Have you ever thought about the fact that the biggest giant David ever faced was not on the battlefield but actually the one in the mirror? In an idle, unguarded moment, the “man after God’s own heart” left his spiritual mindset to pursue “forbidden fruit”–if but for a fleeting moment. That’s all it took. The luster of his kingdom would be forever tarnished. David’s biographers have used different phrases to describe the consequences of the king’s fatal attraction to Bathsheba:
- Charles Gulston observes, “he fell a great distance.”
- F.B. Meyer considered it “the sin of his life.”
- Chuck Swindoll called it “the most distressing episode in David’s life.”
David was about 50 years old and had been king for approximately two decades when he fell. This king, poet, musician and warrior possessed many godly characteristics, but on the horizon of his life lurked a little fox poised to ruin the vine: “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. ... But David remained in Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 11:1, NIV).
Seems strange, doesn’t it? That at “the time when kings go off to war,” David “remained in Jerusalem.” Had he taken a closer look in the mirror, David may have seen that he made two catastrophic mistakes that set him up for his fall:
Mistake No. 1: He pulled back from the battle.
Mistake No. 2: He traded challenge for comfort.
Rising from his bed and walking around on the roof of his palace that fateful night, this time the king wasn’t meditating on God’s Word, as was his frequent practice: “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises” (Ps. 119:148). No, this night was different. David was different.
What was going through his mind? Was David’s masculinity in question? Was he wrestling with getting older? Was he regretting that there were few enemies left to conquer? Maybe he just did not feel like worshiping God.
The consequences of this sin of David’s were astounding and worth remembering:
- David was rebuked to his face by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam. 12:1-14).
- David’s relationship with God was apparently shallowed(2 Sam. 12:15-23). He seemed to lose much of his “heart for God.”
- David’s son, Amnon, became a rapistand his daughter, Tamar, one of his son’s victims (2 Sam. 13:10-15). His sin affected and horridly infected his family (Num. 14:18).
- David apparently became yet another disinterested fatherand Absalom, his son, a murderer (2 Sam. 13:23-29).
- Absalom turned on his indifferent father and sought to steal his throne and destroy him (2 Sam. 15).
- David fled his throne in fear for his life (2 Sam. 15:13-37).
- Absalom was tragically killed (2 Sam. 18:1-18).
- David’s son, Solomon, multiplied his father’s sexual sins.
- You and I can’t look in David’s mirror today as leaders, but we can look closer into our own.
The 19th-century Scottish pastor and Bible character biographer, Alexander Whyte, offers this challenge:
“When you become a man in the books you read, and in the matters of your own heart; and especially in the superlative deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of your own heart, you will stop all your childish exclamations over David, and will say to yourself, I myself am David; I myself am that self-deceiving man. ...
“Self, that utterly ungodly, diabolical, inhuman, inconceivably wicked, and detestable thing that was so strong in David and is so strong in you and in me. He who watches the workings of self in his own mind and heart, he will not be (prone) to throw a stone at David. He will not be surprised at anything he reads about David or any other man.”
God, keep us as leaders looking honestly into our own mirrors and passionately toward Your face.
Robert Crosby is an author, speaker and team development specialist. He serves as professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University and is a columnist at Patheos.com. Crosby writes for Christianity Today and several other publications. He has a new book coming out this fall called The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration.
For a limited time, we are extending our celebration of our 40th anniversary. As a special offer, subscribe to Ministry Today magazine and receive 50% OFF our normal discounted rate!