In 2 Samuel 12.7-14 (NRSV), Nathan, God’s prophetic mouthpiece, confronts David for his sin with Bathsheba (the wife of Uriah the Hittite). Speaking on God’s behalf, Nathan recounts David’s transgression and announces God’s judgment.
This passage hinges on two words—give and take.
In verse 7, God reminds David that he anointed him king over Israel and rescued him from Saul. In verse 8, God continues the stroll down grace lane—he gave David Saul’s house and wives, he gave him the house of Israel and Judah.
God spared David’s life, he gave him a harem, he gave him a kingdom, and, if that hadn’t been enough, God would’ve given David even more (v. 9).
God’s extreme giving is in direct contrast to David’s taking in verses 9-10. God accuses David—“you have struck down Uriah the Hittite and have taken his wife to be your wife” (v. 9). God reiterates this same accusation in verse 10—“you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”
As king, David had certain privileges, however, according to the Lord, Bathsheba wasn’t his to take. Yet, David does, and in the process, breaks the very commandments he was supposed to uphold. He covets, he commits adultery, he murders.
David took what didn’t belong to him, and as a result, the Lord now takes from David.
God declares that the sword will never leave David’s house (v. 10, an allusion to the death of David’s sons, Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, who all die by the sword) and that strife will never depart from David’s kingdom (v. 10-12, which is a foreshadowing of David’s son, Absalom’s, revolt). God will take David’s wives and give them to his neighbor (v.11). What David did secretly (taking, and sleeping with, his neighbor’s wife), God will do in broad daylight (v. 12). As if this weren’t punishment enough, as a final stab, God takes the life of David and Bathsheba’s child.
The consequences of David’s taking are dire.
I once heard a pastor say that, “Sin is taking by force, what God wants to give us by grace.”* I think it’s applicable to this passage.
David took, he grasped, he sinned, because he’d forgotten his place. He thought he was above the law; he thought he knew better than God. Rather than trusting God to meet his need, he satisfied his own desire by selfishly stealing from his neighbor. Despite God’s prior graciousness to him, he didn’t trust in God’s current provision. Seemingly, all David needed to do was ask, and God would’ve graciously given.
Like David, we take, we grasp, for what isn’t ours. We mock God’s gifts when we prematurely seize what he has promised. We discredit God’s grace when we snatch what he wants to give us with an open hand.
Whether in moments of disbelief, lust, fear, distrust, uncertainty, loneliness, or angst, we seemingly operate on a very spiritual-brainstem level. When we’re merely focused on ourselves, our survival, our needs, we often forget the bigger picture at play. We neglect to see the impact our sin has on others, we fail to recognize the relational schisms (with God and our neighbors) created by our grasping.
The reality is, taking falls short. Its fruits are lackluster, temporary, and dissatisfying. Its effects can be harsh.
Taking always miss the mark, because it’s always less than what God desires to give us.
*Pastor Pete Bertolero.