David, a mighty monarch who answered to nobody, thought that he could get away with his adultery. Once his lust was satisfied, he effectively said, ‘Thanks, Bathsheba. You can go now. Bye.’ He’d had his pleasure, so now the poor woman could be dismissed, and that could have been the end of the story. For some people, it often is. A man gratifies his lust and then wants no further involvement. A young woman once responded in print, ‘It seems as though everyone wants your body or your money, but nobody wants you… You’re a disposable person to be used and dumped.’
But once you’re satisfied, you have to come back to reality. You’ve had your fun and now it’s time to face real life again – except that you can’t just return to life as it was before. Now you have to cope with consequences that won’t go away.
In David’s case, the sin wasn’t so easily covered up and forgotten because, to her horror, Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant. Immediately David learnt of this, he attempted to cover his tracks. Calling Uriah, her husband, from the battlefield, he encouraged him to go home and sleep with his wife. But Uriah refused even to go into his house. ‘There’s a battle going on out there,’ he protested. ‘How can I possibly go home to my wife and family while my friends are facing warfare?’
Uriah knew that as God’s soldier, his place was on the battlefield. He wanted to serve God and his people, as David once had. What a contrast between Uriah’s transparent godliness and David’s carelessness and deviousness! As events closed in on him, David descended further into the morass of deception. ‘How can I cover my tracks?’ he wondered. ‘I know. I’ll make Uriah drunk. That will weaken his resolve.’ But still Uriah wouldn’t go home.
Eventually, David realised that to conceal his adultery with Bathsheba he had no alternative but to kill her husband. He sent a message to Joab, the army’s commander, ordering him to put Uriah in the front line of the battle and then to withdraw from him. One foul action followed another.
I wonder what went through Joab’s mind when he received the note. Uriah was listed among David’s ‘mighty men’. Joab deliberately had to send this man, one of the elite, handpicked group of thirty, right into a death trap. I wonder how Joab felt when he ordered, ‘Fall back, men,’ what he thought when he saw Uriah killed and when he sent David the message, ‘Uriah is dead.’ I expect he pondered, ‘My master is known as a godly man – a worship leader and wonderful psalm-writer. Now, though, he’s done something abominable and will always carry a guilty secret.’
David must have found it difficult ever to look Joab in the eye again. If you’ve sinned greatly, usually somebody knows something about it. You have to live with that. David had to live with it, but essentially he still thought that he’d covered his tracks.
A whole year passed. David married Bathsheba and the child was born. ‘No one else knows exactly what happened,’ he probably thought. But Someone did: ‘The thing that David had done displeased the Lord’ (2 Sam. 11:27).
When we first encountered David, he was a man who lived not for himself, but for God. But now, in all life’s busyness and carelessness, he’d forgotten that God, not contemporary morality, sets the standard. He’d forgotten that God sees everything. ‘If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there…If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day’ (Ps. 139:8,11,12).
The Old Testament records the extraordinary story of Jeroboam’s wife, who disguised herself and went to see the prophet Ahijah. Before she’d even entered the room, Ahijah (who happened to be blind, anyway) said, ‘Come in, wife of Jeroboam’ (1 Kings 14:6). The man was blind, but as God’s prophet he still knew what was going on.
You may be able to fool other people into thinking that you are walking uprightly, but you can’t hide your ways from God. To Him, the darkness is like blazing light. He sees everything and when he sees sin he hates it with righteous anger.
God saw David’s sin and hated it, but he still loved his servant. If God hadn’t loved him, David would have been destroyed – totally lost. But God had chosen this man and was absolutely committed to him. That’s the wonder of it, and that’s why the story becomes so painful. For David’s own good, God had to uncover the sin so the man could find healing.
David kept his secret for a whole year. Outwardly everything appeared to be going well, but inwardly he was in agony of soul. Psalm 51 in particular records his feelings of alienation from God and his longing to be clean.
No one can play around with sin and still enjoy God. You might sing and dance with everyone else, but inside you’ll be thinking, ‘O God, where has the joy gone? Why can’t I witness to others any more? I seem to have lost the joy of my salvation.’ Guilty people cannot rejoice.
‘Your life as a Christian is seemingly full of Christ and there is no room for self, but an aggressive sin comes in and wiggles his way in, crowding out Christ just a little bit. You give place to this sin and soon another does the same thing. Sin by sin, error by error, selfishness by selfishness, the backsliding continues until you are virtually empty of Christ and full of self.’
Richard Owen Roberts