By O. C. Birdwell, Jr.
David lamented the fall in battle of king Saul and his son Jonathan and taught Israel a lamentation which three times said, “How are the mighty fallen! ” (2 Sam. 1: 19,25,27). Later, speaking of the untimely death of Abner, he said, “Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” (2 Sam. 3:38).
These great and mighty men of Israel fell through physical death. That is not, however, the only way the mighty have fallen, or can fall. David himself is a good example of this, as we shall show, and he should serve as an example and warning to men of God in our generation.
An abbreviated account of David’s sins in the Bathsheba, Uriah affair is given as follows:
And it came to pass, at the return of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him. . . . But David tarried at Jerusalem . . . . David arose from his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon . . . . And David sent messengers, and took her: . . . And the woman conceived . . . . And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite . . . . And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet . . . . But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house . . . . And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him, and he made him drunk; and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house . . . . David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die (2 Sam. 11:1-21).
One might ask, “What in the world got into David to cause him to do what he did?” The answer could correctly be given in the words of Luke when he said, “And Satan entered into Judas” (Lk. 22:3). Satan seeks to influence and destroy. He will use his subtly to cause the fall of kings, apostles, elders, preachers, and all others who are not constantly on guard. Seemingly, with him, the greater and mightier, the better. No wonder Peter admonishes, “Be sober, be watchful” (1 Pet. 5:8).
Paul wrote, “Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come” (1 Cor. 10: 11). This statement might also serve to encourage us to learn a lesson from David’s sad and sordid affair. Since it is recorded, let us use it to help us avoid some of the problems in our society. The following are just a few instructions we may receive from this account.
(1) Anyone can fall. A young, good to look upon, eighth son of Jesse the Bethlehemite was searched out by Samuel. When David was found, Jehovah said unto Samuel, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” He was anointed, and “the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward” (I Sam. 16). When David faced Goliath his attitude was, “for the battle is Jehovah’s and he will give you into our hands” (I Sam. 17:47). Due to his success against the Philestines, David became an honored hero in Israel. The woman sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). He became king over all Israel and successfully led Israel against her enemies. Then, at the height of his glory, and pinnacle of his power, and at a time when he may have felt he could do no wrong, he sinned against God and man. “How are the mighty fallen!” If one so great could fall into so obvious a sin, surely no one today is exempt from the possibility. Paul gave us some pointed warning that should be heeded when he said, “Be not high minded, but fear” (Rom. 11:20), and “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
(2) One needs to stay busy with his work and family duties. The following is said of David:
And it came to pass, at the return of the year, 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 children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried at Jerusalem (2 Sam. 11:11).
Does this statement indicate that David was not where he should have been? Many feel that it does, and that his sin was, at least in part, caused by his failure to be busy at his work. In times past he would have been with his army. He now tarries at Jerusalem. The kingdom has been stabilized and fortified. Responsibilities are delegated to others. In the evening David sleeps and walks on the roof. He has time to let his eyes rove and his mind wonder. This is the ideal time and place for Satan to do his work.
Christians need to avoid idleness, and be busy doing the right things. One of the requirements for being a “good minister of Christ Jesus” is to “exercise thyself unto godliness” (1 Tim. 5:6,7). This means that we are to not only preach godliness, but are also to put it into practice in our own lives. Just recently, in South Carolina, a Baptist preacher was convicted of assault with a baseball bat, and sentenced to three years in prison. A rather lengthy list of names might be made of gospel preachers, elders, deacons, and other members of the church, who in the past few years have been guilty of shady and sinful business dealing, stealing, fornication, and other forms of immorality. This can be avoided if Christians will exercise themselves unto godliness. Be busy at study, teaching others, worship, and be ready unto every good work.
Preacher brother, if you are married, give attention to your wife and her needs and desires. Spend much time with your children and maybe your grandchildren. You are charged to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. If you entertain the idea that to be a preacher and do the Lord’s bidding you must neglect your wife and children, you are sadly mistaken. In fact, through such neglect you disqualify yourself from serving as an elder or deacon, and also from being an effective evangelist. Who wants to hear a preacher who neglects his family and cannot get along with his wife? Through family neglect and failure to be busy in spiritual and secular work, one puts himself into a position where he may be more easily enticed to sin. Such, it seems, was the case with David.
(3) Man cannot successfully cover his sins. Obviously, David’s servants and guards must have known about his sin. If Uriah did not know, he would have, had he been permitted to live. Joab knew about the death plan for Uriah. It is near impossible to cover sins from our associates, friends, and neighbors. There is no way sin can be hidden from God. More than anyone else, David should have known this. During his period of success and greatness, could he have just overlooked this fact? Or, is it possible that because of his prosperity and position he thought that both man and God would overlook his sin and not take it into account?
it is disturbing that in our society so many people in high position and with great authority and power readily violate the laws of our land and the laws of God. It disturbs still more that in the church there are respected and highly regarded brethren who will engage in immoral acts, try to cover them up, and become rather indignant when the sin is uncovered. Friend, be sure that your sin will be revealed. God knows even if no one else does. Remember too, that one’s position or greatness will have no influence on God’s judgment.
(4) Consequences of sin are real and will remain. Seemingly, some people who have good eyes are not able to see beyond the end of the nose, and cannot think beyond the present in order to weigh the consequences of their actions. Especially is this so when it comes to their own lusts and camal desires. Esau thought he was about to die from hunger and, for a mess of pottage, sold his birthright to Jacob. The Israelites cried, “give us a king,” and until it was too late, completely disregarded the consequences of having a king. Judas, who loved money, betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver, giving no thought to the consequences of so vile a deed. Why can we not learn a lesson from David and all these other Biblical examples? Let us awake and take warning. Sin, unrepented of, will bring eternal condemnation. Sin, even when there is repentance with many tears, will.often bring dire consequences to our lives. David said, “I have sinned against Jehovah.” Nathan responded, “Jehovah also hath put away thy sin.” David was forgiven. Yet, he suffered many consequences. He said, “My wounds are loathsome and corrupt, because of my foolishness,” and “my sorrow is continually before me” (Ps. 38:5,17). God told David that the sword would never pass from his house and from his own house evil would be raised up against him.
There is a concluding point and lesson we need to learn from David. When his sin was vividly pictured unto him by Nathan, he responded by saying, “I have sinned.” He said that one who would be so guilty was worthy of death. By God’s grace, however, he was permitted to live and was able to render useful service for God and his people.
Christians today who succumb to camal desire and worldly lust should repent and confess their sins as did David. God will forgive. Their brethren should also forgive and help restore them to a useful place in the Lord’s service. Surely a faithful preacher or elder should not forever be placed on the shelf because he has made a mistake from which he-has turned with sorrow and a contrite heart.
My friend in Christ, do all you can to avoid sin. If sin is committed, however, repent of it and make all possible correction. Then, do not live in the past. Start from where you are to again render faithful and diligent service for God.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 1, pp. 21-22
January 5, 1984