Knowing But Not Knowing

So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” (2 Samuel 12:5-6)

The man after God’s heart – King David – endured a year of his heart cold towards God. The sweet Psalmist of Israel was silent, conscious of his sin but not yet truly convicted of it. Finally, the great mercy of God reached from heaven to earth and prompted David’s friend – the prophet Nathan – to come and tell a story.

It was a simple story, dealing with shepherds and sheep – things David knew about long before he was a king or even before he was famous for killing Goliath. In Nathan’s story, a rich man with many sheep stole the dear lamb of his poor neighbor, simply because the rich man would not say “no” to his greedy impulses. When David heard the story, he immediately reacted. After all, he was the King of Israel, and such crimes should not be allowed in his kingdom.

In fact, our text tells us “David’s anger was greatly aroused.” Nathan did not ask David for a judicial decision, and David naturally assumed the story was true. David immediately passed sentence on the guilty man of Nathan’s story. Though David was guilty of a far greater crime than lamb-stealing, he had no trouble passing a harsh sentence on the one guilty of a lesser crime. David did what most of us do at one time or another – we often try to rid our guilty consciences by passing judgment on someone else.

Yet in condemning the sin of the man in the story, David really condemned himself. When David later saw this, it was an essential step in his restoration. David had to condemn his own sin before he could find forgiveness. We often try to find refuge in excusing or minimizing or deflecting the blame of our sin and we do not simply condemn sin in our self.

It is interesting that David said, “He shall restore fourfold for the lamb.” First, it showed David knew the truth about repentance. David rightly knew that penalizing the rich man – even with death – wasn’t enough. The guilty man also had to restore something. David knew that true repentance means restitution wherever possible.

Even more so, it is significant to see that David command that the guilty man “restore fourfold.” This shows that David’s sin and hardness of heart did not diminish his knowledge of the Bible. He immediately knew what the Bible said about those who steal sheep: If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep (Exodus 22:1). David knew the words of the Bible but was distant from the Author.

Does that describe you? A person can be an absolute Bible scholar, and still be out of fellowship with the author of the Bible. One can know doctrinal truth and be able to defend it against all opponents – and still be out of relationship with the God of all truth. Knowing the words of truth doesn’t necessarily mean that you know the God of truth. Like each of us, David had to bring his relationship with God back into line with his knowledge of God.

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David’s weekly devotional is also translated into German.

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