Saturday, September 24, 2022

King David: How the Mighty Have Fallen!

Scripture tells us it was the time of year when kings go out to war (2 Sam. 11:1). David, however, stayed at home and sent Joab in his place. One day when evening had come, David walked about on the roof of his house and from his vantage point spied a beautiful woman as she bathed. If only he had been where he ought to have been, the whole sordid matter which followed might have been avoided.

David’s affair with Bathsheba, and his subsequent murder of her husband, is undoubtedly the darkest stain on his character. It is strange to find such callous wickedness in the man after God’s own heart. How can these things be? We must be thankful that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of all sin (1 John 1:7). But we must never use this gracious promise as an excuse to allow ourselves entrance into sin. Forgiveness belongs to the truly repentant, not to the deliberately practicing.

The foundation for David’s sin goes back at least to the wilderness years before he became king. David’s flight from Saul deprived him of his wife. Not only was he separated from her, but Saul then gave her as wife to another man. We must not underestimate the depth of testing David experienced in all this, but we must also remember that the extremity of our trials never justifies the choice to sin.

One can easily understand that David might have sought the comfort of another wife, seeing that in God’s providence his first wife now belonged to another. But David didn’t stop there. During this time he took two wives (1 Sam. 25). After he became king in Hebron, he took more wives (2 Sam. 3). When he moved his capital to Jerusalem, he took still more wives and added concubines to enlarge his harem (2 Sam. 5:13ff.). He followed the ways of the world. We see the bitter fruit of these earlier compromises in the tragic episode of his dealings with Bathsheba and Uriah. Earlier faithfulness in these areas might have strengthened him, preventing his tragic fall, which brought dreadful consequences into his household for the rest of his days.

Our Lord Jesus Christ has made it very clear that from the beginning, God’s purpose has been that two people should become one flesh in marriage—not three, four, or more (Mark 10:6–8). As for the Israelite kings in particular, the Lord specifically commanded that they not multiply wives (Deut. 17:17). Was David ignorant of these things? Or did he callously disregard what he knew? Or did he, though unaware of the Lord’s commands, and though pricked in his conscience, suppress his conscience with a rationalization that somehow his was a special case?

Certainly it is possible that in the beginning David was ignorant of his duty to God. This, however, would have been culpable ignorance on his part since the law obligated a king to make for himself a copy of the law in the presence of the levitical priests and to keep it with him and to read it all the days of his life. Perhaps David failed to carry out this mandate. The incident of Uzzah’s death while moving the ark of God on a ox-drawn cart may indicate that he was somewhat ignorant of certain details in the law (2 Sam. 6; 1 Chron. 15). That tragic story is instructive to us. David had a zeal for God in that matter, but not according to knowledge. It is hard to accept that the man after God’s own heart could come to a place where he callously disregarded the law of God. Yet there are clearly elements of such disregard in David’s fall. Whatever his understanding of the law on a king’s polygamy, he surely was not ignorant of the sixth and seventh commandments. The adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, a loyal soldier to David, cannot be considered as anything less than callous. Indeed, Nathan’s rebuke highlights the callous nature of what had transpired. David had taken the poor man’s one little ewe lamb (2 Sam. 12:4).

Undoubtedly, David did not come to such a low estate overnight. It would have grown within him, slowly, subtly. Step by step and one decision at a time he “drifted” away (cf. Heb. 2:1). Let us all take heed. The same could be just down the road for us if we do not carefully guard our way before the Lord.

We must guard ourselves against rationalization. Sometimes when things do not go well for us, we feel entitled to a little disobedience. Since God seems to have let us down, and seems unconcerned for the suffering we endure, we feel entitled to sin if it brings us comfort. Whatever comfort sin does bring, it lasts for only a while. In its wake comes a harvest of trouble. Because of David’s misdeeds, the sword never departed from his house (2 Sam. 12:10). One of his sons would rape his half-sister, only then to be killed by her brother. The murderous brother would then himself rebel against David, attempt to kill him, and take his kingdom away. Another son would rebel against his purpose for Solomon to succeed as king, and would seek to take the kingdom even before David was dead. Oh, the bitter fruit of unchecked sin. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.