As I read these chapters, my heart was grieved by the events which transpired. The account of Bathsheba, Uriah’s death and Absalom’s vengeance on his brother are deeply grievous but not new. Throughout recorded history narratives of adultery, betrayal and familial murder adhere. In Genesis, Cain’s twistedness records him murdering his brother Abel. Life is messy, and David’s family makes up part of that human mosaic. I want to make two main observations.
First, as I consider what King David schemed, my soul recoils because that could have been me. Most of us don’t know what it’s like to have a monarch’s power such that any whim we lust after can be quickly attained. The king here abuses his power by committing adultery but can’t hide the fact that Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife is pregnant, so eventually he betrays Uriah by having him murdered.
The man after God’s own heart, like Saul, lapsed into his own heart’s sinful passions and death resulted. David’s heart became cold and calloused toward his LORD—Israel’s Shepherd—such that even King Saul could not rival his betrayal. Here, the seeds of death were sown which launched the demise of David’s kingdom and family. Almost always, the little things are the big things.
In Davids’ case, the little things lead to the bigger things. David starts by neglecting his duties as king (e.g., he was supposed to be leading Israel’s army in battle), and replaces them with leisurely pleasure (e.g., he saw Bathsheba’s beautiful body as she bathed), followed up by a power play (e.g., he had Bathsheba brought to him), then consummates his erotic lust (e.g., he commits adultery), attempts to cover up his adultery (e.g., he betrays faithful Uriah through murder) and lastly must be confronted by Nathan the prophet to unveil David’s sin: “you’re the man”. (Chapters 11-12) After this episode, neither the kingdom nor Davids’ family was ever the same.
Second, the unraveling of the kings’ family is sadly depicted in David’s passivity when Tamar is raped. I mentioned that families are messy and in this case Tamar, Davids’ daughter is raped by her brother Amnon. But upon hearing this news David takes no action (13:2). Many commentators hold that David’s own sin (greater than his sons) paralyzed him from doing justice. The text does not say, but knowing human nature, it’s quite probable. Nevertheless Absalom takes matters into his own hands and murders his brother Amnon. Like his father David, now Absalom had blood on his hands.
So there are two sons; one brother rapes his sister, the other brother murders his brother and their father (even though God had forgiven David for his previous sins) can’t act righteously. The shame, betrayal, rage and passivity here are difficult to bear. Yet, they serve as a sober reminder of the far reaching significance and effects of our choices.
While David was forgiven for his adultery and murder, nevertheless, he seemed to struggle with guilt which resulted in a tarnished ability to rule well in his kingdom and also in his family. Forgiveness of sin does not negate the possibility of reaping what we have sown. Clearly Davids’ life attests to this fact. What believers must never forget however is that even our sin God will use for our good (Rom.8:28-29).
The effects of David’s past sins seem to have kept him from properly ruling in the present which resulted in a home life that was out of control and did not epitomize what a covenant family should mirror—God’s glory. Like David’s sin, our sin has far reaching consequences that unless properly dealt with, may ruin our families and homes.
LORD, stay my passions by your Spirit today, and when I stumble and fall, rescue me from a soul that’s been sin torn, as I latch on to the altar’s horn, for your names sake this my plea, keep my heart close to You. (SDG)