No chapter in the Bible strikes more fear into my heart than 2 Samuel 11. When I read of how David, the man after God’s heart, the courageous man of faith, the sweet psalmist of Israel, fell into the sins of adultery, deception, murder, and hypocrisy, I am horrified. The scary thing is, this did not happen when David was in his teens or early twenties. He was about 50; he had walked with God for years.
I would like to think that walking with God builds up an immunity against sin, so that after 15 or 20 years, I would be almost invulnerable. Satan would want us to believe that lie, because if we aren’t painfully aware of our own propensity to sin, we won’t be on guard against it. Thinking that we’re beyond such temptation is the first step toward falling (1 Cor. 10:12). If it happened to David, it could happen to me or you. None of us--young believer or old, male or female--is exempt from the lessons of 2 Samuel 11.
Whenever somebody, especially a godly man like David, falls into gross sin, we tend to think that it happens suddenly, without warning. But it does not work that way. Nobody falls into serious moral failure in one sudden, impulsive outburst of passion. Evangelist Luis Palau is on target when he writes (Heart After God [Multnomah Press], p. 68):
... nobody gets fat overnight. It’s one pizza after another, one ice cream cone after another. And you hardly notice it until one of your children comes up, pokes you in the stomach and says, “Dad, you’ve got a big belly.”
Immorality begins with tiny things sown in your youth. Little things, little attitudes, little habits. Maybe some casual petting on a date, maybe some pornography that fell into your hands, maybe a fascination with sensual novels and stories. Little things. Yet if you don’t crucify them--if you don’t bring them to judgment--if you don’t face up to them for what they are--SIN--they can destroy you. They can blur your moral judgment at a critical, irreversible juncture in life.
He goes on to tell how, on June 5, 1976, the massive earthen Teton Dam in Idaho collapsed without warning, sending millions of gallons of water surging into the Snake River basin, causing much destruction. Everyone was shocked. How could it happen so quickly?
But did it happen suddenly? No, beneath the waterline, a hidden fault had been gradually weakening the entire dam. It started small enough--just a tiny bit of erosion. But by the time it was detected, it was too late. The workers on the dam barely had time to run for their lives to escape being swept away. No one saw the little flaw, and no one got hurt by it. But everyone saw the big collapse, and many were hurt. Moral failure is like that.
I want to examine the cracks below the surface in David’s life and then look at the actual break. I pray that each of us would deal with any moral erosion in our lives before it goes any further.
As we have seen, David was a man who trusted in, obeyed, and worshiped the Lord. He saw God accomplish great things through him. He expressed his love for God in beautiful songs of praise. We often find David seeking and submitting to God’s direction in his life.
But there was one area where David failed to confront his life with Scripture: his relationship with the opposite sex. David never dealt with his sexual lust. Satan found that crack in David’s life and moved in to widen it until David collapsed. Note 2 Samuel 3:2-5; 5:13; 15:16. David had at least eight wives and who knows how many concubines (at least 10, probably more)!
You may be thinking, “Well, after all, polygamy was the custom of the day. What’s the big problem?” But in Deuteronomy 17:17-20, God specifically prohibited the king from multiplying wives and told him to read these commands frequently. Polygamy was never God’s plan for marriage. In some cases, God tolerated it, but He never endorsed it. But with kings, God specifically forbade it. But David went along with the customs of his day instead of confronting himself with and obeying the Word of God. He never checked his lust; he just added the beautiful women he lusted after to his harem. God’s Word is the only moral standard. We must judge our lives by the Word, not by our cultural customs, not by what others claiming to be Christians are doing.
The solution when we are tempted to sin is never indulgence, but always self-control and obedience. You would think that David’s passion for women would have been reduced by the fact that he had many beautiful wives and concubines. Instead of calling Bathsheba, David could have called in any one of over a dozen gorgeous women from his harem to satisfy his lust. But feeding sexual passion does not cure the problem. Sexual passion is not like hunger, so that when you feed it, it goes away. It’s like a fire: the more you feed it, the more it rages. The solution, therefore, is not indulgence, but rather, learning to obey God.
Thus the first crack, and certainly the major one, beneath the surface in David’s life was sin which he never confronted and brought under control. Second:
David was at the zenith of his success. He had solidified the kingdom. He had won battle after battle. He was the most powerful monarch in the Near East. He was the greatest leader Israel had known since Joshua, 300 years earlier. Spiritually, the nation was in the best shape it had ever been in, thanks to David’s leadership.
But success makes you vulnerable. When you haven’t made it to the top, you’re struggling and you’re on guard. But when you’ve made it, you’re inclined to let your guard down. You start believing in yourself, rather than distrusting yourself and trusting in the Lord. Satan is waiting to hit you when you lower your guard. Success often carries with it another danger:
David was a powerful man. As we read later on, even Bathsheba, after being his wife for almost 20 years, bowed down when she came into David’s presence (1 Kings 1:15-16)! Who was there to confront David? Joab, the commander of the army, stood up to him on occasion, but he wasn’t a godly man. Nathan the prophet later had the risky job of confronting David, but obviously it wasn’t an easy task. None of David’s servants dared to challenge his behavior when he sent for Bathsheba, although they knew what was happening.
But it was almost too late at that point. What David needed was somebody years before who could have spotted his disobedience and said, “David, I love you too much not to tell you that you are disobeying God’s Word. You need to deal with your lust.” But David didn’t have anyone on the same level as him to hold him accountable before God. The fourth crack is also related to success:
Spring had arrived, and David should have gone out with his troops into battle. But he thought, “Joab can handle it, and besides, I deserve a rest. I’ll sit out this one” (2 Sam. 11:1). Successful people often rationalize that they have sacrificed and worked hard to get where they’re at, and so they have a right to enjoy themselves. They’re in the habit of getting what they want when they want it. It’s a crack in the dam.
Whenever you’ve got a lot of time on your hands, be careful, because you’re vulnerable. If you’re not in your regular routine it’s easy to get out of the discipline of Bible reading and prayer. You’re especially vulnerable if you are alone. We all need a certain amount of leisure and rest, but we must be on guard against self-indulgence.
Thus as we encounter David in 2 Samuel 11, he is a sitting duck for temptation. He has a long history of unchecked sexual lust. He is at the pinnacle of success and is not accountable to anyone. And he has decided to indulge himself by withdrawing from the place of duty. Those were the cracks below the surface.
James 1:14-15 states, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” This is the exact progression of David’s fall into sin.
Hebrew homes were commonly constructed with a flat roof that served as an upstairs patio where a person could sit and catch the cool breezes. David got up from his siesta and was strolling around on his patio roof. His eyes looked down at a nearby house where a woman was bathing herself. She was “very beautiful in appearance” (11:2). She was naked. David got aroused. Three observations:
It is normal for a man to see an attractive woman who is seductively dressed or naked and to be tempted to desire her sexually. Such desire stems from the fall, but it is not sin to recognize the temptation and turn from it. If David had immediately said, “Lord, my thoughts are not pleasing to You. I ask You to cleanse me,” he would not have sinned and the matter would have ended there.
But when the glance turns to a gaze and sexual fantasies begin, you’ve crossed the line into sin. You may not be able to avoid the temptation, but you can avoid the sin. You’ve got to deal with temptation before God on the thought level!
There are some fundamental differences physiologically between men and women when it comes to sexual arousal. Men are aroused primarily by sight and very rapidly. Women are aroused more by touch and feelings of emotional intimacy, and it takes longer than with men. There are two very practical ramifications of these facts:
First, sisters, you must be aware of this and dress modestly. If you wear seductive clothing, you are making it extremely difficult for your brothers in Christ to keep a pure thought life. You may think, “Well they shouldn’t have such dirty minds.” But if you say that, you are being naive to a basic fact of the way God has created the sexes. I don’t care how spiritual a man is, he’s got hormones. Bathsheba was partially at fault for bathing in a place where David could see her.
Second, brothers, you must guard what you look at. Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” (31:1). If you want to obey God and win the war against lust, you must make a prior commitment to guard what you look at. That means that certain magazines, TV shows, and movies must be off limits. It means that when you come across seductive pictures of women, you must turn the page quickly without scrutinizing the details. It means that you must break the habit of checking out the nice looking women. I’m not saying you don’t notice them (that is impossible); I am saying you don’t gaze at their finer points.
Thus, there is a difference between temptation and lust. Men are aroused primarily by sight.
If you do not flee, you will fall. If you linger, you will lust. The Bible never says that you should stand and fight sexual passion. It never says to stay and pray about it. David would not have fallen if he had turned away and not taken a second look. Neither will you. But you must commit yourself to obey God in advance, because once you are aroused, your reasoning powers are greatly reduced. “Flee immorality!” (1 Cor. 6:18). “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22).
Thus David’s first step in moral failure was that he saw Bathsheba bathing, but he did not flee nor judge his lust. He was enticed by his own lust. Next,
David is opening the crack a bit wider. He has not judged his mental lust. He is going for the bait: “I’m interested; tell me more.” And like a pesky salesman, Satan moves in a bit closer.
The word comes back, “Is this not Bathsheba the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Perhaps the servant who reported back was offering a subtle warning: “David, she is married, and not just to anybody, but to Uriah.” Uriah was one of David’s mighty men (2 Sam. 23:39), one of his most loyal, dedicated, soldiers.
That should have settled the matter. But it didn’t. Please observe that Satan did not hit David with the temptation of another man’s wife until this point. He bided his time for 20 years and watched David take into his harem one beautiful wife and concubine after another. Only then did he dangle a married woman in front of him. David fell.
David had already sinned in his heart. But now, two are involved. Bathsheba sinned too--she should have resisted or screamed. And because the sin moved from thought to deed, David is in deeper. I have heard licentious guys say, “Well, I’ve already committed adultery in my heart, so I might as well carry it out.” Not so! While it is sin to lust in your heart, at least only you are involved, and you have not yet involved your body. To get involved physically with the other person multiplies the sin and digs you in deeper. There are degrees of sin!
We need to understand that up to this point, this felt great for David and for Bathsheba. It was all so new and fascinating. It was like being in love all over again. Satan is like a salesman trying to sell you something on credit without telling you the cost. He’s there up front telling you how wonderful the product is. But he never seems to be around when the bills come due.
Even the secular world recognizes this about adultery. A Reader’s Digest article (10/82), “Six Myths About Extramarital Affairs” listed Myth #4 as, “Affairs are fun.” It pointed out that at first it’s very exciting and pleasurable. But it quickly fades. In about three to six months the glow wears off and the real world starts to intrude. For David, the real world intruded about a month later when a messenger handed him a sealed note. He opened it and read, “I am pregnant. Yours truly, Bathsheba.”
At first David had no intention of murdering Uriah. He would just call him home for a little rest and recreation, and the baby would appear to be his. But it didn’t work. Uriah the Hittite was too upright (11:11). So David feels his only option was to get rid of Uriah. Joab complied; Uriah was killed in battle; Bathsheba mourns, then marries David; cover-up successful...
Well, not quite! Three factors make every attempt to cover-up sin ultimately fail:
First, Sexual sin always drags you into other sins that you hadn’t planned on doing. David was a man of integrity. But here he is trying to deceive, being a hypocrite. And when his initial attempt to deceive Uriah fails, he goes further and murders him. Sexual sin always drags you in deeper than you intended to go!
Second, Sexual sin always hurts others. Uriah was not the only one killed (11:17). Many families in Israel grieved the loss of their husbands and fathers because David did not control his lust. Sexual sin is never a private matter between two consenting adults. Innocent people get hurt. As we will see, David’s family suffered terrible consequences because of his night of passion with Bathsheba. You never sin without hurting others.
Third, Sexual sin is evil in the sight of God who sees all (11:27b). Cover-up attempts never succeed, because God’s vision extends into every bedroom. And God is the one we must ultimately face. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). You may cover your tracks in the sight of men; but you still must contend with the sight of the Lord. You may salve your guilty conscience by saying, “Don’t let this be evil to you” (literal rendering of 11:25); but the fact is, It is evil to the Lord (11:27)! Isn’t it ironic that David tried to hide his sin, but it’s become one of the most well-known incidents in the Bible! Be sure your sin will find you out (Num. 32:23)!
If you don’t get anything else out of this message, please hear this:
Deal with sin in your life!
If you are aware of moral cracks beneath the surface, repair them! If you are playing games with God by indulging in secret lust, judge it as sin and turn from it. If the Holy Spirit has put His finger on something in your life through this message, don’t brush Him aside. Face it now! In the context of speaking about mental lust, Jesus said,
And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell (Matt. 5:29-30).
He meant that we need to get radical with sin! If we tolerate it, like gangrene it will spread and destroy us. Like the cracks in the dam, it will lead to total ruin. God gives us the opportunity to judge sin in ourselves so that He doesn’t have to discipline us. We are to do this at the Lord’s Table (1 Cor. 11:31-32).
There was once a man who was seeking an opportunity to assassinate Martin Luther. But Luther got a portrait of the would-be murderer, so that, wherever he went, he was on his guard. Using this incident as an illustration, Luther said, “God knows that there are sins that would destroy us, and He has therefore given us portraits of them in His Word, so that, wherever we see them, we may say, ‘That is a sin that would stab me; I must beware of that evil thing, and keep out of its way.’” Our text paints a portrait of a close encounter of the wrong kind. Hang it in a prominent place in your mind and be on guard. It is out to destroy you!
Copyright 1993, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation