Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: And then came conviction - Part 9

But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1

2 Samuel 11

Though the science of seismology has made great strides in the past few years — making the prediction of earthquakes possible from time to time — for the most part, they continue to catch us by surprise. We know what causes them — secret faults — but precision in identifying their timing, location and intensity still eludes us. Often they strike when we least expect them.

In October 1989, most Americans, if they were thinking about Northern California at all, were probably thinking about the World Series between the crosstown rival San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics. Certainly, they were not thinking about an earthquake. But in less than ten minutes, all that changed. Suddenly the nation was transfixed by the unfolding tragedy that gripped the entire Bay Area.

Moral earthquakes likewise strike when we least expect them. Though the causes of these catastrophes are all too predictable, the moment of devastation is almost always a surprise.

Certainly that was the case with King David in the Old Testament. At the least likely moment, he found himself in the midst of a terrible moral earthquake that would affect him for the rest of his life. And it all happened in the flash of an eye.

The story is sadly familiar:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house. David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next” (2 Sam. 11:1–12, NIV).

It was the time of year when kings went to battle, but David decided not to go. Instead, he sent Joab, his general, to do his fighting for him. Meanwhile, he stayed in Jerusalem. He was not where he was supposed to be. David should have been out in battle leading his men. But he stayed behind in the lap of luxury.

Then one evening, the idle and irresponsible David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From there he spied a woman bathing. The exposed woman was very beautiful, but instead of looking away, as he ought to have, he ogled her. He not only was where he shouldn’t have been, now he was looking where he shouldn’t have been looking — his second big mistake.

David made the leap from looking to plotting very quickly — as you might well expect — and then came sin.

At this time in his life and career, David had reached the pinnacle of success. He was the undisputed king of Israel. He had driven out the enemies that had so long plagued his people. Not only had he reached the pinnacle of success politically, he had reached the pinnacle of success spiritually as well. He was a man after God’s own heart. He had even fulfilled his covenant with Jonathan by showing kindness to Mephiboseth. He had made this crippled son of Jonathan one of his own sons.

It is hard to believe that a man could descend from such heavenly heights to such devilish depths in such a short span of time, but David did. Just as we all do so very often. In fact, the Bible says that all of us have hearts that are “desperately wicked,” that are constantly prone to sin, and we are just as likely to embrace perversity at the height of our success as we are in the depths of our despair.

One obvious tactic of the devil is to strike when things are going right — when we are riding the crest of some great victory. He knows that at such times we are apt to be vulnerable — because it is then that we are most likely to let our guard down. Satan knows this only too well.

So, at the moment of his greatest triumph and glory, the beautiful Bathsheba came into David’s life. Then came sin.

Recognize the cause of sin

There is one thing that we all have in common. Though some are rich, some are poor, some are tall, and some are short, all of us have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In fact, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10).

That is not a fact we generally care to admit. Yet, no one can live in victory until he or she recognizes and realizes the cause of sin. David is a prime example of the cause of sin. If we are honest with God, we will see ourselves in his sad story.

David was out on the roof of his palace. He looked down and happened to see a woman bathing, but he didn’t stop there. After all, it is not a sin to let a thought pass through our minds. Sin comes when we don’t allow the temptation to pass through. When we begin to harbor it, when we begin to look upon that temptation with intensity, then we get into trouble. David saw. But instead of averting his gaze, he ogled Bathsheba. Then the inevitable happened: he coveted.

You see, he didn’t let it go. He saw. He wanted and then he explored. He sent and inquired about the woman. With deliberate premeditation, David plotted the parameters and possibilities of his sin. He saw, he coveted and then he took.

He sent for her, and they committed adultery. Today, we are a bit too sophisticated and cosmopolitan to refer to such breaches as “adultery.” We prefer euphemisms for our sin. We don’t call people who steal “thieves” anymore. We use a more sophisticated word: we call them “embezzlers.” We don’t call a person who is addicted to alcohol a “drunkard.” Instead, we use the euphemism “alcoholic.” Thus we are loathe to call David’s sin “adultery.” Today we refer to “affairs.” Maybe we think that by softening the word, we have softened the sin. We try to gloss over the import and impact of our sinful actions. Nevertheless, the facts can’t be avoided. David and Bathsheba didn’t simply have an affair, a fling or a tryst: they committed adultery.

David saw, he coveted and then he took. Notice the progression. His sin followed the same pattern as every other great moral earthquake in the Bible. When Eve was in the Garden of Eden, she saw, she coveted and then she took. Following the great battle of Jericho — when the walls came tumbling down — a single Israelite man, Achan, sinned. Because of his violation, a pall fell upon the whole people. It ultimately caused the children of Israel to lose the battle at Ai and lose 36 of their men. Predictably, Achan’s sin came because first he saw, then he coveted and finally he took.

Realize the curse of sin

David found himself in an awful predicament. Bathsheba sent to him and told him she was pregnant. What made this such a difficult situation was that her husband wasn’t home and hadn’t been home for some time. He had been out fighting David’s battle. He was out there on the front lines of the battle — where David should have been. David became frantic — as well he should have. So he called Uriah back from battle and said to him, “Now Uriah, you’ve been such a great soldier. I appreciate all you have been doing for me. I want to give you a weekend off. You take some rest and relaxation. I want you to go home and relax over the weekend. Then you can go back to battle.”

David had a plan. He thought Uriah would go home, go to bed with his wife, and then when he discovered that she was pregnant, nobody would ever know that the child she was carrying was conceived in sin.

However, the faithful Uriah would have none of it. He would not cooperate; he was too honorable a man. He went outside the palace by the gate, got out his bedroll and slept right there. He said, “If all my other friends are out there on the battlefield, why should I come back and go in to the pleasures of my family and my wife. I’m not going to do it. I’m just going to sleep out here.”

When David heard Uriah didn’t go home, he made some plans. He decided to invite the diligent soldier into the palace. David said, “I’m going to get him drunk and then he’ll go home to his wife.” At this point, it is hard to believe that this is David — the man after God’s own heart. But that is the effect of sin: it takes a man and his affections and twists them all out of proportion. So, David got Uriah over to his house and got him drunk. He then shoved him out the door. He nudged him along and said, “Uriah, go on over to your house and see your wife.” But Uriah — even in this drunken stupor — stood firm. For the sake of his honor, he refused go.

By this time, David was desperate. So, he sent his loyal servant, Uriah, back to the battle. He also sent word to Joab, the commander-in-chief, to put Uriah up on the front lines of the battle. This was to be done in such a way that it would be sure to cost the life of Uriah.

That way, David thought, he would be able to adequately cover his heinous sin. No one would need to know that the child Bathsheba was carrying was actually David’s. He tried to cover over his sin with treachery, lies and, finally, the death of Uriah. This is the curse of sin. Once it starts, it takes over; it completely dominates our lives. We find ourselves constantly looking over our shoulders to see if anyone is coming. We have to cover over this sin with a lie. We have to cover over that lie with yet another, and on and on it goes.

After Bathsheba’s time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she bore him a son, but the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of God. Even if he had been clever enough to hide it from everyone else in the whole world, God knew. David thought that he could sin and win. He thought he could get by with it, but he was wrong.

Review the consequences of sin

David learned all too quickly that the pleasures of sin were but for a season. Nathan the prophet came to him and related a remarkable story of injustice. The story made David mad, and he said, “Whoever sins like that ought to restore four-fold.” He didn’t realize he had just prophesied his own fate. But in fact, David was soon to discover that it was his household that would suffer fourfold consequences for his sin.

David and Bathsheba had a little boy, but the child perished soon after. The wages of their sin was death — visited upon the succeeding generation. What began in pleasure ended in tantamount anguish and pain. That was the first consequence of David’s sin.

Some time later Amnon raped his own sister, Tamar. Both were David’s own children. The awful blotch of enmity, abuse, incest and betrayal had now been visited in full measure against the house of David. Again, what was supposed to be the wellspring of joy had become the headwaters of pain. That was the second consequence of David’s sin.

Absalom, another of David’s sons, upon hearing what Amnon did to Tamar, killed his brother. David’s sin had cost him the life of Bathsheba’s firstborn. It had cost him the harmony and integrity of his family. Now it had cost him the life of another son. That was the third consequence of his sin.

And if that were not enough, shortly thereafter, Absalom revolted against his father, David. He tried to take over the throne. During the rebellion, Absalom was killed by those loyal to the king. David wept over the body of his son, saying, “Absalom, oh Absalom, would to God I could have died in your stead, oh Absalom, my son.” He had now lost three of his sons and witnessed the utter decimation of his family. That was the fourth consequence of his sin.

Sadly, the sins of parents are often passed on to children. Our foolishness and rebellion don’t simply affect us. It affects all those around us — and it most fully affects those closest to us.

Before any of us chooses to pursue the path of sin, we should carefully review its consequences. In those moments when we might be anticipating illicit pleasures of the flesh, thinking of ways to satisfy our desires outside the parameters of God’s will or harboring selfish passions, if we would only review the consequences, we would realize the curse of sin — and hopefully, we would recoil in horror. Sin is never worth the consequences it brings.

Regard the conviction of sin

The thing David had done was evil in the sight of God, but until the prophet Nathan pointed it out, David didn’t have ears to hear. He didn’t have eyes to see. He was unable to comprehend the truth. David was so full of sin that he didn’t realize Nathan was bringing an indictment against him. He was so fixed on the appeasement of his own concerns that he was utterly devoid of spiritual discernment.

Yet by the time Nathan concluded his covenant lawsuit, David’s eyes were opened; conviction had gripped his heart and mind. At that point, David actually accepted the blame. He knew that it wasn’t the circumstances; it wasn’t the situation; it wasn’t the peer pressure; it wasn’t the devil. He took responsibility: he realized he was to blame, and the convicting power of the holy God fell on him.

God knows us all. He knew us before the foundation of the world. He knows where we were Friday night and what we did. God knows everything about us — and yet He still loves us. Indeed, that is amazing grace.

David confessed his sin in genuine repentance. “I have sinned against the Lord,” he wailed. None of us are to the place of confession until we recognize that we are to blame for our sin, until we take responsibility for our sin and stop blaming others.

David confessed his sin, and that was the beginning of his restoration. He accepted the cleansing that comes only in accord with God’s good providence. Though he couldn’t erase the damage he had caused and undo the havoc he had wrecked, he could have a fresh new start — as hard as that might be given the stern consequences of his sin.

It is no wonder so many of us are without purpose and joy and power and victorious Christian living. The terrible thing about sin is that when we sin, we are not merely sinning against our children, our wife, our husband, our rival or our enemy. When we sin we are, first and foremost, sinning against the Lord.

David realized this — and thus, he began the passage from death to life once again. He heard the Word of God as it spoke clearly and decisively to his situation. He immediately realized the fullness of his own sin. He immediately recognized the consequences of the wickedness he had wrought. His heart was pierced at last.

He was, after all, David. Though he had fallen from the pinnacle of his earlier success, he was a man who knew how to pursue the heart of God. He was a man who was familiar with the courtyard of grace and the threshold of hope. He knew well the parameters of everlasting joy. He had once been a frequent guest of the Great Shepherd’s green pastures and still waters. So, when David heard the Word of truth, he was stricken.

Then came conviction.

And then came repentance — and with repentance came the gracious environs of hope.

Moral soundings

  • Have you fully recognized the cause of sin in your life?
  • Have you ever come to grips with the awfulness of the curse of sin?
  • Have you ever calculated the full dimensions of sin’s consequences?
  • How do you regard the conviction of sin?
  • How long has it been since you have done what David did and confessed your sin?
ON A PERSONAL NOTE:

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