“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus” Romans 6:23 (NIV)
King David had a lot of mighty warriors who did some amazing things. Most of 1 Chronicles 11 is dedicated to their feats of greatness. One killed 300 men with his spear in one encounter. A few risked their lives by sneaking past the Philistines camp in order to bring David some water. Another killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day (actually the title of a good book). One warrior killed a giant Egyptian. Their names are all listed: Zelek the Ammonite, Nahariai the Berothite, Ira the Ithrite, Uriah the Hittite, Zabad son of Ahlai… wait a minute. Uriah the Hittite, THE Uriah the Hittite from the story of David and Bathsheba? Yes, the very same.
To refresh your memory back in 2 Samuel 11, David noticed Bathsheba from his roof sunbathing, well actually just bathing. He brought her to him and slept with her even though she was married to someone else. Then he had her husband, Uriah killed on the front lines of battle so he could be with Bathsheba.
Let’s break it down in more detail. Uriah was one of David’s closest warriors, proven in battle and given a place of honor. This is probably why David was able to view Bathsheba from his palace, because Uriah had a close place of residence next to David. Uriah was not just a random solider in the army, he was more like the Secret Service of that day or part of a Special Operations unit that handled important tasks.
David noticed Bathsheba and asked for more information about her. They came back with the info, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (11:3). David had the opportunity at that moment to forget about her, to move on with his day, and not betray the trust of one of his closest warriors. But sin needed appeasement…
After David slept with Bathsheba, she became pregnant. The plot thickened. David not only committed adultery but now he felt he needed to cover it up. He couldn’t have an illegitimate child ruin everything for him right?
David needed to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba because in a day without DNA tests, who was to say it was Uriah’s vs. David’s. In nine months time Uriah would be excited about the new baby and no one could prove it was David’s, not even the servant that brought Bathsheba to him. The problem was that Uriah had been out with the army, not with his wife. David brought Uriah into his courts and David asked him “how Joab (the commander in chief of the army) was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going.” I’m sure this was awkward small talk as David was devising his master plan. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” David’s reference to footwashing was a suggestion that he receive gracious domestic hospitality (cf. Gen 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24) from his wife; implicitly it was an order to spend a night of marital intimacy with Bathsheba.¹
Uriah did not go home. He stayed at the entrance to the palace with David’s servants. Most likely not wanting to defile himself before God and stay fit for active duty in the military as the law instructed (Lev 15:18). This news reaches David that Uriah won’t go home. David rushes to the entrance of the palace and asks him, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?” Uriah responds “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in 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!” (2 Samuel 11:11).
You have to hand it to Uriah, he was loyal to his King, he honored his God’s laws and he resisted the temptation to sleep with his wife (I’m sure it was very great after being out on active duty). We have quite the contrast here with David who gave in to sin and temptation and Uriah who is resisting it.
David keeps Uriah in the city one more night, this time trying to get him drunk so he will go home and sleep with Bathsheba, but he passed out on his mat among the servants.
David, albeit stressed after the unsuccessful second night, sent word to Joab to put Uriah out in front where the fighting is the worst. He didn’t want to even take a chance that Uriah wouldn’t die so he commanded them to “withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die” (11:15). He sealed this letter and sent it with Uriah, unknowingly carrying his own death warrant. This must have been a questionable order for Joab, but he carried it out like a good soldier.
David betrayed his loyal warrior because he had the power and because sin rooted itself in such a way that he couldn’t be caught. He would lose his close ally over the chance at getting found out.
David then married Bathsheba and she bore him a son, but “the thing David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord” (11:27 NASB)
This toxic road of sin started with temptation and eventually covered lust, adultery, betrayal, and murder.
Nathan the prophet would speak for God and rebuke David. David and Bathsheba would lose their son as a result.
Sin does not hold back, sin gets what it wants at any cost. Sin can control our thoughts and actions if we let it. Our human nature is sinful. Only by correcting it with the transforming power of Jesus’ work on the cross and the Holy Spirit inside of us can we fight against it. It is important to note that no one is exempt from sin, not one has “made it” to the point where they won’t be tempted.
David was chosen by God, a man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14), and still, in a moment of weakness, started a course of actions that snowballed beyond what David even planned. Sin rarely gets exposed right away; too often we have to commit more sin just to cover it up. Sin, one way or another will be brought to the light as Luke 8:17 says “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out in the open.”
Here’s the good news. As egregious as this sin was for David, it didn’t define him or his future. It was a footnote in his story. Consider how 1 Kings 15:5 describes David, “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life- except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”
David stopped sin too late in this one instance, but he repented and learned from it. He repented in a way that changed his heart and never looked back.
Sin looks tempting, like it has life and joy for you, but the Bible tells us it ends in death. That road will destroy anything and everything that comes in its path. It will betray you and those around you.
Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance- take a minute to read it in light of this story.
If you have sinned or need to repent, make this your prayer like David did:
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” Psalm 51:10-12
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1- Robert D. Bergen, 1, 2 Samuel, vol. 7, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 365.