There is nothing quite so devious as moral impurity. But there is also nothing quite so predictable.
Our great Enemy knows that he doesn’t have to be creative with immorality. The bait is so strong that it just needs to be placed within our reach.
If we do not immediately apply God’s remedy, we will be ensnared. Sweet for a moment, the end results are always excruciating.
David’s Great Failure
There was no one like David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Perhaps the story of David’s failure is included in Scripture to remind us that no one is immune to moral temptation and its possibilities. Even the most godly can fail if unguarded.
In all that is recorded of David’s 40-year reign as a spiritual king in Israel, just four short verses chronicle his greatest fall:
Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house (2 Samuel 11:1-4 NASB).
Paying Attention to the Verbs
An important set of actions describes David’s progression into sin. These verbs show us David’s defeat and forever give us insight into what we must do to avoid moral failure.
1. David STAYED in Jerusalem (v. 1).
David should have been in battle with his army. Instead, he shirked his responsibilities, perhaps thinking that he had now risen to a place of such importance that he was above these tasks.
Idleness gives the devil his greatest avenue for moral temptation. Satan doesn’t care how long it takes to get you; he just wants to catch you. He often comes in the most unguarded moments.
WINNING THE BATTLE: Give yourself fully and continually to the tasks God has before you. Resist random idleness. Even in moments of rest, give yourself to the pursuit of God’s will.
2. David AROSE from his bed and WALKED around on the roof (v. 2).
There was nothing inherently wrong with this action, which reminds us that the Enemy can present temptation at the most innocent of times. We must not assume that temptation is not lurking at the door at any moment.
WINNING THE BATTLE: Be always aware that sin can present itself when you least expect it.
3. David SAW a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance (v. 2).
The gate that opens the door to immorality is almost always the eyes. “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes,” a wiser David would later say in Psalm 101:3. “It shall not fasten its grip on me.”
This is not hard to understand. Evaluate your struggle with lust, and you will find this predictably true.
An image or a person can come within your line of sight. This is called “temptation,” and temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted in all ways just like us, yet He did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).
There was nothing wrong with Bathsheba taking a bath. There was nothing wrong with David innocently seeing her (although, if he had been at war he would not have seen her).
But there was something drastically wrong with David not being willing to avert his eyes, to turn and walk away. God’s consistent instruction to us when we are confronted is summed up in one word: FLEE! (See 2 Timothy 2:22.)
When my sons were coming to an age when temptations took on new meanings, I taught them the little trick I’d learned in ROTC military training in college. When the military leaders would say “Eyes right!” or “Eyes left!” on a battlefield march, you snapped your eyes in that direction.
This was a choice you made to obey the commander. To this day, my sons and I employ that practice when moral temptation comes into our view.
WINNING THE BATTLE: Don’t go places that you know will provide visual temptation. And when presented with moral temptation, instantly avert your eyes.
4. David SENT and INQUIRED about the woman (v. 3).
David then made a deliberate choice to pursue sin. Gone was the innocence.
David might have rationalized this moment. “I’m just going to search the Internet … browse the television … walk by her desk at the office.”
We are no longer innocent when we take the next curious step. This step is described in the foolish man in Proverbs 7:
… passing through the street near her corner; and he takes the way to her house. In the twilight, in the evening, in the middle of the night and in the darkness (vv. 8-9).
WINNING THE BATTLE: Realize that when you take a deliberate next step, you are headed to almost certain failure. Resist the next curious step and the casual closeness to temptation.
5. David SENT messengers and TOOK her, and when she came to him, he LAY with her (v. 4).
Here was the killing blow. Now determined to sin, David deliberately pursued his immorality. The end was inevitable.
Almost no man or woman can turn away when they have taken multiple steps toward their sin. To pursue immorality is to commit immorality. Jesus is clear about this:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
WINNING THE BATTLE: Even if you have not consummated your immorality, you have already committed the sin if you take steps to pursue. Heart sin is the issue before God. He knows that the consummation is sure to follow.
Each time we read the account of David’s sin, we want to scream at him to flee. We know the end of the story, and it’s not pretty. David’s sin had great consequences for himself, his friends, his family, and the entire nation.
Immorality takes you farther than you want to go and requires a price higher than you want to pay.
But be encouraged. You can win this battle! Millions have, by consistently applying God’s remedies. In heaven one day, you will be grateful forever after that you resisted moral temptation.
Our overcoming God, help us. Make us wise regarding immorality. Keep us vigilant. Help us master the tools that defeat this deadly temptation. And give us “running grace”! Help us to not put ourselves in vulnerable positions, and give us the power to flee at temptation’s slightest presence.