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Q: Would you please explain 1 Kings 15:5?

A: 1 Kings 15:5 reads, “…David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”

The account of David’s transgressions “in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” can be found in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12. First, David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba; then, he tried to cover up his sin in different ways; failing that, he had Uriah murdered in war, so that he could take Bathsheba to become his wife. We read that “the thing that David had done displeased [or better: “was evil in the sight of”] the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27). Later, after David came to his senses and realized what he had done, Nathan the prophet communicated God’s words to David: “Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (2 Samuel 12:9-10). Nathan added, “…by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14).

David’s conduct “in the matter of Uriah” constituted a great sin. This does not mean, however, that this was the only sin that David ever committed. The passage in 1 Kings 15:5, quoted above, must be read in context with all the other Scriptures on this subject. For instance, note the following statement in 1 Kings 14:8, “… yet you have not been as My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do ONLY what was right in My eyes.” Taken all by itself, this Scripture would say that David did not sin at all — not even in the “matter of Uriah.”

A similar passage can be found in Acts 13:22, where Paul relates the following: “And when He had removed him [Saul], He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.'” Again, a superficial reading might suggest that David did not sin at all.

The truth is, of course, that David sinned in many different ways. For instance, David sinned when he numbered the people at the end of his life. We are told in 2 Samuel 24:10: “And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned GREATLY in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.'”

David sinned on other occasions, too. Notice his words in Psalm 38:4, “For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.” Notice Psalm 40:12, “… My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; They are MORE THAN THE HAIRS OF MY HEAD…” Notice, too, David’s prayer in Psalm 25:18: “Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive ALL MY SINS.”

The Bible makes it very clear that everyone sins — even after conversion — and that there is no human being [with the only exception of Jesus Christ, when He was here on earth] who does not sin (compare 1 Kings 8:46). Job thought that he was not guilty of sin, but he deceived himself (compare 1 John 1:8). He was guilty of self-righteousness, thinking that he was more righteous than God (Job 32:1-2). God had to deal with him very severely so that he could see himself for what he really was (Job 42:6).

We are also told in Scripture that God forgives us our sins and even forgets about them, once we confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9). In that case, God cleanses us from all unrighteousness (same verse). He will remember our sins no more (compare Jeremiah 31:34).

David had a loyal heart. When he sinned, he repented and asked God for forgiveness. He did not try to hide his sins, but he was truly heart-broken. He desired earnestly to be forgiven. He said in Psalm 51:3-4, 7, 9-11: “For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight… Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow… Hide Your face from my sins, And BLOT OUT ALL my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”

When God forgave David, He removed his sins — not to be remembered anymore. Upon forgiveness, David was justified or righteous — but he always understood where his righteousness came from. He said in Psalm 24:5, “He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And RIGHTEOUSNESS FROM THE GOD of his salvation.” Other passages confirm that our righteousness must come from God — in fact, it is God’s righteousness within us that makes us righteous (compare Philippians 3:7-9; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

God said that David followed Him with all his heart. When David sinned, he repented and obtained God’s forgiveness. God would forget his sins. That is why God could say, “David has kept My commandments. He followed Me with all his heart, to do ONLY what was right in My eyes.” (Compare, again, 1 Kings 14:8).

We also understand, of course, that God forgave David his sins “in the matter of Uriah.” Still, in the one passage, in 1 Kings 15:5, God brings this matter one more time to our attention. Not, because God had not forgiven David, but because this was a sin that belonged to a slightly different category. It was not the unpardonable sin, to be sure, since David will be in the Kingdom of God (compare Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5). However, it was not a sin that was committed “in ignorance” — because of a temporary, passing weakness that had “snuck up” on David. This was a planned, premeditated, carefully designed sin. David thought through very diligently how to cover up his sin with Bathseba, until he resorted to the murder of Uriah. God brings up the “matter with Uriah” one more time, because He was terribly grieved that David would have acted in such a way — and He wanted to impress on the reader the awful consequences of that sin for David and his entire household.

When we sin and subsequently confess our sin to God, God is faithful to forgive us (Compare, too, Proverbs 28:13: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”). We should not sin (1 John 2:1), but as humans, we will (compare again 1 John 1:8-9). Upon forgiveness (compare Romans 11:27), God will remember our sins no more (compare Hebrews 8:12). This should show us that we must strive to do the same. When we forgive, we must also forget. David sinned in many different ways — as we all do — but he obtained complete forgiveness from God, as his heart was right. In God’s eyes, David kept God’s commandments; following God with all his heart, to do ONLY what was right in God’s eyes.