“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” —II Tim. 3:16
There appears to be a natural hesitation on the part of some Bible teachers and commentators to deal objectively with the Scriptural record of the failings of great men of God. Indeed, many Bible expositors lean over backward to excuse, or explain away, at least in part, the sins of great saints. Yet the Bible records these sins with factual exactness, adding no light tones to the black hues of moral and spiritual guilt. This is for our good, for these sad incidents too were recorded “for our admonition” (I Cor. 10:11). John Kitto, in his Daily Bible Illustrations, brings this out in his comments on II Samuel 11 and 12:
“It was while the army was engaged in these distant operations that David fell into those deep sins, which have left a dark blot upon his name, that all his tears have not been able to expunge from the view of man, nor all his griefs to make man forget. It is indeed profitable that they should be held in remembrance, in their causes and results, that the sad fall of so distinguished a saint—a man so near to God—may teach us not to be high-minded, but fear.
“The facts are so well known to every reader that it will suffice to indicate them very briefly.
“David, when walking upon the roof of his palace, after having risen from his afternoon rest, obtained a view of a beautiful woman, of whom he became most passionately enamoured. Her name was Bath-sheba, and she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who, notwithstanding his Canaanitish origin, was one of the king’s most distinguished officers, and a member of the illustrious band of ‘worthies.’
“After gratifying his criminal passion, and finding that it would not be possible much longer to conceal a fact which would expose Bath-sheba to the death-punishment of an adulteress, David did not shrink from sending orders to Joab so to expose her valiant husband in battle as to ensure his destruction by the sword of the Ammonites. Joab obeyed this order to the letter, and Uriah perished. Bathsheba was then free, and David barely suffered the days of her mourning to pass (probably a month) before he added her to the number of his wives.
“Here is adultery; here is murder. O, David, David, how art thou fallen! To our minds, there is nothing in all that man has written so terribly emphatic as the quiet sentence which the historian inserts at the end of his account of these sad transactions.
“His high displeasure was made known to David by the prophet Nathan, in a parable of touching beauty, applied to the case with a degree of force, which at once brought conviction home to the heart of a man not hardened in guilt by a course of less heinous and unrepented sin, but who had plunged headlong into one great and complicated crime. The awful words—‘THOU ART THE MAN,’ at once brought David to his knees. He confessed his guilt. He deplored it with many tears. He was pardoned; and God hid not his face from him for ever. But seeing that this deed, in a man so honoured, had ‘given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme,’ it became necessary that God should vindicate His own righteousness, by testifying, in the punishment of His servant, His abhorrence of that servant’s sin.
“The sentence pronounced upon him—‘Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house,’ furnishes the key to David’s future history and career, which was as unprosperous and troubled, as the earlier part of his reign had been happy and successful. There was in all things a great change—even in the man himself. Broken in spirit by the consciousness of how deeply he had sinned against God and against man; humbled in the eyes of his subjects, and his influence with them weakened by the knowledge of his crimes; and even his authority in his own household, and his claim to the reverence of his sons, relaxed by his loss of character—David appears henceforth a much altered man. He is as one who goes down to the grave mourning. His active history is past—henceforth he is passive merely. All that was high, and firm, and noble in his character, goes out of view—and all that is weak, and low, and wayward, comes out in strong relief.
“Of the infirmities of his temper and character, there may have been previous indications, but they were but dimly discernible through the splendour of his worthier qualities; now that splendour has waxed pale—the most fine gold has grown dim, and the spots have become broad and distinct. The balance of his character is broken. Still he is pious—but even his piety takes an altered aspect. It is no longer buoyant, exulting, triumphant, glad; it is repressed, humble, patient, contrite, suffering.
“His trust in the Lord is not less than it had been, and that trust sustains him, and still gives dignity to his character and sentiments. But even that trust is different. He is still a son—but he is no longer a Joseph, rejoicing in his father’s love, and delighting in the coat of many colours which that love has cast upon him; but rather a Reuben, pardoned, pitied, and forgiven, yet not unpunished, by the father whose honor he has defiled. Alas for him! The bird which once rose to heights unattained before by mortal wing, filling the air with its joyful songs, now lies with maimed wing upon the ground, pouring forth its doleful cries to God.
“The change we have indicated furnishes the key to David’s subsequent career, and unless it be borne in mind, the incidents of that career will not be thoroughly understood.”
In the above passage Mr. Kitto shows his usual keen insight into the Word of God. In examining the Scriptural record of David’s life, it is disappointing indeed to see his “sword arm” weakened so that he can no longer mete out pure justice or discomfit the enemies of righteousness as before.
We live in a day when this sad account serves as a much-needed warning that a moral fall, even when moral falls are so prevalent, enfeebles, debilitates and embarrasses its victim for the remainder of his life.