is guilty of adultery and murder.

Be careful because your sins will find you out. As often happens when you and I are guilty of sin, we get caught, and so does David. The prophet Nathan confronts David about his sin by sharing a story that pulls at the very heart strings of his boyhood roots. He shares a story of a rich man who takes a poor man’s one and only beloved lamb to feed a traveler who comes for a visit (2Samuel 12:1-13). When David becomes infuriated about the injustice, Nathan accuses David of doing the same thing by taking Uriah's wife. God had given him wives and made him rich and successful, and would even have done more for him. Immediately, David is stricken in his heart. Parents and other counselors, when we are counseling a person who obviously is at fault but does not recognize it, we can do what Nathan did; we can share a story with which the offender will readily relate and for which he/she will have empathy. Often the Holy Spirit will use that story, along with truth, to convict the guilty person.

Following the story, David's statement that he sinned against the LORD seems simple enough, but what was he really feeling? Was he really repentant? We know how David felt because in today's Bible reading we have a couple songs (Psalms) he composed right after this incident. They show us how he struggled with his guilt. Guilt often takes its toll on our bodies. It can cause bad headaches, ulcers, weakness, and pain in our joints and muscles as David writes in other Psalms. Here David writes, “When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long, my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer,” (Psalm 32:3,4, NIV).

There are two kinds of guilt - justifiable and unjustifiable. Unjustifiable guilt occurs when someone feels guilty or has been made to feel guilty when there is no reason to feel this way. A person who has been raped may feel guilty, but her guilt is unjustifiable because she is not at fault. A person who steals, rapes, or murders, however, has a justifiable reason for his guilt. David is guilty of adultery and murder.

We, too, may have justifiable reasons for our guilt, though we may not have committed David’s sins. What should we do with our guilt? From Psalm 51 we learn that we should be genuinely repentant. We should cry out to God for mercy, acknowledge our sin and the evil of it, and ask for forgiveness and cleansing. We should come to God with a broken and contrite heart (v.17). God accepts this kind of a sacrifice. He will forgive any sins which are confessed in a spirit of humility and a broken heart (more...).

What happens to David? Is he now absolved of all sin and free to go on with his life, suffering no consequences? No, he and his household will bear serious calamities for his sins. Nathan, the prophet of God, says,

Now, therefore, [because you had Uriah killed] the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own. This is what the LORD says: “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.”

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” (2Samuel 12:10-14, NIV)

We will see in future lessons that David and his family suffer much for his sins.

Lessons to Live by

  • Be careful not to put yourself in a place or position where you will be tempted to sin.
  • God sees our sins and His Spirit convicts and convinces us of them.
  • Guilt often takes its toll on our bodies.
  • Do not let guilt destroy you. Repent and confess your sins to God and to others whom you have offended.
  • God is merciful and gracious to forgive those who are truly penitent, (more...).
  • Though we are forgiven, often times there is still a price to be paid for our sins. Sins and guilt can be removed, but we often bear the consequences.

Today’s Bible Memory Verse

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 (NIV)

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