Sinful King - Merciful God
2 Samuel 11-12[i]
David was established as King of Israel.
It was the spring of the year. With the winter being over, armies could move about and wars resumed. By this time, David had been king over Israel for approximately 20 years. He had made treaties with many nations, and he had fought many wars.
At one point, David had been friends with the king of the Ammonites. 2 Samuel 10 tells us that when King Nahash of the Ammonites died, his son Hanun made himself David's enemy. As we enter into chapter 11 of 2 Samuel, David’s army is still at war with the Ammonites. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. We are not told why he did this, but I've heard lots of speculation. Nevertheless, he was king and had that right. He also had many responsibilities.
For our purposes here today, let's just say that David was firmly established as ruler and king. He had a general he could trust with the fighting. He had a palace, and he could afford to take an afternoon rest. David was not lazy. At least, we have no biblical evidence of him being lazy, and he was prosperous.
There is nothing wrong with prosperity. Furthermore, sometimes prosperity is a blessing from the Lord. A lack of prosperity does not mean the Lord is not blessing us. For many years, David lived as a fugitive without a home and yet during the whole time the Lord blessed him. Prosperity and poverty each have their own unique temptations. It is necessary for each of us to be aware of our own weaknesses and temptations.
The text tells us that as David was walking on the roof of his palace he looked out over the city and noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent a person to find out who she was. A literal translation of the answer he received is: "Is not this Bath-Sheba, daughter of Eliam, wife of Uriah the Hittite?"[ii] (2 Samuel 11:3, YLT)
The form of this answer reveals some interesting information.
David had 30 mighty men. Many of these men had been with him from his time in the wilderness fleeing from Saul. 2 Samuel 23:39 gives the name of Uriah the Hittite as one of David’s mighty men.
Being a foreigner, a Hittite, Uriah was a convert to Judaism.
2 Samuel 23:34 gives the name “Eliam son of Ahithophel from Giloh” as one of the mighty men. Eliam was one of David's elite warriors and the father of Bathsheba. About the time David was ascending to the throne, Eliam would have been celebrating the birth of his daughter Bathsheba. David might have even held and/or blessed the child.
What is more, Eliam was the son of Ahithophel.
From 2 Samuel 15:12, we learn that Ahithophel was one of David's counselors. As a matter of fact, later in chapter 16 we learn, “Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God.” (2 Samuel 16:23, ESV)[iii]
In other words, Ahithophel, Bathsheba's grandfather, was David's top advisor.
The “Is this not Bathsheba!” answer David received is probably based on a “You know her!” assumption.
This makes David's crime more heinous.
Uriah, who he killed, was a friend.
Bathsheba, who he seduced, was the daughter of a friend, and the granddaughter of a very close friend.
Every part of this crime was a gross misuse of the power of David's position.
2 Samuel 11:27 says, “But the LORD was displeased with what David had done.”
Then in 2 Samuel 12:9 it says, “Why, then, have you despised the word of the LORD and done this horrible deed?”
Here then is God's conclusion, David despised the word of the Lord. The first word used to define "despise" is the word "contempt."
This is sin in all of its ugliness.
Murder, betrayal, thievery, it is all there, and from a godly man. Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” This should warn us that we are all capable of falling into any sin. We can condemn David and at the same time be blind to the sin that lies hidden in our own heart.
Our biggest fear quite possibly should be that we should ever despise the word of the Lord. In Jesus’ day, the most careful observers of the Law were the Pharisees. However, Jesus criticized them for their contempt for the word of the Lord. In Matthew 15:3 Jesus chastises the Pharisees for setting aside the law of God for their traditions. He says, "And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?" Then in the same talk, he quotes from the Old Testament and says this:
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. (Matthew 15:8-9)
Do we despise the word of the Lord by what we allow in our lives?
As serious as David's sin was, God forgave him.
When Nathan the prophet confronted David, David immediately confessed and was repentant. Psalm 51 records David's repentance and confession. Therefore, God said to David:
“Yes, but the LORD has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin. Nevertheless, because you have shown utter contempt for the LORD by doing this, your child will die.” (2 Samuel 12:13-14)
1 John 1:9 tells us, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
David is a good example of this. If we confess our sins, God forgives us.
However, we should consider the far-reaching consequences of David's sin. When Nathan the prophet confronted David he said, “From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.” (2 Samuel 12:10)
Let me list a few of the things that happened in David's life as a consequence of his sin with Bathsheba.
1. His son Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar.
2. His son Absalom murdered Amnon for his rape of Tamar.
3. His son Absalom died in an unsuccessful attempt to take the throne.
At the death of his son Absalom, David wept saying, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” (2 Samuel 18:33) The pain of loss was so great that David wanted to die. David was forgiven, but God did not erase all the consequences. To be sure, God saved David from the worst of the consequences, but those He did not save David from were more than David could bear.
God warns us against sin for our own good. When Cain was contemplating the murder of his brother, God warned him that sin was crouching at his door desiring him. (Genesis 4:7) Along with this, we have the warning of 1 Peter 5:8, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (ESV) The consequences of sin are always worse than we imagine.
There are those who thought David should have died. However, having been forgiven, David’s death would have sent him to heaven and he would not have lived to suffer the consequences of his sin.
Consider the story of Ahithophel with me.
Ahithophel, as has been mentioned, was David's top advisor. He was also Bathsheba's grandfather. It appears from the story that Ahithophel never forgave David. Therefore, when Absalom rebelled against David and made his move to take the throne, Ahithophel joined Absalom as his advisor. His advice to Absalom was brutal and efficient.
It went like this:
Now Ahithophel urged Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man’s life that you seek. (2 Samuel 17:1-3)
Ahithophel wanted David dead. It was most likely because of what had happened with his granddaughter.
The Lord frustrated the advice of Ahithophel, and Absalom did not follow it. When this happened, Ahithophel knew that the battle was lost. The end of his story is told in 2 Samuel 17:23. “When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself. He died there and was buried in the family tomb.” This took place even before the battle started between David and Absalom’s forces.
Ahithophel was wronged. However, his failure to forgive and trust the justice of God destroyed him.
We have all been wronged at some point. Some of us have been wronged in particularly heinous ways. However, we must forgive and trust the justice of God. Jesus warns us, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation.
I do not believe that relationships can be restored without true repentance. God forgives our sins when we confess our sins. This would imply that if we don't confess or acknowledge our sins they go unforgiven, and we are not reconciled with God. If a person has sinned against you and done you harm, for your own sake you must forgive them based on the fact that God has forgiven you. However, this does not mean that you are reconciled with the offender. If the offender never repents, the relationship can never be whole.
This is why Jesus said, "If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back." (Matthew 18:15)
I tend to think that this never happened between David and Ahithophel.
We all have sinned, and we can say with Lamentations 3:22, “It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” (KJV)
However, we can learn many lessons from David’s mistakes.
1. Don’t despise the word of the Lord.
2. If caught in a sin, repent.
3. Seek and give forgiveness.
4. Seek reconciliation as much as possible.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Young's Literal Translation, http://biblehub.com/ylt/2_samuel/11.htm
[iii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.