chapter is based on 2 Samuel 11; 12.]
Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to
recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This
silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson. All the good
qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are
performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God
the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but
instruments in His hands. More than this--as all the lessons of Bible
history teach--it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one
comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his
own strength, he is sure to fall. Man is contending with foes who are
stronger than he. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but
against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness
of this world, against wicked spirits in high places." Ephesians
6:12, margin. It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the
conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to
self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our
overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power
and to encourage trust in divine power.
It was the
spirit of self-confidence and self-exaltation that prepared the way for
David's fall. Flattery and the subtle allurements of power and luxury were
not without effect upon him. Intercourse with surrounding nations also
exerted an influence for evil. According to the customs prevailing among
Eastern rulers, crimes not to be tolerated in subjects were uncondemned in
the king; the monarch was not under obligation to exercise the same
self-restraint as the subject. All this tended to lessen David's sense of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And instead of relying in humility upon
the power of Jehovah, he began to trust to his own wisdom and might. As
soon as Satan can separate the soul from
God, the only Source of strength,
he will seek to arouse the unholy desires of man's carnal nature. The work
of the enemy is not abrupt; it is not, at the outset, sudden and
startling; it is a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle. It
begins in apparently small things--the neglect to be true to God and to
rely upon Him wholly, the disposition to follow the customs and practices
of the world.
conclusion of the war with the Ammonites, David, leaving the conduct of
the army to Joab, returned to Jerusalem. The Syrians had already submitted
to Israel, and the complete overthrow of the Ammonites appeared certain.
David was surrounded by the fruits of victory and the honors of his wise
and able rule. It was now, while he was at ease and unguarded, that the
tempter seized the opportunity to occupy his mind. The fact that God had
taken David into so close connection with Himself and had manifested so
great favor toward him, should have been to him the strongest of
incentives to preserve his character unblemished. But when in ease and
self-security he let go his hold upon God, David yielded to Satan and
brought upon his soul the stain of guilt. He, the Heaven-appointed leader
of the nation, chosen by God to execute His law, himself trampled upon its
precepts. He who should have been a terror to evildoers, by his own act
strengthened their hands.
perils of his earlier life David in conscious integrity could trust his
case with God. The Lord's hand had guided him safely past the unnumbered
snares that had been laid for his feet. But now, guilty and unrepentant,
he did not ask help and guidance from Heaven, but sought to extricate
himself from the dangers in which sin had involved him. Bathsheba, whose
fatal beauty had proved a snare to the king, was the wife of Uriah the
Hittite, one of David's bravest and most faithful officers. None could
foresee what would be the result should the crime become known. The law of
God pronounced the adulterer guilty of death, and the proud-spirited
soldier, so shamefully wronged, might avenge himself by taking the life of
the king or by exciting the nation to revolt.
which David made to conceal his guilt proved unavailing. He had betrayed
himself into the power of Satan; danger surrounded him, dishonor more
bitter than death was
before him. There appeared but one way of escape,
and in his desperation he was hurried on to add murder to adultery. He who
had compassed the destruction of Saul was seeking to lead David also to
ruin. Though the temptations were different, they were alike in leading to
transgression of God's law. David reasoned that if Uriah were slain by the
hand of enemies in battle, the guilt of his death could not be traced home
to the king, Bathsheba would be free to become David's wife, suspicion
could be averted, and the royal honor would be maintained.
made the bearer of his own death warrant. A letter sent by his hand to
Joab from the king commanded, "Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the
hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and
die." Joab, already stained with the guilt of one wanton murder, did
not hesitate to obey the king's instructions, and Uriah fell by the sword
of the children of Ammon.
David's record as a ruler had been such as few monarchs have ever equaled.
It is written of him that he "executed judgment and justice unto all
his people." 2 Samuel 8:15. His integrity had won the confidence and
fealty of the nation. But as he departed from God and yielded himself to
the wicked one, he became for the time the agent of Satan; yet he still
held the position and authority that God had given him, and because of
this, claimed obedience that would imperil the soul of him who should
yield it. And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather
than to God, transgressed God's law because the king commanded it.
had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the
divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God's law, it
became sin to obey. "The powers that be are ordained of God"
(Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God's law. The
apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by
which we should be governed. He says, "Be ye followers of me, even as
I also am of Christ." 1 Corinthians 11:1.
An account of
the execution of his order was sent to David, but so carefully worded as
not to implicate either Joab or the king. Joab "charged the messenger
saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto
and if so be that the king's wrath arise, . . .then say thou,
Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. So the messenger went, and
came and showed David all that Joab had sent him for."
answer was, "Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing
displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy
battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou
observed the customary days of mourning for her husband; and at their
close "David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his
wife." He whose tender conscience and high sense of honor would not
permit him, even when in peril of his life, to put forth his hand against
the Lord's anointed, had so fallen that he could wrong and murder one of
his most faithful and most valiant soldiers, and hope to enjoy undisturbed
the reward of his sin. Alas! how had the fine gold become dim! how had the
most fine gold changed!
beginning Satan has portrayed to men the gains to be won by transgression.
Thus he seduced angels. Thus he tempted Adam and Eve to sin. And thus he
is still leading multitudes away from obedience to God. The path of
transgression is made to appear desirable; "but the end thereof are
the ways of death." Proverbs 14:12. Happy they who, having ventured
in this way, learn how bitter are the fruits of sin, and turn from it
betimes. God in His mercy did not leave David to be lured to utter ruin by
the deceitful rewards of sin.
For the sake
of Israel also there was a necessity for God to interpose. As time passed
on, David's sin toward Bathsheba became known, and suspicion was excited
that he had planned the death of Uriah. The Lord was dishonored. He had
favored and exalted David, and David's sin misrepresented the character of
God and cast reproach upon His name. It tended to lower the standard of
godliness in Israel, to lessen in many minds the abhorrence of sin; while
those who did not love and fear God were by it emboldened in
prophet was bidden to bear a message of reproof to David. It was a message
terrible in its severity. To few sovereigns could such a reproof be given
but at the price of certain death to the reprover. Nathan delivered the
divine sentence unflinchingly, yet with such heaven-born wisdom as to
sympathies of the king, to arouse his conscience, and to call
from his lips the sentence of death upon himself. Appealing to David as
the divinely appointed guardian of his people's rights, the prophet
repeated a story of wrong and oppression that demanded redress.
were two men in one city," he said, "the one rich, and the other
poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: but the poor man
had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished
up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of
his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto
him as a daughter. And there came a traveler unto the rich man, and he
spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the
wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and
dressed it for the man that was come to him."
The anger of
the king was roused, and he exclaimed, "As the Lord liveth, the man
that hath done this thing is worthy 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, margin.
his eyes upon the king; then, lifting his right hand to heaven, he
solemnly declared, "Thou art the man." "Wherefore," he
continued, "hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do
evil in His sight?" The guilty may attempt, as David had done, to
conceal their crime from men; they may seek to bury the evil deed forever
from human sight or knowledge; but "all things are naked and opened
unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." Hebrews 4:13.
"There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that
shall not be known." Matthew 10:26.
declared: "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king
over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul. . . . Wherefore
hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight?
thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife
to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house. . . . Behold,
I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take
thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor. . . . For
thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and
before the sun."
rebuke touched the heart of David; conscience was aroused; his guilt
appeared in all its enormity. His soul was bowed in penitence before God.
With trembling lips he said, "I have sinned against the Lord."
All wrong done to others reaches back from the injured one to God. David
had committed a grievous sin, toward both Uriah and Bathsheba, and he
keenly felt this. But infinitely greater was his sin against God.
would be found none in Israel to execute the sentence of death upon the
anointed of the Lord, David trembled, lest, guilty and unforgiven, he
should be cut down by the swift judgment of God. But the message was sent
him by the prophet, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt
not die." Yet justice must be maintained. The sentence of death was
transferred from David to the child of his sin. Thus the king was given
opportunity for repentance; while to him the suffering and death of the
child, as a part of his punishment, was far more bitter than his own death
could have been. The prophet said, "Because by this deed thou hast
given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child
also that is born unto thee shall surely die."
child was stricken, David, with fasting and deep humiliation, pleaded for
its life. He put off his royal robes, he laid aside his crown, and night
after night he lay upon the earth, in heartbroken grief interceding for
the innocent one suffering for his guilt. "The elders of his house
arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would
not." Often when judgments had been pronounced upon persons or
cities, humiliation and repentance had turned aside the blow, and the
Ever-Merciful, swift to pardon, had sent messengers of peace. Encouraged
by this thought, David persevered in his supplication so long as the child
was spared. Upon learning that it was dead, he quietly submitted to the
decree of God. The first stroke had fallen of that retribution which he
himself had declared just; but David, trusting in God's mercy, was not
reading the history of David's fall, have inquired, "Why has this
record been made public? Why did God see fit to throw open to the world
this dark passage in the life of one so highly honored of Heaven?"
The prophet, in his reproof to David, had declared concerning his sin,
"By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the
Lord to blaspheme." Through successive generations infidels have
pointed to the character of
David, bearing this dark stain, and have
exclaimed in triumph and derision, "This is the man after God's own
heart!" Thus a reproach has been brought upon religion, God and His
word have been blasphemed, souls have been hardened in unbelief, and many,
under a cloak of piety, have become bold in sin.
history of David furnishes no countenance to sin. It was when he was
walking in the counsel of God that he was called a man after God's own
heart. When he sinned, this ceased to be true of him until by repentance
he had returned to the Lord. The word of God plainly declares, "The
thing that David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord." 2 Samuel
11:27, margin. And the Lord said to David by the prophet, "Wherefore
hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? .
. . Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because
thou hast despised Me." Though David repented of his sin and was
forgiven and accepted by the Lord, he reaped the baleful harvest of the
seed he himself had sown. The judgments upon him and upon his house
testify to God's abhorrence of the sin.
God's providence had preserved David against all the plottings of his
enemies, and had been directly exercised to restrain Saul. But David's
transgression had changed his relation to God. The Lord could not in any
wise sanction iniquity. He could not exercise His power to protect David
from the results of his sin as he had protected him from the enmity of
There was a
great change in David himself. He was broken in spirit by the
consciousness of his sin and its far-reaching results. He felt humbled in
the eyes of his subjects. His influence was weakened. Hitherto his
prosperity had been attributed to his conscientious obedience to the
commandments of the Lord. But now his subjects, having a knowledge of his
sin, would be led to sin more freely. His authority in his own household,
his claim to respect and obedience from his sons, was weakened. A sense of
his guilt kept him silent when he should have condemned sin; it made his
arm feeble to execute justice in his house. His evil example exerted its
influence upon his sons, and God would not interpose to prevent the
result. He would permit things to take their natural course, and thus
David was severely chastised.
For a whole
year after his fall David lived in apparent security; there was no outward
evidence of God's displeasure. But
divine sentence was hanging over him. Swiftly and surely a day of judgment
and retribution was approaching, which no repentance could avert, agony
and shame that would darken his whole earthly life. Those who, by pointing
to the example of David, try to lessen the guilt of their own sins, should
learn from the Bible record that the way of transgression is hard. Though
like David they should turn from their evil course, the results of sin,
even in this life, will be found bitter and hard to bear.
the history of David's fall to serve as a warning that even those whom He
has greatly blessed and favored are not to feel secure and neglect
watchfulness and prayer. And thus it has proved to those who in humility
have sought to learn the lesson that God designed to teach. From
generation to generation thousands have thus been led to realize their own
danger from the tempter's power. The fall of David, one so greatly honored
by the Lord, has awakened in them distrust of self. They have felt that
God alone could keep them by His power through faith. Knowing that in Him
was their strength and safety, they have feared to take the first step on
the divine sentence was pronounced against David he had begun to reap the
fruit of transgression. His conscience was not at rest. The agony of
spirit which he then endured is brought to view in the thirty-second
psalm. He says:
is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no guile.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old
Through my roaring all the day long.
For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me:
My moisture was changed as with the drought of summer."
Psalm 32:1-4, R.V.
fifty-first psalm is an expression of David's repentance, when the message
of reproof came to him from God:
mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness:
According unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. . . .
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter
Make me to hear joy and gladness;
That the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide Thy face from my sins,
And blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God;
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from Thy presence;
And take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation;
And uphold me with Thy free Spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways;
And sinners shall be converted unto Thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation:
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness."
Thus in a
sacred song to be sung in the public assemblies of his people, in the
presence of the court--priests and judges, princes and men of war--and
which would preserve to the latest generation the knowledge of his fall,
the king of Israel recounted his sin, his repentance, and his hope of
pardon through the mercy of God. Instead of endeavoring to conceal his
guilt he desired that others might be instructed by the sad history of his
repentance was sincere and deep. There was no effort to palliate his
crime. No desire to escape the judgments threatened, inspired his prayer.
But he saw the enormity of his transgression against God; he saw the
defilement of his soul; he loathed his sin. It was not for pardon only
that he prayed, but for purity of heart. David did not in despair give
over the struggle. In the promises of God to repentant sinners he saw the
evidence of his pardon and acceptance.
Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it:
Thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit:
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."
Psalm 51:16, 17.
had fallen, the Lord lifted him up. He was now more fully in harmony with
God and in sympathy with his fellow men than before he fell. In the joy of
his release he sang:
acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.
I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord;
And Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. . . .
Thou art my hiding place; Thou shalt preserve me from
Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance."
murmured at what they called God's injustice in sparing David, whose guilt
was so great, after having rejected Saul for what appear to them to be far
less flagrant sins. But David humbled himself and confessed his sin, while
Saul despised reproof and hardened his heart in impenitence.
in David's history is full of significance to the repenting sinner. It is
one of the most forcible illustrations given us of the struggles and
temptations of humanity, and of genuine repentance toward God and faith in
our Lord Jesus Christ. Through all the ages it has proved a source of
encouragement to souls that, having fallen into sin, were struggling under
the burden of their guilt. Thousands of the children of God, who have been
betrayed into sin, when ready to give up to despair have remembered how
David's sincere repentance and confession were accepted by God,
notwithstanding he suffered for his transgression; and they also have
taken courage to repent and try again to walk in the way of God's
the reproof of God will humble the soul with confession and repentance, as
did David, may be sure that there is hope for him. Whoever will in faith
accept God's promises, will find pardon. The Lord will never cast away one
truly repentant soul. He has given this promise: "Let him take hold
of My strength, that he may make peace with Me; and he shall make peace
with Me." Isaiah 27:5. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the
unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He
will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."