2 Samuel 11
Why is Bathsheba so Attractive to Older Men?
Now turn with me, if you would, in your
Bibles to 2 Samuel 11, and hear now the word of God.
2 Samuel 11
Our Father in heaven, many of us here have read this chapter many, many times, and we still find it hard to believe, that the prince, your servant David, could sin in this way. That the one who wrote ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,’ could be guilty of so profligate and terrible a sin. And even as we begin to think such things, the finger begins to point at our own hearts, and so we pray this evening, minister to us we pray, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
Why is Bathsheba so attractive to older men? It's a title, you understand. I have to have titles. But indeed our sermon, our study, is about the sin of adultery, adultery that takes place in marriages, in Christian marriages. Ligon preached a sermon on this theme not long ago in the seventh commandment. This could be a painful few moments for some of you, and perhaps, for many of us. Divorce has occurred because of this sin. I don't wish in any way to open up old wounds, you must believe me on that, but it is impossible for me to be faithful to our subject and indeed to this chapter, without in some way, for some of you, dredging up memories that you would far sooner have buried.
I've been reading books again. Let me give you some of the titles, Everyman's Battle, Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time, by Fred Stoker and Stephen Atterburn, I commend that one to you. Pure Desire, that's a tautology in this context, How to Battle Sexual Sin and Win, by Ted Roberts. Another, Living with Your Husband's Secret War, by Marcia Means, published by Baker Book House. Torn Asunder, by Dave Carter, Moody Press. And the one that I think I like the best, Elisabeth Elliot's Passion and Purity. Old fashioned as Elisabeth Elliot is, but I love her all the same. After reading all of that I felt as if I needed to be cleansed, to be honest. Because I was brought to bear on some facts and statistics about the evangelical church that I wish I had not known. I had suspected it but I hadn't been immersed in it quite to the degree that I have been the last few days.
I have to say to you that the best book on this subject is the Bible, and the best counselor is our wonderful counselor, Jesus Christ. Before we look at this passage, I have two texts that I want us to keep in our heads. One is Ephesians 5:3, and let me read it to you from the New International Translation, “But among you there must not even be a hint of immorality.” There must not be a hint of immorality. What a standard. What a standard for the gospel church that text is. And the other one is also familiar to you, Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully at a girl.” Let me make three points, and then a word of application. I warn you ahead that when I come to the end of the third point, I'm not finished. There's an application to come.
Sin rarely just happens.
In answer to the question, “Why is Bathsheba so Attractive to Older Men?” let me suggest, firstly, because we fail to see that sins like this one rarely just happen. How can things like this happen, you ask yourself, as we read 2 Samuel 11 again. And let me say, they rarely just happen, because the seeds of this sin that David committed had already been sown.
We often fall into temptation because we have secretly, sometimes consciously, but not always subconsciously, sown the seeds for that sin to occur. The desire has been there, the only that has been missing is the opportunity.
One female Christian counselor that I was reading this week wrote, “I did not know the depths that men would go and the risks that they would take to satisfy their desires. I was unaware of how intense these temptations are, and how much defense a man must muster to avoid stepping over God's boundaries.
Did you notice the verb in these opening verses of 2 Samuel 11? All words are important in Scripture, but verbs are crucially important in trying to understand what is going on. In verses 2, 3 and 4 there are three particular verbs. He saw, he sent for, and he slept with, or lay with. What happened?
What happened to David here is explained for us in the morphology of temptation that James gives to us in his opening chapter, which we will get to on Sunday mornings. James 1, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by sin and when that that sin has conceived it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death.” There is a progress, there is morphology, there is a format in which sin takes place, and it begins in the mind. He saw, he sent for, and he slept with.
Short term gratification filled David's vision and he made the fatal mistake of not asking how long this would last and where it would lead, any more than a fish wonders whether there's a hook inside of the bait. Sin is deceitful, it always is, and that's why McCheyne reminds us again and again that “the seeds of every known sin lie within each one of our hearts.” Why is Bathsheba so attractive to older men? Because we fail to see that sin rarely just happens.
II. We try to make sin less than
Let me answer that along a second line and take that a little further. Why is Bathsheba so attractive to older men? Because we rationalize sin by making it a appear as something less. I'm always certain that David played games here, convinced himself, initially perhaps, that he was above this sin; convinced himself that he could play certain games here and go all the way. David gave in to the pitfall of self pity about the loneliness about being at the top, about the loneliness of leadership. There's a warning here, by the way, to those in leadership, a terrible terrible warning. Let me speak to those in leadership, let me speak to elders here, let me speak to deacons, let me speak to ministers, youth leaders, that sometimes we can do, as I suspect David did here, yield to the temptation of the loneliness of leadership. This was all part of the royal prerogative, I think David said to himself initially. It wasn't until chapter 12, it wasn't until Nathan, the prophet of God, came to David and said to him, “You are the man,” that David realized that he had offended God. True repentance only begins when we pass from what the Bible calls self deception, what modern counselors now call “denial,” true repentance only comes when we pass from denial into acknowledgement, and conviction.
Let me give you another text to roll about in your heads for a minute. I Timothy 5:2, “Treat younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” Isn't that a high standard? Isn't that an astonishingly high standard, “absolute purity.” Purity, it's a good translation. The phrase is literally, all purity, exclusive purity; we're called to live like that. What a civilization we live in, you and I. Vogue magazine, you understand I could have alluded to something much worse than Vogue, but Vogue magazine, one of the world's top fashion journals, published in French and English. I was reading a review of one of their magazines in the London Times. There is scarcely a word or an image in the three hundred page French Vogue extravaganza, that hasn't to do with sex. How worldy, how narrow a view of God's creation that is, how crippling that is, how limiting that is, how tempting that is, causing a restlessness that nothing can satisfy. How impure that is. We are called to live in absolute purity in our culture.
Now all Christian fathers and mothers are committed to the ideal of absolute purity. David had rationalized his sin. David, as soon as he had seen that girl, and I think long time before that girl ever decided to take a bath on the rooftop of that house, and by the way, one of the men here has been complaining to me that I've been too hard on the men; you know, it often takes two. I have no idea what Bathsheba was doing taking a bath on the rooftop of her house within full view of the palace, but let me pass that by for a minute. All Christian fathers and mothers are committed to the principle of absolute purity for their sons and daughters, yes, for their sons and daughters. The Welsh singer, Tom Jones, and Caris Matthews, they sing that song, “Baby it's cold outside.” Don't tell me you know this song. It's a song in which the man is trying to persuade the woman not to go home, to stay just a little bit longer. And she is producing counter arguments as to why she needs to go home. But, baby it's cold outside, he keeps saying. And one of the pleas that she utters is, “My father is waiting at the door.” But, baby it's cold outside. All of you fathers and mothers, with regard to your daughters can relate to that song, the concern that you have when your young people go out on a date. You sit up anxiously, waiting for that key to turn in the latch of your front door, and you aren't restful until that happens. You know exactly that tension. I trust you feel like that not only about your daughters but I trust you feel like that about your sons, too. Absolute, absolute purity.
Do you know what adultery is like? John Piper, in a sermon, called something like “Ten Marks of Sexual Purity,” in that sermon somewhere he has a line that goes something like this: “Adultery is like casting the Lord Jesus Christ in the title role an X-rated movie.” That's what adultery is like. And David in this chapter had long since abandoned any notions of purity.
III. Sin triumphs when we neglect
Why is Bathsheba so attractive to older men? Let me suggest a third reason. Because of the neglect of spiritual disciplines. David's life had been full of strife and battle, but for a decade now, in the context of 2 Samuel 11, that battle has long since ceased. It's a time of war; the chapter begins in the opening verse, with spring time. You didn't go to war in the winter time; the ground wouldn't be conducive to war. You went in the spring time, and David sends his men. But he stayed at Jerusalem, we read in the end of verse 1.
Let me suggest a few things here that the author of 2 Samuel 11 is suggesting for us, as to the cause of this sin. It was a time of neglected duty. He had left off doing the things he ought to have been doing, and David sends Joab into battle, but he himself remains in Jerusalem. It was a time of dampened zeal. I think you get an inkling of that when David speaks to Uriah in verses 8 through 11. This is after the fact now, and David is trying to get Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, whom he's brought back from battle, he's trying to get Uriah to sleep with his wife in order that the pregnancy which has already ensued be that of Uriah, in the eyes of the world. This was a long way away before genetics and modern testing. This is Old Testament times. And Uriah comes across in these verses as a man of immense integrity. As a man who's loyal to the king, as a man who's loyal to his men, as a man who's loyal to his country, as a man who's loyal to his mother and apple pie. And every line of description about the loyalty and integrity of Uriah seems to put a knife in David's back. It's hard to read this and understand that this is the man who wrote the 23d Psalm. The zeal for the things of God seems to have evaporated from David at this point in his life. David has left off nourishing spiritual affections, and he had no energy to resist the temptation when it comes. All that David needed was the opportunity to present itself.
Lest we fail to see what this chapter is all about, there is an indictment upon David in the closing verse of this chapter, that is like a bell is tolling. “The thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.” It's as though God is saying about His son David, as David would say about his own son, Absalom, “Oh Absalom, Absalom, my son.” It's as though God is saying about David here, “Oh David, David, My son, David, what have you done?”
Now let me make a word of application. And let me suggest the possibility, that here in First Presbyterian Church, that this is exactly the area of your temptation. Let me suggest the possibility to some of you men. I'm going to say a word to the ladies on some other occasion. Let me just take this opportunity to speak to the men. We looked at an aspect of fallen feminity in Proverbs 5 just a few weeks ago, but let me speak to you men, the possibility that this is precisely where you are today. That you have so left off feeding your spiritual affections for God, and all that you need is for the opportunity to present itself. You are walking on thin ice.
There's an interesting theory, and for a long time I believed it, that the one group of people who are not allowed to talk about sexual matters are the ministers of the church in the pulpit. I believed that for a long time, that it was inappropriate, it was in bad taste, and you have no idea how difficult it is preaching these sermons. But I've long since believed that the very place for these things to be said, and to be said openly and candidly, is in the Church of Jesus Christ.
There's an interesting event recorded in the life of Jesus. He's sitting, teaching a crowd of people in the courts of the temple, at dawn, and a crowd of Pharisees and religious teachers come into the meeting. And they’re dragging a woman, full of fear and shame, and her clothes are disarrayed, and they say, “We've caught this woman in the act of adultery. Moses in the Law says that she ought to be stoned. Now what do You say?”
It was a trap, of course, you understand that. They weren't interested in the fate of the woman; they wanted something to discredit Jesus. If He had said, “Go ahead and stone her,” He would have appeared as harsh and merciless. And if He had said, “Moses was wrong,” then He was undermining the truth of the Scriptures and the seriousness of sin. It was a plot. And you remember what Jesus said, “Let the man who is without sin cast the first stone.” And He looked down to the ground and wrote on the sand, and the next time He looked up, the only person standing there was this woman.
I want to ask you, would you have been right, would you have been right to pick up a stone and throw it at her? Are you perfectly pure in act, and thought, and word, any man here? All of us here are a bunch of sinners in this very area, in some way or another, in thought, if not in deed. You see, those evil men did two things that were wrong. Two mistakes. They came to Jesus to tray Him, and they went away from Jesus, the only One who could minister to them and speak a word of forgiveness and mercy.
It would be all to possible to be legalistic here, but I want to speak a word, surely a word of warning, and 2 Samuel ought to make us quake in our boots, “Lord, spare me this particular sin.” I have a friend, a good friend, known to many of you, a preacher approaching 60, and he says to me, often, when I speak to him, “You know, I had all these lofty ambitions and goals when I was young, but now my prayer is only this, ‘Lord, let me pass the finishing line without committing a major sin.’ That's all my prayer now.” But some of you have already fallen in this area and born some of the consequence and ramifications, which I cannot possibly go into here in this particular sermon.
But let me just speak a word here, because the astonishing thing to me, is not that David could commit that sin, yes, that is astonishing. How in the world could he do it? But looking into our own hearts, remembering some of the thoughts that we have had, brings us close to the answer as to why David could do this thing. No, no, the astonishing thing is that there was usefulness for David after this. The astonishing thing is that there is forgiveness with God through the deep valley of contrition and repentance that follows in chapter 12, painful, painful, painful as that valley is to walk, clutching in the arms that are embraced from our Lord Jesus Christ, to sinners who have committed this very sin. “Come unto Me,” Jesus says, “all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest….And take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Our only hope today is that God has sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to show mercy.
But there's a warning here. Oh, what a warning it is. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall.” You know, on the way to church, I was listening to the news on the radio, and one of the rescued miners was giving a word of testimony. I almost choked up. He was saying, “You know, the one thing that went through his mind in those hours of darkness, 250 feet below ground, thinking, as the sound of that drill had stopped, and thinking that was indeed going to be hid end, he asked his boss, to whom he was tethered for a pen, in order that he might a note to his wife, because he had left for work that morning without kissing her goodbye.” That choked me up, because he realized that he could have died, bearing, perhaps, the wrong attitude to the one that he loved the most.
And that's my motivation here in this sermon, of building solid, loving, biblical marriages, and we can't do that without realizing the enormous temptation that faces us, and the grace and power that is to be found in Jesus Christ. Let's pray together.
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