We’re going to talk about some things God wants us to know from a story familiar to most of us. It’s the story of II Samuel 11 and 12. In case some of you are unfamiliar with it or need a reminder, here’s…
The men of Israel were out at war. Normally king David would be out with his army, leading and helping them against the enemies of Israel. But this time, unlike usual, David decided to just send the army to take care of things and David stayed home in Jerusalem. It appears that he didn’t have lots of responsibilities that needed his attention at home. At least it doesn’t appear to be so on this day we’re told about, because it says when evening came David arose from his bed. He was taking an afternoon nap. He got up and walked around on the roof of his palace, enjoying the cool evening air. Perhaps he first heard a little splashing and the sound of a woman humming. It was coming from somewhere nearby. He looked from the roof and she was naked, bathing and the text says she was very beautiful. And David decided not to look away. No one else was around. No one would see him watching. But watching of course led to certain imaginations. And the imaginations fueled certain desire. His fueled desire made his mind consider acting to satisfy his desire, searching for justifications to ease his conscience so that he could act on his desire. “Maybe she’s available. Or maybe her husband is away and nobody would know. Maybe she would want to be with me, as I am after all the mighty king David. Maybe that’s why she bathing near where I might see her. You know, nobody would be hurt, especially if it was just one time. It’d be harmless. God is forgiving. I could find forgiveness afterward. It’s what every other king would do. They see something they want, they take it. And I’d still be better than the other kings of the earth.” Watching led to imagining, then burning desire, then rationalizing his desires to act on them. David inquired of his servants about the woman who lived over there. One said to him, “That’s Bathsheba over there, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” David knew her husband Uriah, he was one of David’s great soldiers who was away at war at the time.
The text doesn’t give us many details. It very briefly records the summary. It says he sent for her. She came. And he laid with her. It’s doesn’t say it was rape. I think it would have if it was. I think she consented. And I think it would be unrealistic to say that there was no pleasure in this encounter between David and Bathsheba. I’m sure there was much sensual excitement. Their hearts raced in the moment. He was romantic and handsome… she was lonely, beautiful, and flattered at his desire for her. I think they both probably enjoyed the moment. Scripture admits the pleasure and enjoyment of sin, but draws our attention to the momentary nature of the enjoyment. Hebrews 11:25 calls it “the passing pleasure of sin.”
Not too long afterward David found out that the pleasurable moment did not come with an honest price tag. When he was looking and considering the purchase, he just assumed the price would be affordable. He did not have a clue about the exorbitant price he would have to pay, the unraveling of his life and his family, the years of heartache and pain that would result.
About a month later Bathsheba sent word to David, “I’m pregnant.” David could not bear the thought of word getting out that he impregnated the wife of one of his loyal soldiers. He acted quickly to cover his tracks. He sent for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah from the battlefield. His single goal was to get Uriah between the sheets with his wife so that it might look like her pregnancy was caused by Uriah. Uriah arrives. David says, “So Uriah, how goes the battle? Can you give me a report on general Joab’s progress? And what’s the morale of the troops?”… “Good, good, good. Glad to hear it. Well, Uriah, before you head back to the field, why don’t you go on home and spend a little time with your wife (wink, wink). Tell me her name again?…”
But Uriah was a man of character. Uriah chose not to go home, but to just sleep at the entrance of David’s house that night. People told David the next day, “You know, Uriah slept outside your house last night.” So David asked him, “Uriah, why didn’t you go home?” He said, “When all my comrades are sleeping in the open field, I’m not going to go enjoy the comfort of my home and my wife.” What a reproof to David, whose men are out in the field and he’s been enjoying not just the comfort of his own home and wives but even another soldier’s wife.
David was starting to panic, I’m sure. That evening he made Uriah drink and drink until he was really drunk, thinking perhaps then he would go spend a night with his wife, but Uriah would not.
More panic set in and desperation. David wrote a note to Joab, the commander of his army, with orders that Uriah be placed in the front line where the battle is fiercest and then withdraw all support from him so that he would be killed in battle. Then he sealed up the letter and placed it in Uriah’s hand to take to Joab. Joab did as ordered. When news came that soldiers had been killed including Uriah, David’s response, “Well, that’s what happens. It’s war after all.” He gave Bathsheba a brief time to mourn for her husband and then took her to be his wife. So he’d managed to cover his tracks from most people it seemed.
But there was not a lot of relief. He did not return to being at peace and enjoying life. He knew that God knew, and he was absolutely a wreck inside. In Psalm 32:3-4 David describes how he was feeling, “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.” Over those nine months he couldn’t enjoy food, drink, accomplishing things, the evening breeze, the sunrise, any of the blessings of God, because He knew that He had, in essence, spit in God’s face, he was so unworthy of the blessings of God. He lost weight. Felt sick most the time. He wasn’t sleeping well. He felt terribly alone, far from God.
When Bathsheba gave birth to David’s child, a prophet of God named Nathan came to David. He began with a story of two men. One was very rich with lots of flocks and herds. The other was poor, had nothing but one little ewe lamb which he loved and cherished as a daughter. He shared his bread with this lamb and let it drink out of his cup. It would sleep in his arms. But the rich had a guest come to his home and he wanted to provide a meal for his guest, but he didn’t want to take from his own flocks or herds for the meal. So he stole the poor man’s little ewe lamb that he loved, and he slaughtered it and used it to feed his guest.
Without seeing the connection to himself, David’s anger burned. He said, “That man deserves to die! He’s going repay that poor man fourfold.”
Then Nathan said, “You are the man. Thus says the LORD, ‘I anointed you king over Israel. I protected you from Saul. I gave you your house and your wives and the kingdom, everything. And I would have given you more. But you have despised My word and done this evil. You stole what a poor man had and killed that man. Now here’s what’s going to happen. As you killed Uriah with the sword of the Ammonites, the sword will never depart from your house. There’s going to be violence in your family the rest of your life because of this. Members of your own household will rise up against you. As you laid with another man’s wife, a neighbor is going to lie with your wives. You did it in secret. He will do it for all Israel to know.”
But then his response, the reason the summary of his life is that he was a man after God’s own heart and one who did right in the sight of God. He didn’t excuse or defend or rationalize his actions. In sincere remorse and repentance he confessed, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
Nathan said, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You shall not die. Nevertheless there will be all these consequences and you don’t get to keep the child that Bathsheba has born. The child is going to die. I’m taking the child.”
I have mixed emotions in response to this story. On the one hand, I’m encouraged and comforted, awed at the amazing grace of God to forgive David for all this evil. I’m comforted to know that failure never has to be final with God, that no matter how bad I fail, if I fess up to it with sincere repentance, God will forgive me, and I shall not die. I shall have eternal life! But on the other hand, this story scares me a little bit because David was the spiritual giant of Israel. David was the man chosen by God to lead God’s people, he was the man after God’s own heart. David had been so faithful for so many years. David succeeded in one of the hardest things in the world to do; he restrained himself from revenge and loved his personal enemies. David had written, by this time, many of the beautiful Psalms we have in the Bible of praise and adoration and zeal for God. If you would have said to David before his afternoon nap on that day, that he would arise from his nap to begin a streak of evil and rebellion against God in which he would break half of the ten commandments, he would have either laughed at such a ridiculous idea or maybe thrown you in jail for slandering his character. I suspect he could not have imagined that he was capable of adultery and premeditated murder of an innocent man. It reminds me of Peter the night of Jesus’ betrayal, “Lord, what do you mean we will all fall away tonight. Lord, I’ll do anything for you, I will die for you. I would never turn on you.” And Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, you will deny Me three times tonight.” I feel that way. I would never commit adultery, murder, or deny the Lord. I would never get involved in drunkenness or immortality. I would never steal or cheat or abuse someone.”
But I think it’s like that in many areas of life, even the best can make big costly mistakes when they become careless. Professional carpenters who have been working with saws most of their life sometimes cut off fingers because they become so confident in what they’re doing that they don’t pay much attention; they can get careless. Warren was telling us on Wednesday night about a world renowned mountaineer, nicknamed “the Swiss Machine,” who set all kinds of climbing world records, and who died in April climbing a mountain in the Himalayas. It may have been the same thing. Maybe he was so confident that he became a little careless, not making sure each hand and foot hold was good and secure, maybe skipping some of the normal safety precautions. I think David reached a point where he was feeling confident and secure in his walk with God and he just wasn’t so sensitive to the things he had been so sensitive to; he became careless. He stopped paying such attention to the condition of his heart, his thoughts, his priorities, his actions, and making sure that he was in line with the will of God.
There are three realities that this story sheds light on for me. The danger of where we are, the power of lust, and the deceitfulness of sin.
#1: The danger of where we are
I have a little video here that illustrates where David was at, what he did, and what happened, and where we’re at, what we could do, and what could happen. Watch this…
If we’ve been walking in the ways of God as David was, we have climbed up this mountain and we are safe. But we are near a cliff. We’re always near a cliff in this world. And David got careless up there. David decided to just nonchalantly go over the edge and look and then look a little further. And though he never would have imagined that he would, he found himself plummeting down the cliff.
Now, you notice in this little clip who doesn’t fall over the cliff. It’s all these other people who are away from the edge, busy checking their ropes and harnesses and helping other climbers get ready for whatever they’re about to do. David did not fall when David was serving and working and leading and writing Psalms and worshiping and fighting for Israel. David did not fall when David was busy in the things God wanted Him to be doing. And when David was busy and serving, God was blessing him, and he had joy in what God was doing for and through him and he had peace. He could write, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Those are words of peace and joy and delight in what God is doing. That’s what David was feeling as he was following God’s guidance and serving. It’s when David’s mindset shifted from service mode to indulgence mode that he got himself in a very precarious situation. When he decided, “You know I’ve done so much over the years. It’s about time I did something for myself. I’m going to send others to do the work for a while, and I’m going to have some time of relaxation and enjoyment.” His focus for a bit turned to be on his own pleasure and comfort and enjoyment. That’s approaching the edge, that’s when you want to just see what’s over the edge.
“Walk by the Spirit,” says Galatians 5:16, “and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” Be doing those things the Spirit of Christ leads you and nudges you to do. Be helping people, be calling people up to do things with them, to encourage them, be praying, be learning the word, be visiting, be making money and giving, be planning and organizing activities that will bless the lives of others, be serving for the kingdom of God, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh, you will not be wandering by the edge of the cliff and tempted to look over.
I think vacations are dangerous times. And even Friday nights and Saturday nights. After we’ve been working and serving all week we want to relax and indulge ourselves. Yes, our bodies and brains need periods of relaxation to recharge. Jesus would get away and rest at times. But I think even when Jesus rested, His mindset was still in service mode and not indulgence mode. He rested to recharge for serving. His mind stayed on the purpose for which He was on earth, to serve and to save and to bring glory to God.
And it’s ironically when we’re in service mode and we’re working for God and others, that’s when we have joy and peace, that’s when we’re happy. When we’re not focused on pleasing ourselves, we lose sight of ourselves, and we live for things bigger than ourselves, that’s when we’re happy.
So we see the danger of where we are in this story. Second, we see…
#2: The power of lust
Lust, if given fuel, will take you further than you intended to go. Lust will keep you longer than you planned to stay. Lust will cost you more than you wanted to pay.
David, I’m sure, did not think he was capable of this evil. It all arose and grew from deciding to give in just a bit to his lust, to just linger a bit with temptation and imagining the pleasure of sin.
I think David was like how we, men especially, still tend to be, in that we tend to think if we’re feeling desire that looking will bring just a bit of satisfaction to our desire and settle down that desire a bit. Like if we’re hungry, we might think just chewing some gum will ease our hunger a bit, or if there’s a fire, sprinkling a little water on the fire will help it die down just a little bit. So Christian men might view just a little pornography, watch those sorts of shows, thinking that will settle the desire a bit. But the reality is the complete opposite. That’s not sprinkling water on the fire. That’s gasoline. Did you know that David by this time had a whole harem of women? He had several wives and concubines. Having many women does not reduce a man’s libido; rather it just stimulates it, fans the flame more. The way to settle lust is to not feed it anymore.
So when it comes to lust and what we do about it, the Bible says, II Timothy 2:22, “Flee from youthful lusts…” It means when you catch sight of a bathing Bathsheba, when she comes on the computer screen or through the window next door, or when there’s somebody at the office or in the chat room online that’s being more than friendly, you need to think “Grenade!” and right there, switch the channel, turn the page, avert your eyes, redirect your thoughts, leave the room.
Lust is a powerful thing, you give into it a little bit, and you’ll stay longer than you wanted and it will lead you further than you wanted to go.
And now, we see here…
#3: The deceitfulness of sin
That’s a phrase out of Hebrews 3:13, which says, “encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Sin never comes with an honest price tag. It never lets you see how much it’s going to cost you.
It’s a baited hook to a fish. All the fish sees is the dangling, jangling, yummy grub. He does not see the hook inside the grub. He does not anticipate the piecing and tearing of his mouth, being pulled where he doesn’t want to go, the pain, the fear, the exhaustion, the potential death.
This goes even for sins that you repent of and find forgiveness for. Even forgiven sin is going to have consequences in this life. David was forgiven of this. Meaning God was still going to let him have eternal life. But though he was forgiven, he paid an exorbitant price he never anticipated. He did not see that it would cost him three of his children. He did not see that it would lead to the rape of his own daughter. He did not see it would lead to his own son trying to usurp his throne. He did not see it would be the defilement of his wives. He did not see it would lead him to murder. He did not see it would lead to the division of his kingdom. He did not see that violence would follow him to the grave. He did not see it would irretrievably stain his good name. He did not see the unraveling of his life it would cause.
Hebrews 12 says that God deals with those He loves as with sons. He disciplines those He loves. If my boys steal something, oh I forgive them, I won’t kick them out of the house. But they are not only going to repay what they stole, there are going to be additional consequences so they don’t ever think about trying that again… because I love them and I know it is best for them to learn to be honest and kind and unselfish. So I’m going to see to it that they wish they had not done what they did. God deals with us, as with sons.
I’m so thankful for that. I look back at my life at the times that I’ve sinned and I’m glad God made me wish I hadn’t. That way I wouldn’t get entangled in sin and lose my freedom, my joy, and my peace. Several years ago, I’ll confess, one night I got drunk, and I am so thankful, not just for the miserable hangover in the morning, but for certain people and certain loved ones of mine finding out… for the humiliation, the shame, and the embarrassment of all that. God helped me to never want to try that again. He kept me from becoming entangled in that, from losing my joy, freedom, and peace, and from plummeting off that cliff.
It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been faithful or how far we are in our walk with the Lord, we need to remember the danger of our situation; there is a cliff. We don’t want to switch from service mode to indulgence mode and look over the cliff. And we need to remember the power of lust, it can take us farther than we ever wanted to go. Finally, we need to remember that sin never lets you see how much it’s going to cost. I need to be reminded of that story often because I don’t think I would ever do those kinds of things.