Sister to Sister: That Night of Adultery…So Stealthily it Comes and Goes

o-ADULTERY-facebook-3What was about to happen to David and Bathsheba in II Samuel 11 is very “Hollywood-ish”. In fact, Hollywood or Broadway would have had a heyday with Bathsheba’s bath time. It has everything that makes for the “R” rating (nudity, passion, adultery, and pregnancy by the wrong man) and yet they truly were “in love.” Lines like “The passion was bigger than both of them,” or “They just could not fight the feeling any more,” or “David had spent his lifetime running from Saul. He refused to run from his own desires,” would have been the trailer captions if Hollywood were doing the story.  But the Holy Spirit handles sin much differently than does Hollywood.

David had been called by God  the “man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). There were times when he surely had been given the chance to kill his arch enemy, King Saul, but he so deeply respected God and His anointed, that he could  not smite the King (1 Samuel 23:14-24:22; 26). He had shown bravery, wisdom and kindness on multiple occasions. When it came to women, however, David surely thought he knew better than God. So many men (and women) today can handle most any temptation except the sexual one.

In Deuteronomy 17:16-20, God had, interestingly and prophetically regulated the throne of Israel, even before they had asked for a king. Notice this regulation:

But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’  Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.  “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.

But David had taken lots of wives and concubines, already (II Samuel 5:13). Certainly David’s copy of the law was not arresting his attention that night as he looked down from the palace roof and saw the beautiful Bathsheba as she bathed. The king for which the people had clamored to “ “go out before us and fight our battles” (I Samuel  8:20) was home during the battle and up on the palace rooftop looking at a beautiful woman as she bathed. This combination of failures was to be the huge blot on the record of David. This is the night that became his undoing in many successive and pivotal ventures. Lust, adultery, deceit, betrayal, making accomplices of subordinates, and murder followed each other in rapid succession in David’s mind, will and actions. His bedchamber must have turned into a dark, sleepless and torturous room of guilt, rationalization and plotting.  In fact, Scripture tells us in retrospect that the Bathsheba incident was the one time that David turned from following the commands of the Lord (I Kings 15:5). He should have had all of his defenses in place. But on that night, when his armies were succeeding, his personal, spiritual battle was lost as he looked from the roof and saw Bathsheba bathing.

It was a huge departure. How many times in later life must David have wished his distance vision had not been quite so good? Maybe he wished his spiritual distance vision had been a bit better!  How many times did he later wish he’d been out on the battle lines that night with his men as their active commander-in-chief? Sometimes large regret is born when we are in the wrong place, even for a short time.  Two people were in the wrong place on this particular evening.

Defenses are important. Prevention of opportunity…denial of tempting places and situations IS the best defense against adultery. David could have asked the question Joseph asked “…thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). But he didn’t take the time to ponder the impending damage to the one to  whom Bathsheba belonged, that the message he was about to send was wicked, that its intended result was great wickedness, and that His sin would also be against the God who had faithfully delivered him on numerous occasions.  One night, one bath, one leisurely rooftop stroll , one message, one response, one tryst…all likely occurring in just a few hours…and the pain of Psalm 51 tells the rest of the story:

 

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment. (vs. 3-4)

Sister to Sister: What?! Your Sister Yelled at You at the Family Christmas?!

Unknown-3As I try to put together some lessons we can pack away from the December Digging Deep study, I’m taking a long look at I Samuel 17, particularly the part where David took so much “mouth” off of his older brother, Eliab. There was young David, doing nothing more than the wishes of their aged father. He was actually there in the Valley of Elah, in the first place, to take provisions to the brothers he loved. They were the ones who were off at the army camp with all the men of war while David had been left behind to do the ordinary…the same old thing he’d been doing all of his life…just tending the sheep. It must have been at least a monotony break for David as he traveled to the battle lines to take bread, cheese and corn to his brothers and their commander. He must have been excited as he neared the camp. Leaving the carriage with its keeper, he ran on foot into the army that was already advancing and greeted his brothers.   I’m sure he wanted to see his brothers and he genuinely had concern, along with their father, for their welfare as he saluted them bearing the gifts that, perhaps, he’d even helped prepare for them.

But, as the army prepared to do battle, he heard the shout of the giant Goliath, taunting the Israelites, defying their God and striking fear in the hearts of their men of war. David began to inquire of the men around him. “Who is this man…this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

But Eliab, David’s brother, who was not even a part of the conversation, overheard his inquiry and injected his own brand of angry taunting into the conversation:

And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle (vs. 28).

I don’t know what fueled this outburst from Eliab against the younger brother who had gone the distance to bring him comfort and provisions. Perhaps he was tired. Maybe he was jealous.  After all, young David had already been anointed, in front of his brothers, as the next king of Israel. Whatever it was, we see some pretty hurtful attitudes in Eliab.

We see, first, that he was mad. It hurts, you know, when someone you’ve loved all of your life lashes out in anger at you. Sometimes it’s someone who does it over and over again. Eliab was full of wrath.

Second, we see a condescending spirit. “With whom did you leave those few sheep?” In 2015, the words might be “Don’t you have something better to do?” or “Who do you think you are?” or “Who asked you?”

Thirdly, we see some pretty stout (and false) accusations. Pride and evil have done a lot of damage in many a relationship, but they were not on the radar at this point in the life of David. He was simply doing what his father had asked and, in the process, he came upon a situation in which he was conscience-driven to defend the living God. It was the kind of righteousness that irked Eliab and so he came unglued and unleashed unfair criticism in anger at David, his brother and God’s anointed.

It occurs to me that there’s probably someone reading who has encountered the wrath of some family member during the recent holiday season. In fact, this kind of family problem comes to my inbox more often than I’d prefer, and it seems it comes most frequently while I’m taking down my Christmas tree. That’s because lots of families have come together during a busy (and sometimes stressful) time of year.  But it’s simply very hurtful when a family member exhibits a short fuse, particularly with no just cause.   It takes courage and valor to continue doing the right thing when it’s a family member who is dishing out the criticism of righteousness. But it happens all too frequently.

What’s more important than assessing the criticism of Eliab is noticing the response of David. This man after God’s own heart gives us a sterling portrait of the reaction of the godly in the face of family persecution. Here it is:

  1. He recognized his own innocence (verse 29).
  2. He remembered to look at the big picture. There was a cause (verse 29) that was bigger than the present controversy.
  3. He persisted in his pursuit to defeat evil (verse 30).
  4. He did not shrink back from gently defending his position of faith (verse 33).
  5. He had confidence in his choice to do the will of God (verses 34-37).
  6. He trusted in God above all else (verse 37).
  7. He took on the enemy of God without fear (verses 38-49).
  8. He took action in the name of the Lord (verse 45).
  9. He gave the glory for victory to God (verse 46).
  10. He was set on the spread of the news of the power of Jehovah (verses 46, 47).

In short, David just went right on doing the right thing in spite of the harsh and unjust criticism. He proved that God’s way prevails, in the end, every time.

Now, have you had a problem with a family member berating you or lashing out in anger at you without just cause? I know some of you have because you’ve shared the sorrow with me.  May I suggest that you determine to be like David?  Examine your purpose and be sure your actions are aligned with the Will of God.  Then remember the cause for which we live and be sure your reaction is to confidently and humbly carry out the will of the Father. There may be a bit of hurt in your world between the criticism of a family member and the fall of the Goliaths in your spiritual battle. But God will claim the victory in the end.