David's Great Sin

Bible Book: 2 Samuel  11
Subject: Sin; Wrong Places; David; Adultery

2 Samuel 11

My subject this morning is “David’s Great Sin” - and I’m referring to his grievous sin with Bathsheba. David was guilty of other sins, as well - but the focus here in 2 Samuel 11 is on his sin with Bathsheba. You know the story: David lusted after Bathsheba, committed adultery with her and got her pregnant, and then sent her husband, Uriah, into the heat of battle where he was sure to be killed.

Some folks have drawn some woefully wrong conclusions from that story. They have concluded that since David committed adultery, and yet is presented as an outstanding man in the Bible, adultery must not be so terrible after all. They have concluded that adultery, while wrong, is not the horrendously major offense that some think it is, and that therefore we ought to “lighten up” in our attitude toward it. They have convinced themselves that by including that episode in the story of David, one of the greatest men in the Bible, God is thereby minimizing the sin of adultery.

But that is a sadly wrong conclusion. By including this story in the Bible God is not minimizing adultery, he is doing just the opposite. So, to think that this story takes some of the sting out of the sin of adultery is to pathetically, inexcusably miss the point.

Why did God include the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba in the Bible? Well, first of all, because it happened . When Alexander the Great had his portrait painted he posed with his hand on his face, so that the scar on his cheek did not show. But when God paints a portrait he doesn’t cover the scars. He never whitewashes the record. He always “tells it like it is,” even when the events being reported break his heart. Someone has said, “You and I would not want God to be our biographer” - but he is our biographer! Regardless of what others might think of us, God is keeping the true record!

But there’s also another reason that the story of David’s great sin with Bathsheba is a part of the Biblical record: there are some profoundly important lessons that come to light in that story. Let’s look at three lessons to be learned from the account of David’s great sin, the first two of which are sober warnings.

I. The Danger of Being in the Wrong Place

First of all, we have in this story a warning about The Danger of Being in the Wrong Place.

In 2 Samuel 11:1-2 we read, "And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon."

It was the time “when kings go forth to battle,” yet for some reason David stayed behind. We’re not told why. Maybe he had grown too accustomed to the comforts of his palace. But whatever the reason, he was not where he should have been . He should have been on the battlefield, leading his troops--but he tarried in Jerusalem, which means that he was, at that particular point in time, in the wrong place - and that’s when the trouble started. Wen a person is in the wrong place, he is more vulnerable to temptation.

Do you think for one moment that David just got up that morning and said to himself, “I think that today I’ll begin a process of ruining my life, and the lives of others. I’ll start by committing adultery, then I’ll try to cover up what I’ve done, then I’ll commit murder--and in the process I’ll mess up my children’s lives and bring down the wrath of God?”

Of course he didn’t do any such thing. Satan brings people down by increments. David started by saying to himself, “I know it’s time for me to lead my troops in battle, but I think I’ll just sit this one  out.” Then when he couldn’t sleep - probably because of a guilty conscience - he went up to the  palace roof, looked down at another rooftop and saw Bathsheba bathing herself. He should have immediately turned away in embarrassment and gone back downstairs, but he allowed himself to keep looking. He probably rationalized and said to himself, “I am not going to do anything about it, so there’s nothing wrong with looking” - but of course there was something wrong with looking, because Jesus said, in Matthew 5:28 that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” But David did a number on himself, and kept looking - and one thing led to another, with adultery and murder being the result.

But it all started, mind you, with his being in the wrong place.

There are two kinds of wrong places. Some places which are fine most of the time are, at other times, the wrong places. The roof of David’s palace was probably a very scenic, restful place for the most part - but on this particular occasion , it was the wrong place for David to be. Had he been out there on the front lines with his troops, where he should have been, surely this whole sorry scenario would not have taken place.

It happens today. A few years ago I was preaching in a church in Missouri, and when I gave the invitation a young man whom I knew came forward. He was so broken, and was sobbing so hard, that he could barely speak. He told me that he wanted to talk with me, and we made an appointment. As I said, I knew this young man. I had talked with him in the past about his relationship with Christ, and he had assured me that all was well in that department, and I had seen nothing in his life that was inconsistent with that profession. But now he told me the story of what had happened recently. He had become attracted to a young woman of college age, only slightly younger than he. He was a handsome, gifted young man, and she also found herself attracted to him. One night they decided to meet in his apartment and talk. Bad decision. He said that, so help him, that was all he had in mind-- just for them to talk about what future they might have. I’m sure his apartment was a very nice place most of the time, but it was the wrong place for the two of them to be, alone, at night. He was a healthy young man with normal desires, and she was a beautiful young woman. Neither of them was as strong as they had thought they were, and that night both of their lives were ruined. That apartment proved to be the wrong place for them to be.

Well, that’s one kind of wrong place. But then, there are some other places which, by their very nature , are wrong places to be. I could make a list of such places as beer joints, gambling houses, etc., but you can fill in the details for yourself. If you sincerely seek God’s guidance, and your commitment is to honor Christ and not bring reproach on his name, you’ll know where to go and where not to go. A car full of teenagers were out cruising one night, and stopped at a very questionable place. They unloaded and were about to go in, when they saw that one of the girls didn’t get out. They said, “Aren’t you going in with us?” She said “No, thank you.” One of the group said, “Oh, you could come on in.” She responded, “I could - but I don’t want to take Jesus into such a place.” She was right on target. He dwells within the heart of every believer, and we should never go into any place where we would be ashamed to take him.

When it comes to questionable places, some folks say, “Why, I can go there and not do anything wrong.” But you’ve already done wrong - you’ve taken a step of compromise simply by going into such a place - and one step can, and usually does, lead to another.

Being in the wrong place is like being in a canoe and getting into a swift current. You may fully intend to row back to the shore, but if you get far enough out you reach a point where you run the risk of losing control and being swept over the rapids onto the sharp rocks below. Jesus said, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We’re to watch and pray--and surely that includes watching what kind of places we go into.

II. The Destructiveness of Sin

Another lesson that comes into focus from the story of David’s great sin is The Destructiveness of Sin.

In certain parts of the world there grows an unusual tree which has been named “the Judas tree” because of its deceitfulness. It has beautiful crimson blossoms that attract various insects. The bee, ever on the lookout for sweet nectar for the making of honey, is drawn to those brilliant flowers. But every insect that lights on those blossoms and partakes of the nectar drops dead--because the nectar is poison. The ground beneath the Judas tree is littered with dead bees and insects of various kinds.

How graphically that illustrates the truth about sin. However alluring and promising sin may appear, the fact is that it destroys. It destroys self-respect; it destroys families; it destroys influence; sometimes it brings physical destruction; and it always brings down the wrath of God. Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Through Nathan the prophet, God said to David in 2 Samuel 12:9-10, "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.

Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house ; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife."

Look at the terrible things that happened after that in the house of David. One of David’s sons, Ammon, raped his half-sister, Tamar. Then another of David’s sons, Absalom, took revenge on Ammon by murdering him. Later Absalom gathered an army and rebelled against David, and was killed in the process. Perhaps you remember the story; Absalom’s long hair caught in a tree limb, and he was jerked off his mule and left hanging by his hair. Joab, the captain of David’s army, thrust  a dart through Absalom’s heart, and then some other soldiers did likewise. After that, David fired Joab and appointed Amassa in his stead--but then Joab, in his jealousy, murdered Amassa. David showed poor judgment in a number of situations, and his government--though it remained intact-- began to weaken. Pockets of rebellion developed. David had promised that his son, Solomon, would succeed him on the throne, but when David was old and dying another of his sons, Adonijah, tried to take over. Solomon prevailed, and at first forgave Adonijah--but later their relationship deteriorated, and Solomon had Adonijah executed.

One tragedy after another occurred, beginning with the time that David allowed himself to be in the wrong place, committed adultery with Bathsheba, and then tried to cover it up by comitting murder. No one can escape the reality of Deuteronomy 32:23: “...be sure your sin will find you out.”

Another sad result of sin is that it causes us to lose our influence. In 2 Samuel 12:14 Nathan said to David, “...by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme....”

We’ve all know of individuals who were thought to be upstanding, and were even considered role models - then they went crashing down morally, and those who trusted them were bitterly disillusioned and in many cases turned their backs upon God and his church. But not only are the people who trusted them disappointed. In every community the devil has his naysayers who gleefully look on when a professing child of God fails morally, and they say, “You see, I told you there was nothing to it!” There’s no telling the amount of damage that is done when a believer yields to temptation and falls into sin.

In Genesis 13:12-13 we read that “Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” Lot never intended actually to live in Sodom; he just wanted to live nearby so that he could reap what he considered the benefits of being close to such a large city. But one thing led to another, and finally he moved into the midst of all of that moral filth. Then an angel warned Lot that Sodom and Gomorrah would soon be destroyed because of their wickedness, and that he should get his family together and leave. Genesis 19:14 says, “And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons-in-law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he  seemed as one that mocked unto his sons-in-law.” Sodom was the wrong place for Lot to be - and as a result he lost his influence. Even his own sons-in-law found laughable the idea that Lot would  have any word from God. They didn’t take him seriously, rolled over and went back to sleep, and  were destroyed by the fire and brimstone which fell.

In 2 Samuel 11:27 we read, “...the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” God loves people, but he hates sin - and furthermore, he punishes sin. The unbeliever is punished throughout eternity, and sometimes in this life as well. The believer always receives his punishment in this life. In Hebrews 12:5-6 we read: “...My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

III. The Depths of God’s Mercy

But let me say one other thing about David’s great sin. Not only does the story of his tragic sin remind us of the danger of being in the wrong place, and the destructiveness of sin - it also reminds us of THE DEPTHS OF GOD’S MERCY .

Once David faced up to the enormity and heinousness of his sin and with a broken heart repented and asked for God’s forgiveness, the Lord did forgive him. In 2 Samuel 12:13 we read: “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”

We need to realize that David’s repentance and confession were deeply sincere. When he faced up to the horror of what he had done, he was devastated. It is generally accepted that Psalm 51 was written by David following his great sin. Let me read Psalm 51:1-4: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight...."

When David said, “Against thee, thee only , have I sinned,” he was not discounting the horrible damage he had done to others. In this context, the Hebrew word translated “only” does not mean “exclusively”- rather, it means “ directly.” Without minimizing one iota the terrible injustices he had done to Bathsheba, Uriah, his colleagues, and to his own family, David was, at this point, saying, “Oh, God, I realize, to my shame and remorse, that my sin has amounted to a personal affront to you, the great Creator and Savior.”

So it is with sin in your life and mine. Not only does our sin negatively impact the people around us - but our sin is also a personal insult to the God who has graciously blessed us and, in the case of Christians, saved us. By all means, we need to apologize to the people we have hurt and ask their forgiveness - but we must never forget that the greatest hurt of all is the hurt that God feels--and we must confess our sins to him and ask for his mercy.

Look at some further excerpts from David’s confession in Psalm 51, Verse 7, “purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean”--David realized that sin is moral and spiritual filth, and contaminates us and those with whom we associate--“wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Verse 10: “Create  in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”

Verses 12-14 read, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness."

Verse 17 reads, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

When our repentance is genuine and from the very depths of our heart, God reaches out to us in mercy and forgiveness. No, you can’t relive the past. You can’t unbreak a glass, or unsay a word, or undo an action--but you can be forgiven, cleansed, and given a new start, so that from this point forward your life will be pleasing to God, productive, and a blessing to those around you.

Listen to the wonderful promise of Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Many years ago Paul Stevens, who at that time was head of the Radio and Television Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told of going through a paper factory in Wisconsin. He saw the workers dump dirty, smelly rags at the dock in the rear of the plant. He saw those old rags poured into great machines which ground and pulverized them and mixed certain chemicals with them.

Then those rags were boiled and cooked, and other materials were added. Finally, Stevens walked to the other end of the plant where he saw a shimmering sheet of pure white paper come forth.

Those dirty, stinking rags had been totally changed in character; they weren’t the same thing anymore. So it is with confessing your sins and surrendering in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ--your life is cleansed and made new. You are no longer the same person.

If you’ve never done so, repent and commit yourself in faith to Christ, thus receiving him as your personal Lord and Savior. He’ll forgive your sins. He’ll write your name in heaven’s reservation book - and he’ll give you newness of life in the here and now.

If you’re a believer who has gotten off the track, repent and confess your sins, and claim the wonderful promise of 1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”