Forgiveness—what does it entail? Does it mean that after forgiving an offender, we treat him as if he had never erred? In some cases, that is undoubtedly how we should respond. After all, Scripture often exhorts us to bear with one another in gentleness and humility, and to exercise the kind of love that covers a multitude of sins (Eph. 4:1–3; 1 Peter 4:8). As Dr. R.C. Sproul often said, we are not to confront people over every minor issue, nor are we to make people suffer the consequences of every peccadillo.
On the other hand, Scripture reveals that certain sins may have lasting consequences. We can be forgiven for particularly heinous and public sins if we turn from them and trust in Christ. Such transgressions, however, will have enduring effects on this side of glory. David’s life exemplifies this. Remember that after Nathan confronted David regarding his sin with Bathsheba, the Lord forgave David. Yet in calling David to account, Nathan mentioned several consequences that the king would face, and he did not say that these consequences would fail to come to pass even though the Lord pardoned David. For the rest of his life, David would endure strife in his household, and the child born as a result of his affair with Bathsheba would die (2 Sam. 12:1–15a). The death of this child as recorded in today’s passage demonstrates that God’s pardon does not always eliminate the effects of wickedness in this life (vv. 15b–23).
The death of David and Bathsheba’s first child also indicates that sin can have ramifications far beyond the original parties to the sin. Often we think that our violations of God’s law affect only us and anyone else who is guilty of the sins in which we have participated. That is shortsighted. Our sins can have effects in the lives of other people and in other relationships. Sin poisons everything it touches, and when we give in to sin, we can poison everything we touch. But note that the child in today’s passage did not die as a punishment for his own sin, though his death was a disciplinary consequence of David’s transgression.
Incredibly, however, God showed grace to David and Bathsheba far beyond what they could ever have hoped to deserve. After the death of David and Bathsheba’s first child, the couple conceived a second son, Solomon, whom the Lord loved (vv. 24–25). Solomon would succeed David as king and build the temple of God (1 Kings 1–8). Even in His discipline, the Lord is gracious to His people.