David–Upright King or Scoundrel? Part 2
King David of the Israelites, as you may recall from Part 1, was remembered in first century Jerusalem by God as “David son of Jesse a man after my own heart…” (Acts 13:22).
I recounted how David’s heart was open before God in Psalm 109 as he faced false accusations, so that God was able to give him the right perspective on his situation. I also related this Psalm to 2 Samuel 10, where David faced false accusations from the Ammonite nobles and David’s army was used to punish the Ammonites and Arameans for their evil intentions after they started a war with Israel over these lies.
The Arameans repented–meaning that they turned from those evil intentions and made peace with Israel, becoming subject to them. The Ammonites fled and did not make peace, though like the Arameans, they witnessed God’s goodness to David and should have been shamed.
We pick up the story in 2 Samuel 11, which is quite a scandal. If anyone had reason to believe David to be a scoundrel, they could point to this chapter of the Bible, which closes with the statement: “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
King David got cocky and lazy! He was doing well in battles. When spring came, he sent the army out after the Ammonites and stayed behind in Jerusalem. While the ark (holding God’s laws given to Moses) and the army, under Joab, were camping in the open fields, David enjoyed the luxury of his palace. That was the first temptation he gave in to, and it weakened his resolve against the next.
Perhaps he arose in the night because he was troubled by his own selfishness, but the cool night air did little to clear his head and put him back on track. He indulged himself even further, by plucking ripe fruit from someone else’s garden, so to speak. Not only did he commit adultery, but he had the audacity to involve one of his servants by sending him to retrieve the woman, Bathsheeba, when he saw her beautiful form from above. She did not refuse him, but how many women would have the courage to refuse the king?
David abused his position of power to indulge his sinful, fleshly desires with another man’s wife. God had set him up as one to lead by example, as a humble servant, though he was king. David had begun to think too much of himself and too little of his people. He also thought too little of God by not expecting there to be consequences for his actions.
It gets worse! David learns that Bathsheeba is pregnant, and her husband is at war under Joab. Bathsheeba can hardly accuse David, because it isn’t as if he raped her, and he is a powerful king. Yet if nothing is done, she will be guilty of adultery according to the law, with or without David’s guilt being made known. The lengths David goes to in order to try to cover up this whole affair are astounding for one who is considered to be “a man after God’s own heart.” No one can be sure whether he feared more for himself or for Bathsheeba and their baby.
Realizing that Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheeba’s husband, is out fighting his battles, David tries everything he can to get Uriah to sleep with his wife after calling him in from the battle field. He even gets him drunk, because Uriah is too concerned about the ark, the army and their commander and the conditions they face to allow himself to enjoy the comforts of home.
What a stark contrast to David in his palace! But even this statement from Uriah doesn’t shake David out of his sinful, deceptive state of mind. He ends up sending Uriah back to the battle field with instructions for Joab to have Uriah become a battle casualty. This Gentile (non-Israelite) man, who has pledged allegiance to David, and presumably to the God of Israel, was rewarded for his loyalty and integrity by being murdered so David could have his wife. Had he lived, Uriah could have prayed as David did in Psalm 109, with David as the one who betrayed friendship with hatred!
As the saying goes: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts [man] absolutely.”
Even God’s chosen ones are capable of grave sin when weakened by giving in to one fleshly desire after another. The first temptation may seem harmless, but the sinful deeds increase in depravity as one follows another. As the book of James states: “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
The death being spoken of by James, son of Mary and Joseph and the brother of Jesus, has both spiritual and physical realities. It was literally true in David’s case, as it led to death for Uriah, but as the story continues, so do the consequences.
At this point, you could make the conclusion that David was the Scoundrel rather than the Upright King and didn’t live up to God’s expectations for him. Don’t give up on him just yet. In Part 3, we’ll look at God’s ability to bring about His will in David’s life and then decide.
Trusting in His Sovereignty,