An Unlikely Salvation.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. Matthew 1:18-25 ESV

One of the unique attributes of the genealogical record provided by Matthew is the inclusion of the names of several significant women. Included are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba.

Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).

5 Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). – Matthew 1:3, 5-6 NET

Each of these women play an important role in the history of the nation of Israel. And because Matthew began his list with the name of Abraham instead of Adam, as Luke did, it is clear that Abraham was only interested in establishing the Jewish heritage of Jesus. It is quite significant that these four women are included because the Jewish people usually traced their lineage through their male ancestors. And yet, the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to include these four particular women for their role in the birth of the Messiah. The first mentioned is Tamar, who had been married to Perez. This woman adds an interesting story line to the lineage of Jesus. According to the book of Genesis, Tamar had been by Judah to one of his sons as a wife.

And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. 10 And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. – Genesis 38:6-10 ESV

At this point, Judah promised to make Tamar the wife of his next son, Shelah, but he was too young. So, he asked Tamar to remain in his house as a widow until his son was of age. But he had no intention of making her his wife because he feared he might lose a third son. So, he left her as a widow in his home. Tamar, frustrated by her status as damaged goods, twice a widow and therefore an unattractive prospect for marriage, was desperate. She had no husband, and no recourse for pleading her case. In that culture, as a woman, she was little more than property. But God had plans for her. Judah, after having mourned the death of his wife, had sexual relations with Tamar, mistaking her for a temple prostitute. She became pregnant as a result. And when her pregnancy became known and she was accused of immorality and condemned to die, she revealed that the father was none other than her own father-in-law, Judah. Sensing his own sin in the affair, Judah responded:

“She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” – Genesis 38:26 ESV

This twice-widowed and all-but-forgotten woman would become the mother of Perez, whose name would show up in the lineage of the Messiah. And her name is included again in another Old Testament book that bears the name of the second woman in our list.

11 Then the elders and all the people standing in the gate replied, “We are witnesses! May the Lord make this woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, from whom all the nation of Israel descended! May you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 And may the Lord give you descendants by this young woman who will be like those of our ancestor Perez, the son of Tamar and Judah.” – Ruth 4:11-12 NLT

Boaz was taking a young Moabite woman to be his wife. She too, was a widow and was living in the land of Israel with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Boaz, acting in the role of the kinsman-redeemer, was rescuing this young woman from a life of destitution and degradation. She, like Tamar, was a helpless widow who had no one to stand up for her and no hope for the future. She was childless and an unattractive prospect as a wife. But Boaz redeemed her, married her and she bore to him a son named Obed. And Boaz himself had been born to a woman named Rahab. She is the same woman listed in the book of Joshua and described as a prostitute. She was a pagan, a non-Jew who hid the two men whom Joshua had sent to spy out the city of Jericho. Because of her willingness to risk her own life by protecting the two spies, Rahab and her family were spared when the city of Jericho was destroyed. And she, a pagan and a prostitute, became the mother of Boaz.

The final woman mentioned in the list is Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah. Her story is a particularly sordid one, involving the great king, David, who had an affair with her. She was a married woman and, when she became pregnant, David had her husband murdered, in an attempt to cover his sin and legally take her as his wife. But their sin resulted in the death of their infant son. But God would replace the son He had taken with another son, Solomon, who would go on to become David’s heir to the throne of Israel.

Of these four women, two were Canaanites, one was a Moabite, and Bathsheba was likely a Hittite. So, they were all non-Jews. And three of the four were marred by sin. And yet, God chose to include these women, not only in the list, but in the actual lineage of the Messiah. The line of Jesus the Messiah is not filled with perfect people who lived sinless lives, but with men and women who were flawed by sin and in desperate need of a Savior. Out of the mar and mess of their lives, God brought a sinless Savior who would redeem them, not because they deserved it, but because God, in His grace, had decreed it.

And it’s interesting to note that even Mary, the mother of Jesus, was accused of immorality because she became pregnant while still betrothed to Joseph.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. – Matthew 1:18-19 ESV

This young, unknown Jewish girl, had her life rocked. She was chosen by God to bear the Son of God. And her unexpected and unwanted pregnancy made her a target for abuse and the cause of Joseph’s plan to call off the marriage. She would have become a social outcast and undesirable as a wife. And yet, God was at work in her life, calling her to be the one woman who would bear His Son and make possible the salvation of the world.

God intervened, assuring Joseph of Mary’s innocence and the divine nature of His plan.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21 ESV

God’s plan was far bigger than anything Joseph had ever imagined. Mary’s pregnancy was far from a mistake or the result of sin. It was the work of God Almighty. And the Son she was to bear was to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He would be Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God was going to take on human flesh and live among men. Through the lives of sinful women like Rahab and Bathsheba, God would bring a Savior who would take away the sins of the world. Through the lives of hopeless, helpless women like Ruth and Tamar, God would bring the hope of the world. And they would call Him Jesus, which means “Yahweh saves.” Through the most unlikely of people and the most unbelievable circumstances – a virgin birth – the Savior of the world came to dwell among men and women. God came to earth and salvation came to mankind.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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What Will You Do?

 

Then Nathan said to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, “Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it? Now therefore come, let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying, “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then is Adonijah king?’ Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words.”

So Bathsheba went to the king in his chamber (now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was attending to the king). Bathsheba bowed and paid homage to the king, and the king said, “What do you desire?” She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne.’ And now, behold, Adonijah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it. He has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abiathar the priest, and Joab the commander of the army, but Solomon your servant he has not invited. And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”

While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in. And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground. And Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne’? For he has gone down this day and has sacrificed oxen, fattened cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, the commanders of the army, and Abiathar the priest. And behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ But me, your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon he has not invited. Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?” – 1 Kings 1:11-27 ESV

David is old and bed-ridden. His days on this earth are numbered and, once again, one of his own sons is plotting to take his kingdom from him. When David should be enjoying his final days in peace and quiet, he is suddenly confronted with yet another looming disaster. Until he breathes his final breath, David is still the king of Israel and he must deal with the situation facing his kingdom and protect the right of his son, Solomon, to rule in his place. But the only problem is that David knows nothing about what is going on. He is oblivious to the danger facing the kingdom. He is safely ensconsed in his bed within his royal chamber, being cared for by Abishag the Shunammite. He is completely unaware of the actions of Adonijah, Abiathar and Joab. But Nathan the prophet is on top of all that is going on and sends Bathsheba, David’s wife and the mother of Solomon, to inform David of the gravity of the situation.

One of the problems seems to be that David had made no preparations for his succession. It would appear that Adonijah, as the oldest living son (his three older siblings had all died), assumed that he was the legitimate heir to the throne. He was simply taking advantage of David’s old age and speeding up the transition process. But God had clearly told David that Solomon would be his successor.

“But you will have a son who will be a man of peace. I will give him peace with his enemies in all the surrounding lands. His name will be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel during his reign. He is the one who will build a Temple to honor my name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will secure the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.” – 1 Chronicles 22:9-10 ESV

And yet, it seems that David had done nothing to ensure that the transition of power to Solomon would take place. Once again, his inaction had produced some very negative consequences, and could even result in the death of Solomon, should Adonijah’s coup succeed. So Nathan sent Bathsheba to David, encouraging her to prompt him to take action. And she did just that. She not only informed him of what was going on, but warned him that all the eyes of Israel were on him. He was being watched and the people were waiting to see what he would do. Despite his old age, David was going to have to take action. What he did next was going to secure the future of his kingdom and that of his son, or seal Solomon’s fate.

Nathan saw the gravity of the situation and told Bathsheba, “let me give you advice, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon” (1 Kings 1:12 ESV). He knew there was no time to waste. Something had to be done and David was the one who had to do it. But he would need prompting and support. So Bathsheba’s job was to bring David up to speed and to beg him to do something about the situation. Then Nathan was to come in and corroborate her story and provide much-needed counsel to David. He was also to act as a second witness to anything David decreed in their presence.

Bathsheba was blunt with David. This was not a time for pleasantries and politeness. She knew that her son’s life was in danger. She even reminded David, “If you do not act, my son Solomon and I will be treated as criminals as soon as my lord the king has died” (1 Kings 1:21 NLT). And she was not going to leave David’s side until he took action. So, she boldly challenged him, saying,  “And now, my lord the king, all Israel is waiting for you to announce who will become king after you” (1 Kings 1:20 NLT). There was no time to waste. Inaction was not an option. And just as planned, Nathan followed Bathsheba into the king’s presence, confirming her words and challenging David to do something about this dire situation. The entire nation was waiting on pins and needles, wondering what David would do. A line had been drawn in the sand. Sides had been chosen. Adonijah had put together his team and secured what he thought to be his future. The only one who is conspicuously absent from this whole affair is Solomon himself. He had not been invited to Adonijah’s feast with all their other brothers, for obvious reasons. But he was also not present when Bathsheba and Nathan met with David. His fate was in their hands. His future and that of his kingdom was completely in the hands of his father. He would have to trust that his father would do the right thing. Solomon was at the mercy of David. He does not appear anywhere in the passage. He doesn’t show up, begging David to keep his word and give him the kingdom God had promised him. Perhaps Solomon was not aware of the word that God had spoken to David. But we will see in the next section of this chapter, that Bathsheba knew, and it is doubtful that she kept this news from Solomon. He most likely knew that he was the God-appointed successor to the throne, but he was not demanding his rights or whining about his fate. He had to have known what Adonijah was up to and that all of his brothers were at the feast, enjoying Adonijah’s hospitality and shouting along with all the other guests, “Long live King Adonijah!” (1 Kings 1:25 ESV). But Solomon simply waited in the wings. Like all the rest of the people of Israel, his eyes were on David. What would he do? How would he respond?

So often, we can find ourselves in similar, if not quite as dire, circumstances. We can come to a place where a decision is required, an important, potentially life-altering decision. And others are watching us to see what we will do. Perhaps our family is waiting on us to act, wondering how we will respond. Maybe our co-workers are anxiously watching to see how we will handle a difficult situation in the workplace. There are always others watching us, depending upon us to do the right thing, to make the right decision, and to give them peace and confidence that we can be trusted. Even the world is watching us. The church of Jesus Christ is to be salt and light in the midst of all the decay and darkness surrounding it. As the secular world presses in and the enemy continues his assault on the will and the ways of God, the world is watching to see how the church will respond. Will we do nothing? Will we be marked by inaction and complacency? Are we confident enough in the Word of God that we will confidently take our stand against all the forces lined up against us? What David did next was a matter of life and death. The future of his kingdom and that of his son were at stake. All eyes were on him. What would he do? But what about us? The world is watching and waiting to see what we will do?

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Joy of Forgiveness.

Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and took the royal city. And Joab sent messengers to David and said, “I have fought against Rabbah; moreover, I have taken the city of waters. Now then gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called by my name.” So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah and fought against it and took it. And he took the crown of their king from his head. The weight of it was a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone, and it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. And he brought out the people who were in it and set them to labor with saws and iron picks and iron axes and made them toil at the brick kilns. And thus he did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem. – 2 Samuel 12:24-31 ESV

Because of his sin, David lost a son. Because of his repentance, David was given a son. And he named him Solomon (Shĕlomoh). The name David gave this second son born to he and Bathsheba is a derivative of the Hebrew word for peace – shalowm. There is little doubt that, after having received his punishment from God, David was grateful to have been restored back to a right relationship with God. Psalm 51, written by David as a result of his sin with Bathsheba and the forgiveness he received from God, reflects David’s heart at this most difficult period of his life. First of all, he knew his sin.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. – Psalm 51:5-6 ESV

But he wanted to be made right with God. He wanted to enjoy God’s presence and pleasure again.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit. – Psalm 51:10-12 ESV

And David pledged that if God would restore him fully, he would praise him.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise. – Psalm 51:14-15 ESV

So, with the birth of Solomon, David was obviously feeling a sense of restored peace with God and that most likely explains the name given to his newborn son. But he also gave his son another name, Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord”. This name too, reflects David’s understanding of God. Yes, God had punished David for his sins. But He had also forgiven and restored David. David had been broken by God. He had been disciplined for his sins and brought to a point of repentance, which resulted in his restoration. And he had learned a valuable lesson.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:17 ESV

David had experienced the truth found in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In another one of his psalms, David penned these encouraging words:

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:5 NLT

The apostle Paul reminds us: “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4 NLT). He wrote a similar thing to the believers in Corinth: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NLT). God loved David, so much so that He was not willing to allow David to remain in his sin. He disciplined him because He loved him. He sent Nathan the prophet to confront him. He brought David to a point of brokenness, because He loved him. And when David confessed, God restored him. In spite of all he had done, David once again enjoyed peace with God and knew that he was loved by God.

David was given a second chance. He was provided with a second son, whose name was Solomon. And it should not escape our attention that, even though Bathsheba had become David’s wife through sinful, deceptive means, God gave David a son through this very same woman. And that son would become the heir to the throne and enjoy the pleasure of God and know what it means to have the hand of God on his life.

It should not escape our attention that Bathsheba is mentioned in the lineage of Jesus found in Matthew 1.

…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah… – Matthew 1:5-7 ESV

In fact, there are three women mentioned: Rahab, who had been a pagan prostitute; Ruth, a Moabitess; and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. God used these seemingly unfit, unqualified women to bring about the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. What a timely reminder that our sins cannot derail God’s plans. His providence can overcome our proclivity to sin. Even our greatest periods of unfaithfulness are always met by His faithfulness.

The rest of the chapter reflects this fact. God gave David victory over his enemies. And David had learned an invaluable lesson.  Once again, we see Joab going to war against the enemies of Israel, but this time, David took part. No more staying back in Jerusalem while his troops did all the work. Joab effectively captured the Ammonite city of Rabbah, but called for David to bring the rest of the troops so that he might receive the glory of taking the city. He jokingly chided David, saying, I have fought against Rabbah and captured its water supply. Now bring the rest of the army and capture the city. Otherwise, I will capture it and get credit for the victory” (2 Samuel 12:27-28 NLT). And David took the city and captured the king, his crown, and all the people. And the text tells us, “thus he did to all the cities of the Ammonites” (2 Samuel 12:31 ESV). David had returned to his primary role as the warrior-king of Israel. He went back to doing what God had chosen him to do, and God gave him success. David had sinned. God had brought discipline. As a result, David repented and God restored him. This amazing reality didn’t escape David. He would later write a psalm that reflects his understanding of and appreciation for God’s love and forgiveness:

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us. – Psalm 103:8-12 ESV

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Even our greatest sins, when confessed and repented of, bring God’s forgiveness and complete restoration.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Child Died.

Then Nathan went to his house. And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” – 2 Samuel 12:15-23 ESV

This is a difficult passage. It involves the death of an innocent child, apparently as the result of God’s direct intervention and discipline. The prophet, Nathan, had told David:

“The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” – 2 Samuel 12:13-14 NLT

Verse 15 seems to make quite clear God’s involvement in the situation.

And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. – 2 Samuel 12:15 ESV

The Hebrew word translated as “afflicted” is nagaph and it means “to inflict” (as in a disease). It’s the same word used in Exodus when God “struck” the firstborn of the Egyptians as part of the tenth plague.

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.– Exodus 12:29 ESV

What are we supposed to do with this information? It raises all kinds of ethical and moral questions in our minds. Why would God punish an innocent child for the sins of his parents? What had the child done to deserve death? Is God a vindictive god who lashes out in anger, inflicting pain on the innocent in order to get the attention of the guilty? Why didn’t God kill David since he was the one who sinned and commissioned the murder of Uriah? These kinds of questions are legitimate and perfectly normal for us to consider as we deal with this passage. But it is essential that the conclusions we draw or the answers we walk away with are based on a biblically accurate understanding of God.

Let’s take a closer look at what is going on in this story. David, the king of Israel, was God’s appointed and Spirit-anointed leader. He represented God on behalf of the people. He was to rule and reign over them, but modeling his leadership on the shepherd model. He was to serve them. He was to care for them. But when David sinned with Bathsheba, he was not acting as a shepherd. He didn’t have the best interests of the flock at heart. In fact, the passage in 2 Samuel that chronicles David’s sin, tells us that when he was informed that Bathsheba was a married woman, the wife of Uriah, he, “sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her” (2 Samuel 11:4 ESV). The phrase “took her” is the Hebrew word laqach, which means “to seize, snatch or take away.” David stole another man’s wife. And this is made perfectly clear when we look at the story Nathan the prophet used to convict David. He made up a sad tale about a poor man who had a lamb that was like a household pet. One day, a rich man, who received a surprise visit from a friend, decided to take the poor man’s lamb in order to feed his guest. The text says, “but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him” (2 Samuel 12:4 ESV). Nathan used that same Hebrew word, laqach. The rich man snatched or stole the poor man’s lamb. He took advantage of the poor man, even when he had plenty of lambs of his own.

And it is interesting to note David’s righteous indignation when he heard this heart-wrenching story.

“As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” – 2 Samuel 12:5-6 ESV

David had stolen Uriah’s “lamb”. He already had more wives than he needed and far more than God had commanded. But he used his divinely-ordained power to take advantage of his own flock. Not only that, David got Bathsheba pregnant. He took what was not his and he expected to receive blessings from his own disobedience. Despite his sin, he saw nothing wrong in having an heir who would be the fruit of his own immoral act. But as king, David was going to be held to a higher, more stringent standard.

We know David loved this child. He prayed to God desperately and intensely, asking that he might be spared. “David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground” (2 Samuel 12:16 ESV). For seven days, David fasted, wept and prayed, begging that God might show grace and allow his son to live. But God did not answer David’s prayer. At least not in the way David desired. His son died. It was a devastating blow to David. But even he seemed to understand that this judgment from the hand of God was deserved and anything but unfair. He doesn’t rail at God. He doesn’t shake his fist in indignation at God. In fact, the text tells us, “David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20 ESV).

But again, we are left with the question, “Why?” Why did God choose to allow the death of the child? As the king of Israel, David had broken his covenant with God and with his people. He had stolen what was not his. He had taken what had belonged to another and tried to garner blessings through his sin. The literal “fruit” of David’s sin with Bathsheba was their son. That son did not belong to David any more than Bathsheba did. He was a stolen blessing. It reminds me of the story of Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Isaac. Esau was the older of the two, having come out of the womb first, with Jacob literally holding on to his heel as he made his way entry into the world. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, had been barren and unable to have children, but in answer to Isaac’s prayer, God caused her to conceive. And he told her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23 ESV). But when the two boys became adults, Jacob, with the help of his mother, concocted a plan to steal from Esau, the birthright that rightfully belonged to him as the firstborn. Keep in mind, God had already promised that Jacob would rule over Esau. The older was going to serve the younger. But in an act of distrust and self-reliance, Rebekah and Jacob came up with a plan to trick the dim-sighted Isaac, and cause him to give the blessing that belonged to Esau to Jacob. And Esau, when he found out what had happened, was furious. He also called what they had done exactly what it was: Stealing, He said, “For he has cheated me these two times. He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing” (Genesis 27:36 ESV). And he used the very same Hebrew word, laqach. Jacob snatched what did not belong to him. God was going to give it to him eventually, but he decided to take matters into his own hands. And his actions would result in punishment. He would end up having to fun for his life and would spend years in self-imposed exile. He had the birthright and the blessing, but no joy. He had the legal claim to inherit all that belonged to his father, but not the pleasure of getting to live with his family. 

Jacob would eventually be restored to a right relationship with Esau. It would be God’s doing. And David would eventually have another son by Bathsheba. It would be Solomon. He lost the first son, as punishment for his sin. But God would eventually bless with another son who would grow up to be the heir to the throne and man picked by God to build the temple. David sinned. The child died. And while the child’s death was clearly God’s doing, it was not God’s fault. He was justly meting out the punishment David deserved. David had killed Bathsheba’s husband. God had killed David’s son. The first was undeserved and unmerited. The second was earned, not by the child, but by the king whose immoral actions had brought about the child’s very existence. This story is not intended to be a model or illustration for how God deals with ALL sin. But it simply shows us how God chose to deal with the man He had anointed king over His people. David was being held to a higher standard. He should have known better. He should have lived differently. And he had no one to blame but himself.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Sin Against God.

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” 2 Samuel 12:1-14 ESV

When David had received the news from Joab that Uriah had been killed in battle (just as David had commanded), he responded in very flippant manner: “Do not let this matter displease you…” (2 Samuel 11:25 ESV). The Hebrew word he used, yara`, can also mean “evil”. So in other words, David was telling Joab not to see what he had done as evil or sinful. He wasn’t to grieve over it or be upset about it. The prophet, Isaiah, wisely wrote, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter” (Isaiah 5:20 NLT). David was attempting to negate the gravity of his sin and was even unwilling to see what he had done to Uriah and with Bathsheba as sin. He didn’t want Joab to be displeased about his role in the affair. But David forgot about the displeasure of God. What he had done was sin and God hates sin. He is the holy and righteous God who must deal justly with sin. He can’t ignore it, excuse it, or turn his back on it. And because David was the king of Israel, he was held by God to an even higher standard. He was God’s chosen representative. He was the leader of God’s people. And as the old proverb states: “As is the king, so are the subjects.”

What is amazing about this story is that it took a third party to bring David to a point of repentance. It was not until Nathan, the prophet, showed up at David’s doorstep, that David had second thoughts about what he had done. Even Psalm 51, written by David as a result of this whole affair regarding Bathsheba and Uriah, was written after Nathan had been used by God to convict David. The description attached to the psalm explains this fact: “A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” It was because God had sent Nathan and Nathan had exposed David’s sin, that David realized the gravity of what he had done. It took the rather deceptive tactics of Nathan to get David to recognize the reality of his sin and the depth of God’s displeasure.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment. – Psalm 51:1-4 ESV

While David may have been able to dissuade Joab from being displeased with his role in Uriah’s death, David had not been able to convince God that what he had done was a good thing. God was displeased. He was angry, and His was a righteous indignation. He had taken David’s actions personally.

“Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” – 2 Samuel 12:9 ESV

God reminded David that He had been the one to put him on the throne. David’s reign had been God’s doing. “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul” (2 Samuel 12:7 ESV). God even reminded David of what had happened to Saul, who had also multiplied wives for himself, in direct violation of God’s command.

“And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more.” – 2 Samuel 12:8 ESV

This was not God giving approval of Saul’s collection of wives. And it cannot be used to say that God was transferring the rights to Saul’s many wives to David. This would be in direct contradiction to God’s own commands regarding the king and his wives (Deuteronomy 17:17). God was simply stating that the sins of Saul had led to his fall. David had taken ownership of all that had belonged to Saul, all because God had made it possible. And David’s response had been to disobey God.

And God gave David the very bad news regarding his sin: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (2 Samuel 12:10 ESV). David’s sin was going to have dire consequences. He was going to receive forgiveness from God, but that would not change the fact that he would also be punished by God for what he had done.

“Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun. – 2 Samuel 12:11-12 ESV

This very devastating news got David’s full attention. As a result of what he heard, David responded: “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13 ESV). He owned up to his sin. He admitted that what he had done had been a sin against God Himself. He had violated the law of God. He took responsibility for it, and repented of it. But Nathan would give David a good-news, bad-news report:

“The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” – 2 Samuel 12:13-14 ESV

Years later, in one of his psalms, David would say of God, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12 ESV). David would come to love and appreciate the forgiveness of God. But he would also know the discipline of God.

The most difficult thing about this passage is the death of the child born to David and Bathsheba. This innocent child had been the result of their adulterous affair, but had played no part in it. He had been the unwitting byproduct of their sin. And yet, it was the child who died. We must always keep in mind the passage regarding sin found in James, chapter one.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:14-15 ESV

To blame God for the death of the child would be wrong. It was the sin of David that caused the child’s death. The sad reality about sin is that the innocent always suffer the most. When we sin, we almost always try to justify or rationalize our actions by claiming that we are not hurting anybody else. But sin always has a victim other than us. If we look at the list of sins listed in Galatians five, we see that they are all other-oriented. Our sins are always damaging to others. And it was David’s sin with Bathsheba and his role in the death of Uriah that led to the loss of his own son. He could not point his finger at God and attempt to blame Him. As we will see in the rest of the chapter, David would pray to God for his son’s healing, but he would not blame God for his sickness. He knew where the blame belonged. David had taken another man’s wife and shown no pity. He had arranged for the murder of that very same man, and had shown no remorse.

But David was going to learn a powerful and life-changing lesson from this dark moment of the soul. He would later write these words that reflect his new understanding regarding sin and repentance.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:16-17 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Sin Always Leads To Death.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died. Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting. And he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’”

So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”

When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord. 2 Samuel 11:14-27 ESV

The apostle James wrote this clear and convicting description of sin:

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. – James 1:14-15 NLT

This entire affair surrounding David’s life and recorded for posterity in chapter 11 of 2 Samuel, is a tragic illustration of the James’ words. David had desires. He had a strong attraction for the opposite sex that he seemed to have a difficult time managing. It had already led to his growing collection of wives. And when he had spied Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop, his desire kicked into high gear. The sight of her was not enough. He had to have her. His desires enticed him and lured him into committing an even greater sin than his original lusting after Bathsheba. The Greek word James used is exelkō and it refers to a hunter or fisherman drawing his prey out of hiding by tempting them with something they desire. David took the bait. His desires gave birth to sinful actions. He committed adultery with Bathsheba. But it didn’t stop there. His sin grew. Her pregnancy resulted in David having to attempt to cover his sin by committing additional sins. He lied. He manipulated. He called Uriah, her husband, back from the front in order to entice him into have sexual relations with his wife, so that David’s sin might be covered up. And when that didn’t work, David’s sin gave birth to death. He concocted the plan for Uriah to be killed in battle, and he sent the Uriah back to the front unknowingly carrying his own death warrant in his hands.

This story is meant to shock us, but it should not surprise us. It shocks us because it involves David, the man after God’s own heart. But just because David held a special place in God’s heart does not mean that David was immune to sin. He was human. He had flaws and weaknesses. And David’s sins, just like ours, were potentially deadly. In this case, David’s growing number of sins finally led to literal death, and not his own. It was Uriah who would die. And along with him, a number of other innocent soldiers who were exposed unnecessarily to the same deadly circumstances as Uriah. David’s sin gave birth to death. The Greek word James used is apokyeō and it means to beget, to bring forth from the womb, to produce or generate. Like the unexpected pregnancy of Bathsheba, there would come a time when David’s sins would inevitably deliver. There would be a byproduct to his sins.

It is interesting to note, that in the garden, God had warned Adam about the consequences of disobedience to His commands.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 ESV

And the day came when Eve, Adam’s wife, would listen to the enticing words of Satan, and choose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. – Genesis 3:6 ESV

And the apostle Paul reminds us that Adam’s sin, by eating the forbidden fruit along with his wife, resulted in death.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. – Romans 3:12 NLT

For the first time, death because an inevitable and unavoidable reality for mankind. Adam and Eve would know the pain of physical death. But it also brought into being the even more hideous reality of spiritual death – eternal separation from God – the fate of all those who do not accept God’s gracious offer of salvation through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

But Adam and Eve would live long after their sin. Yet it would not be long before their sin gave birth to death – the death of their own son, Abel, at the hands of his own brother, Cain. Sin always brings forth death. It may be physical in nature, but it will always be spiritual. Sin separates us from God. It causes suffering for others. It damages and destroys. It grows and spreads like a cancer, infecting our lives and contaminating those around us. Uriah was an innocent victim of David’s selfish sin. The men who died at his side were also the undeserving victims of David’s sin. And the only thing David had to say for what he had done was, “Well, tell Joab not to be discouraged. The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow! Fight harder next time, and conquer the city!” (2 Samuel 11:25 NLT).  No remorse. No repentance. No regret.

And David was not yet done. He still had the pregnancy of Bathsheba to cover up. So, barely giving her time to mourn the loss of her husband, David sent for Bathsheba and married her. Doing so would provide a perfectly good explanation for her soon-to-be-obvious pregnancy. But while David may have thought his act of subterfuge had gone unnoticed, God knew. And God would discipline David for his sin. The apostle Paul tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 ESV). Ultimately, he is referring to the spiritual death that follows our physical death. There is an eternal separation from God that will be the lot of all those who have sinned, unless they have placed their faith in the redemptive work of Christ. Paul goes on to say that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As Christians, we will sin in this life. But we will never have to face eternal separation from God in the next life. Because Jesus has provided us with eternal life and the guarantee of our status as sons and daughters of God, and heirs of his Kingdom. But sin will still have ramifications in this life. Sin will still produce death. David’s sin, as long as it remained unconfessed and unforgiven, would continue to produce death. It would kill David’s fellowship with God. It would destroy David’s peace and contentment. And it would result in yet another death – one that would come close to home and leave David devastated. Sin is deadly. And while, as Christians, we may rest in the knowledge that spiritual death is no longer a threat to us, we must never underestimate the deadly effects of sin while we live on this earth. Our sins have consequences.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Feeding the Monster Within.

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. 2 Samuel 11:1-13 ESV

There is a saying found in the book of Proverbs that reads: “Stolen bread tastes sweet, but it turns to gravel in the mouth” (Proverbs 20:17 NLT). This little proverb is very applicable to the story found in chapter 11 of 2 Samuel, and what makes it even more interesting is that the book of Proverbs, in which it is found, was compiled by Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba. It’s a simple proverbs, but carries profound weight. What is forbidden often has a strong appeal to us and, when we get what we desire, it can provide a short-lived sense of gratification. But the proverb goes on to warn that the forbidden, once consumed, quickly loses its appeal and can have serious consequences. Stolen bread that turns to gravel in the mouth would not only leave a disappointingly bad taste in your mouth, but a face full of broken teeth as well.

The story of David and Bathsheba is probably one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. How would you like it if one of the worst sins you have ever committed was chronicles in a book for everyone to read? One of the things about the Bible is its brutal honesty. It gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding men. It doesn’t attempt to paint a rosy picture about mankind, but goes out of its way to reveal the presence of sin in the lives of even the most faithful characters. All you have to do is look at the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Noah, Peter and a host of other biblical characters to realize that sin is an ever-present problem even for the most godly individuals. And David was no exception. As has been pointed out before, David had an inordinate love affair with women. His attraction to women was his Achilles Heel, his weak spot. He had already amassed for himself a collection of wives who had fathered him a number of children. And this had been in direct disobedience to the command of God. And it’s interesting to note that David’s growing collection of wives never seemed to scratch the itch he had. His lust was never satisfied. He never seemed to reach the point where enough was enough. He had more than enough wives to satisfy his sexual needs, yet there seemed to be in David a desire for the forbidden, an overwhelming drive for “stolen bread”. He wanted what he could not have.

In the case of Bathsheba, David was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. The passage makes it painfully clear that it was spring, “the time when kings go out to battle” (2 Samuel 11:1 ESV). But David had chosen to remain in Jerusalem while his troops went off the war. He was the warrior-king. It was his responsibility to lead his troops into battle. He was to be the protector of the kingdom. He had a God-appointed role to fulfill, but he had delegated it to Joab. And this was the first step in David feeding the monster within. David knew he had a problem. He was well aware of the lust that lurked within himself. And by staying home in Jerusalem, David set himself up for failure. He created the ideal opportunity in which to allow his lust to get the better of him. He was not doing what he was supposed to be doing. He was not where he was supposed to be. And Satan, the enemy, took advantage of the situation, knowing David’s weakness and casting the perfect bait to lure David into sin. The apostle James reminds us:

“…remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” – James 1:13-15 NLT

Full fish don’t usually take the bait. Well-fed fish are not as susceptible to the lure. And David’s lust for women had yet to be satisfied because he had a heart problem. He had an insatiable desire for women. And no amount of wives was going to satisfy what was, in actuality, a spiritual problem. By staying in Jerusalem and refusing to go to war, David set himself up for failure. He found himself with idle time and an overactive libido. And it just so happened that, as he woke in the afternoon from a nap, he went onto the roof of his palace and spied a woman bathing. And his desires enticed him and drug him away. He saw and he had to have. He lusted and he had to satisfy that lust. Even though he was clearly told that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, who happened to be one of David’s warriors. She was married, but that little fact carried no weight with David. David’s lust led him to commit adultery. And before he could realize it, the sweetness of the stolen bread turned to gravel in his mouth. Bathsheba broke the news to David that she was pregnant. The text had pointed out that Bathsheba, having just finished the cleansing for her menstrual cycle as prescribed by the law, was ready to conceive. And she did.

This surprising bit of news threw David into overdrive. He immediately attempted to do damage control, trying to come up with a way to cover up his sin. He called Uriah home from the battle front. David naturally assumed that Uriah would make a beeline to his home, have sexual relations with his wife, and the problem would be solved. But what David didn’t take into account was Uriah’s dedication to the king and allegiance to his fellow soldiers. He wasn’t going to allow himself the pleasure of his wife’s company while his brothers were still at war. So he slept with the servants of the king. And even when David got Uriah drunk, this faithful servant refused to go home. What a contrast we see between Uriah’s behavior and that of David, the king. It’s interesting to note that Uriah was a Hittite, a non-Jew, yet he proved to more faithful than the man after God’s own heart. His response to David’s enticement to go home and be with his wife reveals a great deal about Uriah’s integrity.

“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 NLT

David’s attempt at a cover up was blowing up in his face. His little deception was falling apart right before his eyes. And David was growing desperate. He had committed adultery. Now he was attempting to cover it up. He was also trying to get another man to sin against his own conscience. All in an attempt to cover up his own sin. David had made the mistake of feeding the monster within and now he was being devoured by it. His life was being consumed by his own sin nature.

The apostle Paul gives us a less-than-attractive list of the “fruit” that come as a result of giving our sin nature free reign in our lives:

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.– Galatians 5:19-21 NLT

It all had begun with David not being where he was supposed to be. Staying home in Jerusalem wasn’t necessarily a sin, but it proved to be unwise. Had David gone off to war like he was supposed to do, he wouldn’t have been on his rooftop that day. He wouldn’t have seen Bathsheba bathing. He wouldn’t have lusted. He wouldn’t have committed adultery. And there would have been no sin to cover up. Take a look again at the passage in James: “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” Do you see the pattern?

Temptation – desires – enticement – sinful action – increased sin – death

The key to defeating the monster within is to starve it. Paul reminds us, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT). As long as David fed the monster within, he was going to find himself devoured from within. But if he had chosen to listen to the Spirit of God, and do what God had called him to do, this whole affair could have been avoided.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Subtle Snare of Self-Salvation.

And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition.”

And Abigail came to Nabal, and behold, he was holding a feast in his house, like the feast of a king. And Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunk. So she told him nothing at all until the morning light. In the morning, when the wine had gone out of Nabal, his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone. And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died. – 1 Samuel 25:32-38 ESV

David knew the hand of God when he saw it. As he and his men stood there with their weapons at the ready, prepared to wipe out Nabal and every male in his household, Abigail had showed up with a gift of food and a word of wise counsel. She had bowed down before David and begged his forgiveness. And she appealed to David to refrain from doing something he would later regret. Nabal was a fool. He was insignificant and not worth the time and effort it would take to enact revenge. She wisely warned David, “When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel,  don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance” (1 Samuel 25:30-31 NLT).

Her words struck a chord with David. They were like a cold glass of water thrown in his face, waking him up to the reality and danger of what he was about to do. And he was grateful, not only to her, but to God for having sent her. “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today!” (1 Samuel 25:32 NLT). He knew this was a God-ordained encounter with Abigail. He clearly sensed that God had sent her to prevent him from doing something he would later regret. Killing Nabal would have been an act of vengeance, but not an act of God. David had not sought out or received any word from God to take the life of Nabal or anyone else. But the temptation of self-salvation and taking revenge on those who offend us always lingers within us. David had been offended by a rich fool and he was man enough to do something about it. But a man after God’s own heart would leave vengeance up to the Lord. And that is exactly what Abigail reminded David of. God had bigger plans for David. He was going to be the next king of Israel. Nabal was a bump in the road on the way to the throne room, and David would be better off letting God deal with him.

It’s interesting to note that when David had been given the opportunity to kill Saul, he had refrained from doing so. He even told Saul, “May the Lord judge between me and you, may the Lord avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you” (1 Samuel 24:12 ESV). At that point, David had been willing to leave the judgment of Saul in the hands of God. But when it came to Nabal, David had suddenly determined to take matters into his own hands. Only the words of Abigail prevented David from doing the unthinkable and committing an act of fratricide against fellow Jews.

And when David heard the words of Abigail, he immediately recognized the gravity of what he had been about to do. He said to her,  “Thank God for your good sense! Bless you for keeping me from murder and from carrying out vengeance with my own hands” (1 Samuel 25:33 NLT). There is the key to understanding this exchange between Abigail and David. His sin was not his anger with Nabal, but his desire to carry out vengeance against Nabal with his own hands. What he was about to do was an act of self-salvation, but not self-preservation. Nabal was no threat to David. All he had done was offend David by treating him with contempt and disrespect. He had hurt David’s pride. And David had been willing to slaughter Nabal and everyone associated with him in a needless act of revenge.

It’s interesting to note that, years later, when David was king, he would have another opportunity to take revenge on someone who treated him with disdain and disrespect. It was when his son, Absalom, had taken over Jerusalem and David had been forced to flee for his life. On his way out of town, he had been confronted by a man named Shimei, a member of the clan of Saul. As David and his men made their way out of the city, he threw stones at them and loudly cursed David.

“Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!” – 2 Samuel 16:7-8 NLT

David’s men offered to kill Shimei, but David restrained them, saying:

“My own son is trying to kill me. Doesn’t this relative of Saul have even more reason to do so? Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today.” – 2 Samuel 16:11-12 NLT

David’s encounter with Abigail had taught him a valuable lesson: To leave vengeance in the hands of God. He was to do nothing without God’s expressed permission. Taking Nabal’s life might have assuaged David’s damaged pride, but it would have done far more damage to his reputation. It would appear from studying the life of David, that he was a man prone to impulsive behavior. He was susceptible to giving in to his inner impulses and failing to think things through. His affair with Bathsheba is a case in point. He let his physical passions override his reasoning. He saw her and he wanted her. So, he took her. He didn’t think it through. And when his actions got him in trouble and she became pregnant, he threw reason to the wind, and went into self-preservation mode. He attempted to cover up his indiscretion with a carefully thought-out plan to have Uriah, he husband returned from war so that it might appear that the child was his. And when is efforts failed, his self-preservation efforts escalated and he had Uriah murdered, so he could take Bathsheba as his wife.

Self-salvation is tempting, but it never turns out like we were expecting. Taking matters into our own hands may feel good for the moment, but the repercussions can be devastating. Too often, our desire for revenge is based on nothing more than our own damaged pride. There is no real threat to our safety, but we find ourselves offended by something someone has said to us or about us. Perhaps it’s a rumor that someone has spread falsely representing us. It could be a simple case of someone showing us disrespect or treating us in a way we find distasteful. Our first impulse is to get even, to teach them a lesson. But what would God have us do? How would He prefer we respond? For David, the best course of action was no action at all. He was to leave Nabal in God’s hands. Rather than seeking revenge on Nabal, he was to rest in the sovereign will of God.

Jesus gave us some similar advice in the Beatitudes.

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” – Matthew 5:38-42 NLT

We are to be driven by a bigger purpose than our own self-salvation and preservation. God has bigger plans for us than worrying about what others think and wasting our time attempting to protect our reputations. God had greater plans for David than eliminating a fool who happened to offend him. There were greater enemies to fight. There were much more significant wars for David to wage. He was to leave Nabal in God’s hands. And because he did, David would see God deal with Nabal as only God could. When Abigail told Nabal all that had happened and how David had been planning to come and destroy him, “he had a stroke, and he lay paralyzed on his bed like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck him, and he died” (1 Samuel 25:37-38 NLT). God avenged David. God dealt with Nabal. And David learned that the salvation of God is preferable to self-salvation every time.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Surrounded by God.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? – Psalm 139:4-7 ESV

Psalm 139

As far as David was concerned, God knew everything about him. He was acquainted with all his ways. God knew when he was lying down, sitting up, walking around, and even what he was thinking about. Not only that, according to David, “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord” (Psalm 139:4 NLT). Now, that’s a scary thought. God not only knows what we’re thinking, He knows what we’re going to think. He not only knows what we say, He knows what we’re going to say before we do. That is the incredible nature of God’s omniscience. He is truly all-knowing. And David’s response to this fact is rather unique. He tells God, “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5 ESV). The word David uses is an unusual one, because it has a predominately negative connotation. It is the Hebrew word, tsuwr and its primary meaning is to “bind, besiege, confine, cramp” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). It can also mean “to show hostility to, be an adversary, treat as foe.” It is the same word God used when He spoke the following promise to the people of Israel: “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries” (Exodus 23:22 ESV). Even modern translators have wrestled with what David meant. The NET Bible (NET) translated verse 5 this way: “You squeeze me in from behind and in front; you place your hand on me.” The Bible In Basic English (BBE) translates it as, “I am shut in by you on every side.” Other translations take a more positive tone. The New Living Translation (NLT) reads, “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” The New American Standard Bible (NASB) says, “You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.” One of the reasons for the more positive nature of some of these translations is the less common meaning of the word used by David. It can sometimes be used to mean, “to form, fashion, delineate.”

So the question becomes, is David feeling hemmed in by God, a little bit hampered and hindered by the thought that God has him surrounded? Or does he find this idea comforting and reassuring? In a way, I think it is both. There are times when we feel like we can’t escape the gaze of God, that no matter what we do or where we go, He is there. When we are living in a way that is displeasing to Him, that awareness manifests itself in guilt and regret. It has a negative connotation. When David sinned with Bathsheba, he knew that God knew. David fully realized that God was aware of every sordid and intimate second of his affair and every thought that went through his mind – all the way up to the plan for her husband’s murder. It is at those times that God’s omniscience and omnipresence feel overwhelming and less-than-encouraging. But there are also those moments when we feel all alone and in great need. It is on those occasions that we need to remember that God is there. He knows and He cares. He has us hemmed in “before and behind.” His hand is on us. He is watching over us. He has us surrounded.

My conclusion is that David was using this word to convey the undeniable nature of God’s presence in his life. There were times when it felt overwhelming and probably a bit oppressive. But those times were related to David’s sin. But when David was in trouble, he found great comfort in knowing that his God was all around him. The Old Testament refers to the hand of God often. “The Lord’s right hand gives victory, the Lord’s right hand conquers” (Psalm 118:16 NET). “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power,your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy” (Exodus 15:6 ESV). “Let your hand be ready to help me,for I have chosen your precepts” (Psalm 119:173 ESV). Overall, I think David found the nature of God’s pervading, inescapable presence reassuring. That’s why he said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” It was all too much for him to take in and comprehend. A bit overwhelming and intimidating at times? Yes. But also reassuring and incredibly comforting. There had been times David had wanted to run away and hide from God. But he knew he couldn’t. There were other times when he felt like God had abandoned him. But He hadn’t. God was always there. He had David surrounded at all times. And that is as true for us as Christ-followers as it was for David. Our God is everywhere. He knows and sees everything. When we are sinning, that is an intimidating thing to consider. But when we are in trouble or need, it should bring us great hope and comfort. You are never out of God’s sight, apart from His presence, out of His thoughts, or devoid of His love. He is always there. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” (Psalm 139:6 NLT).

An Acceptable Sacrifice.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;  you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:16-17 ESV

Psalm 51

David had committed a serious sin. He had willingly and deliberately disobeyed the law of God. He was well aware of what God’s Word said regarding his actions. “But those who brazenly violate the Lord’s will, whether native-born Israelites or foreigners, have blasphemed the Lord, and they must be cut off from the community. Since they have treated the Lord’s word with contempt and deliberately disobeyed his command, they must be completely cut off and suffer the punishment for their guilt.” (Numbers 15:30-21 NLT). When David had been confronted by the prophet, Nathan, regarding what he had done, Nathan had used a fabricated incident to trick David into confessing. He told David a story about a rich man who, although he was wealthy and had many flocks of his own. decided to steal the one lamb the poor man owned in order to feed his guests. David was shocked and infuriated by the story and exclaimed, “As surely as the Lord lives, any man who would do such a thing deserves to die!” (2 Samuel 12:5 ESV). Unknowingly, David had pronounced his own sentence. He was worthy of death and there was no sacrifice he could make that would satisfy God for what he had done. He had “treated the Lord’s word with contempt and deliberately disobeyed his command.” He had blasphemed the Lord. And no amount of sacrifices were going to fix his problem.

What God wanted was a broken and repentant heart. God desired for David to understand the depths of his own depravity and to come before Him in humility, his heart crushed by the weight of what he had done. The nature of the sacrifice that God desired was internal, not external. David could offer the blood of bulls and goats, but if his heart was not broken over what he had done, and if he was not fully convinced of his own sin and God’s righteous obligation to punish him, his sacrifices would be worthless. David acknowledged that if there had been an appropriate sacrifice he could have made, he would have done so. He would have done anything to rectify the situation. He would have spared no expense. But what God wanted was a legitimate brokenness over his sin and a humble admission of his guilt. It was essential for David to understand that there was nothing he could do to fix his problem. He was completely dependent upon God for His mercy, love and forgiveness. Sacrifices made with unrepentant hearts were unacceptable to God. Years earlier, when Saul had been king, God had commanded Saul to go into battle against the Amalekites. He had told Saul to “completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys” (1 Samuel 15:3 NLT). But Saul had disobeyed. “Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality” (1 Samuel 15:9 NLT). When Saul had been confronted by Samuel about what he had done, Saul had justified his actions. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal” (1 Samuel 15:20-21 NLT). His actions were completely justified in his own mind. He was unrepentant and his heart was far from broken over what he had done. That’s when God had Samuel break the bad news to Saul. “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22 ESV). It was at that point that God rejected Saul as the king of Israel. Any sacrifices he would have made would have been unacceptable because his heart was unrepentant.

In contrast, David knew the full ramifications of his actions and he was crushed by what he had done. Which is why he had started his prayer with the confession, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4 ESV). Rather than justify his actions or blame Bathsheba for causing him to sin, David owned up to his actions. He admitted his guilt and was legitimately sorrowful for what he had done. He knew that all he could bring to God was his brokenness, and it was up to God to supply mercy, grace and forgiveness. David couldn’t buy his way out of his circumstances. He couldn’t pay God off. On more than one occasion God had warned the Israelites, “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices? I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats” (Isaiah 1:11 NLT). “I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living (Amos 5:21-24 NLT).

God knows our hearts. He recognizes when we are truly repentant and when we are simply going through the motions. The sacrifice he desires is a life that is totally dependent upon Him. Paul writes, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12:1 NLT). We need God for salvation. We need the blood of Christ for our constant cleansing from sin. We need the Spirit for our ongoing sanctification. We need to live in constant reliance upon God for his mercy, grace, forgiveness, cleansing and transforming power in our lives. That is an acceptable sacrifice to Him.