It happened, late one afternoon,
when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house,
that he saw from the roof a woman bathing;
and the woman was very beautiful. (2 Samuel 11:2)
The life of David is a story in three chapters:
His Trials: When he was hunted and persecuted by Saul (1 Samuel 16 – 2 Samuel 1)
His Triumphs: When he established the kingdom (2 Samuel 2-10)
His Troubles: That came through his own sins and folly (2 Samuel 11 – 1 Kings 2)
Last year we looked at David’s triumphs. His remarkable achievement was to bring the twelve tribes of Israel together and unite them as one people under his rule. We live at a time when we desperately need leaders who can bring people together in every sphere of life.
David was given the wisdom, courage, and skill to overcome the old wounds and grievances that kept the tribes apart. It took years but, by God’s grace, David was successful and, under his leadership, God’s people were brought into the best years they ever knew.
Not only did David bring God’s people together, but he was also given power to clear out the enemies who had become embedded in the Promised Land. That problem went back to the days of Joshua, hundreds of years before.
Enemies had remained in the land, and they seemed able to rise up against God’s people at will. But in the reign of David these enemies were cleared out and God’s people were blessed, not only with unity, but also with peace and safety.
Then, supremely, we saw that David was a king of grace. His first move was to reach out to the people least likely to receive him—the people of Jabesh-Gilead, who had been fiercely loyal to Saul. By showing kindness and seeking the interests of others, David turned old enemies into new friends.
If you look back over the early chapters of 2 Samuel in your Bible, you can follow the story of David’s triumphs…
In chapter two, only one tribe would receive him as king: his own tribe of Judah.
By chapter five, we are told that “all the tribes of Israel” (2 Samuel 5:1) came to David and anointed him as king.
In chapter six, David brings the ark to Jerusalem—the presence of God at the center of national life!
In chapter seven, God gives great promises for future blessing.
In chapters eight and 10, David subdued the enemies who oppressed God’s people.
And in chapter nine, we have the beautiful story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of king Saul, who David took into his house and fed at his own table.
These chapters bring us to the high point of David’s reign: God’s people are united, their enemies are subdued, and grace has prevailed! If only the life of David had ended there! But there is a third chapter in David’s life: his troubles.
The story from 2 Samuel 11 through to the end of his life is dominated by troubles that David brought on himself by his own sin and folly. It begins here with the story of David and Bathsheba. The story is well known and I will describe it briefly and discreetly.
David committed adultery with a married woman called Bathsheba. She became pregnant, and when David discovered this, he called for her husband Uriah, who was serving as a soldier in the king’s army.
When Uriah arrived, David sent him home, so that when the child was born, Uriah and everyone else would assume that this was his child. But Uriah was a man of honor. He refused to enjoy the comforts of home while the men with whom he served were risking their lives on the field of battle. So, rather than go home, he slept outside the king’s palace.
David sent Uriah back to the battle. He wrote a letter to Joab, the army commander, telling him to “set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die” (2 Samuel 11:15).
David sealed the letter and gave it to Uriah to deliver to his commander, Joab. So Uriah dutifully returned to the field of battle to serve his king, the king who had just signed his death warrant.
Joab carried out David’s instructions. He assigned Uriah to the place where the enemy was strongest (2 Samuel 11:16), and then we read, “the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died” (2 Samuel 11:17).
The sad news of her husband’s death was reported to Bathsheba, and after an appropriate period of mourning, David sent for her. She became David’s wife and in due course, the child was born. The cover up was complete, except for one thing: “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27).
It’s hard to imagine a story that has more immediate and obvious relevance for us today. Our culture is gripped by one story after another of what secularists call, “sexual misconduct.” They don’t want to use the word “sin.” They don’t have it in their vocabulary, so they must call it something else.
God uses these kinds of situations to heighten our horror of sin. And I want to make three observations…
Observation One: The Power of Temptation
I want you to take in who committed these heinous sins that are recorded here.
David was in his mature years.
He was 30 years old when he began to reign over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:4). He reigned for 40 years, which would mean that he died at the age of 70. David would have been in his 50s at the time of these events that we are looking at today. He was in the last 20 years of his life, not the first 20 years.
David was married.
He was a father with adult children, as we will see from the chapters that follow. This story warns us about the special dangers of our later years. Don’t think that because you are in your later years that you are somehow beyond these temptations.
David was a successful man.
The great achievements of his life were already behind him. When God gives you success, it is easy to get the idea that you can do nothing wrong.
David had walked with God for many years.
This was a man who truly loved the Lord. He knew what it was for the Spirit of God to breathe the Word of God through him in the Psalms that he wrote, many of which would have been written before this time. God had given him great success, unusual blessing, amazing promises.
This is the man who committed these dark and heinous sins. When you hear great sins and crimes reported in the news, don’t look down your nose in self-righteousness. Learn to say to yourself, “The root of what led to this also lies in me.” We are made of the same stuff.
A. W. Pink says, “The ‘flesh’ in the believer is no different and no better than the flesh in an unbeliever.”  If the Spirit of God, who gives grace and restrains sin, were taken from any of us, there is no telling what we might do. The first effect of this story should be to shake us to the core. It should make us ask, “Am I being realistic about my own flesh?”
Robert Murray McCheyne was a pastor known for his passionate pursuit of a godly life. When he was in his 20s, he wrote a piece called “Personal Reformation,” in which he journaled some observations about his own heart:
I am tempted to think that I am now an established Christian…I may venture very near the temptation, nearer than other men…This is a lie of Satan. I might as well speak of gunpowder getting by habit a power of resisting fire, so as not to catch the spark…The seeds of all sins are in my heart and perhaps all the more dangerously because I do not see them. 
Never imagine that you are beyond any temptation.
There is a story behind David’s sin with Bathsheba. Whenever you hear of a moral calamity, such as we have here, there is always a back story. These things don’t just happen out of the blue at random.
The back story in David’s life is clear: “David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David” (2 Samuel 5:13). He already had more than one wife and concubines.
That was what kings commonly did in these days, but it was a direct violation of the clear command of God in Deuteronomy 17:17, where God says that the king among his people is to be different. Through the mouth of Moses God made it very clear that when he appointed a king later on, his king was to be different: “He shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away…”(Deuteronomy 17:17).
That could hardly be clearer, but David had carved out an area of compromise in his life that had never been submitted to the Lord. And that area of compromise lay at the root of his sin.
David clearly had a problem with lust, and the more he gave way to it, the more it controlled him. The sin he accommodated in his life grew until one day its power overwhelmed him.
The Bible makes it very clear that this is how sin works. It builds a position in your life over time as you compromise with it. “Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15).
The more room you give to an evil desire, the more powerful it will become in your life. W. G. Blaikie says, “When an evil desire has scope for its exercise, instead of being satisfied, it becomes more greedy and more lawless.”  Here is the way sin works. It tells you, “Just give it a little space.” But sin is greedy. It always wants more.
So guard your heart, because if you allow sin to capture your imagination, it will not be long before it masters your soul. God has preserved this story for us in the Bible as a warning, so let’s apply this to ourselves.
The roots of every kind of sin lie in the flesh of even the most godly believer. Are you realistic about what you are up against? Do you think that you can live this year with integrity if you do not seek the help of God in prayer, and draw strength from his word? Do you think that you can keep some area of your life un-submitted to the lordship of Christ and not have that destroy you? Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Observation Two: The Pain of Sin
This third chapter in the life of David illustrates a very important principle: The way of the sinner is hard (see Proverbs 13:13, 15).
Let me give you an overview of the story that we will follow in the coming weeks:
In 2 Samuel 13, we have the horrific story of the abuse of David’s daughter, Tamar, coming from the lust of her step brother, Amnon, David’s son. Nothing can be more painful to a father than seeing his own sins reproduced in the life of his son, and the devastating effects of it on his own daughter.
Later in the same chapter, we have the murder or Amnon at the hands of Tamar’s own brother, Absalom. David’s sin against Uriah is reproduced in his own family.
Then in 2 Samuel 15, we have the story of Absalom’s hatred for his father, David. Absalom rebels against David, and he has to flee from Jerusalem.
Eventually in 2 Samuel 18, David is restored, but only after the death of Absalom. David was inconsolable—a father’s heart was broken by the rebellion of his own son and the pain of his own daughter.
What are we to take from this? Don’t you think that if David could have seen all that would flow from his sin with Bathsheba—the cost to his family, the cost to his career, the cost to God’s people, and ultimately the cost to his Savior, who one day would die for these sins—that he would have turned away from Bathsheba in a moment? He would have said, “No fleeting pleasure is worth that kind of pain.”
I think that many of the public figures who have been shamed by the exposure of their actions in recent weeks would also say, “If I had known the pain that would come to me, the cost that would come to my loved ones, I would never have done what I did.”
Why do you think Jesus said, “That which is done in the dark… will be shouted from the rooftops” (Luke 12:2, 3)? Here is a way to strengthen yourself against the power of temptation. Ask yourself, “How would it be if I did this, and one day the whole world knew about it? How would it be if I did this, and one day I stood before God with this laid to my charge?”
Count the cost to yourself, to those you love, and supremely as a Christian believer, to Christ. Christ died for sins. If you love him you will not continue in sin (1 John 3:6). David himself is wonderful proof of that. He sinned terribly, and he covered it up for a long time. But in the end he could not live at a distance from the Lord he loved. This is what produced repentance in him.
There’s something else here that I want us to see. Besides the great pain that came to David and his family, there was also a great loss that came to the people of God in this last chapter of David’s life.
David’s great achievement was to bring the twelve tribes of Israel together and unite them as one. This was a marvelous thing. In 2 Samuel 19, when David is restored to the throne after Absalom’s rebellion, we find that the old divisions between the tribes have erupted again. David’s great achievement of his life was unraveled, and the work of uniting the tribes had to be done all over again.
There is a phrase from the book of Revelation that has been running in my mind as I have reflected on this story. The risen Lord Jesus Christ says, “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11). Make sure your life story is not that for years you served the Lord, but at the end of your life it was all unraveled.
It’s possible to serve the Lord with great distinction, and then to undo much of the good you have accomplished. We see this is the life of David. For 20 years David led the people of God into the best days that they had ever known. But the later years of his life were dominated by one trouble after another, and the root of all these troubles lay in his own sin. See to it that no one takes your crown.
God, give us a heightened horror of sin. Sin is painful. Nothing good ever comes from it. If the only thing we say and believe about sin is that God wonderfully forgives us in Jesus, we will have very little defense against temptation. This story is in the Bible to tell us that sin destroys. That’s why it should horrify us, and it should drive us to Jesus Christ.
Observation Three: The Perfection of Jesus Christ
David is often presented to us as someone who points forward to our Lord Jesus Christ. He shows grace, he triumphs over his enemies, he brings the people from all of the tribes together, and in all of these things he foreshadows our Lord Jesus Christ.
But in this last chapter of David’s life we see him, not as one who points to the Savior, but as one who stands in need of a Savior. Israel’s great king needs an even greater king. And that is true of every one of us.
Our series on David last year was titled: “A Leader You Can Follow.” That was a reasonable title for the earlier chapters of 2 Samuel, but it wouldn’t work as a title for the story we are looking at now.
What we see from these chapters is not the likeness of David to Jesus. It’s the contrast between David and Jesus that’s striking. In David we have a king of great accomplishments, but he can’t stand against temptation. In Jesus Christ we have a king who is without sin.
Think about David ordering Uriah into the thick of the battle, so that not only his life, but the lives of other loyal soldiers who were put in harm’s way, were lost. Here is a king who gives up the lives of his people in order to save himself. How different is Jesus, the King who gives up himself in order to save the lives of his people. There’s surely no question about which king we would rather serve!
But I want in these last moments to point out something very wonderful that we find at the beginning of the New Testament, and it’s directly related to this story. Matthew begins his Gospel by recounting the line of descent into which the Lord Jesus was born: “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah” (Matthew 1:6).
It was into this line, this family—scarred by sin and fraught with pain—that Jesus Christ came.
He came into a messed up world. He came into a line of messed up families. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”(1 Timothy 1:15). And “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”(Romans 5:20).
Nothing good ever comes of sin, but great good can come from God’s redeeming grace. Jesus came into the world so that, however great the devastation of David’s sin, sin would not have the last word in David’s life. Jesus has the last word in David’s life. Jesus Christ came into the world so that sin should not have the last word in your life either.
The way of the sinner is hard, but David walked the way of a repentant sinner. And that way was hard. But walking the road of a repentant sinner meant that the Savior walked this hard road with him. Any road, however hard, that is walked with the Savior, is better by far than the easiest road walked without him.
© Colin S. Smith
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