We all love superheroes — they fight for truth and justice, and they inspire us to stand with them against evil. There’s a reason why we like to watch superhero movies even though we know that the good guys are (most of the time) going to triumph in the end. It’s satisfying to see good triumph over evil.
But sometimes, there can be a disconnect between audiences and movie heroes — especially when the heroes are perfect in every way. Because, as we know, no human is perfect, and even heroes fall short of the glory of God.
So, movies will often try to create heroes with flaws, men and women who make mistakes. And part of the reason why we connect with these characters is because they’re realistic. They’re not flawless symbols of peace and justice who save the day and then spend the rest of their time volunteering at the food bank. They’re real people with personal issues. And that makes us be able to relate to them.
It’s not just superheroes who have their flaws. We have heroes in our own lives that we look up to. When we’re young, maybe it’s our parents, maybe a teacher at school, a Sunday School teacher, or a minister. But as we grow older, we discover that all these men and women whom we idolized all have feet of clay. They all have flaws. They all make mistakes.
The same thing is true of Bible heroes. Abraham, as great as he was, made mistakes. So did Jacob, Moses, Samson, Solomon. The Bible doesn’t try to depict any of them as perfect people. But sometimes, it’s painful to see someone you hold in high regard make mistakes. And I think that’s especially true of King David.
To this point in our story, David has been a hero. The shepherd boy who became king, the man after God’s own heart, the warrior king, the hymnwriter who gave us all those great psalms of praise and worship.
But, in chapter 11, David’s life begins to take a downward spiral. He sins flagrantly in a number of ways, one sin leading to another, sinning more and more to cover up his previous sins. And, if you know much about the Bible, you know what’s coming in this chapter. It’s a story of adultery and murder. And then, sadly, the rest of the book is going to tell us about all the troubles that came about as a result of David’s sin.
As chapter 11 begins, David is not a young man. He was probably in his 50’s. Things had never been better. The nation had never been stronger. David’s life and ministry had never been more solid than it was at this time.
And that’s when you need to watch out. When things are going good, you have a tendency to let your guard down. And it happens to a lot of people. It’s estimated that 2/3 of the heroes in the Bible that failed, they failed not when they were young, but at the end of their lives. Early on, they had something to work toward. They had a goal. They had a purpose. They had an energy. But, as things sort of leveled out for them, they let their guard down.
So, David is a little bit older. He’s in Jerusalem, living in a palace that he built. His life has been a great success. But David needs to be careful.
Verse 1, “In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites…However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 11:1)
It’s springtime, and there’s this interesting statement that it was the time “when kings normally go out to war.” Which may sound a little strange to us, but there really was a time of the year when kings would fight. Today, we have football season, basketball season, baseball season. They had battle season. And battle season was after the winter was over.
Winter was a time of year when it usually rained a lot in Israel and you didn’t want to try to move your chariots around in winter and get the wheels stuck in the mud. But around the month of May, the ground would dry up. So, springtime was a good time to go attack other cities. It was good fighting weather.
In previous battles, David always went out to war with his armies, but this time, for some reason, David stayed in Jerusalem and he sent his commander-in-chief Joab to be in charge of the armies.
Now I mentioned that when you are at a place where things are going well, and you’re enjoying God’s blessings — beware. Because the enemy will try to come in and take advantage of that.
But also, beware of idleness. Now I realize I run the risk of sounding like your grandmother when I say that, because in the old days our parents and grandparents used to warn us kids about being lazy, sitting around with too much time on your hands. “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” But there’s truth to that.
When it comes to spiritual attacks, I find that they don’t usually come when I’m busy. It’s when I’m bored and I’ve got time on my hands that I’m more vulnerable and the attacks come. And right now, David is idle. He’s just sitting at home in his palace with nothing much to do.
Verse 2, “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.” (2 Samuel 11:2).
If you go to Jerusalem, you’ll see that it’s built on a hill. And where do you suppose the king is going to build his house? At the top of the hill. They all did that. David, too. He built his palace on top of the hill.
And as you’re standing up there, and you look down, you can see all the houses below you. You can see the rooftops, you can see through all the windows, because you have the vantage point on top of the hill.
So David is on his rooftop. Houses in that day had flat roofs, and it was very common to hang out on the roof, especially in warmer times of the year. And if it’s a beautiful spring evening, outside is where you want to be in Jerusalem. So, David goes outside.
And it first says that he “noticed” a woman taking a bath. That first glance – David couldn’t help it. We don’t know if Bathsheba was on her roof, or if David saw her through a window. But he saw her. And that’s something that we are all confronted with on a daily basis in the world in which we live. There are things that we are going to see, even just going to the grocery store. But what you and I have to determine is what we are going do with what we see. And if we continue to dwell on what we see, then it becomes a problem
So, David first notices Bathsheba, but then David takes a closer look, and he likes what he sees. Job once said, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” (Job 31:1)
We all need to make a covenant with our eyes. You can’t help what you see, but you can help what you continue to behold. So, let’s make a covenant with our eyes that regardless of what I may see, I will not look lustfully at a woman.
But, when David saw Bathsheba, “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.’” (2 Samuel 11:3)
I see in this verse a warning for David. David wants to know, who’s that woman? Well, that woman happens to have a husband, and that woman also happens to have a father. So, when you — young men or older men — look lustfully or act inappropriately toward a woman, understand that you’re mistreating somebody’s daughter. You’re mistreating somebody’s wife or future wife. And that’s a good perspective to have.
And so, I see this as a warning for David. I believe God warns us before we fall into sin. This woman is beautiful, who is she? Well, she’s the daughter of Eliam. Later on, we’re going to learn that Eliam was the son of Ahithophel, who was one of David’s top advisors. So, that means that Bathsheba was the granddaughter of one of David’s most trusted men.
I mention that because later on, we’re going to see Ahithophel turn on David. And people have often wondered, how could a trusted counselor turn on David and betray? And I think the answer may be right here — Ahithophel probably didn’t appreciate the way David acted toward his granddaughter, and he held a grudge.
But David ignored the warning. Verse 4, “Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her… Then she returned home.” (2 Samuel 11:4)
Allow me to be really honest for a moment. Do you suppose David had fun that night? Do you think having sex with this beautiful woman was pleasurable for David? Of course it was! Hebrews 11:25 talks about the “pleasures of sin”. It was pleasurable. It was exciting. It was exhilarating. It made David feel young again — all that stuff that guys say.
But it didn’t last long. It was a short-lived fun. Hebrews 11:25 also talks about the “fleeting pleasures of sin.” Sin is fun, but the fun doesn’t last long. And, as we’re going to find out, sin has consequences. And the rest of 2 Samuel is going to show us the fallout from this.
This one night of sex is going to cost David his family, his children, his friends, the kingdom, soldiers on the battlefield, their families who will mourn their loss — not just one, but several– all because David thought it felt so good. It felt so right. Nobody ever looked at me like she did and talked to me like she did and made me feel important like she did. But it’s fleeting.
When you think about, it doesn’t seem to make any sense that David would do something so stupid. At this point in his life, God has richly blessed David and David was enjoying a wonderful life. He’s king of the world. His house is on the top of the hill. He has plenty of women — more than he should have. He lives in luxury.
But here’s how David sees it — there’s one thing I don’t have, and that’s her. The one thing I want is the one thing that is forbidden for me to have. Remember how God said to Adam, Adam you can have all these trees in the garden. They’re all yours. Look, I made them all for you. There’s just one tree you can’t touch. “Well, that’s the one I want.” We can all relate to that, can’t we? We’re all tempted by the forbidden fruit.
Verse 5, “Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, ‘I’m pregnant.’” (2 Samuel 11:5)
This is not good. When Bathsheba’s husband gets home, he’s going to know this isn’t his baby, and when he starts asking questions, it’s not going to take long to put the pieces together and figure out the truth. So, David panics. He’s got to keep the husband from finding out. So, he comes up with a plan.
Verse 6, “Then David sent word to Joab: ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ So Joab sent him to David.” (2 Samuel 11:6)
Bathsheba’s husband is Uriah the Hittite. When we get to chapter 23, we’re going to find a list of David’s elite fighting men — his mighty men — his Special Forces, if you will. And among the elite forces of King David is listed Uriah the Hittite. He was a very, very important soldier.
But David messed up big time. He had sex with his wife and now she’s pregnant. Now comes the cover up. He has Joab send Uriah back to Jerusalem.
“When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing.” (2 Samuel 11:6-7)
You have to wonder if Uriah saw through this lie. If David wanted to know how Joab was doing, he could have just asked him himself. But David has to have an excuse for bringing Uriah home.
Verse 8, “Then he told Uriah, ‘Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace.” (2 Samuel 11:8) Uriah gets the royal treatment — filet mignon for him and all his friends. David’s plan was this – let Uriah go home. Surely he will have sex with his wife because he’s been away for a long time. When the baby comes, everybody (including Uriah) will just assume that it’s his baby. But David’s plan didn’t work.
Verse 9, “But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.”
Uriah was a good soldier who was committed to the army and to God. And he just didn’t feel right enjoying himself while the soldiers back on the battlefield had it so rough. He told David in verse 11, “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)
But people will often do things they didn’t intend to do when they’ve had too much to drink. So, “David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.” (2 Samuel 11:13)
It’s obvious what David is trying to do here – he’s trying to get Uriah so drunk that he’s going to stumble home, not remember what happened during the night, and then people will say, “Oh yeah, he slept with his wife that night, and she got pregnant, and they had this kid.” But Uriah still has enough wits about him that he doesn’t feel it would be right for him to go home and celebrate. So, Uriah continues to sleep outside.
David is running out of options. Verse 14, “So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, ‘Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.’ So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.” (2 Samuel 11:14-17)
You would think that David would feel some sense of remorse for what he did. But instead, David felt relief. He’s going, whew! I really dodged a bullet that time. I was afraid I’d get caught, but now I can get away with it. Uriah is dead.
Verse 26, “When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives. Then she gave birth to a son.” (2 Samuel 11:26-27)
Which might sound like a “happily ever after” ending, except for the next sentence – “But the Lord was displeased with what David had done.”
David probably thought, I got away with it. And the people might even think I’m a hero because I took the dead guy’s wife, and I brought her to my house to become my wife, showing the people of Israel that I take care of my soldiers and their families.
David, do you really think you got away with it? Do you think you actually covered it up? Because the Lord knows what you did and the Lord is displeased.
As I mentioned earlier, the price for this sin was costly. It’s going to cost David. It will cost David his family. It will cost him his sons. It cost Bathsheba her husband. Not only Uriah died, but other soldiers died as well. And all those families of all those soldiers were heartbroken, all because David had a good time that night.
I want to make three observations by way of application.
1. The Power of Temptation
Keep in mind who David was. He was an older man who should have been wiser, a successful man, a godly man, someone who had walked with God for many years. This was a man who truly loved the Lord. He knew what it was for God’s Spirit to breathe through him in the Psalms that he wrote. God had given him great success, great blessings, wonderful promises.
That’s the person who committed these terrible sins in this chapter. Whenever you hear about all the terrible things that people do, be careful not to look down your nose in self-righteousness and think, “I would never do something like that.” A. W. Pink once said, “The ‘flesh’ in the believer is no different and no better than the flesh in an unbeliever.”
If we turn away from the Spirit of God and give in to the fleshly desires that are constantly tempting us, there’s no telling what we might do. The first effect of this story should be to shake us to the core. It should make us all ask ourselves, “Am I being serious enough about my own flesh, the things that tempt me?” Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are beyond the ability to be tempted by any temptation.
There’s something else that I think led to David’s sin with Bathsheba. Whenever you hear of a moral calamity, such as we have here, there’s always a back story. These things don’t just happen out of the blue at random.
And so, we get a glimpse of the problem back in chapter 5, where we read, “After moving from Hebron to Jerusalem, David married more concubines and wives.” (2 Samuel 5:13)
That was a huge mistake. God said to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 17, when you ask for a king, make sure the king that you put on the throne “shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away…” (Deuteronomy 17:17).
God’s plan was one man, one woman, together for a lifetime – and that include kings. So, don’t have a lot of different wives. Now, that was common practice by the kings in that day. But God’s people were to be different. Don’t acquire many wives. But David did. He had himself a harem.
And you would think that with that harem — let’s just be biological and physiological. You would think that if David is getting anything he wants from anyone he wants, any girl he wants to fulfill his every lust and desire, certainly the larger his harem grows, the more satisfied David will be. But the exact opposite is true.
Because the more you try to satiate or satisfy your lusts, the desires of your flesh, the stronger those desires become. Your lusts don’t vanish when you feed them. You will never get satisfied. You will always want more. And David wants more and more.
The Bible makes it clear that’s how sin works. It gets a foothold in your life as you compromise with it. The more room you give to an evil desire, the more powerful it will become in your life. Sin will tell you, “Just give me a little space.” But sin is greedy. It always wants more. So, be careful of taking even that first step into sin.
2. The Consequences of Sin
David’s life is a demonstration of Proverbs 13:13, “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself.”
Let me give you an overview of the story that we’re going follow in the weeks ahead:
In chapter 13, we have the horrible story of the abuse of David’s daughter, Tamar, coming from the lust of her half-brother, Amnon. I can’t imagine how painful that must have been for Tamar, and for David as her father.
Later in the same chapter, we have the murder of Amnon at the hands of Tamar’s brother, Absalom.
Then in chapter 16, we have the story of Absalom’s hatred for his father, David. Absalom rebels against David, and David has to flee out of Jerusalem.
Eventually in chapter 18, David comes back, but only after the death of Absalom. David’s heart broken by the rebellion of his own son and the pain experienced by his daughter.
What are we supposed to learn from all this? Don’t you think that if David could have seen all the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba — the cost to his family, the cost to his career, the cost to God’s people, that he would have turned his eyes away from Bathsheba and said, “I’m not going there”? Don’t you suppose David would have said, “No fleeting pleasure is worth that kind of pain.”?
I think of so many people today who would say, “If I had known the pain that would come to me and the people I love, I would never have done what I did.”
Don’t be deceived. Any sin we commit can be forgiven. David’s sin was. But there are always consequences. And those consequences always last longer than those fleeting pleasures of sin.
3. The Perfection of Jesus Christ
David is often presented to us as someone who points forward to our Lord Jesus Christ. He shows grace, he triumphs over his enemies, he brings people from all of the tribes together, and in all of these things he foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ.
But, in this chapter of David’s life, we see him, not as someone who points to the Savior, but as someone who stands in need of a Savior. Israel’s great king needs an even greater king. And that’s true of all of us.
In this chapter, the contrast between David and Jesus is striking. In David, we have a king who has accomplished great things, but he can’t resist temptation. In Jesus Christ, we have a king who was in all points like we are, but without sin.
Think about David ordering Uriah into the thick of the battle, so that not only his life, but the lives of other loyal soldiers were killed. Here’s a king who gives up the lives of his people in order to save himself. How different is Jesus, the King who gives up himself in order to save the lives of his people.
But I want to point out something very wonderful that we find at the beginning of the New Testament, and it’s directly related to this story. Matthew begins his gospel by listing the descendants of Jesus. And, in verse 6, he tells us that “David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah” (Matthew 1:6).
It was into this line, this family — scarred by sin and filled with pain — that Jesus Christ came. He came into a messed-up world. He came into a line of messed up people. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…”(1 Timothy 1:15), and that includes not only David, but it includes you and me.
Nothing good ever comes of sin, but great good can come from God’s redeeming grace. Jesus came into this world so that, however great the devastation of David’s sin may be, sin would not have the last word in David’s life. Jesus has the last word in David’s life. And Jesus came into this world so that sin would not have the last word in your life either.
Next week, we’re going to see the penitent heart that David had that allowed God’s grace to work in his life. But for now, let’s learn a lesson about the power of temptation, the consequences of sin, and the perfection of Jesus Christ.