The Ripple Effect

Consequences, Sin, David

If you drop a rock into a pool of water you will see that the rock creates ripples that move from the point of entry out into the surrounding waters. We call this the ripple effect.

If you are in a swimming pool when someone does one of those “cannonballs” into a pool you are most likely going to get hit by the splash (even if you are on the outside of the pool) and the wave that results. This is an illustration of how one act creates a subsequent consequence in those who are nearby.

This morning we will look at the ripple effects of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, his murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, and the subsequent cover-up. This ripple effect actually has waves that reach through the remainder of David’s time as King.

When last we left David, he had repented before the Lord and Nathan had assured David “the Lord has taken away your sin”. However, in his very next breath Nathan added these words, “But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.” This immediately raises a question in some minds: If David was forgiven, why did his son die? The remainder of chapter 12 deals with the horror of the death of this son conceived during the adulterous union between David and Bathsheba.

Forgiveness and Consequences are Not Contradictions

Our first thought in reading the words of Nathan is simply that the death of David’s son must show that David was not really forgiven. I want to show you that forgiveness and adverse consequences are not contradictions.

In Psalm 99:8 we read these words,

O LORD our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds.

In Galatians 6:7 Paul, talking to believers (those who had received forgiveness and new life in Christ) warned that “God cannot be mocked, a man reaps what he sows”

In Hebrews 12 the author pointed out that discipline is a natural result of sonship. We are told that the Lord loves those whom he disciplines.

Chuck Swindoll helps us understand the distinction between grace (or forgiveness) and consequences.

Grace means that God, in forgiving you, does not kill you. Grace means that God, in forgiving you, gives you the strength to endure the consequences. Grace frees us so that we can obey our Lord. It does not mean sin’s consequences are automatically removed. If I sin and in the process of sinning break my arm, when I find forgiveness from sin, I still have to deal with the broken bone.

Isn’t it amazing how we accept that in the physical realm? Not a person reading these words would deny that. A broken arm is a broken arm, whether I have been forgiven or whether I’m still living under the guilt of my sin. But the same happens in the emotional life. When a parent willfully and irresponsibly acts against God’s written Word, not only does the parent suffer, but the family suffers as well. And that means internal trouble that seriously affects other family members. [1]

Sin has consequences

  • The person who cheated on their spouse is going to have to endure the lack of trust that results and they may see their marriage end and have their children live separate from them.
  • The person who breaks the law may still have to go to jail
  • The person who abuses their family member may still lose their family
  • The person who borrowed what they cannot repay may face foreclosure
  • The person who drinks and drives (or “texts” and drives) may have to live with the consequences of an accident (and possibly a fatality)
  • The person who doesn’t do their job may get fired
  • The person who fails to study may fail the class

These are just the personal ripple effects. This ripple also extends beyond us and touches the lives of friends, families, communities, and churches. The extent of the effect will depend on the nature of the offense. A minor shift in the ocean floor from an earthquake may cause waves. A major shift in the ocean floor may cause a Tsunami.

In David’s case the “ripple effect” was more like a Tsunami.  David was told the sword would not leave his house. And as we look at the historical record we see he lost four sons prematurely. His baby died, his son Amnon was killed by his other son, Absalom; Absalom was killed David’s general Joab when Absalom tried to take over the kingship from his father; His son Adonijah was killed by his brother Solomon.

Not only this, David was told that because of his reckless disregard for the wife of another, David’s wives would be taken in a very public way. This was fulfilled when his son Absalom (in his attempt at a coup) “took” David’s wives as part of his claim to the throne. Nathan said these things would be the ripple effect of David’s behavior.

God’s Character Demands There be Consequences for Our Behavior

God is not only a God of mercy, He is also a Just God. If a Judge were to sit in a courtroom and simply dismisses every case because he wanted to be merciful, would you be pleased?  I suspect you would join in the recall effort to take the person from the bench. We understand in the legal system that the best judge is the One who brings justice tempered with mercy. People need to pay for their crimes or they will begin to presume upon the mercy of the court. Justice demands that crimes be addressed.

Thankfully, the Lord tempers mercy with justice. Jesus died so that God might be just (by punishing our sin) and still be the just-i-fi-er in making us right with Him. However, part of restraining sin in the world is to bring judgment on sin. And part of training people in righteousness is showing sin to be unacceptable. When God punishes sin He shows that He loves us enough to discipline us (Hebrews 12 argues that a Father who does not discipline is lazy and negligent, not loving).

Even though David was graciously forgiven (and not killed as he could have been), God still needed to avenge the wrong that was done to Uriah and his family. God still needed to right the wrong that was done against the people of Israel. God still needed to make sure David understood the depth of his offense.

Perhaps it would help to think about it another way. If we are to be free individuals our choices must matter. If you were told that you could choose between white milk and chocolate milk but regardless of what you chose you received water that so-called freedom to choose would be seen to be only an illusion. The truth is that we want our choices to have consequences; we want them to matter. However, this means there must be consequences for both good choices and bad choices. Every decision has a consequence.

Negatively, this means

  • Intimacy before marriage brings the risk pregnancy
  • Experimenting with drugs brings a risk of addiction
  • Eating poorly brings a risk of health problems
  • Sharing gossip brings the risk of losing a friendship
  • Driving too fast brings a risk of an accident
  • Rebelling against God risks facing His discipline
  • Turning away from God brings the very real risk of Hell

There are of course also positive consequences for our wise choices. Paul says, “the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life.”  If we live for the Lord we will enjoy His fellowship and strength as a consequence. If we trust God we will know His peace. If we put Him first we will see God’s provision for our needs. If we stay away from sinful acts we will enjoy a more blessed life (partially because we will be spared the painful consequences).

Dealing With the Consequences of Sin

In 2 Samuel 12 we are told that the most immediate consequence of David’s sin was the death of the child that was born to him and Bathsheba. It appears the baby was “struck by God” shortly after his birth. Nowhere is the child named. The child was usually given a name on the eighth day. This may mean that the baby died when it was seven days old.

Let me quickly add a comment before we draw some principles on how to deal with adverse consequences from our behavior. I don’t want you to draw the wrong conclusion. We must not conclude that every death of a child is some kind of punishment from God. I don’t believe that for a minute. Sometimes (and we don’t know why) children die. It is always a tragic time. David was the King of Israel. His punishment is very strong because of his position.

Remember the story of Jesus in John 9? Jesus and the disciples passed a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, the man, or his parents that caused the man to be born blind.” Jesus’ response was, “Neither, it happened so the work of God could be displayed in the man’s life.”

Every occurrence of evil in the world is on one level a consequence of sin. God created the world perfect. Sin brought imperfection, disease, and destruction into the world.  However, not every hard or evil thing is the result of a particular sin of a particular person. Sometimes bad things happen because the ripple effect of the sin of mankind has touched our lives. I hope this is clear.

I believe that as we look at David’s situation with his son we can see some wisdom for dealing with adverse consequences. First, don’t blame God for what you have caused by your own behavior. For some reason our default position in any hard situation is to blame someone. Often that someone is God.

David does not blame God.  David knew that his sin caused the birth of this child and his sin was going to be the cause of the death of this child. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t ask for arbitration, he doesn’t say, “That’s not fair”. David understood that if he received what was fair – he would be dead.  David held on to the fact that the Judge of all the earth would always do what was right . . .even if it does not seem “fair” to us for David’s son to die because of his father’s sin.

Second, we learn that we should pray for God’s intervention.  David knew the judgment of God was just, but still “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground.”  It isn’t hard to imagine the kind of things David said during his prayer, “Lord, please don’t punish this child, I am the one who sinned . . .punish me!”

David explained his prayer this way, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ (v. 22) David turned to God as the gracious and merciful God. He knew he did not deserve to have the consequences erased, but he knew that God does not give us what we deserve; He makes a habit of giving us what we could never deserve. So He sought God’s mercy.

You may have made a mess of things by the decisions you have made. Don’t turn away from the Lord! You need Him now more than ever. Don’t give up just because things are hard. In this time ask God to help you overcome the circumstances that you have created. Ask Him for healing.  Who knows, perhaps He will heal your marriage, restore your job, or get you out of a difficult legal situation. He is indeed the God of lost causes.

I think it is right to keep praying to save a marriage right up to the declaration of divorce in a court. We should keep praying for the sick or injured family member until they are better or die. Keep praying to God right up to the moment the sentence is handed down by a Judge.  Keep praying for that rebellious child. God can do above and beyond all we ask or imagine.

Third, when the issue has been settled, trust the wisdom and Sovereignty of God and move on.  When David learned that his son had died he did something that seemed strange: He took a shower, shaved, put on his aftershave and sat down to eat. This behavior made the staff wonder what was going on with David. Most people mourn after a child died. David seemed to just move on with life.

I think it is a mistake to think that David did not grieve. I suspect he thought often of the child that died. I bet as he saw other children that would have been around the same age as his son, he wondered what his son would have been like.  However, David knew he couldn’t change what had happened. He needed to move on from that moment and do the best he could to serve the Lord.

David’s theology is pretty sharp. He understood that his son could not come back to him but he would one day go to his son. I believe David was showing his hope of eternal life. He believed that this life is not all that there is. Though it seemed unfair for God to take their son, David seems to have understood that it was not a tragedy for their son. I believe God welcomes infants into his Kingdom. I wonder if David comforted himself by realizing that his child would

  • Never have a selfish desire
  • Never utter a useless word
  • Never perform an unkind deed
  • Never think a sinful thought
  • Never have to worry about what is beyond this life
  • Never wonder if there is a God
  • Never question whether or not you love them
  • Never feel deprived

He would never experience suffering, sorrow, a broken heart, disappointment, pain, anxiety, decay, the sting of regret, or the pain of losing someone. Instead his child would know the perfect love of God and the majestic glory of heaven.

David had perspective. He trusted God’s sovereignty, He trusted God’s wisdom, He trusted God’s justice. He believed that God knew what He was doing even when David did not understand. David understood that God’s ways are not always free of pain and suffering . . . but they are always right. David accepted his situation and moved on.

Conclusions

What I hope you see is that the best way to avoid the negative ripple effect in our life is to live wisely right now. Those who have fallen and are experiencing the consequences of foolish and sinful decisions say, “I would do anything to undo the damage”. The best thing to do is take aggressive action NOW before there is a problem!

We have a tendency judge right and wrong by asking if something is sinful or not. A better question is to ask, “Is this a wise thing to do?” Generally, by the time we fall into sin we have already made a series of unwise decisions that make sin easy. So let’s be specific. Let me give you some suggestions of things that are often unwise things. Beware of

  • Chat Rooms where you talk to members of the opposite sex and carry on virtual relationships.
  • Going anywhere (even innocently) alone with someone not your spouse (even if they are a co-worker)
  • Sharing your marriage problems with someone of the opposite sex unless they are a counselor . . .and even then be careful.
  • Going out with the girls/guys to a bar to dance, sing or drink. Such actions promote flirting and that can lead to compromising situations.
  • Beware of suggestive comments or pictures sent over your phone or the Internet
  • Pornography of any kind

But let’s go beyond marriage issues. It is unwise,

  • To take money “under the table”…it is an act of deception
  • To hang out with those who do not share your values because we tend to become like those with whom we spend the most time
  • To watch television programs, play video games, listen to music or watch movies that diminish the value of life, the sanctity of marriage, or the holiness of God. Those attitudes will erode our own attitudes.
  • To talk negatively about others . . . even in jest. It is a step toward diminishing the value of life and the dignity of the individual

The point is this: holiness is not gained by walking as close to the edge of sin as possible….it comes from staying as close to the Lord as possible. Everything we do in life will have some kind of ripple effect. The question is: will that ripple be a curse or a blessing?

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Scripture:

2 Samuel 12:14-25