God sent the prophet Nathan to tell David about a rich man who took the only “lamb” owned by a poor man. The infuriated king immediately declared, “As surely as the Lord lives, any man who would do such a thing deserves to die!” (II Samuel 12:5b, NLT). To which Nathan responded, “You are that man!” (II Samuel 12:7a).
And how did David respond to Nathan’s pronouncement? “I have sinned against the Lord” (II Samuel 12:13b).
David sincerely and immediately repented. And Nathan tells him: “The Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the Lord by doing this, your child will die” (II Samuel 12:13c-14).
Is this child’s death literally punishment from God? I can’t honestly answer that question. What I do know is that the law’s penalty for murder was death. But apparently the few servants who knew about David’s one-night stand with Bathsheba didn’t tell anyone else, and Nathan the prophet knew only because God Himself had revealed it.
What I can say with certainty is that I’m very thankful I didn’t live in Old Testament times! Numbers 14:18b declares: “He does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations.”
Which was precisely what the Lord had told David through Nathan: “Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you” (II Samuel 12:11a). If you know what happened with David’s kids Absalom, Amnon and Tamar, there’s enough grief right there to see what David’s sin cost him. It also shows the terrible price paid by innocent members of his family who were affected by the events set in motion the evening David walked out on that rooftop.
Jesus’ death was the ultimate price paid for our sins, bringing us grace and mercy beyond anything the Old Testament more than hints of. But the truth of Numbers 14:18 still holds. While God doesn’t punish a child for his parents’ sin, his life is directly affected by his parents’ choices. An alcoholic parent’s lifestyle affects the child’s life in every way, whether it be through mental, verbal or physical abuse; poverty; or social stigma. Likewise for children of drug addicts, adulterers, etc.
Sin is like that “snowball rolling downhill” that Merle Haggard sang of years ago. If a sinful thought pops in your mind, rebuke it before you speak it, let alone act on it. Be deliberate in your daily service for Jesus.
“Casualness leads to casualties.” (Jim Rohn)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates