2 SAMUEL 11:1-27
1In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4So David sent messengers to fetch her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. 5The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
6So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. 8Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” 11Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” 12Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, 13David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
14In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” 16As Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant warriors.17The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was killed as well. 18Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting; 19and he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling the king all the news about the fighting, 20then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21Who killed Abimelech son of Jerubbaal? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead too.’”
22So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. 23The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us, and came out against us in the field; but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. 24Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall; some of the king’s servants are dead; and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” 25David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another; press your attack on the city, and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”
26When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.
Better to be famous than to be infamous. David had both. Fame for his defeat of Goliath. Infamy for his adultery with Bathsheba and for the murder of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah.
David in many ways is lifted up as a hero for us to emulate. Certainly he possessed great traits. But he also possessed other traits that led to ruin. I've heard preachers teach on this passage which amounts to a warning that David should have been fighting with his men and not walking around on the roof of his palace looking for trouble. I've heard other preachers say something like, David noticed the nakedness of Bathsheba but his real problem began when he looked at her lustfully the second time. These are fair points to make. Perhaps David should have listened to some of this advice.
We tend to moralize when we read stories like this. Don't be like David! (when the story is bad). Be like David! (when the story is good). Bible stories certainly contain moral or spiritual lessons for the reader. But sometimes we miss out on what's going on when we moralize too quickly or easily.
If we read the story as if for the first time, we should note that the narrator tells the story without moralizing. It's pretty much a straight narrative. The bad acts of David are described in sufficient detail. David's public image takes a major hit. A remarkable characteristic of Biblical literature is its apparent lack of concern to protect the image of its "heroes." This characteristic is not shared with other religious writings of the time or of any time. Other "scriptures" always present their heroes in the most favorable light. Almost never will the reader be presented with a hero with flaws. The spiritual hero is presented as perfect, faultless.
Not so with the Biblical writers. They tell it like it was. So what's the point to these stories, if there is a "point"?
If there is a point, the point seems to be this: the only human beings the Lord works with are broken, sinful human beings with strengths and weaknesses. No plaster saint ever shows up in the Biblical narrative. Warts and all. The truth of course is that there is no such thing as a flawless, sinless, unbroken person in the Bible -- except Jesus. The clay of humanity is the only stuff that God can work with. Yes, the Lord has angels to work with. But we are not angels. Thankfully, we are not demons either. We, like David, are broken but getting healed, sinful yet forgiven, lustful but growing in holiness, deluded yet coming closer to the truth. God worked with David. God works with us. That is a good thing.
Let's pray: O Lord, thank you for loving us and working with us despite the sinfulness and weakness that we bring. Help us to walk in your righteousness and the grace of your love and mercy. Guard our hearts so that we do not sin against you and sin against others. Help us to enjoy the fullness of a sanctified life. In Jesus' name, amen.