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Grace Has Teeth

Burning coals.

2 Samuel 12:15b–18

And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!”

David breaks every rule in the book—not God’s rules, but the traditions everyone expects. Nathan has said the child will surely die, but in the language of prophesy, this is not a done deal. So David goes nuclear on praying for the child. This is so intense that it looks like extreme mourning.

But it’s not. This is just David being overwhelmed by guilt. David has tossed the rule book because he couldn’t care less about things like that. His every action is motivated by his overwhelming desire to atone for his sin.

But that’s not how it works. The LORD has already put away David’s sin. Atoning for it isn’t on the table.

God’s grace to David is almost driving him nuts.

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
For so you will heap coals of fire on his head,
And the LORD will reward you.
— Proverbs 25:21–22

The reference to burning coals may be from an Egyptian penitence ritual of carrying burning coals in a pan on one’s head. In any case, the idea is that grace puts pressure on the recipient.

This leads to a very advanced lesson—grace has teeth. This only makes sense when we consider how important character development is to God.

We see this in the parable of the prodigal son. It’s the key to understanding the book of Job. It’s part of the message of the cross.

God means for us to grow. Many of His actions are designed for that purpose.

C.S. Lewis says it best in his chapter on Charity in Mere Christianity:

But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Saturday ones are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to the DEEP click here:

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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