I recently taught a Bible class that in turn taught me something very important.
My view of the David and Bathsheba story, the class in question, is that it is a cautionary tale against hubris and that it shows that even forgiven, sins can have many earthly consequences. I always try to keep in mind that these are real people with real motivations and emotions. People who live in a different culture than mine, with a different viewpoint that sometimes makes it hard for me to understand, but people. Thinking along those lines about David, I find it hard to believe this was an isolated incident where his passions got out of control. If seeing a beautiful, naked young woman aroused him, then he had many--many!!--legitimate ways to deal with that. His wives and concubines that we know of number in the high teens. He was also cold blooded enough about the whole incident to make sure that Bathsheba was clean according to the law. It seems that if she wasn't clean, David would have waited for her. So this wasn't one moment of passion, but the culmination of years of legitimately having his way.
He was king, and as such was accorded certain privileges. He wanted security for his people, the earthly nation of God, and he went out and took it at the edge of the sword. He wanted a new capital city, and took it. I wonder if he wasn't arrogant about being David, King of the Hebrews, scourge of the land of Canaan. Then he saw a woman he wanted, and took her, despite the fact that she was the wife of another. So, the story can be taken as a warning against hubris.
Then chapter 12 (2 Samuel) lists the consequences of David's acts, records David's repentance, and declares God's forgiveness of David's sins. Yet though forgiven, David had to face the multiple consequences the rest of his life. That teaches us that our sins, too, can have major, long lasting consequences, regardless of God's forgiveness. This gives us extra incentive to remain pure before God. None of us want to face anything like the last 20 years of David's life. So that was my view of the point of the David and Bathsheba story.
Then a woman I respect said she agreed with most of what I thought, especially about the consequences of sin, but denied that it was the major point of the story. She sees the major point as being the wonderful grace of God and his extraordinary forgiveness. To her it is a story showing that, no matter how far one falls from God, he will accept you back if you show "a broken and contrite heart." (Psalm 51). David made some major mistakes, and was far from God at the end of chapter 11, but with the strong rebuke of Nathan he came to himself and returned to Jehovah, acknowledging his sin and repenting. God forgave him, he remained king, and spent most of the rest of his life preparing for the temple and the national worship of Jehovah. This paints the picture of God's redeeming grace.
My father made the point in my class that you can see from David's writing in the 51st Psalm the surprising depth of his spiritual understanding. Almost every sin had a specific sacrifice that had to be performed for the forgiveness of that sin under the old Law, but adultery was punished by death. So was murder. There was no sacrifice for the forgiveness of these sins. God had forgiven David. So there had to be more to forgiveness than just animal sacrifices. This incident forced David to understand something spiritually that many of us still fail at today. There is nothing we can do to win forgiveness. It is the gift of God. What he requires is the "broken and contrite heart." I don't know that this is the major point of this incident to Dad, but it is something he saw that I didn't. Sometimes our biggest failures cause us to grow in the biggest ways.
It is interesting to me that three people looked at the same incident recorded in scripture and learned three different lessons from it. All of the lessons are valid and supported by the scriptures. We each came at the same material from different starting points of personal experience, personal Bible knowledge and different points of spiritual growth. While we may good-naturedly argue about which is the "main" point, I doubt that there would be much disagreement between us that all of these points are valid and can help others to grow.
Wow, someone can read the same passage I did and come to a different conclusion than I did and it not be wrong? I wonder what other issues of greater import this might be true of? Maybe I shouldn't be so quick to condemn my brethren. Maybe I should try to view them through love instead of the narrow lens of immediate judgment.