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In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent the whole Israelite army out to fight some of the enemies who were still around. But David didn’t go. He stayed home.
One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw one of his neighbors, a woman, taking a bath.
Back then the only place to get water was as it was collected on the roof or down by the river, so there wasn’t much privacy. And the Bible says that David shouldn’t have even been home. So in all likelihood, David saw his neighbor immodestly dressed because he wasn’t where he was supposed to be. He’s about to make a terrible and tragic sinful choice because when you aren’t where you’re supposed to be, doing what God wants you to do, then it leads to trouble, trouble, trouble.
David thought she looked like someone he wanted to know, so he sent a servant to find out about her. Her name was Bathsheba.
Now David had many wives and God was fine with that for David. But what David was about to do was very wrong and is putting him in big trouble with God… because the other thing David found out was that Bathsheba was already married to his neighbor, Uriah. Uriah was David’s neighbor and a very brave and loyal soldier in God’s army. He was one of David’s Mighty Men!
As you know, God was very clear that one of His 10 rules was: Don’t take your neighbor’s wife. David clearly knew this rule, and he clearly knew Bathsheba was already married, but he invited her to his palace anyway. David obviously just wanted what he wanted and was choosing to ignore what God thought about it.
After meeting Bathsheba, David liked her so much, that he took her as if she was his own wife. David thought he could be sneaky and that Uriah wouldn’t find out about it since Uriah was off at war with the rest of the army.
But as time went on, it became clear that Uriah was going to find out about what happened, so David tried to hide his sin and cover it up.
When his covering up wasn’t working, David ordered his army commander to put Uriah into the middle of a fierce battle so that he would be killed. (Do you remember one of God’s other rules about this? Yes, that’s right. Don’t murder. Even though David didn’t physically kill Uriah himself, he still murdered Uriah because he purposefully ordered Uriah into a situation where he would be killed by the enemy. What David did was terrible!)
Once Uriah was killed, David kept Uriah’s wife for himself to be one of his wives, and Bathsheba had a baby.
As I’m sure you know by now, God was not happy with David. What do you think God did about this? Do you think God just ignored this rule-breaking selfishness of David’s? No. God loved David so much, that He wouldn’t let David get away with this sin. He was going to discipline David to help get David back on track.
God sent Nathan, one of God’s prophets at that time, to go talk to David.
“Hi David, I have something to tell you about,” Nathan said. “There was a very rich man who had lots of wonderful sheep of his own. But his neighbor was poor and only had one little lamb that he cared for and loved so much. The poor man’s little lamb was very precious to him. But one day, a visitor came to the rich man’s house and was hungry, so the rich man snatched the little lamb from the poor man, killed it, and gave it to his visitor to eat for dinner. The rich man had many, many sheep already but he took someone else’s sheep for himself.”
When David heard the story, he was furious. “Who has done such a terrible thing? I will punish him severely. Who, who, who is that man?!” David asked Nathan.
Nathan answered him, “David, YOU are that man. This is what God says to you: ‘I anointed you king over Israel. I kept you safe from Saul. I gave you many wives. I gave you all the people of Israel and Judah. And if all that would have been too little, I would have given you even more and more and more. Why did you hate the Lord by doing evil? You murdered Uriah and took his wife for yourself. Because you murdered Uriah with the sword of the enemy, a sword will always be in your house. Out of your own household I’m going to bring disaster on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to someone who is close to you. You did your sin in secret, but this is going to happen in broad daylight before all the people.’”
David knew Nathan was right. “I have sinned against the Lord,” David admitted.
I’m sure David felt many things when Nathan scolded him. I’m sure he hurt inside because he knew he had offended God. I’m sure he felt a little embarrassed. But I also wonder if he could have felt safe. Let me explain why I wonder that.
When you try to hide sin (although please, please never try to hide sin), it feels awful. Really awful. At least at first. The more you hide sin, the more your conscience gets burned like with a hot iron. When you burn your skin on something really hot, like an iron, that part of your skin sort of “dies” and doesn’t feel pain anymore. Can you see that you would not want your conscience to become “burned”? Yeah… and God didn’t want that to happen to David either. So God sent someone, Nathan, to tell David the truth about his sin.
Do you see how that could make you feel safe and loved? To know that God and other people love you so much that they wouldn’t just let you keep going down a bad road without getting corrected. Nathan’s strong scolding was really Nathan and God loving David. True love is a safe place, even when it hurts.
David even wrote a song about it. He said the discipline reminded him of that soothing oil that had been poured onto his head many years before. He sang,
“Let a righteous man correct me and discipline me — What a kindness! What loyal love! Oh, let him scold me — that is precious oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. Ohhhh, pour it on! Pour it on! It’s a kindness!”
If you don’t know what oil feels like, maybe you can ask an adult to let you feel oil between your fingers or on your skin. Try it. Think about it and see if you think discipline feels the same way… because David thought it did. Soft, soothing, smooth, warm and calming… God’s soft touch on him. God’s gentle kindness being poured from above, bringing comfort and strength.
So when Nathan corrected David, David didn’t try to defend himself or make it seem “not so bad.” He didn’t say, “You can’t question me because I’m God’s anointed king.” No, David was just honest and said, “I have sinned.”
Nathan went on to tell David, “God has forgiven you. You won’t die. But the baby you and Bathsheba had is going to die because by this evil deed you have given a great opportunity to the enemies of the Lord to mock God, so the son that is born to you will certainly die.”
Oh, this discipline from God hurt very much. David cried and cried asking God to let the baby live. But David and Bathsheba were not allowed to keep the baby because of David’s sin, so God took the baby to live with Him.
After the child died, David got up and washed his face and went straight to worship God. He was thankful for God’s training. He knew the discipline was a chance for him to come back close to God, where he most wanted to be!
Here is a song he sang…
“Have mercy on me, O God, because of Your loyal love. Because of Your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts. Wash away my wrong, Cleanse me of my sin. For I am forever aware of my sin. Against You — above all — I have done wrong; I’ve done what is evil. So You are just and fair when You scold me; You’re right when You punish me. But, wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Grant me the highest joy of being forgiven. Create for me a pure heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not reject me. Do not take Your Holy Spirit away from me. Let me again experience the joy of Your deliverance. Support me by giving me the desire to obey. Then I will teach rebels Your merciful ways, and sinners will turn to You. Save me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me. Then my tongue will shout for joy because of Your righteousness. O Lord, give me the words. Then my mouth will praise You. Certainly You do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it; You do not desire a burnt sacrifice. The sacrifice You want is for me to be humble — O God, a humble and repentant heart You will not reject. Because You favor Zion, do what is good for her. Fortify the walls of Your city.”
After this, David took good care of Bathsheba and together they had four more sons. One of them, David named Nathan.
Another was named Solomon, and you’ll hear more about him, soon.