The single most consequential event in the presidency of David was his affair with Bathsheba. It precipitated a coup d’état, led to the near overthrow of his government, consumed innocent lives. There was too much collateral damage. What makes it really sad is that the whole thing was self-inflicted. Here’s the story, and analysis.
Remember our discussion about the war with the Ammonites? David’s army was now engaged in the siege on Rabbah, the Ammonite capital. For some reason David stayed behind in Jerusalem. He didn’t go to war. He trusted his generals to take care of business. 2 Samuel 11:1 One particular evening, likely about 4pm, David was taking a stroll on his palace deck. He looked into the distance and there she was – an incredibly beautiful and gorgeous woman. She was taking her bath right there in the open, though in her compound. She was ravishingly beautiful, the kind of object rich and powerful men lust after. David did what powerful men do. He decided to acquire her, even though he was told she was married. He sent for her and had sex with her. In the ancient world you don’t reject your king.
And then it gets twisted. After the sex both of them suddenly became religious. They took a bath – a ritual of after sex cleansing under Mosaic law. Leviticus 15:18. That’s the religious equivalence of the scene at the end of the first Godfather movie – Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) in church standing in as godfather to his sister’s baby while eliminating his rivals. A religious spirit does surface observance of rituals but ignores the heart condition. Both David and Bathsheba observed the ritual of cleansing under the law but blatantly overlooked the prescription of death for adultery in Leviticus 20:10.
When he discovered Bathsheba was pregnant David attempted to mask the pregnancy by summoning her husband from the war front. The thought was, he would go home and have sex with his wife. But the guy thought that would be irresponsible and unpatriotic. He slept with the palace guards instead. David attempted to accomplish same objective by getting him drunk the next day. No show. And that was when he decided to murder him. And he did so in a most callous manner. He instructed the guy be exposed in the heat of war. What was particularly troubling about it was the fact that he made him hand-deliver his own death penalty. The instruction was in a letter David wrote to General Joab. David had lost it. A few years before this event David would have shuddered at the thought of killing a man to take his wife. Now rich and powerful he committed murder matter-of-factly, didn’t see anything wrong. It would take nine months to bring him to awareness. That was when Pastor Nathan came to confront him with his sin. David had become calloused. Power and money can deaden human conscience. David had been transformed without even realizing it.
Now here’s the thing. It wasn’t as if David was starved of beautiful women. He married some of the most beautiful women ever, had a harem full of them. Maacah must have been ravishing. She produced Absalom and Tamar after all. Abigail was beautiful. It’s just that money and power had gotten to David. Power modified his character. You don’t know who you are until wealth and power come into your hands. Don’t be fooled by poverty. Poverty induces religious spirit.
God was pained by the whole thing. He was really disappointed. He felt David gave opportunity to his enemies to defame him. He was closely associated with David. It’s one of the most moving narratives in the Bible. I’ve never read anything like it – so much raw emotion. David had put God in an awkward position. God HAD to pass judgment. There was a death sentence hanging over David. But then we see the God of mercy. On his own God spared David’s life. It was independent of any plea from David. God invoked grace to overwrite the law. What a God of mercy!
On David’s part he was extremely remorseful. He expressed deep, deep remorse in his blog: “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalm 51:1-17 (NLT).
That has to be one of the most emotional passages in scripture. It’s so gut wrenching, and so revealing! Over and over again we see that raw emotion between God and David. In the entire Bible there’s only one other person who shared such raw intimacy with God. His name is Jesus. There he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying for the horror to pass him by. He nonetheless bowed his will to the divine will, went on bended knee – “Not my will but your will be done.” Luke 22:42
God doesn’t want surface relationship. That’s mere religion – the observance of rituals without heart commitment. If you want a truly wonderful relationship with God submit your will, invest your emotions.
Let’s start with this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org.A religious spirit does surface observance of rituals but ignores the heart condition. Click To Tweet Power and money can deaden human conscience. Click To Tweet You don’t know who you are until wealth and power come into your hands. Click To Tweet Don’t be fooled by poverty. Poverty induces religious spirit. Click To Tweet You don’t know who you are until wealth and power come into your hands. Don’t be fooled by poverty. Poverty induces religious spirit. Click To Tweet God invoked grace to overwrite the law. What a God of mercy! Click To Tweet God doesn’t want surface relationship. Click To Tweet God doesn’t want surface relationship. That’s mere religion - the observance of rituals without heart commitment. Click To Tweet If you want a truly wonderful relationship with God submit your will, invest your emotions. Click To Tweet