Apparently God sent Nathan to forgive David while David still believed he had gotten away with his cover up. God was certainly overreaching the limits of our contract. More to the point, probably, He was shattering and prying away the pieces of the hard shell my contract had become, a shell that was preventing me from knowing Him. After I saw God’s overreaching with David, I saw it with Jesus and Peter, too (Luke 22:31-34 NET).
Simon, Simon, pay attention! Satan has demanded to have you all, to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. But Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!” And Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me.”
Was I going completely nuts? Or had Jesus covered for Peter by transmuting foreknowledge of Peter’s three strike denial into a prophetic utterance as sure and certain as any prophecy in Scripture?
Cleanse me of my sin! David’s song continued. For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin. Against you – you above all – I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me.
Joshua said to Achan, My son, honor the Lord God of Israel and give him praise! Tell me what you did; don’t hide anything from me! David amplified how confession of sin honors and praises God: The repentant sinner agrees with God and proclaims in effect, you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me. Paul quoted this same verse in his letter to the Romans, so that you will be justified (δικαιωθῇς, a form of δικαιόω) in your words and will prevail when you are judged (κρίνεσθαι, a form of κρίνω). Here again, Paul quoted from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament completed about 200 years before the birth of Jesus, but Bible translators have preferred the Hebrew text since about the fifth century. Below is a comparison of the text from Isaiah 51:4b in the Septuagint and the Greek text of Romans 3:4b used for the NET translation.
Blue Letter Bible (Septuagint)
NET Bible (Greek parallel text)
|ὅπως ἂν δικαιωθῇς ἐν τοῖς λόγοις σου καὶ νικήσῃς ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε||οπως αν δικαιωθης εν τοις λογοις σου και νικησεις εν τω κρινεσθαι σε|
I found a website by Bill Braun that is very helpful for these quotations from the Septuagint (except Acts). He actually knows Greek, and wrote of these verses: “There is only one difference between the Greek texts. This involves a change in the form of the verb νικάω. The NT presents the verb in the future active indicative (νικήσεις), whereas the LXX uses the aorist active subjunctive form (νικήσῃς). This difference does not significantly effect the meaning of the passage.”
Though I haven’t read everything on his site yet, I get the impression that Mr. Braun is a peacemaker. He sees the differences between the Hebrew and Greek texts as mostly insubstantial. I am not so holy. I see that at a specific point in time before Jesus was born the Hebrew was translated into Greek a certain way. Then after Jesus was rejected as Messiah that translation can no longer be teased out of the Hebrew. Am I being anti-Semitic or blaming the Jews? On the contrary, I admire their faith. I’ve practically admitted that I would do the same thing. But this is how faith works.
One’s faith obviously effects one’s scholarship. It chooses what one sees, why one pursues it, and how one interprets it. The point isn’t will my faith make a fool of me. Of course it will. Eventually faith in anything or anyone will either make me foolish, or make me appear foolish to others. That really isn’t the question. The question is, Is Jesus worthy of my faith whether I am, or appear to be, foolish or not? The keepers of the Hebrew language of the Old Testament have bet the farm on their faith that Jesus is not their Messiah. I am betting that Jesus is Yahweh become human flesh.
To get back to David’s song, I’ve already mentioned what sense might be made of, So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me, as translated from Hebrew currently. What possible sense could so that you will be justified in your words and will prevail when you are judged have made two centuries before Jesus was born? Who judges God? Well, every one of us judges God, every moment of everyday. Granted, those of us with a philosophical bent of mind do it consciously more often than others.
Consider how cruelly Jephthah judged God when he sacrificed his daughter to keep a reckless vow. How harshly might he judge God for forgiving David for adultery and murder if David did not confess, Against you – you above all – I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight, the very thing Jephthah refused to acknowledge about his oath?
Consider how foolishly the men of Ezra’s day judged the God who hates divorce, when they divorced their foreign wives and sent their children away to earn his favor. How harshly might they judge God for forgiving David for adultery and murder if David did not pray, Wash away my wrongdoing! Cleanse me of my sin! For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin, the very thing the men of Ezra’s day did not do as they tried to establish their own righteousness according to the law? For ignoring the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking instead to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, David’s song continued, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me. David was not acknowledging that his mother was a uniquely sinful woman who gave birth to especially sin-filled children, but that all parents are sinners who give birth to sinful children like themselves. [F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans. But they are justified (δικαιούμενοι, another form of δικαιόω) freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith.
The mercy seat was the top of the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies in the temple in Jerusalem. In this ark, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews explained, were the golden urn containing the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. And above the ark were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. The high priest entered into the most holy place once a year not without blood that he offer[ed] for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit is making clear that the way into the holy place had not yet appeared as long as the old tabernacle was standing.
But now Christ has come as the high priest of the good things to come. He passed through the greater and more perfect tent not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, and he entered once for all into the most holy place not by the blood of goats and calves but by his own blood, and so he himself secured eternal redemption, the writer of Hebrews concluded.
This was to demonstrate his righteousness (δικαιοσύνης, a form of δικαιοσύνη), Paul continued in his letter to the Romans, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness (δικαιοσύνης, a form of δικαιοσύνη) in the present time, so that he would be just (δίκαιον, a form of δίκαιος) and the justifier (δικαιοῦντα, another form of δικαιόω) of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.
It is difficult to judge the Lord Jesus too harshly for forgiving David, or anyone else for that matter, since He accepted the death penalty in our place. But forgiveness as a concept in the Bible doesn’t end here.