When people think about the life of David they generally think immediately of two stories: David and Goliath, and David and Bathsheba. One shows David at his most faithful moment; the other reveals his most notorious sin.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why the tragic story of David and Bathsheba holds such fascination to us? Is it because we love to see the powerful fall? Is it because we take perverse delight in being voyeurs on the misery of another? Is it because the story is dramatic? Or is it because we know that there but for the grace of God go we?
Unlike the press releases of today, the Bible presents a complete picture of God’s followers. We see the victories and the defeats and the strengths and the weaknesses. This is because the Bible is a book about real life.
This morning we want to look at the story of David and Bathsheba like a medical researcher studying a cadaver in the hope of gaining a clue that can help us fight some disease. We look at the account asking three questions: What Happened? Why did it happen? And what can we do to keep it from happening to us?
The story is pretty straightforward. One night David couldn’t sleep. He went out on his porch to see what was happening in the city. The Bible says he saw a “very beautiful” woman (v. 3). In other words, she was a knock-out. The woman was bathing. We don’t know anything else. We don’t know whether Bathsheba was inside her home or outside. We don’t know if Bathsheba wanted the king to see her or didn’t. We are not given the details because they are really not important. The Bible does not give us any opportunity to make excuses for David.
As David watched the woman he lusted for her. Because he was a powerful man he asked one of his servants if he knew who she was. The servant likely understood what David was asking and said she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a member of David’s elite fighting force. (2 Sam 23:29)
David had Bathsheba brought to him (we don’t know whether she protested or came willingly). What we do know is that they engaged in an adulterous liaison. We don’t know whether it involved on night or many. The text is silent because it doesn’t matter.
When Bathsheba realized she was pregnant she sent word to David (since her husband was at war it was obviously David’s child). David’s first instinct (like ours) was to try to cover his sin. He summoned Bathsheba’s husband back from the field for a little “R & R”. The idea was that Uriah would go home and enjoy the embrace of his wife. When it became obvious that Bathsheba was pregnant everyone would conclude it happened while her husband was home on leave.
David didn’t count on the integrity of Uriah. This committed soldier did not feel it was right to go home and enjoy his wife while his fellow soldiers were still in the field. He maintained his ritual purity by sleeping with the other servants.
David was resourceful. He determined to have Uriah over for dinner and deliberately got him drunk. He figured a drunken Uriah would forget about his fellow soldiers and he would go home and be with his wife. However, even drunk, Uriah showed more character than the King.
In his attempt to cover his tracks David became desperate. He sent Uriah back to the front with instructions for Joab, his General, to put Uriah in the front of the fighting force and then deliberately withdraw the troops so that Uriah would be killed in battle. Uriah and others died. David was guilty of having these men killed to hide his sin.
David thought he was deceiving everyone when in truth he was only deceiving himself. After an appropriate period of grief David married Bathsheba.
Why it Happened
Most of us know someone who has been unfaithful to their spouse or fallen into some grave sin. They tell you the same thing: “I don’t know how this happened” or “one thing led to another”. Few people set out to be unfaithful. Most of the time unfaithfulness results from little decisions that gradually move us away from the Lord and dull our conscience. In our text the Holy Spirit gives us some clues as to why this happened.
First, notice that David neglected his duty. At the beginning of the chapter we are told it was the time when “kings go off to war” but “David remained in Jerusalem” (v.1) David (who is probably about 50) no longer needed to go to war . . .he had people for that. It is true that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. Things were going well in the Kingdom. David perhaps was feeling SELF-sufficient. He believed he had things under control. I wonder if David had also become a lazy in his spiritual life. Perhaps he felt he no longer needed those extended times of prayer because he “knew what God wanted”. Had he waned in his desire to sing to the Lord? Did he still have a passion to root out sin in His life? One commentator notes,
the most dangerous place to be in spiritual life is kicking back, pulling away, saying, “I taught Sunday school for years. I paid my dues. It’s time for me to let someone else fight the battles and do the work.” When that mentality creeps in, you’re being set up to be taken down. The safest place to be is on the front lines, fully engaged in serving the Lord, in battling against the enemy.
Second, David indulged a lingering look. We cannot help noticing people who are, as Scripture says, very beautiful. There is nothing wrong with appreciating beauty. However, we get in trouble when we allow the look to turn into lust. When we begin imagining having that person for ourselves we are headed toward trouble. As Rick likes to say, “You can’t keep a bird from landing on your head but you can keep it from building a nest there.” You can’t help noticing attractive people but you don’t have to cater to lust.
Today the prevalence of pornography encourages adultery. It encourages people to think of intimacy as a biological urge. It makes people into objects and makes the pursuit of pleasure the driving force of life. Pornography destroys marriages.
Third, David ignored warnings. When David asked for information about the beautiful woman “The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” In other words the man was saying to the King, “I know what you are thinking. This woman is married and she is married to one of 30 elite fighting men. Not only this, but it appears that Bathsheba’s father was also one of these 30 fighting men. She may have been the Granddaughter of his chief counselor, Ahithophel.
David was considering an offense against some of his closest friends! Most people don’t get involved in adulterous relationships without running through some stop signs.
Fourth, David believed his emotions were a more reliable guide than God’s law. David knew God’s will. However during this time of madness, David didn’t care. He had strong desires for this woman. He knew what he wanted and he chose to trust his desires more than God’s commands.
It happens all the time. We know what is right but we say,
- “I deserve to be happy” (you won’t be happy for long in sin)
- “It will only be this once” (until the next time)
- “No one will know” (God will, you will, and others will detect something wrong)
- “My spouse was not meeting my needs” (if you are faithful God will supply your needs”)
- “I’ve fallen out of love” (No, you’ve chosen to stop loving)
- “I’m not hurting anyone” (You can’t possible believe this)
Bottom line: these are weak justifications for choosing to trust our instinct, feelings, and emotions more than we do the Lord of the Universe.
Fifth, David chose to cover-up rather than confess. His adultery was a horrible sin but it was compounded because he tried to cover his tracks. Richard Nixon may have finished his term as President of the United States if he had come clean about the Watergate break-in when it happened. Bill Clinton’s reputation might have been different if he had been honest about his unfaithfulness to his wife rather than covering it up.
David had numerous opportunities to confess his sin. The more he tried to cover-up the more heinous the sin became.
How to Guard Against this Happening to Us
If David, the man after God’s own heart, could fall, we can too. The question is: what can we do to guard ourselves against such sin?
First, we must maintain our spiritual vitality. When we become lackadaisical in our faith we start to lose sight of God. We mistake the world’s philosophy for Biblical truth. We tend to substitute what “everyone else is doing” for that which God has ordained for us. The only way to avoid this is to maintain a healthy relationship with the Lord. The best way to keep from sin is to stay close to the source of holiness.
We have all noticed that sometimes the best athletes are the young players who are “hungry”. They work hard and they play with emotion. When some athletes get the big contract they feel they have arrived. They are a little less diligent in their drills on the fundamentals, they don’t run as hard to first base, they are more prone to injury, and they lose some of their passion.
The same thing happens in the Christian faith. When we become comfortable in our faith we start feeling that we can ignore some of the Christian disciplines and we’ll be “O.K.” We become sporadic in studying the Bible, we are inconsistent in our worship, we pray “on the run”, we don’t have time to serve others, and there is always something else that is more important. Without realizing it we make ourselves vulnerable to temptation because we drift from God. I encourage you to read Christian books, look for ways to serve others, get involved in study groups, be diligent about devotional time, be uncompromising in regard to worship with others, and keep working at prayer.
Second, the best way to avoid a disaster in your marriage is to keep working at our marriages. In Proverbs 5 Solomon writes,
“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. ..May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
It makes sense: if we put as much energy into flirting with our spouse as we do flirting with others we would have no desire to stray. If we looked as diligently for the strengths of our spouse as we do their weaknesses we would consider ourselves blessed rather than shackled. If we became fascinated with our spouse (there is always more to learn) we will not be easily seduced by others.
I encourage you to read a book on marriage every year, it will remind you what God’s wants from a Christian marriage. Attend and watch seminars on marriage. Make time to get away, just the two of you. Continue to date each other. Passionately pursue a DEEP relationship rather than settle for the cheap thrills of sin.
Third, be aware of and avoid compromising situations. Here’s a simple rule: if you would not want to tell your spouse about something you did or are planning to do . . . you shouldn’t be doing it.
If your spouse is uncomfortable about a relationship you have with a member of the opposite sex, don’t debate the situation, back away. Often your spouse will sense trouble before you do. Do not trust your own strength! You aren’t as strong as you think!
Be careful about being alone with members of the opposite sex who are not your partner. Avoid people and places that dishonor their spouses.
Fourth, stop and consider the consequences of any action It is fun to go through stores and look at all the things for sale. I see something that I like and say to myself, “Wow! I’d like that.” But if you are like me, the next thing you do is look at the price tag. Most of the time I find myself saying, “I don’t want it that bad” or “Do you know how long I’d have to go without food to pay for this?”
Everything in life has a price tag. There are consequences to every decision. When it comes to relationships we need to consider the price tag before we jump into that moment of pleasure that seems so enticing. Think about the consequences of adultery,
- Your fellowship with God will be disrupted
- You will inflict deep pain on your spouse, your children, your parents, friends and grandparents.
- Trust will be destroyed
- Your marriage, family, home, and resources might be lost through divorce
- Future family events that should be joyful will be strained and awkward
- You will bring pain to the other person’s family
- You may end up alone
- Your testimony will be compromised (God’s reputation will be stained) and your previous ministry with others could be negated.
Do not make the mistake of concluding that just because David ended up marrying Bathsheba that things turned out OK. The story is not yet over.
This is not a comfortable topic. However, in this world in which we live it is a necessary discussion to have. The Bible has recorded this chapter of David’s life so we can learn from it. Let me conclude by talking to three different groups of people.
A Word to Those who Have Been Wounded. If you have been wounded by the unfaithfulness of a mate I want you to know that God aches with you. In cases of adultery the Bible allows divorce because God understands the fragile nature of trust. Sometimes divorce is necessary. However, the Bible does not command divorce. The better option is to work through the pain to forgiveness and renewed commitment. If your spouse is repentant, God can heal your broken heart and rebuild your shattered marriage. It won’t be easy. You most likely need help to work through this painful process. However, if you will both trust the Lord, you can find joy again.
We have all sinned. That’s not an excuse, it is a reality. We have offended God greatly. And through Jesus Christ He extends to us a forgiveness we do not deserve. Jesus challenges us to do the same with each other. Our Lord can help you forgive (but it will take some time). He is the One who can help you heal. He is the one who can help you love again. Don’t act impulsively but leave room for God to work.
A Word to Those who Live with the Regret of Failure. If you are the one who strayed from the bounds of marriage I hope you feel horrible about what you did. Before you can ever hope to rebuild a marriage you must understand the heartache your actions have created. Your first step is to stop making excuses and go first to the Lord and then to your wounded spouse and confess your sin. Acknowledge the pain you have caused.
Second, trust the Lord for forgiveness and healing. Adultery is not an unforgivable sin (but we must not be cavalier about that fact for if we are we have not repented). Even this sin is covered by the blood of Jesus.
Third, you need to do whatever is necessary to rebuild trust in your relationship. It is going to take a long time. Be patient. Any serious injury takes a long time to heal. Think about how hard it is to come back from a brain injury or heart surgery. The injury to your marriage will need a long recovery time. Look for and celebrate progress.
A Word to Those who Feel Immune. If you feel this message “does not apply to you.” Then I have a word of counsel. Be careful! The person who is most vulnerable is the one who thinks it could never happen to him/her. We live in a day when God’s design for marriage is harder and harder to maintain. Make no mistake. Satan seeks to destroy Christian marriages. He wants to undermine God’s standards. He will lull you to sleep. He will magnify the faults of your mate and tell you that you are “entitled” to more. He will wait until you are most vulnerable and then he will strike.
In the story of David and Bathsheba God has given us a warning sign for our lives. Instead of concluding the sign is meant for others, we would be wise to heed the warning ourselves.