A Failed Solution
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A Failed Solution

2 Samuel 11:6-13  (ID: 3498)

Hiding sin is always a futile exercise. King David knew this—yet when he allowed his lust for Bathsheba to triumph over obedience to God’s laws, he still attempted to conceal his wrongdoing. Twice David tried to use Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to cover his sin, and twice he failed. As Alistair Begg explains, David’s actions reveal our own propensity for deception and should cause us to tremble at the approach of sin and commit afresh to trusting in God’s promises.


Sermon Transcript:

We’re going to read from the Bible again, in 2 Samuel and in chapter 11, and we’re going to read from verse 6 to verse 13. Two Samuel 11:6:

“So David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’ And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house,’ David said to Uriah, ‘Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?’ Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.’ Then David said to Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.”

Thanks be to God for his Word.

Our gracious God, we thank you for the privilege that is ours now to turn to the Bible. And we pray that the Spirit of God will teach us from your Word and that we might be changed into the likeness of Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Well, the verses to which we’re drawing our attention this morning are the verses that we read, verses 6–13. When we were together last time, we considered and were considered by the incident that is recorded in the first five verses—an incident of such magnitude that for David, he would never be the same again. And when we read on in this story, that will become apparent. It is for David a turning point in his life, akin almost to the turning point in Genesis 3, when sin enters the world, when Adam and Eve look, desire, take, and suddenly everything has changed. And as a result, they try to hide themselves from the presence of God.

The damaged and the weak human nature that is displayed in David is something that we share with him.

And here this morning, what we discover is that David is doing the very same thing. And as it was for them, so we’re going to discover it was for him—namely, an exercise in futility. Because the Bible makes it clear—and here I’m quoting from Hebrews 4—“No creature is hidden from [God’s] sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give [an] account.”[1] So any idea that any of us might cherish that somehow or another we are able to escape his gaze, that we’re able to find a side street up which we might be able to go that allows us to be beyond his knowledge and his awareness, is an absolute deception.

The shepherd boy, the ruddy, handsome fellow with the beautiful eyes whom we have seen kill the giant, lead armies to victory, and settle the kingdom, has now collapsed like a broken deck chair. And any concept that we have of him as the ideal king is gone. Any notion of him being an immaculate hero is dispelled in the space of an afternoon. We noted that striking phrase at the beginning of verse 2: “It happened, late one afternoon…” And so it is that although he saved others, himself he cannot save.

Now, it is vital that as we consider this story, we recognize that the damaged and the weak human nature that is displayed in him is something that we share with him. There is no place that we’re able to take as a sort of vantage point from which we may look down upon this activity, as if we could never understand how that could ever happen any time at all. The fact of the matter is, it may, can, has happened and does happen.

Now, in seeking to trace a line through this, I want to look at it along three lines: first of all, just to be reminded of the sin that has given rise to this; then to consider his attempted solution; and then to recognize the failure of that attempt—and to do so just employing three phrases.

David’s Sin

And the first phrase is the only speaking part that is given to Bathsheba. It is there in the final three words in English at the end of verse 5—namely, “I am pregnant.” “I am pregnant.” Words that bring joy into many a heart, words that can strike fear and failure into another heart. These words are sufficient to turn David’s world sideways, if not entirely upside down.

And it is important also for us to recognize that this adultery on his part has not taken place in a vacuum. We said something of this last time, and I think not enough, and therefore, it’s worth coming around to it. The time in which David lived allowed for multiple wives. The time in which David lived allowed for polygamy. And as a result of that, despite what he knew about the law of God, despite what he knew about the concern for kings in particular, he allowed his lust to triumph over any sense of obedience that he had to the law of God.

Because, you see, sexual desire for multiple partners is a perversion. It is a distortion of God’s perfect plan. “Oh,” you say, “that’s so long ago and so far away—thousands of years ago!” Yes, but we live in a time that is both different and similar. Similar in this respect: that the culture in which we live—Western culture in particular—has over a period of time systematically dismantled God’s order for marriage; has, through media, through songs, through poetry, through philosophy, through a loss of conviction in pulpits around the nation, allowed us to actually believe that while polygamy may still be legally ruled out, the possibilities of serial adultery are still common.

And so the Bible calls us on this matter, calls us to take seriously the fact that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”[2] And because your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, because it is not your own, because it belongs ultimately to God, the exhortation of the apostle is clear: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against [their] own body.”[3]

Now, earlier, Pastor Spurgeon read for us briefly from Psalm 32, and purposefully so, because that psalm was penned by David. And when he has been prepared to finally face up to what was going on—and it’s not happening here in this section—but when he finally faces up to it, he is straightforward in saying, “There is no way that I can conceal this any longer. This is my iniquity.”[4] The word iniquity is like crown bowls, which you’ve seen in Britain, where you can’t bowl one of the things straight, because there is a bias in them, and it will either move to this side or to the outside, but they cannot go straight. That is the picture of iniquity: warped. And David says, “I know I was warped.” It is the same of transgression,[5] which is rebellion, which says, “I know it says that, but I’m still going to do it anyway.” And “my sin,”[6] he says, which is the specific wrong that he has done. And remember what he says in the same psalm: “When I kept silent”—“when I decided that the best way to handle this was a coverup”—“when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” And God’s “hand was heavy upon me.”[7]

Now, let us not forget: David is writing as a believer, and he is referring to believers’ sins. Solomon will later write, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper.”[8] But instead of confession he opts for deception. Because he’s deceived by his own wickedness. You see, that’s what happens. His concern is for his reputation. His concern is for his self-image. His concern is that he might save his face. His concern is that somehow or another, if he could just deal with the consequences, if he could put them away, hide them away, do something with them, then he’ll be able to carry on as normal.

Well, that’s no different from what we do, whether you’re stealing cookies out your grandmother’s box…

“Why were you hiding under the stairs? Why did you go under the stairs?”

“Well, I thought she would never know.”

“How did you feel when you were under the stairs?”

“Scared.”

“Did you feel good when you saw her?”

“I felt horrible.”

Well, this may not be cookies. It’s just a grown-up game. Hmm.

No, it’s too easy for us to silence the voice of conscience. And patterns of deception are instinctive in the sinful heart. Tempted to pass it off. “It’s a little secret, just the Robinsons’ affair; most of all you’ve got to hide it.”[9]

 

David’s Attempted Solution

Well, what is, then, his attempted solution? It’s to be in a coverup. That brings us to our second phrase. The first phrase, “I am pregnant,” turns his world sideways, and his deception leads him to start giving orders all over again. After all, he’s the king. He’s able to control the coming and going of people, not least of all those who are serving the cause on the battlefield. And so, verse 6: “David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’”

Patterns of deception are instinctive in the sinful heart.

This is no surprise, because we’ve followed David, and he’s a proactive kind of fellow. He has been confronted by all kinds of challenges, and his initiative and his skill in making sure that he can take a challenge and deal with it is perfectly obvious. However, what we also know is that the writer tells us that it was the Lord who had given him victory everywhere he went.[10] It wasn’t that he was so great; it was that God was so good. But when he turns his back on the source of God’s goodness, when he rejects the purposes of God for him, he can’t count, then, on the help of God to do what he’s doing. I wonder, was he saying to himself, “This is not a problem. I’ve got this covered. I can cover this. Send me Uriah.”

Now, his plot is straightforward, and let’s just make sure we understand it. He needs to get Uriah to come home and to sleep with Bathsheba so as to be able to cover his tracks. He shows up—that is, Uriah—and they have this desultory conversation. You see that in verse 7. It’s interesting: the writer gives us the one half of the conversation but not the other half. I’m not sure David’s big on conversations, actually. There was no conversation in the anticipation of his sin with Bathsheba, no signs of “How are you? Where are you?”—affection, love, interest at all. And here the same thing: “And he said to him, ‘How’s Joab doing? How are the people doing? How’s the war going?’” It’s as if he didn’t wait for an answer, because he didn’t really care about the question. It was irrelevant. He was completely preoccupied with one thing, and that is, “I’ve gotta get Uriah to do this thing in order that I might cover my back.”

Now, I’m conscious of the fact that children listen to me, and I don’t want to be unduly straightforward in a way that harms any of you in any way. So just let’s understand that verse 11 helps us to understand what verse 8 is on about: “David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’” You say to yourself, “‘Wash your feet’? What a strange thing!” Well, you’ve come from a journey, you wash your feet. It is an indication of settling in at home. You kick your shoes off. You throw them away. You’re back where you belong. Rest in it. Enjoy this. This is where you are! There’s that. And it may be a euphemism for more. But we leave that aside. Uriah understands, and verse 11 makes it clear: “Shall I, then, go to my house to eat, drink, have a shower, and sex?” That’s what he’s saying. “Is that what I’m gonna do?” Oh! If he can manage to get Uriah to do this, he’ll be free from suspicion.

So he gives him the command: “Go down to your house.” Now, if you see pictures in your mind, you can picture him. As he goes down to his house, he’s following the path that his wife had taken, back in verse 4: “And she came to him, and he lay with her. … [And] then she returned to her house.” She went from the king’s house to her house. Now he says, “You go back to your house.” And so he heads out. And presumably, I can only assume that a messenger catches up with him. Because you see there at the end of verse 8: “And there followed him a present from the king.” So a messenger comes behind him, I guess, and he says, “Excuse me? You’re not quite at the end of your journey yet, but I have this here. The king wants you to have this. It’s a basket. It’s got wine, cheese, and crackers, and a candle. And he asked me to say to you, ‘Have a lovely reunion!’”

Now, let me ask you a question: If that happened to you, wouldn’t you think that’s weird? “First of all, he’s called me back from the battlefield. He could have found out from Joab. Why’d he bring me back? That’s strange. Secondly, now he wants me to go to my house? Why’s he so concerned about my house? And now he sends me a present, to go to my house? The whole thing’s strange.”

Now, here’s the question—and you can make your own judgment on this. I haven’t fully concluded myself. We don’t know whether at this point or at any point Uriah has an inkling of the affair that has happened. Right? We don’t know that. When you think about the rumor mill and you think about it coming back into town, it’d be hard for it to be concealed, but still, we don’t know. But whether he knew or he didn’t know, we’re told in verse 9 that he “slept at the door of the king’s house,” in the company of the servants of the lord, instead of in his own house, in the company of his wife Bathsheba.

Now, this going down to the house is a recurring phrase. I won’t point them all out to you, but you will see that: “Go down to the house.” “Go down to the house.” “He didn’t go down to the house.” “Did you go down to the house?” “Go down to the house.” Repetition says we got a thing going with the house here, right? It’s very, very important. Well, think about it by contrast. David didn’t leave his house when it would have been smart for him to have done so, and Uriah won’t go to his house when it would have been legitimate for him to do so. It’s an amazing—an amazing—story.

Now, as soon as this word gets to David, he asks for an explanation. “They told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house,’” verse 10. Now, David has had… You know, there are crossroads through this whole thing. Right? There are points where David could have made a right-hand turn instead of a left-hand turn. Here’s another one. He could have said, “You know what? I better talk to him. I better just face the facts.” No. So he calls him in again. He says, “Hey, why didn’t you go down to your house? Have you not come from a journey?”

Now, the inference is clear, isn’t it?

Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC.
Didn’t get to bed last night.
All the way the paper bag was on my knee.
Man, I had a dreadful flight.

[But] I’m back in the USSR. …

Been away so long I hardly knew the place;
Gee, it’s good to be back home.
Leave it [to] tomorrow to unpack my case;
Honey, … keep your comrade warm.[11]

That’s what he means. “You mean you were off in the battlefield, and you’ve come home, and you’re sleeping outside? What’s wrong with you? What!” If I was Uriah, I’m going, “Oh, you think this isn’t normal? It isn’t normal? You want to talk to me about normal, David?” It’s at least curious: “Why is he so concerned about where I spent the night?” And then he explains. He says, “Think about it: the ark and Israel and Judah, they dwell in booths. My lord Joab, the servants of my lord, they’re camping in an open field. Do you think, then, that I should go down to my house to eat and drink and to lie with my wife?”

Now, again, let me say to you: we do not know, just as David doesn’t know at this point—we don’t know, nor does David know—whether this statement here is an expression of Uriah’s integrity, of his moral character, or whether behind his words there is the knowledge of David’s secret. It’s impossible for us to know. But Uriah’s expressed statement of commitment to duty should have actually struck David to the core. You remember in the New Testament, Paul makes the observation, “No soldier gets [involved] in civilian pursuits.”[12] And the things that Uriah addresses here were understood by David. They were actually believed by David. But once again: once wickedness deceives your mind, you can go anywhere. You can go to unimaginable places.

Now, look at what he mentions, because it is important. First of all, the ark. The ark. Well, the ark was close to David’s heart, wasn’t it? Do you remember when the ark finally showed up? Do you remember that amazing event where David comes dancing into Jerusalem? And he danced before the ark, got himself in a lot of trouble with his wife. Remember, she said to him, “You’re dancing out there with the servant girls.”[13] And we said, “Well, why would she be so concerned?” Hmm. Now I’m reviewing the situation. We don’t want him out there dancing with the servant girls. We don’t want the servant girls going, “You know, he is one good-looking king.” We don’t need that. We don’t need them singing his songs: “He’s fantastic. He’s terrific. He’s the one.” Because all it’s doing is paving the way to disaster.

And I reread that whole passage this week. And remember he says to Michal, his wife, he says, “Hey, you got a problem with this? I will celebrate.”[14] And then he says this: he says, “I will make myself … more contemptible than this.” Now, I don’t think he’s got this in his mind. Surely he doesn’t. But it’s almost like a prophetic word. He actually says more than he realizes. And he says, “And I will be abased in your eyes.”[15] And you remember how the chapter finishes? “And Michal … had no child to the day of her death.”[16] The inference is, “Forget you! Forget you! I don’t need you or anything about you. There are other fields to be furrowed. There are other places to go.”

The ark, the symbol of God’s presence. The ark, the container of the commandments, including “You shall not commit adultery,”[17] “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”[18] Uriah knew that, and so did David.

The army: “I’m serving in the army.” Here he is, a Hittite, almost a conscript from a different place, and yet absolutely committed, a picture of loyalty; noble, true, bold. And so he points out the incongruity of it all: personal indulgence when the battle calls for self-denial and self-control. And having framed that out, he asks the question. And if this wasn’t a dagger to your heart, I don’t know. If this can’t unsettle you, I don’t know what will: “Shall I then go to my house, to eat and … drink and to lie with my wife?” “With my wife.” If he knows—and I think he knows—he knows exactly what he’s doing. Because what he’s saying is this: “You’re the king, the symbol of God’s presence, the execution of God’s law, the leader of the army, the one to whom we all look, and you want me to cover your background?”

David’s Plan’s Failure

Now, the fact is that David’s plan failed. Because it was impossible for him to cover up what happened. But instead, once again, of facing up to things, he doubles down. And look at what he says. It says, “David invited him, and he ate in his presence.” He said, “Why don’t you stay around for a couple of days?” What’s he doing? Well, he’s buying himself time for another attempt. I mean, if you want to admire something, you can admire his commitment to finally try and make this happen. If the first present hadn’t worked—and clearly it hadn’t worked. Presumably Uriah and the various servants of the lord that were sleeping outside enjoyed the present. But if that one didn’t work, apparently now he’s just leaving out the cheese and the crackers and he’s just going straight for the booze. “Woe to him who makes his neighbors [drunk],”[19] says the prophet—who seeks to use alcohol as an inducement or a liberator or a freer in order to engage in that which in sober terms would never be taking place. Now, there’s no indication that alcohol played any part in excusing David’s sin. It’s somewhat ironic that it is now used by him, employed by him, to try and induce Uriah to do what he wants him to do.

But again, verse 13, it’s clear: his plan fails. I had in my notes—somebody said it, and I don’t know who said it—“Uriah drunk was better than David sober!”[20]

That brings me to our final phrase. And the final part of verse 11 is where the phrase is found: “I will not do this thing.” There you have it. “I will not do this thing.” Now, what’s so sad about this is that this should be David’s line. This should have been David’s line. Looking out on the rooftop, he sees the girl, he realizes she’s attractive. It’s at that point he’s supposed to say, “I’m not gonna do this thing.” He doesn’t say, “This could never happen.” He doesn’t say, “She’s not that good looking.” He doesn’t do anything at all with it, just goes straight ahead. “I will not do this thing.” Think about it. If that had been David’s line, then Bathsheba wouldn’t have a speaking part. If he had said, “I will not do this thing,” he would never have heard Bathsheba say, “I am pregnant.”

Trembling and Trusting

Now, we need to draw this to a close. And let me suggest just two brief ways of application.

First of all, let’s learn to tremble at the approach of sin, and then let’s commit to trusting in the promises of God. Let’s say today, “Lord Jesus, please help me to tremble at the very approach of sin. Don’t let me get in up to my neck. And help me to trust your promises.”

Even if we would make it through all of time, covering up our sins will not be possible in eternity.

Because, you see, the Bible, as we read on in the Bible, makes it very, very clear that the grace of God… And in the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church, this is one of the readings for Christmas Day, from Titus chapter 2: “For the grace of God has appeared [to all], bringing salvation …, [teaching] us to [say no to] ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”[21] What’s the problem? The problem is my sinful heart. What’s the inclination on the part of us each by nature? It’s to say, “Hey, I think I’ve got this covered. I think I’ll be able to deal with this.”

What we discover, whether we’re hiding in the cupboard under the stairs or whether we have parked our car in the metro parks to ponder our predicament, we know that a coverup is impossible. It is impossible. Even if we would make it through all of time, it will not be possible in eternity. So the starting point is, as for David, that God’s hand was heavy upon him. You say, “Well, I don’t know if I like that.” The heavy hand of God is a hand of mercy. It is a hand of compassion. It is a hand of grace that presses upon us to say, “Come along now. You can’t cover it. But in Jesus it’s covered.”

Because the amazing thing about this story is that the faithfulness of God overcame the faithlessness of David. David for a while looked like he was the ideal king, but then it became apparent he’s not the ideal king. You read on through your Bible. You read into the prophets, and the prophets are speaking of one who will come. And the eyes of the generations are straining, looking forward, looking forward to the day when the promises that were made to David are going to be fulfilled in one: that there will be a root out of the stump of Jesse.[22] You remember reading that in the Advent time? Who is this? What will this be?

What God had promised in David would lead on to a promised future that would never end—despite what he did. The faithfulness of God is far greater than our faithlessness. The hand of God that weighs heavy upon us, weighs heavy upon us in order to bring us down on our knees. And the promise of God, for which they waited all along, finally comes to fulfillment, and an angel comes to a little girl who’s pregnant and says, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be [for] all [the] people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, [who] is Christ the Lord.”[23]

Have you ever said yes?
Have you ever said yes?
Have you ever said yes to Jesus?
Have you ever said no to the devil, and so,
Have you ever said yes to him?

On Calvary’s cross your sins he bore;
Don’t leave the Lord outside the door.
He is waiting to bless with his righteousness.
Won’t you now say yes to Jesus?

Let us pray:

Come,

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set [your] people free;
From our sins and fears [relieve] us,
Let us find our rest in thee.[24]

Lord, bring your Word home to our hearts, we pray. Whether to convict, convert, to convince, do your work. Help us not to run from your heavy hand, in the awareness of the fact that the same hand that presses down upon us is the hand that lifts us up. Oh, bless you for the wonder of the gospel! Help us to trust your promises and to tremble at the doorway of sin. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.


[1] Hebrews 4:13 (ESV).

[2] 1 Corinthians 6:19 (ESV).

[3] 1 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV).

[4] Psalm 32:3–5 (paraphrased).

[5] See Psalm 32:5.

[6] See Psalm 32:5.

[7] Psalm 32:3–4 (ESV).

[8] Proverbs 28:13 (ESV).

[9] Paul Simon, “Mrs. Robinson” (1968).

[10] See 2 Samuel 8:14.

[11] Paul McCartney and John Lennon, “Back in the USSR” (1968).

[12] 2 Timothy 2:4 (ESV).

[13] 2 Samuel 6:20 (paraphrased).

[14] 2 Samuel 6:21 (paraphrased).

[15] 2 Samuel 6:22 (ESV).

[16] 2 Samuel 6:23 (ESV).

[17] Exodus 20:14 (ESV).

[18] Exodus 20:17 (ESV).

[19] Habakkuk 2:15 (ESV).

[20] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, Preaching the Word, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015), 302. Cf. Peter R. Ackroyd, The Second Book of Samuel, Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 102.

[21] Titus 2:11–12 (ESV).

[22] See Isaiah 11:1.

[23] Luke 2:10–11 (KJV).

[24] Charles Wesley, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” (1745).

Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.