by Ann Sullivan
(Editor’s note: This is the 9th post in a series through Hebrews 11 called “In the Shadow of the Cloud.” We will be exploring what we can learn from those mentioned in this clouds of witnesses section.)
The fact that God should choose such a person to wear the mantel “A man after my own heart” should in some ways bring us comfort. In other ways, however, it should probably make us a little nervous.
On the one hand, if David could commit such blunders and still land on the “faith hall of fame” list in Hebrews 11, maybe there’s hope for us. On the other hand, if the second king of Israel wasn’t immune to such epic failure, maybe we’re not either.
In 2 Samuel 11, when the king should have been occupied with more productive endeavors, like leading his army in battle, he was at home and in bed. One night, unable to sleep, he strolled along the rooftop of the palace and spotted a lovely woman bathing.
No one would fault David for the admiration he had for her beauty or for the thoughts that popped into his head. It’s what he did with those images that became the problem. Not only did he send for Bathsheba and commit adultery with her, but when she wound up pregnant, he attempted to cover his tracks by having her husband Uriah, David’s own soldier, killed on the front line.
David’s fall is epic, but what’s really staggering was his inability to acknowledge and deal with his sin. He was a follower of God and a leader of men! Yet, so efficiently had he rationalized and compartmentalized his behavior that by the time the prophet Nathan confronted him, he was in complete denial. What problem?
Good and evil cannot comfortably coexist in the life of a believer. David, who committed some serious sins—adultery and murder—grew increasingly uncomfortable…and that’s a good thing. The problem is when we don’t see the problem and we overlook its painful warning signs.
Before he confessed his sin, David’s oppression increased:“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Ps. 32:3–4).
As spiritual beings, we’ve been given tremendous sensitivity to good and evil. As that sensitivity increases, so too does our accountability (James 4:17). Consequently, the impact of a believer’s disobedience can become so powerful in our spirit that it spills over into our bodies and minds.
David’s pain was evidence of a conscience still sensitive to conviction. And while his suffering was at times debilitating, his situation was never hopeless. In Psalm 51, David cries out to God and says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (Ps. 51:7-8).
God answered David’s prayer for forgiveness, although the repercussions of his failure followed him throughout his life. The dysfunction his sin created had far-reaching implications in both his public and private life. His story is preserved for us to learn from as we too face choices in life.
Sin doesn’t ‘need’ to happen. In fact, scripture teaches us that we’ll be given plenty of opportunity to choose correctly when confronted with temptation:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13)
But when we do fail, David reminds us where forgiveness is found. The heroes of Hebrews 11 weren’t perfect, but their weakness was turned to strength, by God’s grace, and they were commended for their faith.
Warts and all, that’s how their names landed in the great hall of faith. And that’s how ours can land there, too.
Ann Sullivan is an author, speaker, and freelance writer who works extensively in leadership with women’s groups across the country. She’s currently developing curriculum for her new book, Permission to Doubt (Kregel) to challenge and encourage people as they face a new generation of progressive ideas. Learn more at www.annsullivansimpletruths.com.