King David and Bathsheba

Note: I originally wrote this in November 2006.

II Samuel 11-12 recounts the story of how King David, the hero of Israel who slew the dreaded Goliath as a boy, committed a grievous sin in the eyes of the Lord. This story contains many lessons for followers of Christ.

II Samuel 11:1 sets the stage for the tragedy that would unfold. While Israel was at war with the Ammonites, David tarried in Jerusalem. Had David been on the front lines where he was supposed to be, he would not have been in a position to be tempted by Bathsheba.

The Christian life is not simply a set of rules and regulations we must follow, and is not a list of things not to do. The Christian life is a positive life, one where we are to be caring for others, studying His word, worshiping Him, and fellowshipping with fellow Believers. The principal at Grace Baptist academy used to say that if he is doing all of the things he is supposed to be doing he does not have time to engage in sin.

A second lesson in the David/Bathsheba story is how David reacted to temptation. He looked at Bathsheba and then, still thinking about her, inquired about who she was. I remember reading years ago an analysis of David’s sin that Christians rarely, if, ever, “fall into sin”. Instead, the path to sin is like a staircase that we either descend one step at a time or leap down several steps at a time. David, with time on his hands, “chewed” on the temptation that Bathsheba presented before sending servants to get her to fulfill his lust.

Compare this with how Joseph reacted when tempted by Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. She tempted him repeatedly to engage in sexual immorality, but he refused to give in. One day, she grabbed his garment and again asked for sexual favors. What was Joseph’s response? He ran away, leaving her holding the garment. Paul reinforces this in I Corinthians 6:18 when he tells the church at Corinth to flee fornication. David could have fled the temptation by going to the front lines with his men.

When Bathsheba told David that she was with child, David had a problem. Uriah was gone, so how did Bathsheba become pregnant? David responds by recalling Uriah from the front lines in hopes that Uriah will have intercourse with his wife and erase the timing problem posed by the pregnancy. Uriah, an honorable man, refuses to go home while so many are at war. David sends a letter by Uriah’s own hand to the commander that Uriah is to be set up and killed by the enemy. King David then takes Bathsheba as another wife.

As is the case many times in politics, it is not the original behavior that brings someone down, but the attempt to cover it up. Former President Bill Clinton could have avoided the entire impeachment drama had he not attempted to cover up his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Another former President, Richard Nixon, might not have had to resign in disgrace if he had not tried to cover up the Watergate break-in. Had King David repented of his sin instead of trying to hide it, the story would have turned out in a significantly different way.

God then sends Nathan the prophet to confront King David for his sin. David, already likely feeling guilt over what he had done, repented when his sin was exposed. Here is where the awesome mercy of God is revealed. While David was harshly punished for what he did, God restored him, had mercy on him, and spared his life. God even blessed David and Bathsheba with Solomon, who would be part of the lineage of Jesus Christ and a revered and prosperous king in his own right.

Despite David’s egregious sin, God forgave him when he repented. There is noting David could have done to make up for his sin; his return to fellowship with God was entirely the result of God’s mercy and love for His children. We would see such grace later as Saul, the dreaded persecutor of the Church, became one of history’s greatest evangelists and teachers. How much more can we be assured that God will forgive us if we only confess and repent of our sin?