Summary: What does the verse "In the spring when kings go out to war" mean

2 Samuel 11 David and Bathsheba

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. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 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?" 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then [a] she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, "I am pregnant."

6 So David sent this word to Joab: "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 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.

10 When David was told, "Uriah did not go home," he asked him, "Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?"

11 Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!"

12 Then David said to him, "Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 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 home.

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 he will be struck down and die."

Temptation 2 Samuel 11:1-11:27

Have you ever thought what is meant in the Lord’s Prayer when Jesus said:

“Lead us not into temptation….” (Mt 6:13)

Have you ever asked any of these questions?

i. Does God tempt us?

ii. Is temptation a sin?

And indeed what do you make of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness in Luke 4.

I’d like to focus this morning on how can we resist temptation?

Oscar Wilde in his inimitable way usually had something to say about everything – and temptation was no exception: He said

1. "I can resist anything except temptation!"

2. "The best way to deal with temptation is to yield to it!"

Was he right?

If he wasn’t, how do we deal with temptation.

“When kings go off to war”

This morning, I’d like to focus on one verse from our OT lesson today. That seemingly strange phrase in 2 Samuel 11: 1:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war,…..(2 Sam 11:1)

When I first read it – I was perplexed – not just about the meaning of the verse, but because I had to preach on that passage at the Anglican Church in Basle later on that week.

So what is it all about?

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war”

1. The Context

The verse introduces one of the most notorious acts of treachery in the Old Testament.

King David’s adultery with Uriah the Hittite’s wife, Bathsheba - followed by the shameful murder of her husband.

2. Who was Uriah?

What makes this event so despicable is that Uriah wasn’t just any old soldier.

He was one of David’s special SAS force - known as the Thirty Chiefs - who had been with David from the days of Adullum’s Cave (2 Sam 23: 39).

In other words Uriah was a trusty companion of David’s. A friend even. And David had him killed!

3. David’s sin

I haven’t come across anyone who could break so many of the 10 commandments at one sitting!

As far as I can make out David managed to break at least 4 of the 10 commandments

You shall not murder (No. 6)

You shall not commit adultery (No. 7)

You shall not steal (No. 8)

You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife (No. 10)

(Ex 20:1-17)

But just before you think that David was a special sinner, I’d like to park a verse with you that St. Paul said about King David:

(God) testified concerning (David): ’I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ (Acts 13:22)

A murderer, an adulterer, a thief - a man after God’s own heart?

So how do we marry up all these paradoxes?

I am not going to answer the question now- though I will touch it later!

But back to my Bible reading:

In the spring when kings go out to war…David remained in Jerusalem.

God had called David to be king and so HE SHOULD have been at the head of his troops.

In those days, the king had the responsibility of leading his troops into battle. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

I would like to suggest to you that there are three reasons why David fell for the temptation.

Reason No. 1.

David fell into temptation because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing wrong with being in his palace in Jerusalem – but not when he should have been at the head of his army!.

We will often fall for temptation when we are not where we should be - in the Will of God.

2. Reason No. 2

The second reason David fell into temptation was that he gave into the “sin of the second glance”.

There was nothing wrong when he saw Bathsheba naked the first time – he couldn’t be blamed for that. But it was sin when he looked the second time.

Reason No. 3

The third reason that David fell into temptation was that he wanted to cover up his original sin

One sin often leads onto another and in this case David gave into the temptation to look good in the eyes of the world.

When Bathsheba told him that she was pregnant, David tried to get Uriah to come home and sleep with his wife. So they could pass the child off as Uriah’s!

But when you are so public a figure you can’t get away with that!! The palace guard probably wasn’t taken in. I bet Uriah wasn’t either.

Having called Uriah back from the front, David invited him to go home and sleep with his wife .

However Uriah’s answer had quite a sting in the tail:

"The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!"

And - in other words – that’s where you should have been too, my Lord - not messing with my wife!

4. A man after God’s own heart

So why did St. Paul call David a man after God’s own heart?

I think you will find the key in the following chapter 2 Samuel 12, where Nathan the prophet confronts David over his sin.

Nathan tells David the story of a man who had one single little sheep that he loves very much.

One day one of the rich local landowners had a friend come to visit. Instead of taking a lamb from his own flock, he stole the poor man’s only sheep killed it and put it on the table for his friend.

David is so incensed at the injustice of it all – and you see David’s real heart coming through – that he said that the man who did this must die!!

And in probably the most moving scene of the Old Testament - Nathan looks David in the eye and says: “Thou art the man!” (2 Sam12:7).

What does David do?

Instead of putting Nathan in prison or executing him, (like Herod did with John the Baptist- as we read in our Gospel reading two weeks ago) David confesses his sin to Nathan. He says: “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13)

And THAT is the key to Paul’s statement that King David was a man after God’s own heart.

David stopped covering up and threw himself on God’s mercy.

St John in his first letter says this: If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from every wrong.

(1 Jn 1:8-10)

David was quick to repent and God forgave him – but there were consequences within David’s own family of this sin – but that is subject matter for another sermon!