The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson.
All the good qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in His hands.
More than this—as all the lessons of Bible history teach—it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his own strength, he is sure to fall.
So my dear friend criticism is safer than praise. Thank God for the negative stuff people spread about you, and thank Him in humility when people appreciate you.
Man is contending with foes who are stronger than he. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in high places.” Ephesians 6:12, margin.
It is impossible for us in our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The tenor of the Bible is to inculcate, instil distrust of human power and to encourage trust in divine power.
It was the spirit of self-confidence and self-exaltation that prepared the way for my fall. Flattery and the subtle allurements of power and luxury were not without effect upon me. My intercourse with surrounding nations also exerted an influence for evil on me.
According to the customs prevailing among Eastern rulers, crimes not to be tolerated in subjects were uncondemned and tolerated in the king. Hammurabi’s law code is a typical example.
The monarch was not under obligation to exercise the same self-restraint as the subject. All this tended to lessen my sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And instead of relying in humility upon the power of God, I began to trust to my own wisdom and might.
As soon as Satan can separate the soul from God, the only Source of strength, he will seek to arouse the unholy desires of man’s carnal nature. The work of the enemy is not abrupt; it is not, at the outset, sudden and startling; it is a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle.
It begins in apparently small things—the neglect to be true to God and to rely upon Him wholly, the disposition to follow the customs and practices of the world.
Before the conclusion of the war with the Ammonites I left the control of the army to Joab and returned to Jerusalem. This was my very first mistake. The Syrians had already submitted to me and the complete overthrow of the Ammonites appeared certain.
I was surrounded by the fruits of victory and the honours of my wise and able rule. It was now, while I was at ease and unguarded, that the tempter seized the opportunity to occupy my mind.
The fact that God had taken me into so close connection with Himself and had manifested so great favour to me, should have been my strongest of incentives to preserve his character unblemished.
But when in ease and self-security I let go my hold upon God. I yielded to Satan and brought upon my soul the stain of guilt. I, the Heaven-appointed leader of the nation, chosen by God to execute His law, trampled upon its precepts. I who should have been a terror to evildoers, by my own act strengthened their hands. Can you believe that my fall was so terrible?
Amid the perils of my earlier life, I could trust my situation to God. His hand had guided me safely past the unnumbered snares that had been laid for my feet. But now, guilty and unrepentant, I did not ask help and guidance from Heaven, but sought to extricate, untangle myself from the dangers in which sin had involved me.
Bathsheba, whose fatal beauty had proved a snare to me, was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of my bravest and most faithful officers. None could foresee what would be the result should the crime become known.
The law of God pronounced the adulterer guilty of death, and the proud-spirited soldier, so shamefully wronged, might avenge himself by taking my life, or exciting the nation to revolt.
Every effort which I made to conceal my guilt proved unavailing disastrous . I had betrayed himself into the power of Satan; danger surrounded me; dishonour more bitter than death was before me.
There appeared but one way of escape, and in my desperation, I was hurried on to add murder to adultery. I who had prevented the destruction of Saul was seeking the ruin of. Though the temptations were different, they were alike in leading to transgression of God’s law.
I reasoned that if Uriah were slain by the hand of enemies in battle, the guilt of his death could not be traced home to me. Bathsheba would be free to become my, suspicion could be averted, and my royal honour would be maintained.
Uriah was made the bearer of his own death warrant. A letter sent by his hand to Joab from me, commanded, “Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.”
Joab, already stained with the guilt of one wanton murder, did not hesitate to obey the king’s instructions, and Uriah fell by the sword of the children of Ammon.
Before I made this mess my record as a ruler had been such as few monarchs have ever equalled. It is written of me that I “executed judgment and justice unto all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15. My integrity had won the confidence and allegiance of the nation.
But as I departed from God and yielded myself to the wicked one, I became for the time the agent of Satan. Yet I still held the position and authority that God had given, and because of this, claimed obedience that would imperil the soul of him who should yield it.
And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it.
My power had been given me by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When I commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law.
The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.
An account of the execution of Uriah order was sent to me, but so carefully worded as not to implicate either Joab or the king. Joab “charged the messenger saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, and if so be that the king’s wrath arise, … then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. So the messenger went, and came and showed David all that Joab had sent him for.”
The king’s answer was, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.”
Bathsheba observed the customary days of mourning for her husband; and at their close “I sent and fetched her to my house, and she became my wife.”
I whose tender conscience and high sense of honour would not permit me, even when in peril of my life, to put forth my hand against the Lord’s anointed, had so fallen that could wrong and murder one of my most faithful and most valiant soldiers, and hope to enjoy undisturbed the reward of my sin. Alas! how had the fine gold become dim! how had the finest gold changed!
From the beginning Satan has portrayed to men the gains to be won by transgression. Thus he seduced angels. Thus he tempted Adam and Eve to sin. And thus he is still leading multitudes away from obedience to God.
The path of transgression is made to appear desirable; “but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Proverbs 14:12. Happy they who, having ventured in this way, learn how bitter are the fruits of sin, and turn from it. God in His mercy did not leave me to be lured to utter ruin by the deceitful rewards of sin.
For the sake of Israel also there was a necessity for God to interpose. As time passed on, my sin toward Bathsheba became known, and suspicion was excited that he had planned the death of Uriah. me
The Lord was dishonoured. He had favoured and exalted me, and my sin misrepresented the character of God and cast reproach upon His name. It tended to lower the standard of godliness in Israel, to lessen in many minds the abhorrence of sin, while those who did not love and fear God were by it emboldened in transgression.
Nathan the prophet was bidden to bear a message of reproof to me. It was a message terrible in its severity. To few sovereigns could such a reproof be given but at the price of certain death to the reprover.
Nathan delivered the divine sentence unflinchingly, yet with such heaven-born wisdom as to engage the sympathies of the king, to arouse his conscience, and to call from his lips the sentence of death upon himself.
Appealing to me as the divinely appointed guardian of my people’s rights, the prophet repeated a story of wrong and oppression that demanded redress.
“There were two men in one city,” he said, “the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up, and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
And there came a traveler unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb and dressed it for the man that was come to him.”
The anger of the king was roused, and he exclaimed, “As the Lord lives, the man that has done this thing is worthy to die. And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 2 Samuel 12:5, 6.
Nathan fixed his eyes upon me; then, lifting his right hand to heaven, he solemnly declared, “You are the man.” “Wherefore,” he continued, “have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight?”
The guilty may attempt, as I had done, to conceal their crime from men. They may seek to bury the evil deed forever from human sight or knowledge; but “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Hebrews 4:13.
“There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.” Matthew 10:26.
2 Samuel 12:10-12 Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.
2Sa 12:10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’
2Sa 12:11 Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun.
2Sa 12:12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ”
The prophet’s rebuke touched my heart. Conscience was aroused; my guilt appeared in all its enormity. My soul was bowed in penitence before God. With trembling lips, I said:
“I have sinned against the Lord.” All wrong done to others reaches back from the injured one to God. I had committed a grievous sin, toward both Uriah and Bathsheba, and I keenly felt this. But infinitely greater was my sin against God.
Though there would be found none in Israel to execute the sentence of death upon me the anointed of the Lord, I trembled, lest, guilty and unforgiven, I should be cut down by the swift judgment of God.
But the message was sent to me by the prophet, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” Yet justice must be maintained. My death sentence was transferred from me to the child of my sin. Thus I was given opportunity for repentance.
I must tell you that he suffering and death of the child, as a part of my punishment, was far more bitter than my own death could have been. The prophet said, “However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.”
NEXT TIME How did David cope with the death of the child?