Temptation, Power and Sin (2 Samuel 11)

Why we need to talk about Sin

We need to talk about sin. It’s the last thing we want to talk about, especially in church. Church is where we sing happy songs and talk about how God is love and we are saved by grace.  Sin encroaches on our safe space.

Sin happens out there -especially sexual sin, especially sexual violence.  It’s what happens in seedy strip clubs, it’s what Hollywood producers get up to when seducing and manipulating young actresses half their age. It’s what MPs and cabinet ministers get up to. And on the one hand, a bible passage like this is timely when it speaks against Presidents who think they can talk crudely about grabbing women and Defence Secretaries who think that the problem is that times have changed rather than that their behaviour was always wrong.

But actually, we need to talk about sin because:

–          This stuff happens in our own communities and our own lives, sadly in our own churches

–          Sin is not just about sex and violence but the condition of our hearts

–          It is exactly in the context of God’s overwhelming, overflowing lavish grace, love and mercy that we can talk about sin.

What do we need to see here?

We need to see sin for what it is, dangerous, ugly destructive

Sin is about pride, power and control

David sends his troops to battle whilst he stays home (cfc h 10) as well – growing power/control (v 1)

David sends enquiry about Bathsheba (v3)

David sends for Bathsheba (v4)

Note David acts after he knows her identity both in terms of parentage and marriage (v3), leading some to suggest that this is as much about stating power over Uriah as it is about lust (see Firth).  Firth goes on to argue that it is all about an attack on Uriah, and that this is not about a secret being covered up but the intention is to destroy Uriah. I am not convinced by this given that Firth’s argument relies on the assumption that abstinence from sex for fighting soldiers is not only expected but carries with it the sanction of the death penalty -this looks speculative to me.

However, David does act in full knowledge that this is someone else’s wife and in that sense there is a clear violation not just against Bathsheba but against Uriah as well. Both are in effect treated as being within the King’s ownership.

Sin is about defilement and shame

Bathsheba the victim

Bathsheba’s bathing is linked to completing ceremonial purification after menstruation

2 things

–          Clarity when the baby is conceived. David is the first to sleep with her after her menstrual period – it can only be his child

–          Irony  because she has cleansed herself but David brings uncleanness to her again

Bathsheba is very much passive in this. It is not presented as rape but nor does the text suggest she is active in seduction. The King has power. How much choice/ ability to consent does she really have? (v4)

Bathsheba is pregnant – she lets David know (v 5)

A word to victims

For some of you hearing this passage is hard because it opens up wounds.  You have been the victims of power and abuse and it still hurts. There’s a sense of shame – maybe you also feel that to some extent you were complicit.

You feel defiled, dirty, shamed.

One of the beautiful things about the Gospel is that Jesus is the one who was stripped, mocked, abused, shamed in our place and he promises to clothe, cover and protect us. He takes away our shame and disgrace.

Practically, we want you to know that you are loved, welcomed, accepted.  We want you to know that coarse joking, verbal abuse, harassment, etc is not condoned or excused here.

There are people here who will listen to you and pray with you.


Uriah the faithful servant

David sends for Uriah – note the sending word again (v 6 -7)

Encourages him to go home to his wife – a gift follows after (v8) but Uriah chooses to stay in the entrance to the palace and sleep

David summons him again -why did you not go home?

Uriah’s response should convict David.  Is there a hint here that he knows or suspects what is happening?  How can Uriah be at home making merry and sleeping with his wife when the Ark is still in a tent and the people are at war? (v11)

Note Uriah literally swears on David’s life – that this would be wrong.

David tries to get Uriah drunk – but he still refuses to go home and sleep with his wife (v12-13). Note the Hebrew text builds up the tension here because “He slept…” or “He lay down…” could imply that he is about to sleep with someone -but he remains at court (v12-13)

A word to faithful servants

Some of you like Uriah the Hittite have faced serious temptation and you’ve kept going.  Be encouraged. Christ is with you through the Holy Spirit. Keep going in him, knowing that present trials and temptations are temporary.


Sin is about harm and destruction

It leads to death

David now plots Uriah’s murder by sending letters to Joab along with him instructing that he should be placed in the thick of the battle (v14-15)

Sin leads to death because

–          Death as separation from God is the just penalty

–          It kills love destroying friendships and relationships

–          It kills service, how many ministries have been destroyed by temptation?

–          It kills hope

–          It kills churches – division, squabbling, reputation

It draws others in so they become complicit

Joab complies – Uriah falls in battle

Joab arranges a messenger to send the news to David (19-25)

Joab has been drawn into the plot  – if rumours were circulating about the affair, then he may well have got wind but he certainly knows that David wants Uriah out of the way. He also draws the messenger into this who is left in no doubt that the bad news of losses will not be a problem for David when he knows Uriah is dead.

Why does Joab go along with this? Maybe he too sees Uriah as a rival -another valiant warrior, a threat to his position. Maybe he sees it as knowledge that will give him leverage with David. You can almost imagine him saying “You might say that, I couldn’t possibly comment”

On one level this looks like a story of deception, of hidden sin, of David trying to cover up. On another level, David acts brazenly, risking being caught. It looks like one of those worst kept secrets.  This is the reality of sin isn’t it. On the one hand we try to be secretive, on the other, sin encourages complacency – even the thrill of danger and being caught.

God sees

David takes Bathsheba into his house as his wife – but God is not pleased (v27) Why does this matter?  Well think about God’s relationship to David. It is easy to simply see this verse as pointing to God as the Judge or the policeman in the sky who has set rules for David to obey and now he has caught David out is ready to punish. But that isn’t God’s relationship to David and that’s what makes it so much worse.

Past Grace – He took him from watching the sheep

Present Grace – He has looked after him, provided him with a family, with wealth, with victory over his enemies and with safety.

Future Grace – He has promised him a son and heir who will build a Temple. He has promised to establish his throne for ever.

David is ready to throw all of this away.

What would cause you to throw away the joy, peace, security of knowing God’s grace?

What should our Response be? – Next Steps


“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9

–          Confession means admitting you have sinned. It is not about admitting when you got found out. It is willingly fessing up to the full seriousness of your sin.

–          It will mean a genuine commitment to leave sin behind. A change of heart attitude

–          Practically this means getting accountable and being willing to make radical life changes

–          It will mean recognising that you cannot change yourself. This is not about self-improvement

David was an imperfect, flawed sinner but he could describe himself as righteous, justified, forgiven. How?

Simply, his trust was in his descendant, Jesus, the perfect, spotless son of God.  Jesus took his place and yours on the cross, bearing the penalty for sin. Jesus offers you and me forgiveness, righteousness and reconciliation to God.