Search for resources

Use the filters below to view specific sermons and resources

12 May 2024


David's sin

My title this evening is ‘David’s Sin’, and we’re looking at 2 Samuel 11. Please have that open. You can find it on page 262 in the Bibles. And there’s no escaping the fact that the sin of King David here is serious sexual sin. Then that leads him in to further serious sin. He commits adultery with Bathsheba. He then kills her husband Uriah with a further horrendous abuse of power that makes sure Uriah dies in battle. In the chapters running up to this we’ve seen not only God’s world-transforming covenant with David, but also David’s kindness and his God-given victories. But this evening he is a reverse role model, as he plummets from the heights to the depths. For all his strengths, if there’s any doubt that David is not the Messiah we need, here it is in 2 Samuel 11, where everything comes crashing down. It’s an uncomfortable subject, then, that we’re covering this evening. So let me immediately begin with the good news about sexual sin. You can find that good news in 1 Corinthians 10.13, where the apostle Paul says this:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Note a number of things. If sexual sin is a problem for you, you’re not alone. If you’re a believer, then you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, are always stronger than the temptation to sexual sin. And you will never find yourself in a situation where there is no way out and you have no choice but to give in. God always provides a way out. Now maybe you immediately think, ‘Yes, but what about when I fail to take that way out and fall into sexual sin? What then?’ Well there’s even more good news. 1 John 1.9:

If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

That’s God’s promise. So although this is potentially an uncomfortable and even painful topic, there is hope. There is hope of avoiding sin. And there is hope of forgiveness if we do sin. It’s important that we’re clear about that before we go any further. If we know there’s hope, then we can face this square-on, and we’re more likely to heed the warnings about this that God gives us in the Bible. So, as we look at this passage, I have a sequence of simple questions for us to consider. There is of course a great deal more that could be said about this than we’ll cover in this overview, so if this leaves you with important unanswered questions, then I’d encourage you to talk to someone you trust so that you can get your questions answered. So, to my questions:

1. What is serious sexual sin?

Put simply, serious sexual sin is sex outside marriage, and it needs to be said that by God’s design, goodness and wisdom, marriage is between a man and woman for life. Sexual sin, of course, also has a much wider reference. It is sexual desire wrongly directed – sinful desire. Sexual desire can be thoroughly Godly and directed in the right course. Then it’s good. God puts into our hearts and minds Godly desires. But when those desires are distorted and misdirected they become deadly. And there is no legitimate place for them in the life of the church, the Body of Christ – or in the life of the individual believer. Ephesians 5.3:

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you…

2. When are we vulnerable?

This is where we come to King David and Bathsheba. Take a look at 2 Samuel 11.1-2 (there on page 262):

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…

And we’ll come back to what (or rather who) David saw in a minute. It seems to me King David is very vulnerable to sexual temptation here. Why? Arguably, because it’s spring – so do be careful as the days lengthen and temperatures rise! But I don’t wish to make too much of that. Also he’s a man – and you’ve only got to have some slight awareness of the male psyche, not to mention the horrifying statistics on the use of pornography, to know that men are prone to lust. But then it’s not just men. Potiphar’s wife is an example of a lustful woman. Genesis 39.12:

She caught [Joseph] by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.”

Maybe in women these sinful cravings often take a different form to those of men. Either way, men are vulnerable – but so are women. Then King David is young (at least relatively young), and sexual craving is generally stronger in the young than the old. On the other hand I heard a radio discussion about the so-called male menopause during which so many aging men discard their wives and go lusting after younger alternatives. No age is invulnerable. It’s late in the day and David’s tired but not asleep. Perhaps his moral guard is down as a result. We need to be self-aware about the times when we find ourselves more easily allowing ourselves to drift towards sin. But then sin can strike at any time of day. Perhaps most significantly of all, David is neglecting his responsibilities and is therefore at a loose end and maybe even bored. There’s a pointed reference in the account here to the fact that this is the time of year when kings go out to battle…But David remained at Jerusalem. If he’d been preoccupied, as he should have been, with his leadership responsibilities, then he wouldn’t have found himself in this vulnerable situation and frame of mind. We must be aware, and be on guard against times of vulnerability.

3. What are the steps to serious sexual sin?

Back to 2 Samuel 11.2:

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.

The first step is temptation. But be clear that to be tempted is not a sin. To give David the benefit of the doubt, he was not expecting to see this woman. He just saw her. And that is not a sin. We need to be realistic about this. We live in a culture in which we’re constantly surrounded by sexual imagery. And of course we don’t segregate the sexes. Nor should we. And there’s something else important here before we move on to the next step. 2 Samuel 11.2 says:

…the woman was very beautiful.

Why was she beautiful? Because God made her beautiful. Physical beauty and sexual desire are God’s invention. Burning coal in the fireplace warms the whole room. It is a good thing, a blessing to the whole household. But throw that same coal into someone’s lap and it’s deadly. Water running between river banks is life-giving. But when the river bursts its banks it can destroy family homes. Women are beautiful, and thank God for that. In fact when we thank God for it, we’re on the right track. It’s when what we’re thinking requires us to shut God out that we’re in trouble. The ideal is not a humanity with its sexual desires surgically removed; nor is it burqa type clothing that hides us away from one another. The ideal is a healthy and Godly mutual appreciation. Men and women are then not sex-objects to be lusted after, but brothers and sisters to be loved in the family of God. So temptation is not sin. But the easiest way to deal with temptation is to give in to it, and that is what David does. 2 Samuel 11.2-3:

...he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and enquired about the woman.

The second step is to start playing with fire. Why does David want to know more about this woman? This is no longer innocent – although he could still be rationalising to himself that it is, and that he’s just curious. But it rapidly gets worse. The account continues (2 Samuel 11.3-4):

And David sent and enquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers…

There are red warning lights flashing all over this. David is married. He is told that this woman Bathsheba is married. Just for good measure – he knows this family. Bathsheba’s husband Uriah is one of his mighty men – his elite warriors, known as ‘The Thirty’. What is more, Bathsheba’s father Eliam was also one of the Thirty. And Eliam’s father Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather, was one of David’s respected advisors. So this is a family dedicated to serving King David. He knew them well. 2 Samuel 11.4 should begin: “So David put the woman out of his mind, and distracted himself by getting back to work.” How different things would have been. But David ignores all the warning signs, and instead 2 Samuel 11.4 starts:

So David sent messengers…

The third step, then, is to cross the line from temptation to mental sexual sin. He had no business sending for her. He has allowed his lust to take hold of his mind and his mental sexual sin is beginning to drive his behaviour. This is a very slippery slope, like an icy, compacted sledging run. Even at this stage he could be telling himself that he’s just going to have a cup of tea with her and chat about how her husband’s doing on the battlefield. But in no time David escalates things (2 Samuel 11.4):

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.

So the fourth step is to move from mental sin to physical sexual sin. Now irretrievably other people are directly involved in the sin. In fact the adulterer David has sucked Bathsheba into committing adultery herself against her husband. Indeed, there is more than a hint of coercion about this, given the very one-sided power dynamics in this situation. Bathsheba falls pregnant. She tells David. There’s a note in 2 Samuel 11.4 that says:

(Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.)

Why is that there? To make it clear that she’d recently had her period. There is no room for any doubt that this is David’s child. And we don’t have time to look at this closely, but as the account unfolds through this chapter it’s clear that things go from extremely bad to even worse. So the fifth step is that the physical sexual sin leads on into wider and wider forms of sin. David abuses his God-given power to murder Bathsheba’s husband by proxy. Sin leads to more sin. And deeper and deeper we go, until we’re drowning in a sordid sea of lethal lies and deceit. This chapter ends with a God’s-eye perspective on it all (2 Samuel 11.27):

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

Those then are the slippery steps to serious sexual sin. James 1.14-16 puts the process in a nutshell. God does not tempt anyone:

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. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers [and sisters].

What’s the next question?

4. How can we avoid sexual sin?

This is something we very easily overcomplicate. If we say to ourselves that it’s complicated and difficult, that helps us to excuse ourselves when we don’t do it. But really it’s simple. How can we avoid sexual sin? Flee from it. And flee from it immediately. Flee fast. Don’t toy with it. Don’t humour it. Don’t even try and resist it or get in a fight with it like two heavyweights slugging it out. Just flee from it. Get out of there. Now. The longer you leave it, the harder it gets because the weaker is our resolve. Flee now. 2 Timothy 2.22:

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace…

1 Corinthians 6.18-20:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.

Flee from sexual immorality. Joseph is our role model in this, back in Genesis 39.12:

[Potiphar’s wife] caught [Joseph] by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.

And one thing that helps us to flee fast is if we’ve already made up our minds, long before, that that’s what we’ll do when we find ourselves faced with temptation. Then we don’t have to hang around while we debate with ourselves about what to do. How can we avoid serious sexual sin? Decide now to flee fast. And when the temptation arises, run.

5. What are the consequences of sexual sin?

For David, despite his repentance towards God and God’s forgiveness of him, which we’ll come to next week, the long-term consequences were devastating. Here’s just one example of the fall-out. Bathsheba’s grandfather and David’s trusted advisor Ahithophel later joins the bloody rebellion of David’s disenchanted son Absalom against his father. He ends up committing suicide. It seems highly likely that it was David’s abuse of his granddaughter Bathsheba that embittered Ahithophel against David, with deadly long-term consequences. In our day, we can see the consequences when we look around at our society. Our lust-laden, adulterous generation is inflicting untold grief and suffering, and leading millions into sinful patterns of living that are searing their consciences, hardening their hearts against the love of Christ, and deadening their capacity for faithfulness. God has a better plan.

I don’t know if you’re a fan of Morse, the Oxford detective. The final episode of the Morse prequel Endeavour is set at the time when the sexual revolution is beginning to bite. The young Morse’s mentor is Fred Thursday, a veteran detective inspector. He’s just seen the signs of an abusive sexual relationship between a man and a vulnerable young woman, and he bursts out:

Free love! In my experience that’s the most expensive kind there is.

Or we can bring Fred Thursday up to date. Louise Perry has written an extraordinary if shocking book called The Case Against The Sexual Revolution – not from a Christian perspective. Perhaps you’ve seen it. In it, she says that in our new sexual culture (I quote):

…young women are forced to learn for themselves that freedom has costs, and they are forced to learn the hard way, every time.

And she says:

Liberal ideology flatters us by telling us that our desires are good and that we can find meaning in satisfying them, whatever the cost. But the lie of this flattery should be obvious to anyone who has ever realised after the fact that they were wrong to desire something, and hurt themselves, or hurt other people, in pursuing it. So I am going to propose an alternative form of sexual culture – one that recognises other human beings as real people, invested with real value and dignity. It’s time for a sexual counter-revolution.

In the end, though, the consequences of sexual sin are even worse than the terrible harvest of suffering and loneliness that our generation is reaping. Jesus is so frighteningly clear. Matthew 5.27-29:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

According to Jesus, the ultimate consequence of unbridled and unrepented sexual sin is hell. But as I said at the outset, there is hope. So:

6. What should we do if we fall into serious sexual sin?

We should admit it to ourselves and to God; confess it to him; put our trust in the sin-bearing and substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross for us; receive forgiveness by faith; and face the continuing consequences of what we’ve done. We cannot undo what we’ve done. David had got Bathsheba pregnant and killed her husband. He had to face the consequences. More on that next week. We cannot undo what we have done. But we can be forgiven. Our guilt can be wiped away once and for all. We can be free from condemnation. That is what our gracious, merciful and loving God has done for us in Jesus. That is what he applies to our hearts by his Holy Spirit.

If you’re struggling to grasp the reality of that forgiveness, think about finding someone you trust, someone who understands the grace of God and the reality of forgiveness, someone who can keep a confidence, and confess your sin to them. It’s a wonderful thing when another person knows the worst about us and still loves us. That experience helps us to realise how God deals with us. He is a holy God who cannot tolerate sin. And he is a merciful God who pays the price for our sin himself. God can redeem us. He can redeem the situations we get ourselves into. So let the prayer of the repentant King David in Psalm 51.1-7 be our prayer now – and then Ian is going to lead us further in prayer. So let’s bow our heads to pray:

Have mercy on me, O God,according to your steadfast love;according to your abundant mercyblot 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 sinnedand done what is evil in your sight,so that you may be justified in your wordsand blameless in your judgment…Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.We pray in the name of Jesus, our Lord and our Saviour. Amen.