David is an important man, so we should respect him. But he is an imperfect man, so we can relate to him. To this point in his biblical biography, David has been a model servant of God. He was obedient to the Lord at every turn, enthusiastically executing every command. But as Robert Bergen observes, “In this section David becomes for a moment a rebel against the Lord’s covenant, with devastating consequences.” The final and summary line of this chapter is understated and loaded with meaning: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”
The “thing” David had done was an act of adultery with the beautiful Bathsheba. It began with a look of lust from the rooftop of the palace. In my Dad’s sermon from this passage, he says, “David looked, he lusted, and he lunged into sin.” David abused his royal authority by having Bathsheba brought to him. We love to speculate on the woman’s motive and level of cooperation in the affair, but it is not revealed in Scripture, and is thus irrelevant. What matters is that David knowingly stepped over the very clear boundary of God’s Law.
Only God knows how David rationalized his sexual encounter with Bathsheba, but because I am an experienced sinner, I can guess: “I have sacrificed so much for God; I deserve to have a little fun.” “I have done so many things right, it won’t matter if I do this one thing wrong.” “It’s lonely at the top; God understands that a man needs companionship.” “No one will get hurt.” “I am the king; the rules don’t apply to me.”
When Bathsheba informed David that their affair had produced a pregnancy, his reaction shows how sin dismisses clear thinking and pollutes godly wisdom. He immediately jumped to the conclusion that covering up the sin was his best course of action. It is chilling to think that the brilliant, creative mind that gave us so many of the beautiful Psalms could concoct such a devious, ugly plan. Before it was done David had willfully violated half of the Ten Commandments (the second half, to be exact; see Exodus 20:13-17): murder, adultery, stealing, deceiving, and coveting his neighbor’s wife.
David had defeated his enemies of his nation on the battlefields of Canaan, but he had not defeated the enemy of sin on the battlefield of his heart. He was a master of the harp, the flock, the sling, and the pen — but he could not master his lust and selfishness. Although David would eventually repent, irreparable damage had been done.
Every time I read this chapter I am reminded of the power of sin and how I am powerless to overcome it on my own. I am reminded of just how desperately we need a Savior, and just how gracious God was in sending one. And I am reminded of the scandalous grace of the gospel, that God would not only send His Son to bear our sin, but that He would choose to send Him through “the house and lineage of David” (Luke 2:4): David the sinner — but David the friend of God.