Read: 2 Samuel 11:1-27
In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott wrote those words in Marmion, an epic poem published in 1808 that depicts a story of lust, lies, betrayal, and treason – not unlike the story we read in 2 Samuel 11. We’ve been reading about David’s heroic actions on the battlefield and that he was a man after God’s own heart. Yet, in today’s scripture, we see him weaving a big, ugly, tangled web that results in the murder of an honorable man. How did David get to that place?
In the very first verse we read that typically, at this time of year, David would be out on the battlefield with his men, but for some unknown reason David stayed behind at the palace. Maybe he was tired and just needed a rest. Maybe all the battles and the myriad of responsibilities that come with being king had left David drained, and a little burnt out. We do know that he was laying around in bed during the day because in verse 2 the text tells us that David got up from his bed in the evening to walk around the palace roof. That’s where he spies beautiful Bathsheba, and so begins the weaving of the web that leaves a man dead, a marriage broken, soldiers killed, and David responsible for it all.
The Matthew Henry Commentary on this chapter says, “The beginnings of sin are therefore to be dreaded; for who knows where they will end?” So where did the sin begin? I think the sin was born when David decided to stay at the palace when he should have been with his men on the battlefield. Somewhere, Satan was allowed a foothold in David’s heart – whether through burn out, fatigue, pride, discouragement – we’ll never know – and it caused him to make a decision to stay home. And that one bad decision began a chain of bad decisions that led David to a place that I’m sure he never thought he’d be.
It’s easy to read this chapter and reflect on it as just a story about David and Bathsheba. But it really should be a warning to all of us. The horrible thing that David did began with a seemingly harmless decision. But it was one that reflected the fact that something in his heart was not right. He was disobedient to God’s call on his life – disregarding his duty as king. That little disobedience gave his enemy just enough leverage for a bigger disobedience that led to an even bigger disobedience, and so on.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” When our hearts are not right with God, they become hardened to God leaving sin to easily gain a foothold. Matthew Henry’s Commentary says, “See how fleshly lusts war against the soul, and what devastations they make in that war; how they blink the eyes, harden the heart, sear the conscience, and deprive men of all sense of honour and justice.” Scary stuff, right?
When I’m tired or discouraged, that’s often the time I make a bad decision. It may seem really small at the time, like it doesn’t really matter, but I’m sure David never thought his decision to stay at home would have such devastating consequences. It reminds me of the old Lays potato chip ad – “You can’t eat just one.” You open the bag thinking you’ll have a chip or two and sooner than you can say “oops!”, you’ve eaten the whole bag. Oops.
May the Lord give us eyes to see when we’re at “the beginnings of sin” so we can quickly and wisely turn towards Him and leave the web weaving to others. For our prayer, let’s meditate on Psalm 139:23-24.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Amen