The Case of the Open Window Shade | 2 Samuel 11
When the Holy Spirit painted the portraits of Scripture's heroes, He was an artist of pure realism. He refused to brush with high-gloss colors the darker sides of their lives. The bright hues of faith and the somber shades of failure complete the picture of David.
Why doesn't the Bible gloss over the undesirable characteristics of the life of one of its greatest heroes? Wouldn't it have been easy for the writer of II Samuel to have a case of convenient amnesia with this story? The reason for the account of this story is not hard to find. The Bible is concerned to maintain the glory of God, not of any individual human being, whatever his earthly fame, his trappings, or his title.
As we look at this shameful episode of David's life, we should not shake our fingers at David's shame. We must heed the counsel of I Corinthians 10:12 which says:
Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he should fall.
Even though this episode of David's life deals with a sexual sin, we must realize that the text gives us principles that apply to all forms of sin. It is a tendency to see sin as strictly sexual sins when sin attacks us from all areas of life. Sin also includes oppression of people, attitudes of hate and bitterness, political programs of injustice and warfare and on and on. Sin is widespread and far reaching and most of all, destructive.
The sequence of events is worthy of comment. It is human nature to shift blame for personal sin to that well-worn scapegoat "combination of circumstances." In this instance it might be argued thus: Had the Ammonites not rejected David's sincere offer of a renewed treaty of peace, there would have been no war; had there been no war, Uriah would have remained at home, and David's strong initial temptation would have had no opportunity to bring forth the sinful act.
We are always paraphrasing the excuse of Adam and saying, "My life circumstances which you gave me tempted me and I did eat!" Life always offers an abundant opportunity for sin to the sinful. The opportunity to stumble is always present, but sin trips up only the sinner. We are creatures of free will. We decide upon which track our life will be placed.
The story of David and Bathsheba is a story of the most gripping kind. David was around 50 years old and had been king for about 20 years. It was spring when all the kings went forth to battle. David sent Joab and his soldiers to war against the Ammonite. David chose to stay home and let his men do all the fighting for him.
One evening, just before dark, David decided to talk a walk on the roof, much like you and I would sit on our front porch. As he looked around his great city he saw a most interesting site, Bathsheba taking her evening bath. The scripture says she was a bathing beauty.
The story continues as David inquired about this beautiful woman that he had seen. He discovers that she is married to one of Israel's chief commanders, Uriah. David sends for her to come to the palace and she and David enjoy an evening together. Soon after this evening it became apparent that nature had trapped them in sin. Bathsheba had conceived.
Instead of leaving well enough alone, the plot of the story thickens as David devises a plan to protect his kingly state as well as the reputation of Bathsheba and Uriah. David commanded Joab to bring Uriah from the battle so that he could spend some time alone with Bathsheba.
Uriah was a loyal soldier, however. Instead of going home to be with his wife he slept at the door of David's cedar house with the rest of the guard. When David found out that Uriah had slept outside of the palace he asked Uriah why he didn't go down to his own house. Uriah responded by saying:
The ark, and Israel, and Judah abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields. Shall, I, then, go into mine house, to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing. (II Samuel 11:11)
David's hands must have been wringing by now. He asks Uriah, why don't you stay a while in town before you go back to battle? Stay a couple of days if you want. To David's dismay Uriah still did not go to see Bathsheba. The sinful king had been rebuked by the integrity of one of his soldiers.
Then David tries to cover up one sin with another. He sends Uriahwith a written message to Joab telling him to place Uriah on the front line of the hottest battle and to retreat so that Uriah would be killed. The plan, of course, worked. Uriah was now dead.
When David heard about the death of Uriah he had a-win-some-you-lose-some attitude. He says to Joab:
Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another. (II Samuel 11:25)
David went and fetched Bathsheba and they were married and had a son and they lived happily....no not quite. David had all of his tracks covered, except one. The last words in the story are haunting:
The thing that David had done displeased the Lord. (II Samuel 11:27)
This is certainly a story of intrigue and suspense. It has the ingredients of the best of soap operas and mini- series. Yet, it has not been placed in scripture for our entertainment. It is here so that we can better prepare ourselves for sin's attack upon our life. Sin attacks us at certain times. The image of sin portrayed in Genesis is that sin couches at our doors waiting for prey. What are the windows of vulnerability in our life of which we need to be aware if we are to prevent sin's attack on us? When do we need to be most aware of sin's attack in our life, lest we, too, fall?
First - We are vulnerable to sin's attack when we have it all. When we think we are not vulnerable, we are vulnerable.
David had had a brilliant military career. He had virtually wiped out all of his serious foes. The Philistines had retreated from the Jerusalem area and David had securely established his kingdom. David had reached the pinnacle of his life. He had made it. He had reached the peak of public admiration. He enjoyed an endless supply of money, power, and fame. Never are we more vulnerable than when we have it all, and David was no exception.
Second - We are most vulnerable to sin's attack when we have time on our hands. Perhaps David placed too much stock in his track record. He began to sit back in his easy chair and let others tend to his kingly responsibilities. While David's men were in battle, he was home in bed, cushioned by royal comforts.
Our greatest battles don't come when we are out working hard, they come when we have time on our hands. It is the warm springtime when we are yawning and stretching with boredom that we make those fateful decisions that end up haunting us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer say this about sin:
In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money, or, finally, that strange desire for the beauty of the world, of nature. Joy in God is..extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality if the devil. Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God...it is here that everything within me rises up against the Will of God.
Third - We are most vulnerable to sin's attack when we forget the consequences of sin. No doubt the stolen water of David and Bathsheba's sin was sweet, but the consequences soon turned it bitter and the taste lingered on their lips for a lifetime. Nature trapped them in their sin.
Satan never tells the heavy drinker that tomorrow there will be a hangover. He never tells the embezzler that indictment and punishment is sure. He never tells the drug addict that overdose is a likelihood. He never tells about the pain and destruction of sin. He lures you and when it is time to reap the consequences he is gone.
When you're in the heat of temptation, remember what the real consequences of sin will be - they will change, if not destroy, your life forever.
Fourth - We are vulnerable to sin's attack when we think no one will know and we can cover it up. Sin is like quicksand, the more energetic the human effort to extricate oneself the deeper the involvement.
What started out to be an innocent night of pleasure for David spread into a cover up that included murder. If he had snuffed out the spark of temptation before it began to burn out of control, his and Bathsheba's life would not have been charred and marked as it was.
Fifth, We are most vulnerable to sin's attack when we think we can hide from God. All had been covered except David's relationship with God. God was displeased.
David had managed to cover his sin up before his soldiers and before his nation, but not before God.
As we face temptation we should heed the words of Psalm 139:
Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts, and if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Temptation (SCM Press, London, England: 1955), pp.33-34.