Weeds grow when you clear land. Weeds are nature’s way of protecting itself and combatting erosion. If you don’t protect the topsoil, it will easily wash away when it rains. That’s why you’ll see weeds where you’ve never planted them; in cracks in your driveway and sidewalk; even breaking through your plastic barriers. They grow quickly and easily. They require no maintenance. Just planting what you want doesn’t clear away weeds. You have to remove the weeds to protect what you want. You can spray for weeds one year, and you are guaranteed to have to do it again the next year.
In the same way that weeds are the part of nature we don’t want and can’t get a handle on, sin continually creeps up in places we thought we had it under control. Sin grows in the little places we never imagined it, the cracks and crevices. We think we have one sin mastered only to find out that it goes by many names. To put it more clearly, sin is our nature’s way of trying to reclaim our hearts and minds.
We all too easily get comfortable with our besetting sins instead of engaged in a fight with them. Sometimes winning a fight looks like standing your ground and getting a few good swings in. Sometimes winning a fight looks like turning the other direction to drain your enemy of its power. Without exception, Scripture tells us to flee sexual immorality. That means not engaging on any level. We don’t engage on the mental level, with fantasy. We don’t engage on the emotional level, through intimacy. And we don’t engage on the physical level, with proximity.
In the life of David we see a man who already struggled with sexual immorality and then isolated himself from his normal routines. And by struggled with sexual immorality, I mean he gave in to it over and over. The struggle is good and not the sin. One some level, every one of us struggles with sexual immorality. But instead of putting up a fight, David let things happen to him. He isolated himself, he turned fearful, then vengeful, and finally, it turned him into a horrible callous man.
Sin grows in barren isolation. Righteousness grows in biblical community.
God cares about sin because he cares about righteousness. Only in Christ is righteousness achieved, and it’s not by us conquering sin. Christ conquered sin through his obedience even to death. The prime example this hope is David’s life, as far back as him fighting Goliath. The covenant made at Sinai came with blessings and curses. The curses were that when the people defected, became faithless and disobedient, God would send in foreign nations to rule over the people until they repented and turned back to the Lord. Goliath was a Philistine, and the Philistines were there in Israel as the judgment of God.
Why did God send in David? Because God sent one man to do for the nation what the nation would not and could not do for themselves, namely, remove the instrument of God’s judgment. David stood to represent the nation, in between God and the people, and to destroy the enemy. David is a shadow or a foretaste of what the people needed even more than freedom from the tyranny of foreign powers: freedom from the tyranny of sin. During his reign of king, David would push the Philistines out of the nation.
But David would let the people down time and time again. Looking at Saul, we see that good looks and physical strength is no guarantee of leadership ability. Looking at David, we see that starting well is no guarantee of godliness. Every time he sinned, every time he took a new wife, every time he stayed behind, he showed the people that he was not the expected messiah who will save the people. Every time he failed, the expectation for God to send one who would replace even this beloved king grew more and more.
David is anointed king of Judah in 2 Samuel 2 then king of Israel in 2 Samuel 5. Already there are major divisions between north and south, but the kingdom won’t split for a couple of more generations. Samuel anointed David king back in 1 Samuel 16, but he was a young man. Not until Saul dies is he the rightful heir of the throne. The Philistines are finally removed from Israel at the end of chapter 5. God cuts the covenant with David in chapter 7, that he will have an eternal descendent on the throne. Then David has many military victories in chapters 8-10. Now in chapter 11 successful, boastful, entitled King David is isolated, fearful, vengeful, and callous.
vv. 1-5 First we see David as an isolated man.
Spring allowed the roads to be clear for military travel. Wartime was spring through harvest. We’re told that the Israelite army going up to Rabbah was a siege work, which meant that this would have been an extended time of military action, not some quick skirmish or a single battle. This might go on the entirety of the war-fighting season. Since the king had many responsibilities, there may have been times when the king stayed behind, especially if this was intended to be almost a year. But v.1 does say that the kings did typically go out with their armies, so it seems that it was expected that David would go, even for an extended period of time. Either way, whether it was normal or disreputable, David is now isolated.
In the afternoon, many people would take a nap in a cooler place to rest up from the heat. He takes a stroll to his roof, which as the king’s house, would have likely been the highest point in the city. It would have been easy for him to see quite a distance.
Bathing on the roof would not have been abnormal. Generally, you’d be shielded from the view of everyone below. But from his perch, David doesn’t look away. His sin is not that he saw her but that he kept seeing her. Seeing her turned in to fantasizing about her. Fantasizing about her turned into finding out about her. Turning around would have gone a great distance in preventing what’s about to happen, but instead, he let his eyes draw him in. His eyes fed his mind. His mind fed his heart. And out of his heart came many kinds of deceit.
Scripture does not even try to make Bathsheba complicit. No context implies that she’s enticing David to do what he will do. We’re not even told that she’s unclothed. There are places in the world where people bath publicly, such as in India, and they do not completely undress to do so. All we’re told about Bathsheba, beyond her bathing on the roof, is that her father is Eliam and her husband is Uriah.
Eliam is among David’s mighty men, 30 men of courage who who have followed David to hell and back in battle. Eliam’s father is Ahithophel, who is one of David’s counselor, much like a cabinet member. It could have been that when he saw Bathsheba, he wasn’t close enough to recognize her face but close enough to recognize her beauty. While we don’t know if he knew who she was before seeing her and calling for her, he intimately knew her father and grandfather. David himself would have been about fifty-years-old by this time.
David sent for her through messenger, then we’re told that he took her and she came to him. And to prove that there was no chance her husband was the father of this forthcoming child, we’re told that she was bathing to achieve ceremonial purity, because she had finished her monthly cycle. The child that will be born to David and Bathsheba is undoubtedly David’s.
David has a history of sexual sin. Unfortunately, Bathsheba fits right in with David’s inability to have much self-control. David had an ongoing problem with sexual sin. David already had multiple wives: Ahinoam, Abigail, Maccah, Haggith, and Eglah are listed specifically in 2 Samuel 3. In chapter 5, there are so many more wives and concubines that they’re not even named. Kings were prohibited from polygamy in Deuteronomy 17:17-20. So even for all the good he did, he failed to obey the law perfectly. Taking Bathsheba was just the next step.
David already had wives and concubines, so why did he need Bathsheba? David was isolated. His appetite could go unchecked with little to no accountability. Like all appetites, they might be satisfied for a short while, but they always come back. Without even a little self-control, our appetites becomes our god. The apostle Paul says of those who reject the truth in Philippians 3:19, "Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
vv. 6-13 Then we see how frightened David is.
Joab is David’s military general and would be in charge of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. Uriah is from the Hittite people and is probably a soldier-for-hire. However, he seems to have made the change to an Israelite, because Uriah means “Yahweh is my light”. He would fight for David’s army, for Israel, and in turn David would provide for all of his needs. And we’ll see that Uriah is heavily contrasted with David in terms of his character.
There would really not be much of a reason for David to call Uriah to get an update on the siege. It’s already raising suspicion in Joab’s mind. But David is frightened, so he starts scheming. He brings Uriah home, hoping that he will do what married couples do after being apart and think the child Bathsheba is carrying belongs to him. To compound David’s adultery, now he’s tricking another man into raising his own child. When we have no self-control, we turn to self-protection. When we break God’s law, we look to shift the blame. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. And if David can, he will shift responsibility to Uriah.
Knowing that you’ve sinned is not the same as confessing that you’ve sinned. David clearly knows what he’s done, because he’s scared. And his fear, instead of leading him to repentance, has instead led him to concocting a scheme to cover up his adultery.
There was precedent for soldiers not to sleep with their wives before or during battle. They were to stay focused on the task before them. Uriah is not going to indulge himself while his fellow soldiers are fighting away from their own families, many of whom will never return. He also has great reverence for the ark of God, which he says is also just dwelling in a tent. So instead of going to his home to be with Bathsheba, which David told him it was alright to do, he stays the night at the entrance of the palace instead. He stays in the servants’ quarters. We’re supposed to contrast Uriah’s integrity, a gentile, with the integrity of the fallen Israelite king.
David finds out and has Uriah stay an extra day. David gets Uriah drunk, hoping that without his senses he’ll go home and find Bathsheba. But even off the wagon, Uriah has more integrity than David and refuses to go home. So David, instead of repenting, now has to find a new way to keep Uriah from finding out about what he as done.
vv. 14-21 Because David is isolated and frightened, he turns vengeful.
Desperation makes us do horrible things, all in the name of not getting caught. How much sooner can things move on, even if it hurts, if we confess our sins to those who we’ve offended? The weight of sin is unbearable if it goes unconfessed. It makes us stupid. And in his desperation, David turned into the kind of person we all have inside of us—a vengeful person.
In his sinful stupidity, somehow it makes sense to David that Uriah has to die. That will fix everything. Everyone will think the child is Uriah’s since he was in town for a couple of days. So David sends Uriah back to Joab saying that Uriah should be put in the front of the fighting for the sole purpose that he is killed. Not only is he to be put in the front ranks, but when the fighting gets started, have everyone else back away from him. Make him a target, David says.
Joab sees through David’s plotting. Instead of having Uriah be the only casualty, the men stay together and many of them are killed in battle. Uriah’s death would simply be lumped in together with the body count. So Joab sends a messenger back to David tell him about the mass losses.
Joab knows that David will ask for more than a body count. He also knows that something is amiss. Joab knows a woman is involved. And as commonplace as polygamy might have been among other pagan kings, he knew that it was not allowed in the law for the Israelite kings. Somewhat prophetically, Joab knows that David, in his anger about the great losses, will wonder why Joab had the army so close to the wall. It was well-known Israelite history that one of their greatest black-eyes was when Abimelech died at the hands of a woman who rolled a rock on his head from her roof. Abimelech was one of Gideon’s sons, and he killed all of his brothers in order to make himself a king even before Israel had kings. But the people hated him, and one woman took it upon herself to take him out.
David may not have actually said this, but Joab half expects him to. It’s thick with irony. A woman on a roof was the downfall of a very proud man in time of the judges. And a woman on a roof was the downfall of a very proud man in the time of the kings. David failed to practice self-control and failed to be obedient to the law of God. It is his failures that have turned him into a vengeful, old man.
vv. 22-27 David has manipulated people’s lives, and the only way to mask the truth is for him to turn callous.
Joab’s messenger arrives in Jerusalem to tell David the bad news. More soldiers died than he expected. It was a slaughter. Walking up to a city wall was like walking up to a tank. Soldiers perched on the top of the wall could shoot down at the soldiers below with nothing to stop them. They were like sitting ducks. Joab expected this to infuriate the king.
However, David is so relieved that Uriah is dead, that his problem is solved, that he shows no remorse for sending so many men to their deaths. He was prepared to lose one man, and if other soldiers died to make that happen, then so be it. The message he sends back to Joab is, “Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.” Basically, he says to Joab, “What are you gonna do?”
Sin and sin’s coverup when you’ve been found out will necessarily lead to repentance or callousness. Eventually, David will admit his sins and repent. But for now, he’s doing what sinners do and basking in the peace of getting away scot-free.
Sin also sends us into hiding. This whole time, David has stayed in his house. Even while Bathsheba mourns for her husband’s death, David stays home. Sin isn’t just grown by isolation, but it keeps us isolated, as well. Every time David is mentioned, where is he? He’s holed up in his palace, safe and sound, while everyone else is suffering for his sin.
The story is far from over, however. David brings Bathsheba into his house, but the story takes a turn. Up until now, God has not been mentioned. But once God is mentioned, it’s not good news for David. Everything is not okay. “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” From start to finish, this is David’s sin. Sure, later on, down the road, Bathsheba proves to be a schemer herself, but this is on David.
One of the prophets in David’s time was Nathan. God sends Nathan to David to call David out on his sin. Nathan gives David a story about a rich man who steals a poor man’s lamb to feed a guest. He asks David, “What should be done to this thief?” And of course, David says that the rich man should restore what he stole and then die. Famously, Nathan says to David, “You are the man!”
Nathan goes on to say that because, as king, he has led Israel astray through his example, the child born to David and Bathsheba will die. We should not say that our sin will lead to the death of our children, but in this instance, it did. From this point on, David is changed. When his child is born, he is sick. He dies before he is even named. When the attendants tell David of his son’s death, he actually stops his mourning and goes to the ark to worship. When they ask him why he has stopped mourning when many would have just begun, he is assured that in the life to come, he will see his son again.
The grace of God turned a man like David, an adulterer and conspirator, into a man who hopes in the resurrection of the dead. What is our blessed hope? Is it to never die? Or is it to die to this frail, sinful body and be raised incorruptible?
Jesus died that we might die, which graciously removes the weight of this sin-ridden body. Jesus lived the perfect, obedient life that when we live again, we will be sinless and stain-free, as he is. The return of Christ, which brings with it the resurrection of the dead, is our blessed hope.
David did some horribly wicked things. But those wicked things were the very sins for which Christ died. The vile things that you and I have done are the very sins for which Christ died.
Once restored in community, David wrote Psalm 51 as a confession of his sin before God. In it, he writes, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (vv.7-8). Confession and repentance brings about both brokenness and gladness. Brokenness in that we have failed at sinless perfection, and gladness in that we are purged of our sins by the blood of Christ. What is it that pleases God? “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (v.17).
Sin grows in barren isolation. Righteousness grows in biblical community. If you’re isolated, find biblical community. So many sins begin in isolation. Earthly tactics do not do away with the power of sin. In Colossians 2, Paul says rules like “Do not taste, do not touch” do not guard against the indulgence of the flesh. So what does? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). Sin is defeated in biblical community.
Those who turn to Christ in faith and repentance are never turned away. Bring your sin, your evil deeds, you good deeds done with selfish motives, and confess that Christ is Lord. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.