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 religion and unfortunate backgrounds. They are ready to accept any explanation to diminish or remove feelings of shame. What is the problem with that? 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 lead us to remorse for our sins and to seek forgiveness, but suppressed guilt can be harmful. King David had suppressed guilt.

King David has been wildly successful in his military campaigns. Under his leadership the boundaries extended 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. One night 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 that she is pregnant, David tries to cover up his sins. 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 him on the front battle lines and orders his commander 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, eventually we get caught, and so does David. The prophet Nathan confronts him about his sin by sharing a story which 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 enraged about the injustice, Nathan accuses him of doing the same thing by taking Uriah's precious wife for himself. God had given King David wives and made him rich and successful, and would even have done more for him. Immediately, he is struck with his guilt.

Parents and friends, when we are counseling a person who is obviously at fault but does not recognize it, we can do what Nathan did; we can share a story which the guilty person will connect and sympathize with. Is there an occupation or hobby in his background that he is passionate about? Often the Holy Spirit can use that story, linked 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 genuinely sorry and grieved about his actions? 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 responsible or has been made to feel ashamed 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 feelings. David is guilty of adultery and murder.

We, too, may have justifiable reasons for our guilt, although we may not have committed David’s sins. What should we do with our feelings? 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 remorseful heart (v.17). God accepts this kind of a sacrifice. He will forgive any sins which are confessed in this spirit of humility (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 consequences 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

  • We should be careful not to put ourselves in places or positions where we 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.
  • If we have sinned, let's not let guilt destroy us. Let's repent and confess our sins to God and to others whom we have offended.
  • The LORD is merciful and gracious to forgive those who are truly humble and remorseful (more...).
  • Although 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.

Focus Verse

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

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A Look Ahead: In our Next Lesson David is Forgiven and Restored. Find out how we can be forgiven and restored after we have sinned.

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