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David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12:14)

David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12:14)

Are we prepared to face sin? Can we face our own condemnation? Are we appalled at our own brokenness? Satan will always try to trivialise sin. We must beware that we don’t make his task easier by agreeing with him. I am increasingly seeing the value of crying out for the Lord’s mercy day by day. I remember a heated discussion that Christians of different denominations occasionally get into, when as the token Anglican I was grilled as to why the BCP insisted upon using the words “miserable offenders” (though that word ‘miserable’ means not ‘depressed’ but ‘pitiful’) and especially the words “and there is no health in us” in its Confession. The argument was that these words were not faith-filled and could act as self-cursing. I wasn’t convinced then, and I am even less so now: it seems to me that there is NEVER a day in a man or woman’s life but that we are dependent utterly upon the grace of God for power and the blood of Jesus for cleansing.

Let’s take some time to examine David’s sin with Bathsheba and what it teaches us. 

So consider with me the heights from which David fell:

  • He was a shepherd

  • He was an athlete, could leap over a wall, and outrun a troop

  • He was a master in the use of the sling

  • He was handsome and in good health

  • He was a considerable poet and musician 

  • He had known both the quickening and the anointing of the Spirit

  • He was a man after God’s own heart

  • He was King over Israel, and defeated his enemies

And can you hear the sadness in the Lord’s words spoken to him by Nathan the prophet, “I anointed you king over Israel and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.” (2 Samuel 12:7,8, my emphasis)

Is there any reason to think David was in danger? You see, none of us start off intent upon backsliding and sinning, but bit by bit we lose our watchfulness, we stop praying and reading God’s word, we cease being faithful in worship - and we become easy pickings for the enemy of our souls. Well, was David heading for a fall? Yes, sadly. If we read 2 Samuel 5:13 “And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem” and compare this with what is stated in Deuteronomy 17:16,17: “[A king] must not acquire many horses for himself…he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” David did indeed slay the horses; and he did indeed dedicate the silver and gold to the Lord; but when it came to sex he broke God’s law - what was in him betrayed him.

Now we might ask why these rules? The answer is important for us to grasp and all too often forgotten or not mentioned today. There is a price to pay for leadership. As a leader you can’t afford to live in a way you know to be wrong. Often, one of the costs of leadership is loneliness and misunderstanding, having few friends. How vital it is then that you guard your heart!

So here is David, at a time when kings go to war, he was being indolent and lazy - vulnerable times for giving into temptation. He is off duty, alone and suddenly he sees what he shouldn’t - naked Bathsheba taking a bath. And we have the diagnosis of what befell David: unoccupied, lazily drifting, a thought leads to a look which leads to an evil action. In a matter of moments, David’s character is debased; he has put the kingdom at peril; he has dishonoured the name of the Lord; and he has caused the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. Remember this: no one ever sins on his own. No one ever sins without consequences.

So we read in 2 Samuel 11:27, “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” Everything we do and everything we are happens in the sight of the Lord.

For about 12 months David hardened his heart - everything became dry and barren in his soul. David became harsh…have you ever noticed from your own experience that if you excuse a sin in your own life you can become very critical of it in others.  Is this why we can lack mercy towards the one who fails? Too often in our judgement of others we forget our Lord’s words, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone..” (John 8:7) Interestingly, Psalm 32 describes  David’s eventual barren state:

“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away, through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me, my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”

This is a good insight and true both psychologically and spiritually. In the literary world, Dostoyevsky understood the nature of guilt and sin and punishment.

Notice that in the text the blame is entirely laid at David’s feet. Bathsheba was obliged to yield before the king. David abused his power - at least 6 times the word “sent” is used of David’s commands: here is a man, exercising authority with little thought of the people he is bossing around.

It is a sad tragic tale, involving blasphemy, adultery, murder, lying, coveting. Someone has worked out that in this one incident David broke 8 of the 10 Commandments (the Sabbath and honouring your parents being the only two not broken.)

But there is also insight here as to why God favours David so much. As soon as he realises the truth of what Nathan applied to him, there is no sense that David wants to cover up anything: “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13) Psalm 51 is equally meek:

“For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified when you speak…” (verses3,4)

How we need to learn this! David does not blame his background, or his parents, or whine that no one knew (God did!). In the last analysis, all sin is against God - and our concept of sin and God is too small and man centred unless we see this. There is no need to lie to ourselves, or defend ourselves. Living out a life of pretence is an exhausting charade.  This David came to know - and hear the relief, the joy of what follows:

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Psalm 32:1,2)

So now comes the gospel of grace. There is immediate forgiveness, cleansing and a restoration to fellowship when and as soon as confession is made. Thus Nathan’s proclamation, “The Lord also has put away your sin, you shall not die.” Sin is desperate and brings judgement - but even so it cannot quench God’s love. 

However there are consequences, “the child who is born to you shall die.” (2 Samuel 12:13-15) There are consequences to sin. The only way of escaping judgement is to steer clear of trouble. A  forgiven person may still have to reap what he has sown. Do you see the consequences of David’s sin in his family? One of David’s sons committed incest; and Absalom became a murderer, a usurper of his father’s throne, and obsessed with sex. David was experiencing the chastening of the Lord, and he was to later reflect on this, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (Psalm 34:19)

Know this: all our sins are revealed before the light of his countenance, and there are times when he will break our hearts to humble us and bring us to repentance and confession. He is intent upon making us holy and to present us faultless before his throne.

Has David’s sin been your sin? Are you sure? Jesus says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart…” and “But I say to you anyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement…” There are many more adulterers and murderers in church than you think!

Praise God there is Another who has taken the sentence upon himself, bearing our sins in his body on the cross. Jesus drew into himself the hostility of Satan, and entered into the lostness of the human condition, all the hatred, envy, wrath and malice of the human race. “God made him to be  sin who knew no sin, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

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