King David was one of the greatest leaders in all of Israel’s history. He contributed more to Old Testament worship than any other individual and his influence is still felt in the New Testament church today. David is known for great victories, like defeating Goliath, bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem and securing Israel against her enemies. However, David is also known for some colossal failures. Most notably, David committed adultery with Bathsheba and ordered the death of her husband.
The Bible says in several places that sin will not go unpunished. For example, Proverbs 6:29 says that the man who commits adultery will not escape without punishment. In Exodus 34:7 God tells Moses He will “by no means clear the guilty.” The book of Numbers describes the sacrifices for unintentional sins, but then says the person who sins knowingly and willfully will be cut off from Israel. “His guilt shall be upon him.” (Number 15:31)
King David suffered terrible consequences for his adultery and murder. The son born of his adulterous union died in infancy because of David’s sin. David’s family suffered for many years because of David’s sin. One of David’s sons led a rebellion that caused David to flee Jerusalem and started a civil war in Israel. David, his family and the entire nation suffered because of David’s sin. The terrible things David suffered suggest he was not forgiven for his adultery.
Yet, even though he sinned greatly David continued to write Scripture. The majority of the Psalms of David were written after he committed adultery and murder. At his death David was called “the anointed of the God of Jacob and the sweet Psalmist of Israel.” (2 Samuel 23:1) David had an incredible relationship with God after his terrible sin. This suggests he was forgiven for his adultery. Was David forgiven of his adultery and murder or not?
David suffered terrible consequences of his sin during his life. However, earthly consequences of sin are not the same as God’s eternal punishment. The wages of sin is not a bad life, but eternal death. (Romans 6:23) Those who are the children of God, as David was, will be chastened by God to bring them to repentance and to show God’s holiness. They will endure earthly punishment for severe sin but will not suffer God’s eternal wrath. On the other hand, those who are not the children of God often escape any severe earthly consequences of their sin, but they never escape God’s eternal wrath. The punishment David suffered should not cause any one to doubt he was the child of God. Instead, his punishment is confirmation he was the child of God. (Hebrews 12:5-8)
God’s forgiveness of David shows that forgiveness is never based upon the merit or deeds of the person. Forgiveness is always the gift of God freely given to those who trust Him for forgiveness. An adulterer and murderer who brought great shame on the name of God and did great harm to the innocent people he was supposed to protect was completely forgiven of all his sin. David was not forgiven because of any good things he had done. Romans 4 uses David as an example of salvation by faith apart from works. “But to him who does not work but believe on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works.” (Romans 4:5-6) David proves that salvation is not earned, but given.
God’s salvation does not give people what they deserve. God forgives men by giving to Jesus what He did not deserve, death, so sinners could be given what they do not deserve, life. No one deserves to go to heaven, therefore, salvation is entirely and always a gift of the grace of God completely apart from the deeds of the person. If you believe Jesus as your Savior your sin will be forgiven and you will have eternal life, no matter what you have done.