When we think of King David, the Old Testament’s hero, two famous stories usually come to mind: David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) and David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). One story is pure hero stuff, the other is one of betrayal, deception, adultery. I’ve read the latter story many times and have of course heard a few sermons about it. This morning I was struck again by the skill of Israel’s storyteller and God’s inspired writer as he recounts David’s sin. I want to offer some reflections about sexual sin based on this text.
1. David neglected his duties
Many have observed how the story begins. King David has neglected his responsibilities as his people’s military leader. He did not go out to battle according to kingly custom. He need answer to one; after all, he is the king. Still, regardless of our position, when we neglect our duties and leave off our God-ordained responsibilities, we may be unwittingly (or wittingly) opening a crack for temptation. Are you at your God-ordained post today? Or, have you neglected what God has set before you: as a child, student, parent, leader, neighbour. Each one of life’s duties are an opportunity to love God and our neighbour. Neglecting our duties opens a crack for temptation.
2. David abused his power
Even if you are not a chieftain, king, or ruler like David, you’ve been given responsibilities over people or possessions. All of us wield some kind of authority! But our authority is always borrowed and derivative: a gift from God to bless, to love, to protect. If we look closely at the narrative we see that David abused his authority. He played God. Notice how often the word send or sent appears in the passage.
- 11:1 David sends Joab and his servants
- 11:3 David sends messengers to inquire about the woman
- 11:4 David sends messengers who take the woman
- 11:6 David sends word to Joab who sends Uriah to him
- 11:27 After the successful cover-up, he sends to bring Bathsheba to his house
Clearly, David’s power got to his head. He abused his powers and used people as pawns to achieve his purposes. He abused his God-given authority.
It’s worth pondering: How do you and I handle the authority God has “loaned” us as people to care for others? As parents over our children? As husbands spiritually leading our wives? As supervisors, bosses, or employers? As pastors over our sheep?
Westminster Larger Catechism question 129 asks:
What is required of superiors towards their inferiors?
Answer: It is required of superiors, according to that power they receive from God, and that relation wherein they stand, to love, pray for, and bless their inferiors; to instruct, counsel, and admonish them; countenancing, commending, and rewarding such as do well; and discountenancing, reproving, and chastising such as do ill; protecting, and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body: and by grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God, honor to themselves, and so to preserve that authority which God has put upon them.
3. David was caught up in his passion
Passion is not always a good thing. Evil passion blinds us to what’s right and wrong. Evil passion ravages and destroys. Evil passion consumes, uses. Evil passion is impersonal. Godly passion, on the other hand, is focused on what is good. It serves and gives, knows by name, and dignifies the other. In short, it loves.
In this story, David’s sin is characterized by headstrong passion, folly really.
As Christians, we are called to “check” our passions and to recognize that the old man in us (sin) is always seeking to make us follow “passion.” I’m often struck by how often I hear and say that I/others are excited about this or that. We must master our passions.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
4. David scorned the LORD
He disregards God and people (his neighbour) at every turn:
- He disregards that Bathsheba belongs to someone else (she’s the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite), v. 3
- He disregards Uriah and tries to use him to cover up his adultery, v.6-13
- He disregards Uriah’s life and puts him to death, v. 14-25
John Piper, based on 1 Thessalonians 4:4, defines lust as:
Lust is a sexual desire that dishonors its object and disregards God.
The fear of the LORD is the ultimate guard against every sexual sin, including lust. It teaches us that it is with the LORD that we have to do, that it is Him we are accountable to for every action. It helps us see our neighbour properly, personally, as someone important to God and others, not someone to be used for lust, pleasure, or personal advancement. The fear of the LORD teaches us that the LORD is holy and that his wrath is terrible, that sin grieves and offends him. The fear of the LORD teaches us to regard God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that was given for my instruction in godliness and goodness. Help me to please you now, Father, through Jesus Christ, by the Spirit, and not live for myself. Remind me to attend to my duties, the responsibilities you’ve put before me as a husband and a father and employee. Help me to use the authority you’ve given to me love, pray, and bless. Teach me to say no to ungodly passions when they threaten to overwhelm me. Remind me of the glorious freedom I have to say no in the name of Jesus Christ. And finally, enable me to live by the fear of the Lord, regarding your honor and reputation, your pleasure and delight as my ultimate priority, knowing that it is with You that I have to do (Hebrews 4:13). Amen.