How good people do evil

2 Samuel 11

9 March 2008

Blenheim Free Church, Maidenhead

Morning service


King David was a good man: a really good man.

David loved God, and God loved him. He had a heart after God's own heartref. The Spirit of the Lord had come on him in powerref. The Lord was with himref.

And David became the standard against which other kings were always measured. For example, in 1 Kings chapter 15, Abijah's reign as king is evaluated.

He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been... For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord's commands all the days of his life — except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.ref.

And so we see that this incident in 2 Samuel chapter 11 is the one massive blot on David's character. And we need to ask ourselves, how does such a good man become a murderer? How does a good man become an adulterer? How does a good person end up doing evil in the eyes of the Lord?

We need to pay attention to the story of 1 Samuel 11. If King David could fall into serious sin, then not one of us can be complacent about the possibility of committing serious sin in our own lives.

How David became a murderer

Of course, David didn't start out intending to murder anybody. Presumably he hadn't planned to sin against God. What we find in this chapter is a kind of staircase of sin where one thing inevitably leads to another: down and down. Actually, it's more like an elevator: once David had got on, he just got carried further and further down into wickedness simply because he failed to jump out at any point.

So let's look at how good King David ended up an adulterer, and after that a murderer.

1. He neglected the Lord's work

First, David neglected the Lord's work.

The chapter begins, "In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David went out with Joab and all his men and the whole Israelite army."

No that's not what it says! Joab and the king's men and the whole army had gone to do the Lord's work, defending his kingdom and people. But the king had stayed at home, David remained in Jerusalem.ref

Perhaps he was tired; perhaps he felt they could cope well enough without him. But the fact is, he should have been there: that was his job. He should have been doing the Lord's work.

We find that he wasn't spending his time at home wisely either. Verse 2 says One evening — or late afternoon — David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.ref

What was he doing lying in bed all afternoon? That's a long siesta. We're not told he was ill or injured; it seems he was just being idle. By idly staying at home, David made himself an easy target for temptation.

2. He failed to flee temptation

If the first stop for David in the elevator of sin is neglecting to do the Lord's work, the second is failing to flee from temptation

After he gets up, idle David goes for a stroll on the palace roof, as you do. From here he spotted a woman washing herself. At this point David should have fled. He should have run for his life. David should have taken a leaf out of Joseph's book: when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him he ran so fast his cloak tore off.

But David doesn't flee. The third stop on the the elevator of sin is that he acted on temptation.

3. He acted on temptation

In verse 3 we read that David sent someone to find out aboutref this woman.

Finding that she was married do not trouble him. He sent for her anyway; he slept with her anyway. He knowingly and deliberately broke God's commandments.

In verse 4 there's a little irony and a warning for us. It says of Bathsheba in brackets She had purified herself from her uncleannessref. Her washing that David saw would have been her religious washing to make herself ritually pure after her period. So, outwardly, this woman is proper and religious and apparently clean. But inwardly her complicity in the adultery made her sordid and dirty.

There's a lesson here, isn't there? In the church outward respectability, outward religious activity can hide all sorts of nasty sin. The Bible calls this hypocrisy, and Jesus is scathing about it. There is no point at all in being religious and respectable on the outside if inside we are filthy with sin.

So David is at the third floor down in the elevator but he still doesn't jump out. He carries on down to the fourth, fifth and sixth as he tries to cover up his sin.

4. He tried to cover up his sin

Sin always has consequences, and in this case they were all too obvious: Bathsheba was pregnant. David was desperate to cover up his guilt, so he puts cover-up plan A into action [verses 7-11].

Plan A is summoning Uriah back from the front line, and telling him to go and sleep with his wife Bathsheba. The phrase Go down to your house and wash your feetref is a Bible euphemism for sure! Uriah knew what he meant. The point is, if David can raise the possibility that Uriah made Bathsheba pregnant then no questions will be asked.

Unfortunately for plan A, Uriah turns out to be the only person with integrity in the whole story. He refuses to go home and sleeps at the palace gate instead. He explains, The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!ref We are supposed to get the contrast between his and David's actions. David stays at home while Israel is at war; Uriah refuses to go home while Israel is at war.

So David puts cover-up plan B into action [verses 12-13]. This time he will get Uriah drunk. Surely he will lose his high moral standards after a few drinks. But no, unlike David, Uriah's standards remain intact and he once again refuses to go home.

Finally, David resorts to plan C: downright murder [verses 14-25]. He sends Uriah back to the battle and orders Joab to do the dirty deed. Uriah is to be hung out to dry. He is to be abandoned in the fiercest fighting to be killed.

And plan C worked. Uriah was killed. And we see that the cover-up was worse than the original sin itself. Sin was added to sin, murder to adultery.

As far as David was concerned, the cover-up was complete. But he had forgotten one thing, the same thing he's forgotten all chapter: God. And, in the last verse we hear God's devastating verdict. Literally: David has done evil in the sight of the Lord.

In the next chapter we find out the consequences. But in this chapter, what we've seen is how a good man came to do terrible evil. It started simply enough, but he soon found himself being carried inevitably from one level of sin to the next. He could have chosen to step out of the elevator of sin at any time, but he chose not to. It all happened so easily, so naturally, so inevitably. One sin just led to the next: and that's why we need to be alert all the time. As soon as we find ourselves in the elevator of sin we need to get out before it goes any further.

How to avoid sin

What can we learn from all of this about how to avoid sin in our own lives? Well, simply we can see what David did here and do the opposite.

Now, I'm going to be talking primarily about sexual sin and adultery in what follows, because that is the issue David faced here in 2 Samuel 11. But please don't switch off if you think it's not an issue you face. For whatever reason, adultery may not be your main temptation, but there will be some other temptation for sure. Maybe gambling, or drinking too much, or self-harm, or nursing a grudge against someone, or pornography, or theft, or lying, or pride and vanity in our hearts. Whatever temptations we face, we have things to learn from David's failure here.

So, I've got six quick things beginning with "F". Some are things to do, some are things not to do. Don't get them mixed up or we're all in trouble.


First, fight! Keep busy with the Lord's work. The Christian life is not a game but a war. It is when we are most comfortable that we are most vulnerable to sin. We need to be fighting on God's front line; and we need to be fighting sin in our lives.

David was doing neither of these things. And, like David, I am an easy target for temptation when I am away from the battle. For me, it is when I travel that I often neglect my Bible and my prayers. I step back from the from the front line. And that makes me more vulnerable to temptation.

And we are more vulnerable to temptation when we are idle. Casually surfing the Internet; lazily flipping channels on late-night television; just hanging around waiting for things to happen — as for David, these are times of extreme danger for us. Be on your guard for idle moments, and use them instead for the Lord's work. Keep up the fight.


Second, flee. The Apostle Paul warns us to Flee from sexual immorality.ref Some temptations are so strong, we're told simply to flee them. Get out of their presence!

Don't fantasise, don't flirt, don't fold

How do we flee temptation? In short, don't fantasise, don't flirt, and don't fold. That is: don't follow David; don't act on temptation.

Don't fantasise. Nurturing sexual fantasies about someone is not fleeing from sexual immorality. Obviously David was doing this when he sent to find out who Bathsheba was, and one thing led inevitably to another.

My colleagues think it very strange that I try not to join them constantly ogling girls. "You can look, but don't touch" is one of their justifications. But looking is not fleeing. Looking just fuels fantasy, and that just takes us down a level on the elevator to sin.

Don't flirt. Again, flirting seems harmless, but it's yet another level on our descent. We need to be ruthless about this. I was away in Japan last week, far from home, and one of my colleagues there was a very nice young lady who seemed to enjoy my company (or perhaps I flatter myself!). What harm could come of a little flirting? Well, perhaps a great deal once sin has got its claws into me.

By the grace of God I happened to be working on a sermon on resisting temptation (this one!), so I knew what to do: flee! I had to make a deliberate point of not becoming close. I had to make sure we didn't have the opportunity to talk alone together. To be very professional and remain on formal terms. Perhaps she felt I was unfriendly — I felt I was being unfriendly —, but, frankly, it is better than the alternatives. Some would say that this zero-tolerance approach to flirting is overzealous, but I know how easily one thing leads to another in the heart of a sinner.

Don't fantasise, don't flirt, and don't fold.

David just gave in: he folded. He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he carried on anyway. He should never have let it get this far. Fantasy leads to flirting leads to folding.

Adultery doesn't happen by accident: it starts with a look, a word, a touch and suddenly you are on the way to sin and it's harder and harder to get out. Better never to start. But if you do start, get out before you go too far: don't fantasise, don't flirt, and you won't fold.

Face up to your sin

The final advice I want us to learn from David's failure is, face up to your sin.

David compounded adultery with murder as he tried to cover up his sin. We may not end up murderers ourselves, but trying to hide our sin always makes things worse. There's nothing we can hide from God in any case.

So be in the habit of confessing your sin to God. Confess early and confess often. Always keep short accounts with God. If your sin needs putting right with others, then God will help you do it. Always face up to your sin.

So, six "F"s we can learn from David's failure, whatever our temptation is. Fight: keep busy with the Lord's work. Flee, which means, don't fantasise, don't flirt and don't fold. And face up to your sin: confess early and confess often.

A good man ended up doing terrible evil because he failed to do these things. He ended up riding the elevator of sin down to the bottom: he could have got out at any point; he shouldn't have got in in the first place.

If great King David could end up sinning like this, then we are fools if we think we are immune.


I just want to finish with two quick points.

First, in this sermon what I've given you is a recipe, a set of instructions, which is OK up to a point. But what we really need is not recipes but relationship.

The heart of sin is a failure to please God. David has forgotten in his heart that he loves God and that God loves him. He had forgotten that his reason for living is to please God and be pleased by him. That's why verse 27 is so devastating, the thing David had done displeased the Lord.ref

If you don't know God's love in your heart then no recipe or formula will help you. You will never be able to please him. If you are not confident that God loves you or that you love God, please don't try to follow a set of rules to avoid sin. It's never going to work. You can never, ever please God just by following some rules.

The second and final thing to say is, what happens if you have gone all the way, and ended up in serious sin?

How can sinners know God? How can we come back to him, whatever we've done? How can bad people be put right with an angry God?

Well, Psalm 51 is David's response when his sin is finally exposed by God. David pleads for forgiveness and cleansing, and finds it. I know you'll be looking at Psalm 51 after Easter, and I don't want to preempt it. But it is important to say that now matter how far we've gone down in the elevator of sin, forgiveness is available. The Lord can lift us up again.

Even in David's sin we find the seed of what eventually saves him.

In the New Testament, right at the beginning, in Matthew chapter 1, we find the ancestry of Jesus. Turn with me to Matthew chapter 1, verse 6, and we find something surprising: and Jesse [was] the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife.ref

Solomon wasn't the baby conceived in 2 Samuel 11 — that child died. But he was born later to David and Bathsheba, and he became an ancestor of our Lord.

That's the story of the Bible. Out of a sinful people came a sinless man. From a line of imperfect kings came a king who was finally perfect. Even the greatest earthly king, David, was guilty of horrible sin, but one of his descendants was to be perfect and sinless and guiltless.

But, as we know, that perfect man died a sinner's death, so that bad people like David and you and me might live. However much you've displeased God — however broken your relationship with him is — there's only one way to restore it. Trust that the death of Jesus has dealt with your sin, and make him your king once again.