David’s fall began when he looked. You might argue that he could hardly be held responsible for that. He was walking on the rooftop when he glanced down and noticed a woman bathing. But that’s where the story should have ended. The king should have turned away immediately.
Only a few decades ago, people would have been shocked at the number of provocative images on display today. Everywhere you go there are tempting sights, but that doesn’t mean that you have to develop an appetite for them. You don’t have to let your gaze linger; neither did David.
Nakedness is for married couples
Under the law Moses received from God, staring at a woman’s nakedness was strictly forbidden. Leviticus 18:6 says, ‘Do not uncover the nakedness of another’s wife, for her nakedness belongs to her husband.’ So if you look at a woman’s nakedness, you are stealing from her husband. If she’s single, you are still stealing, since she may one day be someone’s wife. You are taking what isn’t yours!
At this point let’s stamp out a belief that emerged in the Victorian age, namely that you don’t look at nudity because there is something inherently unholy about it. In that era, husbands and wives were actually ashamed of nudity. Some would even go to the lengths of undressing behind screens, or separately entering a specially designed cupboard in order to change their clothes! If believed, these repressive ideas only bring on guilt over human sexuality.
Nowhere does God say that nakedness is impure within marriage. 1 Corinthians 7:4 says, ‘The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.’ Nakedness between them is something wholesome and beautiful. They’re free to delight themselves in each other.
The situation outside marriage, however, is quite different. In that case, if you stare, you steal. If you are ever tempted in this way, say to yourself, ‘She doesn’t belong to me. She belongs to another man, and her body is his joy, not mine. I refuse to look.’
Bathsheba was married
David soon discovered that the woman was married. Any lingering thoughts of a relationship with her should have terminated there, but they didn’t. David had been careless, so he was vulnerable. He wasn’t in the battle, not involved in kingdom purposes. He’d never dealt with the unchecked appetite in his heart. He allowed his lust to grow and overwhelm him. It all happened so quickly – and to such a man of God!
Who among us can claim to be like David? Remember his magnificent reaction to Saul’s hatred; his tears when Saul and Jonathan died. Recall his profound meditations in the Psalms, and you will catch a glimpse of his godly qualities. God loved him. He was unique. For generations to come, God praised people by saying, ‘He was like David.’ Here was an extraordinary man – and yet he came crashing down.
‘First, faith believes God when he says that sexual relations in marriage are good and clean and should be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. Second, faith increases the joy of sexual relations in marriage because it frees us from the guilt of the past. Faith believes the promise that Christ died for all our sins, that in him we might have guilt-free, Christ-exalting sexual relations in marriage. And finally, faith wields the weapon of sexual intercourse against Satan. A married couple gives a severe blow to the head of that ancient serpent when they aim to give as much sexual satisfaction to each other as possible. Is it not a mark of amazing grace that on top of all the pleasure that the sexual side of marriage brings, it also proves to be a fearsome weapon against our ancient foe?… It is not surprising then that Satan’s defeat, Christ’s glory, and our pleasure should come together in this undefiled marriage bed.’
John Piper – This Momentary Marriage – A Parable of Permanence, Desiring God Foundation, 2008, p.135.