Summary: This Old Testament account of King David leads us to consider the temptations that we face and the holy life Jesus calls us to live in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:21-37.
“How did this happen?” Have you ever read or heard a news story that just left you with that thought? “How did this happen?” I think that there were quite a few people that felt that way last Sunday afternoon as the heard the news of the 41 yar-old basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant’s death. Many people were shocked by the news, left wondering, “How did this happen?” Or maybe it’s the latest scandal. You hear about what was actually going on “behind the scenes” of someone you thought you knew so well, someone that you had grown to admire. There you are left wondering, “How did this happen?” When you read through 2 Samuel 11 and hear the account of David and Bathsheba, that truly gragic scandal, you may be left wondering, “How did this happen?” You might even wonder if this is the same David that you thought you knew so well. The David who courageously killed the giant Goliath, the man who wrote the book of Psalms? How did this happen?
The answer begins in the opening verse of 2 Samuel 11 where we’re told, “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” (2 Samuel 11:1). Spring was the time when kings normally led their militaries into battle to secure and expand the boundaries of their kingdoms. But where do we find KING David? The man who had slain giants and brought Israel some of its greatest victories about which songs were written, decided to sit this one out. Instead of being the king that God had called him to be, David decided to stay at home, sitting safely in his palace in Jerusalem – or at least he thought.
One evening, David couldn’t sleep. He got up to get some fresh air. While walking around the palace roof overlooking the kingdom that God had given him, he saw a woman bathing. Instead of looking away, he called one of his servants to find out who this bathing beauty was. The man told him, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (2 Samuel 11:3). Did you catch the multiple warnings that this man’s answer includes? First, she is the WIFE of someone. Second, she is not just the wife of some unknown person, she is the wife of URIAH. The Bible tells us that Uriah was one of David’s bodyguards. Therefore, David likely knew or at the very least had heard of Uriah. This was not impersonal. But none of those warnings stopped David from acting on the lust in his heart. He tells the man to get Bathsheba and bring her back to the palace. He sleeps with her and sends her home in the morning.
I wonder how often David thought about that night? Did he give it a second thought or just chalk it up to the “perks” of being the king, just another one of his conquests? It’s hard to know. But that single night would soon become the sole focus of David’s attention when Bathsheba told the king that she was pregnant. Now what? How was he going to explain this to Bathsheba’s husband Uriah? Maybe, “So Uriah, the funniest thing happened while you were gone fighting the enemies of my kingdom. I slept with your wife and now she’s pregnant. Welcome home!” How embarrassing that would be! No one could ever know what had happened! So David quickly collected his thoughts and formulated his plan. We might call David’s plan the “Get ‘em” plan. This plan had three phases.
Phase 1 – “Get ‘em home” If David could just get Uriah home, hopefully Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba and everyone would think that Bathsheba’s baby was his. Simple! But Uriah comes home and what does he do? Or maybe more accurately, what does he NOT do? He does NOT go home! To David’s frustration, Uriah explains that it just wouldn’t be right for him to sleep at home while his fellow soldiers were away from their families and fighting.
Phase 2 – “Get ‘em drunk” If Uriah was drunk, maybe he would lower his inhibitions and go home to sleep with his wife. But the next morning, where does David find Uriah? Sleeping at the palace. There was only one thing for David to do now. David was going to have to swallow his pride and tell Uriah the truth, right? Wrong! You can almost picture David rationalizing his next move by thinking, “Well, Uriah, I tried to avoid this, but you’ve given me no other choice. You have to go.”
Phase 3 – “Get ‘em killed” David sends Uriah back to battle with a message for Joab, the military commander of Israel’s army. The message was simple and to the point. Put Uriah on the front lines and then retreat, leaving Uriah to die. This phase went exactly as David had hoped. David and Bathsheba received the news that Uriah was killed in battle. In fact, this part of the plan almost went better than David could have hoped. Not only was he spared the embarrassment of people discovering his affair with Bathsheba, but he also looked really good in the eyes of the people who heard what he did next. He took the pregnant widow Bathsheba into his home and married her. That King David, what a great guy!