If the story of David and Goliath is one of the most glorious in the Bible, the account of David and Bathsheba must be one of the saddest. It’s heartbreaking to see a man of God spoiled. The story of David’s adultery, although taken from a faraway setting hundreds of years ago, is repeated in our newspapers every day. Indeed, we live in a generation preoccupied with sex, one whose attitude is, ‘If it feels right, do it.’ Tragically, this point of view is beginning to infiltrate the church.
What led to David’s downfall? Such disasters don’t happen in a vacuum. A man like David is not suddenly overcome when he is doing the will of God. A little research reveals a growing carelessness that opened the way.
The story of his adultery pointedly begins ‘at the time when kings go off to war’ (2 Sam. 11:1). It was a time for warfare. Why, then, had David not gone out to battle? He sent Joab to command the army that he should have been leading. While the battle was raging, David was resting. Now there’s nothing wrong with resting; the Bible encourages us to have times of rest. You can relax and be refreshed. We weren’t designed to experience warfare non-stop. But here it clearly states, ‘It was time for war.’
Murray McCheyne, the famous Scottish pastor, said, ‘Omissions make way for commissions.’ In other words, sins of omission – things not done – open the door for sins we actively commit. When you are not actively involved in God’s purposes, you are susceptible to sin. The best form of defence is to become active in serving the body of Christ. David, at this point, was not. He was just relaxing.
At Gethsemane, Jesus told Peter, James and John, ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’ (Matt. 26:41), but they fell asleep. When Jesus was arrested they were taken off guard. Peter acted impetuously and cut off someone’s ear, and in a panic they are deserted Jesus and fled. Later Peter followed Jesus from afar. He was mixing with the wrong people when suddenly he was challenged, ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee’ (Matt. 26:69). It was one thing for Peter to be in the company of Jesus and the other disciples, worshipping, healing the sick, enjoying the excitement of the crowds, even walking on water. How he must have loved it all. But now he was alone in the wrong place at the wrong time, and suddenly the challenge was sprung on him, ‘Surely you are one of them.’ Peter couldn’t stand that sort of pressure. ‘I don’t know the man!’ he squirmed. The devil picked him off (Matt. 26:73, 74).
The devil can dislodge the brightest disciple when he drops his guard and relaxes in the wrong situation with the wrong people. Some Christians say, ‘I have terrible problems with temptation’ – but has your carelessness opened the door to that temptation? Don’t stay on the fringe of church life. Get in where the action is. The centre of God’s will is always the safest place to be.
David had a weak spot: he was sexually vulnerable. He would accumulate women, taking one wife here and another there. Deuteronomy 17:17 says, ‘The king…must not take many wives,’ but David never checked his appetite. He concealed a weakness, one which basically seemed under control, yet had the potential to cause great harm. Sometimes it demanded satisfaction. On one terrible occasion this smouldering character flaw burst into a destructive inferno, so badly scarring David’s life that he never fully recovered.
‘Sexual temptation is an issue of the mind. The mind can only act on what has confronted it through sight, reading, or hearing. Therefore, to guard against sexual temptation we must be careful what we look at, read, or listen to. Images are planted which cause lust to take hold. Even when we do not act out immorality we can be polluted by a mental and emotional fixation on sex.’
Jerry White – Dangers Men Face by Jerry White © 1997, pp. 81-82