Throughout David’s life, he demonstrated some key attributes of following God – being chosen, trust, worship, obedience and repentance. This study looks at how, even though he wasn’t perfect, God loved his repentant heart. It is the sixth and final in a series for older teenagers, looking at the life of David – ‘a man after God’s own heart’.
Key Passages: 2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51
You will need: projector with speakers/screen and media clips, posters (optional)
- Have you ever been ‘caught out’ or snapped?
- What are your strategies for when you get snapped?
Share your own stories of getting caught out and how you responded in that situation.
Ask: How do you know if someone is truly sorry?
Large Group Teaching
The Bible never hides the failings of its greatest heroes. The stories are to warn readers that everyone, even someone has great and devoted to God as David, is vulnerable to sin.
The story of David & Bathsheba is a very difficult one to hear. Saul was the negative example of “how not to be a King” and David up until this point has been the textbook or ideal king.
David & Bathsheba
In previous chapters, Israel has been at war with the Ammonites, but they have not yet completely defeated them. As chapter 11 begins, David sends the army to finish off the Ammonites once and for all. They have retreated to a city named Rabbah, so David’s forces are besieging Rabbah.
David, however, does not travel to the front lines and instead stays home during the siege. One evening, David takes a walk on his roof (his palace is the highest building in Jerusalem) on night and just ‘happens’ to see Bathsheba bathing. He’s attracted to her and the scheming and the lies begin to roll. First he sends someone to find out more about who this beautiful woman is and a report is brought to him that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, a man who stood by King David in his toughest times, and the granddaughter of his most trusted counsellor. He sends his servants to bring her to the palace, and then he has sex with her. She quickly learns that she is pregnant and tells David.
Since Bathsheba is pregnant, the only way to hide the secret is for David to entice Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba immediately so that when the child is born everyone will think it belongs to Uriah. Since Uriah is off fighting the Ammonites, David summons him back to Jerusalem and encourages him to go to back to his house to rest and rejuvenate. Surely he will have sex with his wife when he goes home.
Instead, Uriah sleeps at the palace with the servants. So David gives him alcohol and gets him intoxicated, assuming that his drunken stupor will cause him to go to his house and sleep with his wife. Again, Uriah refuses to go home.
Why does Uriah refuse to go home? Robert Bergen writes: “Uriah’s refusal to have sexual contact with his wife at this time was clearly an expression of his devotion to the Lord: all sanctioned military activity was a form of service to the Lord, and it required the Lord’s blessing for success. In order to maximize the probability of receiving that blessing in military endeavors, David seems to have required soldiers carrying out military assignments to keep themselves in a state of ritual purity, which necessarily meant refraining from all sexual contact. If Uriah had had sexual relations with Bathsheba, he would have rendered himself temporarily unfit for military service and thus unfit for service to the Lord.”
Since Uriah refuses to sleep with Bathsheba, David concocts a new plan to murder Uriah, which will allow David to marry his widow. David sends a message, carried by Uriah, to his general, Joab. Joab is to mount a risky assault close to the walls of Rabbah, and make sure Uriah is part of the assault. When the soldiers come under attack, Joab is to withdraw the other soldiers so that Uriah is left alone and defenseless, to be killed by the enemy.
Joab does what David commands.
So David has now committed adultery and murder.
Upon hearing of Uriah’s death, Bathsheba mourns. After her mourning is over, she moves into the palace with David.
Even though David may have fooled everyone else, he did not fool God. Chapter 11 ends on an ominous note for David: “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
At the opening of chapter 12, the confrontation between God and David takes place through the prophet Nathan. Rather than accuse David of his sin, Nathan instead tells a story to incite David to accuse himself. Nathan tells the story of a rich man (he owns a large number of sheep and cattle) who steals the beloved lamb of a poor man (who owns no livestock except the lamb) in order to feed a traveller who has arrived at the rich man’s home.
Upon hearing the story, David exclaims, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” To which Nathan responds, “You are the man!”
Nathan then reveals the word of God that he received about David’s evil deeds. God reminds David that He gave him the throne of Israel, that He gave David everything that Saul had possessed, and that He was going to bless David even further. But David murdered Uriah and stole his wife from him.
The consequences that would follow are that David’s own household would suffer tremendously. His wives and concubines would be taken by a family member and this family member would publicly sleep with them.
In verse 13, David, unlike Saul, when confronted with his sin simply states, “I have sinned against the Lord.” There are no excuses, no elaborate rationalizations, only heartfelt repentance. Note that even though David sinned against Uriah, his primary offense is sinning against God. By breaking God’s commands in the Torah, David despised God Himself.
The penalty for adultery and murder, as prescribed by the Torah, is capital punishment. Would the Lord take David’s life? Nathan reassures David that his life would be spared, but the life of his son would be taken instead. God strikes the child with an illness and David prays and fasts that God will change his mind and show mercy to his son. On the child’s seventh day of life, he dies.
David and Bathsheba then conceive another child, and name him Solomon. Solomon is loved by God and given the Hebrew name Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord.”
If David is anointed by God, is a man after God’s heart, has been promised a dynasty, then how can we comprehend his heinous sins in chapter 11? Dale Ralph Davis, in 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity (Focus on the Bible Commentaries), puts it in perspective:
The unvarnished truth is that life for God’s people can be like that even in the supposed kingdom of God. That kingdom is not safe even in David’s hands. It is only safe when Jesus Christ rules and will rule with justice and righteousness. Yet until Jesus publicly enforces that just regime at his second coming, it will not be unusual for God’s people to suffer even within (what claims to be) the kingdom of God
- What was the most important thing in David’s life at this point in time?
b. Saving his own neck
d. Military victory
e. His reputation
- What was the worst thing David did?
a. Go AWOL
b. Commit adultery (7th commandment)
c. Involve his general Joab in his plot
d. Deceive Uriah (9th commandment)
e. Plot to kill Uriah (6th commandment)
f. Want his neighbours wife (10th commandment)
- What really happened to David, “the man after God’s own heart”?
a. His hormones overtook him
b. He felt like he didn’t need God anymore
c. His accomplishments made him over-confident
d. His morality gradually eroded
e. There is no explanation for his behaviour
So why did David stuff up so badly… when he had so much going for him? The beginning and ending of the story gives us our first clue:
“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David SENT Joab (his general) out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabhah. But David remained in Jerusalem.”
Kings in these times didn’t stay home, they led their armies. In previous chapters Israel has been at war with the Anmmonites, but they have not completely defeated them.
At the end of this sad story, Joab goads David to return to leading his army by threatening to take the glory for himself. This is where David was meant to be all along.
Read vv26-29 “Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites, and took the royal city. Joab sent messengers to David, and said, “I have fought against Rabbah; moreover, I have taken the water city. Now, then, gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it; or I myself will take the city, and it will be called by my name.” So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah, and fought against it and took it.”
David, like most of us, has a problem with POWER. His abuse of power lies at the root of his sin. He ‘sends’ Joab instead of going into battle himself
- He ‘sends’ his servants to do his dirty work for him by procuring Bathsheba (did she have any choice?)
- He ‘sends’ for Uriah to get himself out of a ‘tight corner’
- He ‘sends’ Uriah back into battle to his death
- He abuses rather than serving his people.
Absolute power corrupts. God, through his prophet Samuel, had warned the people of Israel when they first asked for a king, like the nations around them. “Kings are Takers, they will take your sons and your daughters, the best of your fields and vineyards, a tenth of your grain . . . and make them their own.” (1 Sam 8:11-18). David is acting like a king who feels he is entitled to whatever he wants
Large Group Media: PSALM 51
SMALL GROUP QUESTIONS
- How does David’s response to being “caught out” by Nathan compare with Saul’s response in similar situations? (See (1 Samuel 12:13 & Psalm 51; 1 Samuel 13: 11-12 & 1 Samuel 15: 13-26)
- What does God’s response to David tell us about God’s character?
- What does Psalm 51 tell us about God’s character?
- What does 1 John 1:9-10 tell us about being human and sin?
- What model does David give us for dealing with our own sin? (see Psalm 51)
- What do you have going on in your life right now that you know is creating distance between you and God? Write this on a piece of paper.
- Who can be ‘a Nathan’ in your life? Is there anyone you can trust to give you the ‘honest truth’?
- How do you respond when confronted with your sin: like Saul or like David? How so?
Large Group: Forgiveness
Watch Forgiveness by Toby Mac.
Through this story, we learn David’s real character. His response to the prophetic word in 12:13 is why David became known as Israel’s ideal king. Unlike Saul’s repentance in 1 Sam 15, David’s words, “I have sinned” are full of genuine remorse and sorrow. How do we know this? He makes no attempt to blame or dodge. As a king in ancient times, he didn’t have to confess – he has pretty much absolute power. In fact he could have simply killed Nathan and asked for anther prophet who had nicer things to say.
His God, Yahweh, characterized by love and compassion, is moved to forgive his remorseful servant. He therefore overrides his plan for judgement. The aftermath of David’s sin remains however, and the child will die and the sword will never leave David’s house.
Sin that has been forgiven and forgotten by God may still leave human scars.
Close with this confession from The New Zealand Prayer Book:
Happy are those whose sins are forgiven,
Whose wrongs are pardoned.
I will confess my sins to the LORD,
I will not conceal my wrongdoings.
God forgives and heals us.
We need your healing, merciful God:
give us true repentance.
Some sins are plain to us;
some escape us,
some we cannot face.
set us free to hear your word to us;
Set us free to serve you.
God forgives you.
Through Christ, God has put away your sin;
approach your God in peace.