In his study on the life of King David, Chuck Swindoll wrote, “David, being a man with a strong sexual appetite, mistakenly thought, To satisfy it I will have more women. Thus, when he became king, he added to the harem, but his drive only increased. One of the lies of our secular society is that if you just satisfy this drive, it’ll be abated.”1
David was bored, restless, and tired from not doing anything.
Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told,
‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. — 2 Samuel 11:2-4
The shocking thing about this passage is how easy falling into sin was. That’s the thing about sin.
When your guard is down, the unthinkable becomes doable.
David was a godly man, a man who time after time had refused to step outside the plan of God for his life, no matter what it cost him personally. He had spent years in caves and fields, hungry and at times all alone, and yet stayed true. But now things in his life were easy. He saw no perceivable enemy, so now his real enemy showed up.
In his book Temptation, German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that when any of us are faced with temptation, whether it’s sexual or ambition or vanity or desire for revenge, “at this moment God is quite unreal to us. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.”2 We see that forgetfulness here as David sends a servant to find out about the beautiful woman on the rooftop.
Note the quietly veiled warning in the report brought back to David: “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” In those days, when you inquired about someone, people would tell you the name of the person and his or her father, sometimes even the person’s grandfather, but never the spouse. But the servant David asked about this woman knew his master well and was trying to warn him.
Uriah wasn’t simply a soldier in David’s army. He was one of “the Thirty,” an elite squad, the best of the best in military terms (see 2 Samuel 23:8-39). At times they served as the king’s bodyguard. David knew and depended on this loyal man, but that didn’t stop his plan. At that moment all he knew was this: he wanted Bathsheba, so he took her.
There’s a profound warning for us here. It’s easy to sit in the comfort of our lives and think, Well, I’d never do that! I believe every single one of us is capable of the most blatant sin given the right set of circumstances. The only thing that will save us in a moment like that is to turn around and run from it with everything that’s in us. Don’t walk. Run!
“Run from sexual sin!” the apostle Paul wrote.
No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. — 1 Corinthians 6:18
The enemy never tells us the whole story when we’re faced with the most luscious temptation. He entices just enough to get us hooked. He didn’t tell David that in no time at all Bathsheba would send word that she was pregnant.
So often what we think will make us happy brings nothing but heartache.
In light of impending heartache, what would David do now? He had two choices: He could own what he did — fall on his face before God and ask for forgiveness and confess his sin to Uriah and ask him to forgive him for his one-night stand.
Or, he could cover up the affair.
That’s the option David chose. And life would only get worse from that point on. Why? Because panic is a poor decision maker.
David didn’t think twice about sleeping with Bathsheba. But once he learned she was pregnant, he had no desire to get caught, so he sent for Uriah. His plan was to bring Uriah home from battle for a night, anticipating that he would sleep with his wife and then assume the child was his. But David underestimated Uriah. This was not a common soldier or an ordinary man. He had served David since the early days when David ran from Saul. Although he was a Hittite by birth, his parents had probably converted to Judaism since the name Uriah means “My light is the Lord.”
Uriah still considered himself to be in battle mode, so he refused to go home. Instead, he slept at the door of King David’s house with the servants. When David questioned him the following morning, Uriah replied,
The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing. — 2 Samuel 11:11
David might have stolen Uriah’s wife, but he couldn’t manipulate Uriah’s heart.
From this point, the story takes a dark and somber twist. Realizing that he couldn’t bend this godly man to his will, David determined to kill him. He sent Uriah back to the battle with a note for Joab, the commander of Israel’s army.
‘Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest,’ he wrote. ‘Then pull back so that he will be killed.’ — 2 Samuel 11:15
He made Uriah carry his own death warrant.
What David didn’t know was that he had just handed Joab the perfect ammunition for blackmail. He would live to regret this murderous deception for so many reasons. Joab was just one of them.
David’s plan worked. So, he got what he thought he needed to make him happy. He went after what he longed for: Bathsheba. And now, with Uriah dead, he could have her free and clear, and no one would be the wiser.
Think about this for a moment. What David did, apart from being evil, made no sense. If Uriah had come back from battle and discovered his wife was pregnant, why would he have suspected David? When we panic and try to cover up our steps, we open ourselves to crazy thinking. Telling the cold, hard truth when we’ve deliberately sinned is hard to do, but it is so much better than the wall of lies we build to try to cover ourselves. Why? Because those walls always fall on us. We wrongly think the truth will destroy us. It may hurt us in the short term, but it won’t destroy us. That’s the territory of the enemy.
I sat across from my husband in a small café on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach. I’d been out of the psychiatric hospital for a few weeks and felt very fragile. I could see he was torn as to whether he should tell me some things or not. A pastor friend said he must, and his best friend told him not to. He finally confessed a past relationship.
I asked him if he had been in love with this woman.
“Of course not!” he said.
“She was there.”
I remember her showing up at our door one night, drunk, screaming at him. He had taken her by the arm and led her outside, telling me to stay in the house. Then he’d driven her home. When I’d asked what was going on, he’d dismissed it then. Now he told me she’d been helping him market one of his artists. But she was out of control.
“I asked you to tell me the truth years ago,” I said. “You told me I was crazy for asking about her. I thought I might be.”
Years of lies and denial had built a wall a mile high. Tears ran down my face and dripped onto my half-eaten sandwich. It was a desperately sad day for both of us.
When you try to cover your sin, you’re trusting in your own ability to pull it off. When you throw yourself on the mercy of God, you’re counting on Him to redeem you. Would it have damaged our relationship if I’d known the truth years before? Yes. But perhaps, by God’s grace, we could have sought help. We both needed it desperately. It’s easy to look at one person in a broken marriage and attribute blame, but that’s never an accurate picture of reality.
In the years after our divorce, I discovered that there’s a scale of justice meted out by some in the church based solely on one question: “Did you have scriptural grounds for divorce?” In other words, did you sin or did he?
Don’t misunderstand me here. I know that God’s Word is clear about sexual sin and the consequence of sex outside a marriage, but if that’s the only verse we bring to the table, we have missed the heart of the gospel. The theme that runs through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is the broken, sinful nature of men and women and the redemptive mercy of God. That’s why for twenty years I’ve refused to talk publicly about my first marriage. It would be so easy to make myself look good and John bad. Yet God knows there were so many ways I failed to be the wife he longed for too.
I remember the moment when I heard that our divorce was final. I was at a conference in Anaheim, California, when I got a message to call the mediating attorney from our church. “It’s over, Sheila. You’re free,” he said.
I ran upstairs to my bedroom on the second floor of the hotel. I made it to the bathroom just in time. I threw up over and over and over until there was nothing left but the bitter bile of sorrow. I had fought everyone who loved me to marry this man, believing it was the one thing I needed to make me happy, to heal me, to heal him, and now we were both more bloodied than when we began.
Perhaps you are there now. What do you do when that one thing you longed for because you thought it would make you happy turns on you like a venom-filled snake? Is your life over? Have you ruined God’s plan?
Far from it.
David was about to be confronted by the prophet Nathan to have his sin exposed, cut open like the excising of a festering wound so that healing could come.
Christ meets us in our sin but He never leaves us there.
Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, betrayed Him when Jesus needed him most. That didn’t change the role that Christ had chosen Peter for. Instead, Peter’s sin and the grace and forgiveness he received changed him.
‘Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away,’ Peter preached after the Ascension. ‘Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and He will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. — Acts 3:19-20
That is our glorious hope.
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- Charles R. Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2000), 299.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Temptation (New York: Macmillan, 1935), 116–17.
Excerpted with permission from The Longing in Me: How Everything You Crave Leads To The Heart Of God by Sheila Walsh, copyright Sheila Walsh.
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Well, ladies, this excerpt left me in a puddle on the floor. “Christ meets us in our sin but He never leaves us there.” Oh, how I need that promise! How often have I, how often have you been just positive that [whatever it may be] would satisfy the longing in our hearts? But it never does… Thank God for the glorious hope of Jesus who is the true lover of our souls, the only One who can satisfy the cravings of our hearts. Come join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full