Lessons from David’s sin with Bathsheba

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.

Romans 6:12-14

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.


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The Path to Fulfillment


Even in social life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring two pence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

Of course, C.S. Lewis is merely echoing the Lord Jesus who taught us:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
Luke 9:57-62

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The Lord’s Sufferings: “Pre-planned long in advance”

Indeed, the Lord prearranged his own sufferings in the patriarchs, and in the prophets, and in the whole people of God, giving his sanction to them through the law and the prophets. For that which was to exist in a new and grandiose fashion was pre-planned long in advance, in order that when it should come into existence one might attain to faith, just because it had been predicted long in advance.

So indeed also the suffering of the Lord, predicted long in advance by means of types, but seen today, has brought about faith, just because it has taken place as predicted. And yet men have taken it as something completely new. Well, the truth of the matter is the mystery of the Lord is both old and new–old insofar as it involved the type, but new insofar as it concerns grace. And what is more, if you pay close attention to this type you will see the real thing through its fulfillment.

Accordingly, if you desire to see the mystery of the Lord, pay close attention to Abel who likewise was put to death, to Isaac who likewise was bound hand and foot, to Joseph who likewise was sold, to Moses who likewise was exposed, to David who likewise was hunted down, to the prophets who likewise suffered because they were the Lord’s anointed.

Pay close attention also to the one who was sacrificed as a sheep in the land of Egypt, to the one who smote Egypt and who saved Israel by his blood.

For it was through the voice of prophecy that the mystery of the Lord was proclaimed. Moses, indeed, said to his people: Surely you will see your life suspended before your eyes night and day, but you surely will not believe on your Life.     Deut. 28:66.

And David said: Why were the nations haughty and the people concerned about nothing? The kings of the earth presented themselves and the princes assembled themselves together against the Lord and against his anointed.     Ps. 2:1-2.

And Jeremiah: I am as an innocent lamb being led away to be sacrificed. They plotted evil against me and said: Come! let us throw him a tree for his food, and let us exterminate him from the land of the living, so that his name will never be recalled.     Jer. 11:19.

And Isaiah: He was led as a sheep to slaughter, and, as a lamb is silent in the presence of the one who shears it, he did not open his mouth. Therefore who will tell his offspring?     Isa. 53:7

And indeed there were many other things proclaimed by numerous prophets concerning the mystery of the passover, which is Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen.

Melito of Sardis (d. 180)


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“This is the one who raised up mankind from the grave below”

hanged on the tree

For this one, who was led away as a lamb, and who was sacrificed as a sheep, by himself delivered us from servitude to the world as from the land of Egypt, and released us from bondage to the devil as from the hand of Pharaoh, and sealed our souls by his own spirit and the members of our bodies by his own blood.

This is the one who covered death with shame and who plunged the devil into mourning as Moses did Pharaoh. This is the one who smote lawlessness and deprived injustice of its offspring, as Moses deprived Egypt. This is the one who delivered us from slavery into freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal kingdom, and who made us a new priesthood, and a special people forever.

This one is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonored in the prophets.

This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven.

This is the lamb that was slain. This is the lamb that was silent. This is the one who was born of Mary, that beautiful ewe-lamb. This is the one who was taken from the flock, and was dragged to sacrifice, and was killed in the evening, and was buried at night; the one who was not broken while on the tree, who did not see dissolution while in the earth, who rose up from the dead, and who raised up mankind from the grave below.

Melito of Sardis (d. 180)

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“This is the one who rose up from the dead”

But he arose from the dead and mounted up to the heights of heaven. When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity, and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer, and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and had been judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of the one who was buried, he rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed.

Who is my opponent? I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ.

Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your saviour, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I wi

10-eastermorningc.jpgll raise you up by my right hand.

This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age.

This is the alpha and the omega. This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end. This is the Christ. This is the king. This is Jesus. This is the general. This is the Lord. This is the one who rose up from the dead. This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father. He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever. Amen.

Melito of Sardis (d. 180)

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“God has been murdered”

The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been destroyed by the right hand of Israel.

O frightful murder! O unheard of injustice! The Lord is disfigured and he is not deemed worthy of a cloak for his naked body, so that he might not be seen exposed. For this reason the stars turned and fled, and the day grew quite dark, in order to hide the naked person hanging on the tree, darkening not the body of the Lord, but the eyes of men.

Yes, even though the people did not tremble, the earth trembled instead; although the people were not afraid, the heavens grew frightened; although the people did not tear their garments, the angels tore theirs; although the people did not lament, the Lord thundered from heaven, and the most high uttered his voice.

Melito of Sardis (d. 180)


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“Jesus reigning from a cursed cross”

A poem by New Testament scholar and pastor D.A. Carson, from his book Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus

On that wretched day the soldiers mocked him,
Raucous laughter in a barracks room,
“Hail the king!” they sneered, while spitting on him,
Brutal beatings on this day of gloom.
Though his crown was thorn, he was born a king–
Holy brilliance bathed in bleeding loss–
All the soldiers blind to this stunning theme:
Jesus reigning from a cursed cross.

Awful weakness mars the battered God-man,
Far too broken now to hoist the beam.
Soldiers strip him bare and pound the nails in,
Watch him hanging on the cruel tree.
God’s own temple’s down! He has been destroyed!
Death’s remains are laid in rock and sod.
But the temple rises in God’s wise ploy:
Our great temple is the Son of God.

“Here’s the One who says he cares for others,
One who says he came to save the lost.
How can we believe that he saves others
When he can’t get off that bloody cross?
Let him save himself! Let him come down now!–”
Savage jeering at the King’s disgrace.
But by hanging there is precisely how
Christ saves others as the King of grace.

Draped in darkness, utterly rejected,
Crying, “Why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus bears God’s wrath alone, dejected–
Weeps the bitt’rest tears instead of me.
All the mockers cry, “He has lost his trust!
He’s defeated by hypocrisy!”
But with faith’s resolve, Jesus knows he must
Do God’s will and swallow death for me.



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