The story of David and Bathsheba has everything—sex, violence, comedy, tragedy--plus an important moral. But what’s it really about? What is the great sin that led to David’s other sins? It’s about lust, of course, but it didn’t start with lust.
Why did David suddenly have this overwhelming passion for his neighbor’s wife? Why do strong men of God suddenly fall to temptation?
Godly men want to follow God. Then some sudden temptation comes along and we fall. I’ve known alcoholics and addicts who were sober for years suddenly fall. I’ve known pastors who have had productive ministries caught up in pornography, adultery or embezzlement. What happens?
David was a young boy when Samuel came to house and anointed him king. There was something about this boy, and his attitude towards God, that made him different. Even as a child he pleased God.
We all know the story of David and Goliath. Not one man in Israel dared face him, but David did. He was so confident in God that he not only fought the giant but defeated him.
King Saul took him into his own house and he became a court favorite. Mad King Saul alternated by treating David like a son and trying to kill him. David responded to the king’s rage and jealousy with forgiveness and grace. When his raging became too great, David had to leave. David became the leader of a band of rebels, but refused to attack the king or any Israelite, just Israel’s enemies. He mastered his desire for vengeance and self-preservation. Once Saul was chasing him and went into a cave to relieve himself. David and his men snuck in, cut off a piece of his robe and sent it back to Saul to show that he could have hurt him but didn’t. David trusted in God to elevate him. He didn’t seek the throne, but was made king by the leaders after Saul’s death. Through all this, he kept up his relationship to God. He wrote many psalms, including the 23rd, “The Lord is my shepherd.” His faith was strong and real.
So what’s he doing on a rooftop, playing Peeping Tom? How did this great man become an adulterer, liar, and murderer?
Some say that David was being lazy. They point out that while his army was fighting in the field, David was lounging around the house. I don’t buy that. Kings would not go out unless it is a major battle. His place was at the palace. What if another enemy attacked another part of the kingdom? David had to be in place to order a response. David was where he needed to be.
David fell for a particular kind of temptation that causes more godly men to fail than anything else. The best way I can describe it is by illustrating with another story.
In the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table, the greatest knight was Sir Lancelot. Sir Lancelot was dedicated to the king--almost to a fault. Sir Lancelot was his most trusted knight. As a result, King Arthur entrusted to him the safety of his greatest prize—his wife, Guinevere. Lancelot swore to defend her with his life. But Lancelot didn’t defend her--he slept with her. In the legends, their infidelity brought down King Arthur and Camelot.
The Arthur stories are really parables. Arthur represents God. Lancelot represents a man who is wholly dedicated to God. There’s not a man on earth who does not have in his core a desire to be a knight in shining armor, entrusted by God with a great mission or defending a great prize. Husbands feel that way about their wives and children. Pastors and elders feel that way about their churches. Company owners feel that way about their companies. David felt that way about Israel. There is something of Lancelot and David in all men.
But as we give to others, we must also receive. God not only gives us assignments, He also provides for all our needs. He protects us, defends us, feeds us, and provides. Just as we look to him for guidance, we also look to Him for provision. His provision means he will give us worldly things, such as food, clothing and shelter. He also will give us intangible things, such as strength, rest, encouragement, fun, and support. These things are just as much God’s provision as food and water.
But what happens when we forget that God is our provider? We start looking for some place to provide for our own needs. We become like an army that moves forward by foraging from the world around us. An army may have to do this in a foreign land, but in their own land it becomes disastrous. If we look at the place where we are supposed to be guarding as a source of our own provision, then we become worse than the enemy.
This is what we do when we try to live out God’s love without receiving God’s love. What God gave us to love unconditionally, we expect to love us back. Then we become whiny, demanding and exploitative. We resent what God has done for us and get into sin, because we demand food, respect, or attention from those we serve.
That’s the root of David’ sin. He used for ourselves what God gave us to protect and defend.
David looked over Israel like a father over his child. In return, God provided for David. He gave him a great palace, lots of money, and a harem full of wives. Somehow, David thought this wasn’t enough. He still thought God owed him something. If he needed more, God would give it. But instead of asking God, he still said, “God owes me.” He felt he deserved Bathsheba, and he took her.
It’s easy to rationalize sin when we think we deserve it. We say “I have my needs, I have my rights, and I have my dignity.” But we don’t. All our needs should be met by God. If you need anything ask Him.
David’s sins weren’t about sex. They were about not asking God. For what He wanted. Instead of giving to the world he took. The kingdom and the people were no longer his responsibility—they were his personal property.
Our mission is to serve God. We are soldiers in His army, knights in His service. We are not here to defend our country, our family, our church, or our community. We must be ready to abandon any mission to take on a new one when God calls, or even to sit in reserve, until He sends us forward.
While we are serving or waiting, God provides our needs. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” we are praying for this.
When we don’t believe this, we throw upon own devices. Instead of trusting God’s protection, we become defensive. Instead of finding companionship in God, we seek out wrong companions. Instead of waiting for God’s leadership, we rush in to make fools of ourselves. But if we wait and trust, God will provide.
We want the world to be pleased with us, to praise us! So we seek flattery and attention. We become addicted to the praise of others. This is a particularly grievous sin of ministers. They often stop short of preaching God’s wants, because they are afraid people won’t flatter them. Compliments are good, and we should give them. But when we crave the assurance of men instead of the assurance of God we sin. Instead of demanding attention from others, learn to recognize how much God already loves us.
How do keep from falling to temptation?
First, learn to recognize temptation when it comes. St. Ignatius wrote about the three faces of temptation. The first face is a spoiled child. Sin throws a tantrum in our hearts to get us to give in. Because we are tired of hearing them, we give in. The second is a secret lover. We like the thrill of a secret affair. We come to believe there is no thrill in doing good.
Having secrets feeds our egos and makes us feel clever. The third fade is a military commander. It threatens to overpower us by force. Our fear causes us to give in, because we do not trust in God.
Second, we recognize that our struggles are pointless and re frame the problem. There are certain temptations I have struggled with. When I say “struggle with,” I really mean “lose to.” It’s like sumo wrestling a Ford F150 truck. I keep losing over and over. There’s not much contest to it.
I was not put on earth to fight temptation, but to respond to God’s invitation. Each temptation is an invitation by God to a better life. I am daily asked to choose whether or not to accept the better life God has given me.
I’m not being tempted with food. I’m invited by God to join a healthier lifestyle. I’m not tempted by pride, but invited by God to give up responsibility for the universe. I’m not being tempted by materialism, but invited by God to be free of it. Sin is my natural state, but God’s invitation is to a new state.
Philippians 2: 5-11 says:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Christ’s humility was not the point—His exultation is. In order to respond to God’s invitation, we must humble ourselves. In order to experience the new life in Christ, we must let go of the old one. This may seem hard, but it is really the beginning of a great life.
We can resist doing harm to others, because we don’t need anything from others. We get it all from God.
If this seems hard—it is. But who said it would ever be easy? What knight or king would ever attempt a task that was easy? Real men seek out hard tasks, they don’t run from them.
Here’s the good side. We serve a good and merciful God. When we fall short, He forgives. When we feel weary, he gives us rest. When we don’t think we can go on any farther, he gives us the strength to carry on.
Take your attention off the things of the world. Put your attention on the Lord Jesus Christ who is your true leader and worthy Lord. Turn your back on the rewards of this earth, and serve Him alone.