Don’t Blame Bathsheba
2 Samuel 11:1-12:14
“In the spring, when the kings normally went out to war, David sent out Joab,
his servants, and all the Israelites. They destroyed the Ammonites and attacked
the city of Rabbah. But David stayed in Jerusalem.”
Armies have for centuries kept their top generals and leaders safe in the rear ranks or, where short distances were involved, even at home. The Ammonite capital of Rabbah was less than 40 miles from Jerusalem. David could easily control the battle through reports brought to him from his trusted general Joab. Messengers could be sent out from him to alter strategy if necessary, as we see in verses 6, 14.
Whatever David’s reasons for remaining in Jerusalem, it becomes clear that there was more than strategy involved. David was a warrior-king, the very reason he was not allowed to build the Temple for the Lord -- ordinarily, David would be leading the charge in war, fueled by a passion for God and disdain for His enemies.
David’s place was with his armies, but something was amiss. Perhaps he had become weary with battle; maybe he had grown a little “soft” surrounded by the wealth and comforts of the palace.
We don’t know for certain, but what we do know is that David was at a place of low spiritual vitality. His heart had lost its edge; he was drifting from God.
Illustration: People find it hard to understand that simply doing nothing is so dangerous to spiritual life and vitality -- but it’s really only a reflection of our normal, daily experience. Relationships fall apart because we don’t work at them. A beautiful garden is destroyed by neglect; a house crumbles around you if you don’t maintain it. Many people die prematurely, not through any accident, but simply by neglecting their health; ignoring the warning signs and not making the necessary adjustments.
As Solomon put it (Prov.24:33, 34), “You sleep a little; you take a nap. You fold your hands and lie down to rest. Soon you will be as poor as if you had been robbed; you will have as little as if you had been held up.”
David couldn’t sleep one evening (v.2) so he gets out of bed and takes a stroll on the terrace. There’s no indication that David was “on the prowl,” but how many know that when your guard is down, the Devil will set you up?
Bathsheba, bathing that evening in the privacy of her own yard, assuming she was alone, did not count on being watched. But when the king summons her to his room, it’s safe to assume that she felt obligated to obey. It was common for kings to take whomever they wished, married or not, yet it was a clear violation of God’s law.
This was not adultery on Bathsheba’s part but “royal rape.” David had blatantly abused his authority as king, shepherd of God’s flock, to indulge his own desires.
Days, if not weeks pass by. David may very well have forgotten about his tryst with Uriah’s wife, but then he receives news that she is pregnant. David knows that the child is his so, being a strategist, he concocts a foolproof plan: It’s still early in the pregnancy, so order Bathsheba’s husband home from the battle field; he’ll certainly sleep with her and discover later that he and his wife are expecting a child. Perfect.
As we know, however, David underestimates Uriah. Uriah was not a common soldier. He was one of David’s thirty valiant men -- probably why his house was so close to the palace. Uriah had served David since the early days when David was a fugitive, running from Saul. He was a Hittite by birth (they had settled in Hebron before Abraham’s arrival) but his parents probably converted to Judaism since the name, “Uriah,” means “My light is the Lord.”
Here’s where we begin to see the contrast between David and Uriah. Verse 9 tells us that Uriah didn’t even go to his house -- perhaps for fear that he might compromise his convictions. Instead, he sleeps in the servants’ court.
So here you have David -- who should have been in the fields with his troops -- and Uriah, who is so committed to David and to God that he will not even sleep one evening in the comfort of his own home with his wife. So David tells Uriah (v.12) to stick around for another day before returning to battle -- trying to buy more time.
The scheme? Get Uriah drunk and then tell him to go home to his wife. But Uriah’s convictions are stronger than the alcohol and again he stays with the servants.
Now, at this point, the treachery begins to unfold. David prepares to do the unthinkable. It’s still early in the game, David is thinking, Bathsheba’s maybe a month along in her pregnancy, so if he can get Uriah out of the picture, take the widow-Bathsheba as his wife, he could still quite feasibly hide his sin.
But the callousness of David’s heart is further exposed not only by his plot to have Uriah murdered, but by sending the death sentence to Joab in the hands of Uriah himself. David murders a man whose very name means, “My light is the Lord.” What irony! David, a man after God’s heart, has allowed his own heart to become so dull, so darkened, that he sets out to extinguish the light of the Lord in Uriah.
Finally, verses 16-25, Uriah is sent to the front lines where the fighting is fiercest, he is killed, along with other soldiers who should never have been fighting so close to the city wall, and Joab sends a veiled message to David to confirm the kill.
David’s response to Joab is quite telling (v.25): “Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another.” Joab, don’t feel badly about it, just keep fighting. But the writer of 2 Samuel very deliberately says (v.27), “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” (PAUSE)
You see, when news of Uriah’s death reached David, he thought he was off the hook; he had safely covered his sin. But his conscience continued to bother him.
In Psalm 32:3, David records how he felt while he was trying to cover his sin: “When I kept things to myself, I felt weak deep inside me. I moaned all day long.” For several months, he tried to live with a guilty conscience.
Illustration: Did you ever hear of Edgar Allen Poe’s story, “The Telltale Heart”?
The main character has committed murder and he buries the body of the victim in his basement, but he’s unable to escape the guilt of his crime. He begins to hear the heartbeat of his dead victim. This goes on and on and on, the heartbeat growing louder and louder. Eventually, the man goes mad, but the pounding that he heard was not from the grave below but from within his own chest.
You get the feeling that’s how David felt. The guilt became unbearable.
So God sends a prophet to David, because He loves him too much to let him go on like this; damaging himself and his kingdom. And when David is confronted, he immediately acknowledges the terrible thing he has done. He falls on his face before God, and out of that experience comes the prayer of Psalm 51.
And Psalm 51 sets forth the pathway from condemnation to confidence.
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (vs. 3-4a)
Solomon said, “ If you hide your sins, you will not succeed. If you confess and reject them, you will receive mercy.” (Prov.28:13)
“For him who confesses, shams are over, and realities have begun.”
“The sacrifice God wants is a broken spirit. God, you will not reject a heart that is broken and sorry for sin.” (Psalm 51:17). David truly was repentant.
To be “contrite” does not mean “feeling bad” about sin, but feeling crushed under the weight of guilt for what we have done. It means a genuine disgust of our as well as a determination to do differently.
Illustration: There was once a man who wrote a letter to Revenue Canada saying, "I haven’t been able to sleep lately because when I filed my income tax I deliberately misrepresented my income. I am enclosing a check for $150.00, and if I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest."
That’s not contrition. Contrition is a deep repentance that takes ownership of one’s sin; an ownership that begets a brokenness. “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (v.3)
“How else but through a broken heart may Jesus enter in?”
“Take away my sin, and I will be clean.
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (v.7)
The Hebrew word for “wash” is not the word used for simply washing your face, or rinsing a dish. It refers to the washing of clothes by beating and pounding them against a rock or a scrub board. David is praying for a thorough cleansing from sin and from the dullness that it brings.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,
Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” [vs.10-12]
Illustration: Carpet cleaning businesses sometimes offer a special service for removing pet urine odors. To show potential customers their need for the service, they darken the room and then turn on a powerful black light. The black light caused urine crystals to glow brightly.
To the horror of the homeowner every drop and dribble could be seen, not only on the carpet, but usually on walls, drapes, furniture, and even on lamp shades. One salesman tells the story of a homeowner who begged him to shut off the light: "I can’t look at it anymore. I don’t care what it costs. Please clean it up!" Another woman said, "I’ll never be comfortable in my home again."
The stains were there all the time, but it was invisible until the right light exposed it. It would have been cruel to show customers the extent of their problem and then say, "Too bad for you" and walk away. He brought the light so that they might desperately want the cleaning services.
In the same way, God shines the light of His holiness on the blackness of our heart -- but not just to make us feel guilty and then leave us that way. He cleanses us. And then, releasing us from our guilt and shame, He restores to us “the joy of His salvation.” And with that joy comes strength. And with strength comes confidence. And with confidence comes fruitfulness.
If you jump ahead to 2 Samuel 22, David has composed a Psalm (18) to commemorate the power and works of God throughout his life and administration.
“(The Lord) delivered me because He delighted in me. The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly
departed from my God.” (vs.20-22)
Is David delusional? Has he deceived himself? No. And the proof is in 1 Kings 14:8 where in His rebuke to the evil king Jeroboam, the Lord says,
“You are not like my servant David, who always obeyed My commands and
followed me with all his heart. He did only what I said was right.”
You see, the truly amazing testimony of David’s life is that after his great sin, he repented. And because of his deep repentance without making excuse, God extends grace and forgiveness. Unfortunately, he and his family will experience the tragic consequence of his sin.
David’s child, born to Bathsheba, dies
David’s daughter, Tamar, is raped by her half-brother, Amnon
Absalom, David’s son/ Tamar‘s brother, murders Amnon
Absalom rebels against David and sleeps with his concubines
Absalom then attempts to dethrone David and is murdered in the process
The division of the once unified kingdom begins
* David’s grief must have been compounded by the awareness that his sin had ultimately killed is sons. Yet, though the consequences of his sin were continually before him, David himself lives with confidence before God the remainder of his days because he understands forgiveness. [PAUSE]
Saints, most of us “know” that we are forgiven, either of sins from our past or of recent sins we’ve confessed. Yet, so many of us still live in the grayness of self-condemnation that knows neither joy nor fruitfulness.
Yes, sometimes there are consequences to our sins. And you may be having to face the effects of your past sins: sins of neglect, of spiritual apathy, or of flagrant disobedience -- sins that have allowed rebellion, or division, or dysfunction into your heart or home.
If you’re a parent this morning, you understand guilt. Any takers? Gregg Lewis once said, “Guilt works like an inescapable video-tape machine that refuses to forget the mistakes we’ve made as parents.” .
That’s why David prayed (v.14), “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God.” David was truly penitent for the murder of Uriah; yet he knew that guilt served no purpose [2x]. He would take the consequences of his sin, but he would live in the confidence that cleansing brings. [2X] An amazing understanding of forgiveness.
Illustration: (Pastor Lee Strobel, Saddle Back Community Church)
We were doing a baptism service. We told people before they came up to the platform to be baptized to take a piece of paper, write down a few of the sins they’ve committed, and fold the paper. When they come up to the platform, there was a large wooden cross on the stage. Take that piece of paper, take a pin, and pin it to the cross, because the Bible says our sins are nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ, and fully paid for by his death. Then turn and come to the pastor to be baptized.
Pastor Strobel shares a letter a woman wrote who was baptized in one of those services. She said:
I remember my fear. In fact, it was the most fear I remember in my life. I wrote as tiny as I could on that piece of paper the word abortion. I was so scared someone would open the paper and read it and find out it was me. I wanted to get up and walk out of the auditorium during the service, the guilt and fear were that strong.
When my turn came, I walked toward the cross, and I pinned the paper there. I was directed to a pastor to be baptized. He looked me straight in the eyes, and I thought for sure that he was going to read this terrible secret I kept from everybody for so long. But instead, I felt like God was telling me, I love you. It’s okay. You’ve been forgiven. I felt so much love for me, a terrible sinner. It’s the first time I ever really felt forgiveness and unconditional love. It was unbelievable, indescribable.
Do you have a secret sin that you wouldn’t even want to write down for fear that somebody might open it and find out? How about a sin that always “unfolds” in your mind whenever you try to “move on” or receive God‘s blessing?
Illustration: In the book entitled, “A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World” a true story is told of a priest in the Philippines, a much-loved man of God who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed many years before.
He had repented but still had no peace, no sense of God’s forgiveness. In his parish was a woman who deeply loved God and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest, however, was skeptical. To test her he said, "The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary." The woman agreed.
A few days later the priest asked, "Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?"
"Yes, he did," she replied. "And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?"
"Yes." "Well, what did he say?" "He said, ’I don’t remember.’" [PAUSE]
Although his heart had been crushed by his shame and sorrow over sin, David knew the magnitude of God’s mercy. And once his sins are confessed, forgiven, and purged, David dares to ask God for His "Choicest Gift": Joy in the Holy Spirit!
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” [v.12]
And, finally, David humbly offers himself to be used by God to demonstrate God’s mercy and grace, and to lead others who have fallen, back to God.
“Then I will teach your ways to those who do wrong,
and sinners will turn back to you.” [v.13]
“Create in me a clean heart, O God.”
The most beautiful part of this story is that what God did David He’s willing to do for any of us. We get weighed down with guilt long after God has forgiven us. We need to follow His pathway to forgiveness and then trust His promise to cleanse us.
"As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:12)