When winter ended, and the springtime weather moved in, the wars between nations naturally resumed. Unlike today, when the commander-in-chief typically stays at his palace or office in safety, the kings of the day led their troops to battle.
But this year was different. This year, David sent the armies to war, but he himself stayed at home in Jerusalem. Why? It is possible that it was because he was about 50 years old, and figured that the fighting should be left to the younger mighty men. It is possible that he wanted to enjoy the pleasures of his hard-won riches. It is possible that he just didn't feel like risking his life yet again. It is possible that he felt that he'd done his time, paid his dues, and it was finally time to relax.
The key here is that the Bible doesn't tell us why. So his motivation isn't the factor, the key point is the fact that he didn't go to battle, and that's when he fell into the most terrible sin of his life.
We are told in Scripture about another battle that we are to fight.
1Tim. 1:18-19 ...fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience...
The good fight of faith. We are all called to this battle, being told to keep faith and a good conscience. When we refuse to go off to battle, we are in terrible danger. Oh, not from the enemy, but from ourselves. Not from the advancing armies of opposition, but from the terrible tests of temptation. Had David gone to the battle, the Lord would have preserved him in the war. But because he stayed home, he left himself to battle against his own desires.
David got out of bed and was walking up on the roof. This isn't as dangerous as it sounds. In Jerusalem, most of the roofs are flat. They use their roofs like we use our backyard decks. Rooftop gardens, quiet places to sit and enjoy the cooler temperatures of the evening, and a nice place for fellowship are all common uses for the flat rooftop.
But while up on his roof, David saw something: a woman bathing in a nearby house. She was strikingly beautiful.
At this point, David had a choice. He could have chosen to look away and go back downstairs, or to continue looking. This is the choice that determines whether temptation turns to sin. You see, being tempted is not a sin. We cannot help but be tempted by the world around us. A beautiful woman, a handsome man, a powerful sports car, or a wallet full of cash can all be temptations to us. Believe it or not, Jesus was tempted frequently. He was tempted to take the easy way out. He was tempted to eat during his fast. He was tempted to put God's angels to the test. The writer of Hebrews said,
Hebr. 4:15 ...We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
Temptation is not the sin. It is what you do with that temptation. James wrote,
James 1:14-15 ...Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Temptations happen. They're not from God, they're from the lust of our flesh. Temptation springs up out of nowhere as a hunger, a drive, a desire, an emotion. That is natural, and happens to every human being. But when it happens, you can either take it captive, or let it take you captive. If you don't capture it, it will capture you. It will carry you away and entice you. And at that point, your lust will conceive. Your temptation will give birth to sin.
This is what happened to David. He didn't take his eyes captive, but continued to look. He didn't take his thoughts captive, but began to fantasize. And his lust is about to conceive.
David's next step into sin was to act on his temptation. He asked around, and found out from someone that it was Uriah's wife, Bathsheba. Now Uriah was one of David's mightiest of the mighty men - the premiere fighters in the army (2Samuel 23:39). And David knew that he was off at war - Bathsheba was alone.
Look at the progression we're seeing. A little compromise: "Oh, I won't go to battle this time. I'll stay home and take it easy." Really, a small thing. Who's going to even notice? It's not that big a deal.
A second look on the roof. "Come on, guys do this all the time. It's harmless fun. It's just a Playboy magazine, it's just a rated-R video. The rule is 'look, but don't touch,' right?"
An inquiry. "What harm could there be in finding out a woman's name? It's simple curiosity about the neighbors, that's all."
You can compromise with the smallest things. The video you rented had the two main characters fall into bed without first being married. The romance novel you're reading has a hero that makes your husband look like a big loser. The sit-com you viewed made light of homosexuality. The soap opera you watch frequently has people scheming, gossipping, and committing adultery.
Those little compromises that you make will add up to major sins very quickly.
And now David's own sin has spread to another. His sin has infected someone else, and will reach even further.
The sin of a believer committing adultery with someone else is singled out in Scripture as being exceptionally wicked. Paul told the Corinthians,
1Cor. 6:15-20 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO WILL BECOME ONE FLESH." But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
David's lust had defiled himself and Bathsheba. Now, we're going to see who else it affected.
When it turned out that Bathsheba had become pregnant by David, he decided to summon her husband Uriah from the front lines under the guise of having him report how the Israelites were faring in the battle. After listening to him, David sent him home, assuming that this soldier who had been gone from home for some time, would have sexual relations with his wife. David figured that when Bathsheba's pregnancy became known, Uriah and everyone else would assume that it was the product of her relations with her husband.
But what David didn't count on was Uriah's character. Instead of enjoying the pleasures of his own home, he slept at the door of David's house where the servant's slept. When asked about it, he told David that it would have been wrong for him to enjoy the comforts of home while his comrades were at war in the field.
The next night, David got him drunk, but Uriah still did not go home. David is coming to the realization that his easy plan was not going to succeed.
David sent orders to his commander Yo-AWB via Uriah. What Uriah did not know was that he was carrying his own death warrant. Since David couldn't get Uriah to sleep with his wife, he figured that his only other option was to kill him. And that is exactly what happened.
When Yo-AWB sent the messenger to David to report the defeat, he wanted it clarified to the king that he had only been following orders. He figured that David would get upset about Yo-AWB's strategy - after all, it's not entirely wise to get near to city walls. Remember what happened to Ab-ee-MEL-ek, the son of Yer-oob-BEH-sheth in Judges 9?
Judg. 9:50-53 Then Ab-ee-MEL-ek went to Tay-BATES, and he camped against Tay-BATES and captured it. But there was a strong tower in the center of the city, and all the men and women with all the leaders of the city fled there and shut themselves in; and they went up on the roof of the tower. So Ab-ee-MEL-ek came to the tower and fought against it, and approached the entrance of the tower to burn it with fire. But a certain woman threw an upper millstone on Ab-ee-MEL-ek's head, crushing his skull.
They had learned from experience not to approach a walled city or tower without protection. Yo-AWB wanted it clarified that the only reason he did this was because of David's command that Uriah be killed.
David married the woman, but that didn't erase the sin. What he had done was evil in the sight of God. Now I know some pastors that will perform marriages for couples that are living together, justifying their action by saying, "Well, at least I'm helping them out of their sin of immorality." But the fact is, this doesn't erase the problem. A couple that is in sexual fornication before they are married are going to remain just as sinful. The sin will just crop up in different ways. Ladies, why would you marry a man that slept with you before you were married? Don't you realize that his lack of godliness, righteousness, and self-control will just manifest in other ways after marriage? David married Bathsheba, but the sin was still evil in sight of God.
The Lord sent Nathan to David to let him know that his sin had not been covered up in the sight of God. But first, the Lord wanted Nathan to expose David's hypocrisy. The king was so willing for the man in Nathan's story to be killed, but was completely blind to his own sin, which was similar, yet worse. This reminds us of what Jesus taught,
Matt. 7:1-5 "Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."
So many of us are so ready to condemn sinners, yet are blind to our own sin. We pray for mercy for ourselves, but demand justice and judgment for others.
Although David's sin was forgiven, and it was not a "sin unto death," he would still live with the repercussions of this sin for the rest of his life.
The first and most immediate result was that the child born to Bathsheba would die.
Nathan had told David clearly that the child would die. But David knew that in the past, God had heeded Moses' intercession on behalf of Israel, and relented from killing them all. Knowing this, David fasted.
Fasting is something that I find most Christians either know nothing about, or have no experience in. We haven't discussed it much in our Old Testament studies, because this is only the fourth time it has been mentioned in the Bible. But it does show up nearly 60 times in Scripture, so now may be a good time to examine and explain it.
Very simply, fasting is going for a period of time without food. Most people know that. As a matter of fact, we get our word "breakfast" from the fact that it is the meal that "breaks your fast" of the evening.
Where it gets difficult to define is trying to explain the purpose and result of fasting. What we should do is break fasting down into the various purposes it serves. We'll look at just one example for each purpose.
In Judges 20, the Israelites fasted all day before inquiring of the Lord as to whether they should go to battle. They were either cleansing themselves and denying their flesh, that they might hear clearly from God.
In 1Samuel 31, when King Saul was killed, the men of Jabesh-gilead buried his bones and then fasted seven days. They fasted out of their sorrow.
Here in 2Samuel 12, David is fasting in hopes that God will change His mind about killing his child, appealing to his grace.
When Elijah prophesied against King Ahab for his wickedness in 1Kings 21, Ahab fasted. He did this to humble himself before the Lord.
Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah in 2Chronicles 20. This was to turn their attention and seek the Lord.
The Jews sought God's intervention on their behalf in the book of Esther by fasting for three days before Esther appealed to the king.
So fasting has many purposes. Humbling yourself, mourning over loss, or sorrow for sin. Seeking God's direction, mercy, or favor.
Now, Jesus added this teaching to the concept of fasting:
Matt. 6:16-18 "And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you."
Maybe you think that fasting isn't for today, but Jesus said it was. He said of his followers,
Luke 5:35 "But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days."
Jesus has been physically gone for the last 2,000 years. We should be fasting. But unfortunately, it has all but disappeared. The early church fasted:
Acts 13:2-3 And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Acts 14:23 ...they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting...
If you need to hear from God, deny your flesh, confess your sin, or humble yourself, fasting is a valuable tool.
When David knew that the child was dead, he washed, worshiped the Lord, and ate. Two things I notice about this passage. Number one is that he worshiped the Lord. Does that amaze you? Where is your walk with Him today? Do you have confidence that you could suffer such a terrible thing and then worship? Could you say like Job,
Job 13:15 "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him..."
David knew that God's judgments are righteous and true.
David also explains to his servants why he so abruptly ended his fasting. He said of the dead child,
2Sam. 12:23 "...I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."
David's confidence that he would go to the child gives a possible answer to the question regarding what happens if a child dies. Do they go to heaven?
There is a doctrine that is called "the age of accountability." That is, we recognize that until a certain point in their development, a child is not able to comprehend the gospel and be personally accountable for it. We infer this because of what David said, as well as Paul's statement in Romans:
Rom. 7:9-11 And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me.
This reads like it is possible that before Paul was old enough to be accountable to God, he was alive apart from the Law.
I should also tell you that there are two schools of thought regarding the age of accountability. One states that all children are exempt from the wages of sin until old enough to obey the gospel. The other is that a child's salvation is completely dependent on their parent's relationship with the Lord until they are old enough. This second line of reasoning is based on 1Corinthians 7.
1Cor. 7:13-14 And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, let her not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.
Even if a child has only one believing parent, they are holy. Whichever line of thinking you adhere to, if you are a Christian with younger children, you can rest assured that they will go to heaven if they die before they reach the age of accountability.
After the death of this child, Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon. Solomon had a special place in the Lord's heart, and He sent Nathan to give him another name: "Jedidiah," which means, "beloved of Jehovah." Solomon is, of course, the one who will become the next king over Israel.
After a long and difficult battle, Yo-AWB finally conquered the Ammonites' city of Rab-BAW. He sent for David to come and lead the final invasion force, so that he could have the victory, as he would have if he had gone to battle himself.