I grew up rambling in the Peak District every week and then in the Lake District every summer. The great danger walking in those beautiful places is peat bogs. It is a danger like quicksand or a swamp. On the first step you are up to your ankle in mud. With the next step you can be in up to your knees. If you get in up to your waist there is a risk that you will never be able to get out without help. With a peat bog, or in quicksand, dip your toe in and in the end it can drag you under!
In this chapter, we read how David became trapped in the swamp of sin. A downward spiral leading to adultery and even murder. Just count how many of the 10 commandments the great King David breaks in this story. And the sadness is that at each step David could have turned back, he could have climbed out of the swamp of sin. But he didn’t. Instead he chose to sink even deeper. The great preacher Campbell Morgan wrote, “In the whole of the Old Testament literature there is no chapter more tragic or full of solemn and searching warning than this.”
It all started with
Neglect of his responsibilities
1 ¶ In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. … But David remained in Jerusalem.
David had responsibilities – he should have been commanding his armies at the battle front. Instead he was “bunking off!” Most of us have quite enough things in life that we should be doing. Plenty of good wholesome things we could be doing! Perhaps the best advice for anyone about how to avoid sin is to say that we should simply keep busy doing what we ought to be doing. Then we wouldn’t have nearly so much time to get tempted! The devil finds work for idle hands. Or as the hymn writer Isaac Watts puts it: Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.
Wrong place wrong time
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.
David should have been away fighting. Instead he was at home, maybe feeling guilty, maybe just feeling bored. It may be true that the number one cause of sin is boredom. People look for excitement – and sin seems exciting. Mae West once said that when she was faced with a choice between two evils, she would always take the one she hadn’t tried yet. We all have this bias within us which drags us down to making the wrong choice. That’s what the Bible means by “original sin”.
Perhaps David was just on that roof to enjoy the view and saw more than he had bargained for. Perhaps he was out looking for excitement? Either way he should have been somewhere else! You know that line in the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” We can’t pray, “lead us not into temptation,” if we deliberately put ourselves into a place where we know we are going to be tempted.
There are places that Christians should NEVER go! Things Christians should never watch on TV. Books and magazines Christians should never read. Internet sites Christians should never visit! The evangelist Billy Sunday said that the problem is that people think of sin like a cream cake instead of like a rattlesnake, We have to take sin seriously. We must treat sin like a rattlesnake that will kill us, not a cream cake to be enjoyed, “naughty but nice!” We cannot pray, “lead us not into temptation,” if we deliberately put ourselves into a place where we know we are going to be tempted.
David should never have been up on that roof. But he was. Then came
The first temptation
From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful,
As my friend the evangelist Ben Alexander puts it, David’s sin wasn’t in catching that first glimpse of a beautiful woman bathing. The sin came when he went back for his binoculars.
We live in a fallen world. We are surrounded by images and sounds which could lead a saint astray. Christians aren’t meant to hide ourselves away from the world. A famous speaker once said, “You don’t become holy by living in a hole.” We are meant to be the light of the world – salt and light in a corrupt and sinful generation.
There is not sin in catching a glimpse – as long as we were not out as a peeping tom looking for the glimpse. The sin comes in gluing our eyes on things we shouldn’t be looking like. The sin comes when we allow our imagination to dwell on things which aren’t helpful to us.
The Apostle Paul said to the Colossians 3:1 ¶ Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 5 ¶ Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
As Christians we belong to God. We are united with Christ. So we must fix our minds on things that will bring us closer to God, not things which will take us away from God.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy- think about such things.
There are so many good and beautiful things to think about – don’t get dragged down to the world’s level. “Don’t let the world around squeeze you into its own mould.”
Romans 12:1 ¶ Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.
David saw Bathsheba. He was tempted for a moment. He should have repented and turned back from sin there and then! But he didn’t. Instead he did what we sinful people so often do.
David pursued the temptation
3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
There goes the 10th Commandment!
17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to
Coveting. Wanting what isn’t ours! We sin in our hearts long before we sin with our bodies. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5:27 ¶ “You have heard that it was said, `Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Here David allowed his heart to dwell on Bathsheba. He finds out who she is. He begins to plot how to seduce her. He should have stopped there but he didn’t. He could have turned back. But instead,
David made an opportunity for sin.
4 Then David sent messengers to get her.
David did not have to do that. Until then, the sin had been in his mind and heart. Now he is actively seeking a way to bring his fantasies to reality. So many times we only fall into sin because we actively make and opportunity for the sin to happen. We are tempted. We could resist the temptation but instead we plot and plan until we have made a way for us to break any of the 10 commandments, just as long as we don’t break the 11th commandment of course, “Thou shalt not get caught.” But as soon as we think we can get away with it …..
“David sent messengers.” A word of warning to us men. Young men, old men. Women, girls and older women, enjoy attention. If we pay them attention they will often respond. Men, we have an absolute responsibility not to pay women inappropriate attention. But of course the same applies to women. Women, don’t pay inappropriate attention to men either. Because we are all, male and female, so easy to lead astray.
Back in the days when I was at London Bible College it was known to many as London Bridal College, because of the number of lady students there who had chosen to study there primarily because it was the perfect place to find a husband who was called to become a minister or a missionary. The then principal Michael Griffiths had a very important rule he insisted on regarding relationships between students of different genders.
1 Timothy 5:2 Treat older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with
Here is a rule which applies to ALL Christian men and women of any age. Unless that other person is your wife (or husband) or fiancé, treat them with the same love and affection as a sister or a mother (or brother or father) and no more! No inappropriate attention.
The world around is obsessed with dating and having affairs. Newspapers and soaps may centre around who is dating who and who is doing all kinds of other things with who! As just one example, there is apparently a so-called “reality” television show called “Love Island” where a bunch of strangers are put together on a tropical island to see who pairs up with who. I have never watched even a minute of Love Island and I never will. One of the things which tells me that it is not the kind of programme which Christians should be watching is a newspaper article I saw which reported that the producers of the show had instructed the contestants to have more sex, on camera, because the viewers were losing interest. That is the world in which we live. But as Christians God calls us to be different!
1 Timothy 5:2 Treat older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with
“Don’t let the world around squeeze you into its own mould.”!!!
Of course David wasn’t the only guilty party! Of course Bathsheba would be likely to go to David if he sent messengers for her. She was flattered! And she was bored too with her husband away at war. She was probably feeling neglected. She wasn’t forced to go – she chose to go. David invited, but she chose to say yes. Men are simple creatures – we are very easily led. Men can easily be tempted by what women wear and things woman say. Bathsheba should have known better than to be bathing on her rooftop in full view of the palace. She should have run inside as soon as she saw David admiring her. But instead she stayed because she enjoyed being admired. As a married woman Bathsheba should never have accepted that invitation to the palace for tea – she knew very well where it was leading!
So women, and men, DON’T lead each other into temptation!! In this story as in so many wrecked lives, the results were predictable and tragic.
4. She came to him, and he slept with her.
Adultery – sex with somebody else’s wife or husband. Breaking the Seventh Commandment. “You shall not commit adultery.” Both David and Bathsheba were already married. The significant thing is they weren’t married to each other! Adultery is any form of sex with a person you aren’t married to! David and Bathsheba were just as guilty as each other!
But they got caught out! Bathsheba became pregnant. She knew David was the father and once he came back from war her husband Uriah would know he was not the father! So Bathsheba calls on David for help.
5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
Well she would wouldn’t she! And I suppose some people would think it’s to his credit that David didn’t just do what so many unintending fathers do and deny everything, leaving Bathsheba holding the baby. No, what he does is much worse.
David tries to cover their tracks
8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance
to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.” One sin leads to another, and another, and another, deeper and deeper into the swamp of sin. His first try doesn’t work so then
David tried to get Uriah drunk
13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go
David thought that if he could get him drunk, Uriah would forget his responsibilities. I don’t believe that drinking alcohol is necessarily wrong. But the Bible makes very clear that getting drunk is ALWAYS wrong.
Galatians 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; … drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
The danger and the sin in getting drunk is that the person loses self-control. And once they lose self-control, the opportunities for sin increase and their resistance to temptation vanishes. Eph 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery.
There are two churches I know well where teenage girls, under-age girls, got pregnant. Christian girls, from Christian homes, younger than sixteen years old, who were already mothers when they took their GCSEs. In each case because they got drunk and did what they should not have done!
But David’s scheming doesn’t work. So he plots to murder Uriah.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so that he will be struck down and die.
Notice how David gets his minions to do his dirty work. All power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. And David sinks here as low as anyone can get.
16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.
The sixth commandment – you shall not kill. All because David caught a glimpse of a beautiful woman having a bath. He ends up dragged deeper and deeper under the swamp of sin. Will you notice how at the end,
David pretends to be the good guy!
26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.
27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.
There’s no reason to suppose Bathsheba ever knew about the plot to kill Uriah. I believe she just accepted David’s kindness without realising it was David who had taken her husband from her in the first place.
And I bet David breathed a sigh of relief. His adultery remained hidden from the world. He had got away with adultery and even murder. But of course, none of us can get away with anything. God the judge of all is watching over us all! God isn’t mentioned at all in the whole story of David and Bathsheba, until the last verse where we read this.
But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.
No surprise there! We will see what God will do about David’s sin next week. But for today this whole chapter serves as a warning for us all. David gave in to sexual temptation. That might not be a problem we grapple with. But there are so many other areas of temptation we face. Greed. Selfishness. Pride. The temptation to do whatever we like and just ignore God. As with so many stories in the Old Testament,
1 Corinthians 10:11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come.
12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
Steer clear of the swamp of sin. Dip your toes in and it WILL drag you under!