His Terrible Sin
2 Samuel 11
Davidís fearful fall into committing adultery with Bathsheba was now followed by a crime yet more odious. His unlawful child, soon to be born, he had sought to father upon Uriah; but his efforts had failed. A desperate situation now confronted him. He knew that if Uriah lived, he must discover his wifeís unfaithfulness, and this the king was determined to prevent at all costs. Even though it meant adding sin to sin and sinking more deeply into the mire of evil, David must preserve his reputation before men, Here, again, we see the likeness between him and Pilate: each sought to preserve innocent blood and the world (a position of honor in it) for himself at the same time, and surrendered the former for the latter when they could not both be retainedóthe "pride of life" was so strong that to maintain it, the death of another was not scrupled against.
Once a man, even though he be a believer, disregards the claims of God, he is quite liable to ignore the claims of human friendship. It was so in the sad case here before us. David now shrank not from going to any length. First, he had tempted Uriah to break his vow (2 Sam. 11:11). Second, he had endeavored to make him drunk (11:13). And now he deliberately plotted the death of his devoted subject. He had rather that innocent blood be shed, and his whole army be threatened with defeat, than that his own good name should be made a scandal. See to what incredible lengths sin will urge even a child of God once he yields to its clamorings: adultery now occasioned murder! O my reader, what real need there is for begging God to enable you to "pass the time of your sojourning here in fear" (1 Peter 1:17)!
"When a man has so far given place to the devil as not only to commit scandalous sins, but to use disingenuous and base means of concealing them, and with sure prospect of having the whole exposed to public view; what would prevent his being pushed forward, by the same influence and from the same motives, to treachery, malice and murder, till crimes are multiplied and magnified beyond computation, and till every nobler consideration is extinguished?" (Thomas Scott). Thus it was here: no matter what happened, David was resolved to maintain his own reputation. Sure proof was this that, at the time, he was completely dominated by Satan, as is shown by those words "lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil" (1 Tim. 3:6). How we need to pray that God would mercifully hide pride from" us (Job 33:17)!
Further proof that David was then thoroughly in the toils of Satan, may be seen in the subtle and vile tactics to which he now resorted. Thoroughly determined to cover his awful sin of adultery by committing still greater wickedness, he resolved to have poor Uriah put out of the way. "That innocent, valiant, and gallant man, who was ready to die for his princeís honor must die by his princeís hand" (Matthew Henry). Yes, but not directly; David was too cunning for that, and too anxious to preserve his own good name before men. He would not kill Uriah by his own hand, nor even bid his servants assassinate him, for his reputation had been destroyed by such a step. He therefore resorted to a more serpentine measure, which, though it concealed his own hand, was none the less heinous. The bravery of Uriah and his zeal for this country, suggested to the king the method of dispatching him.
And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die" (2 Sam. 11:14, 15). With cold-blooded deliberation David penned a note to the commander of his army, commanding him to station his faithful soldier in the place where he would be the most exposed to the assaults of the foe, and then leave him to his cruel fate. The kingís letter, decreeing his death, was carried by Uriah himself, and delivered to Joab. The general did as his master had bidden, and Uriah was slain. Davidís abominable plan succeeded, and he whose accusations he so much feared, now lay silent in deathócommitted to an honorable grave, while his murdererís honor was sullied as long as this world lasts.
This terrible sin of Davidís was more laid to his charge by God than any other he committed: not only because of its gravity, and because it has given occasion to so many of His enemies to blaspheme, but also because it was more a deliberate and premeditated crime than an involuntary infirmity acting suddenly. How many of his failures are left on record: his lie to Ahimelech (1 Sam. 21:2), his dissimulation before the king of Gath (1 Sam. 21:12), his rash vow to destroy Nabal (1 Sam. 25:33), his unbelieving "I shall one day perish at the hand of Saul" (1 Sam. 27:1), his injustice in the matter of Mephibosheth and Ziba (2 Sam. 16:4), his indulgence of Absalom, his numbering of the people (2 Sam. 24); yet after his death God said, "David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that He commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kings 15:5).
The immediate sequel is as sad and awful as is what has just been before us. When he received the tidings that his vile plot had succeeded, David callously said to the messenger, "Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another" (v. 25). There was no compunction that a loyal supporter had been cruelly murdered, no horror of heart at his own guilt in connection therewith, no grief that others besides Uriah had been sacrificed for his crime; instead, he pretended that it was but "the fortunes of war," and to be taken stoically. Disregarding the massacre of his soldiers, David complimented Joab on the execution of his abominable order, and bade the messenger return "and encourage thou him."
"And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband" (v. 26). What a vile mockery! Only God knows how often the outward "mourning" over the departed is but a hypocritical veil to cover satisfaction of heart for being rid of their presence. Even where that be not the case, the speedy remarriage of weeping widows and widowers indicates how shallow was their grief. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord" (v. 27). David had pleased himself, but he had grievously displeased the Lord! "Let none therefore encourage themselves in sin by the example of David, for if they sin as he did, they will fall under the displeasure of God as he did" (Matthew Henry).
The question has been asked, can a person who has committee such atrocious crimes, and so long remains impenitent, be indeed a child of God, a member or Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and an heir of everlasting glory? Can one spark of divine like exist un-extinguished in such an ocean of evil?" Were we left to our own unaided judgment to make reply, most probably every last one of us would promptly answer, No, such a thing is unthinkable. Yet in the clear light of Holy Writ it is plain that such things are possible. Later, David made it manifest that he was a truly regenerated person by the sincerity and depth of his contrition and confession. Yet, let it be said that, no man while guilty of such sins, and before he genuinely repents of the same, can have any warrantable evidence to conclude that he is a believer; yea, everything points to the contrary. Though grace be not lost in such an awful case, divine consolation and assurance is suspended.
But now the question arises, Why did God permit David to fall so low and sin so terribly? The first answer must be, To display His high and awe-inspiring sovereignty. Here we approach ground which is indeed difficult for us to tread, even with unshodden feet. Nevertheless it cannot be gainsaid that there is a marvellous and sovereign display of the Lordís grace toward His people in this particular respect, both before their calling and after. Some of the elect are permitted to sin most grievously in their unconverted state, whilst others of them, even in their unregenerate days, are wondrously preserved. Again; some of the elect after their conversion have been divinely allowed to awfully fall into the most horrible impieties, whilst others of them are so preserved as never to sin willfully against their consciences from the first conviction to the very close of their lives (Condensed from S. E. Pierce on Hosea 14:1).
This is a high mystery, which it would be most impious for us to attempt to pry into: rather must we bow our heads before it and say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight." It is a solemn fact, from which there is no getting away, that some sin more before their conversion, and some (especially those saved in early life) sin worse after their conversion. It is also a plain fact that with some saints God most manifests His restraining grace, and with others his pardoning grace. Three things are to be steadily borne in mind in connection with the sins or the saints. God never regards sin as a trifle: it is ever that abominable thing which He hates (Jer. 44:4). Second, it is never to be excused or extenuated by us. Third, Gods sovereignty therein must be acknowledged: whatever difficulties it may raise before our minds, let us hold last the tact that God does as He pleases, and "giveth no account" of His actions (Job 33:13).
A second answer to the question, Why did God permit David to fall so fearfully and sin so grievously? may be: that we might have set before our eyes the more clearly the awful fact that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). Unmistakably plain as is the meaning of those words, uttered by him who cannot lie, yet how very slow we all are to really receive them at their face value, and acknowledge that they accurately describe the natural state of every human heartóthat of the Man Christ Jesus alone excepted. But God has done more than make this bare statement: He has placed on record in His Word illustrations, exemplifications, demonstrations of its verityónotably so in allowing us to see the unspeakable wickedness that still remained in the heart of David!
Third, by suffering David to fall and sin as he did, God has graciously given a most solemn warning to believers in middle lifeóand elder Christians also. "Many conquerors have been ruined by their carelessness after a victory, and many have been spiritually wounded after great successes against sin. David was so; his great surprisal into sin was after a long profession, manifold experiences of God, and watchful keeping himself from his iniquity. And hence, in particular, hath it come to pass that the profession of many hath declined in their old age or riper time: they have given over the work of mortifying sin before their work was at an end. There is no way for us to pursue sin in its unsearchable habitation but by being endless in our pursuit. The command God gives in Colossians 3:5 is as necessary for them to observe who are toward the end of their race, as those who are but at the beginning of it" (John Owen).
Fourth, the fearful fall of David made way for a display of the amazing grace of God in recovering His fallen people. If we are slow to receive what Scripture teaches concerning the depravity of the human heart and the exceeding sinfulness of sin, we are equally slow to really believe what it reveals about the covenant-faithfulness of God, the efficacy of Christís blood to cleanse the foulest stain from those for whom it was shed, and the super-abounding grace of Him who is "the Father of mercies." Had David never sinned so grievously and sunken so low, he had never known those infinite depths of mercy which there are in the heart of God. Likewise, had his terrible sin, his subsequent broken-hearted confession, and his pardon by God, never been placed upon divine record, not a few of Godís people throughout the centuries had sunk in abject despair.
Fifth, to furnish a fatal stumbling-block to blatant rebels. "It is certain that thousands through succeeding generations have, by this fall of Ďthe man after Godís own heart,í been prejudiced against true religion, hardened in infidelity, or emboldened in blasphemy; while others have thence taken occasion to commit habitual wickedness under a religious profession, and with presumptuous confidence, to the still greater discredit of the Gospel. It should, however, be considered, that all these have been, previously, either open enemies to true religion, or hypocritical pretenders to it: and it is the righteous purpose of God, that stumbling-blocks should be thrown in the way of such men, that they may Ďstumble, and fall, and be snarled, and taken, and perish:í It is His holy will thus to detect the secret malignity of their hearts, and to make way for the display of His justice in their condemnation. On the other hand, thousands, from age to age, have by this awful example been rendered more suspicious of themselves, more watchful, more afraid of temptation, more dependent on the Lord, and more fervent in prayer; and by means of Davidís fall, have, themselves, been preserved from falling" (Thomas Scott).
God, then, had wise and sufficient reasons, both for permitting David to sin so heinously and for placing the same upon imperishable record. Nor has any opposer or despiser of the Truth any just ground to sneeringly ask, Are those the fruits of grace and faith? We answer, No, they are not; instead, they are the horrible works of the flesh, the filth which issues from corrupt human nature. How strong must those inclinations be to evil, when they, at times, succeed in overcoming the oppositions of truth and grace dwelling in the heart of an eminent saint of God! And in the light of the context (2 Sam. 11:1, 2) how it behooves us to watch against the beginnings of negligence and sell-indulgence, and keep at the utmost distance from that precipice over which David fell; begging God that it may please Him to deliver us from all forbidden objects.
But this incident presents another difficulty to some, namely, how to harmonize it with the declaration made in 1 John 3:15: "Ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." It is really surprising that so many have experienced trouble in reconciling this with the case of David: as usual, the difficulty is self-created through ignoring the context. In 1 John 3:11 the apostle takes up the subject of the Christiansí love one for another, whereby they make it manifest that they are brethren in Christ. The world (1) loves them not (2) hates them (3) will murder them whenever they dareóas Cain did Abel. But no real Christian has such a hatred in his heart against any "brother" in Christ. Nor had David. Uriah was not an Israelite, but an "Hittite" (2 Sam. 11:3; 1 Kings 15:5)!
In conclusion, let us point out some of the solemn lessons which we may learn from this sad incident. 1. Beware of the beginnings of sin: who had imagined that taking his ease when he should have been at the post of duty on the battlefield, had led to adultery and ended in murder? 2. See how refusal to put one serious wrong right, preferring concealment to confession, gives Satan a great advantage over us, to lead into yet worse evil! 3. Learn therefrom that there is no security in years, and that no past communion with God will safeguard us against temptations when we are careless in the present. 4. How fickle is poor human nature: Davidís heart smote him when he cut off Saulís skirt, yet later he deliberately planned the murder of Uriah. 5. Mark what fearful lengths pride will go to in order to maintain a reputation before men. 6. Behold how callous the heart will become once the strivings of conscience are disregarded. 7. Though we may succeed in escaping the wrath of our fellows, sin always meets with the displeasure of the Lord.