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Making The Best Of A Bad Decision

When You Make A Selfish Choice

Erwin W. Lutzer | March 5, 2006

Selected highlights from this sermon

Sexual immorality is a temptation experienced by virtually everyone. Purity is not easy.

King David gave in to temptation, and this “casual” relationship led to a child and to death—the death of Uriah and the death of the child. David’s attempts to cover everything up failed, and today, even among non-Christians, David’s adultery is known. 

Though David could find joy in his salvation after confessing his sin before Nathan and God, the consequences of the affair would continue.

There is much we all can learn from David’s bad decision. 

When You Make A Selfish Choice

David is the last man you expect to find in such a mess. He commits adultery with a woman who obviously is not his and then murders her husband to cover it up. This is a series of messages titled, “Making the Best of a Bad Decision.”

You and I are sexual creatures. It’s impossible to estimate the amount of energy and effort that goes into our sexuality. The media today tells us that the relationship of a man and a woman within marriage is too narrow a definition of where sexual intimacy should occur. So people believe lies because our desires are so powerful, so unrelenting, and we want to believe what they tell us.

I say to all that are here, the young people that are here and all of us, that sexual purity isn’t easy. But it is right and it is best.

The story happens in 2 Samuel, chapter 11, where you can turn. David was approximately 47 years old. It would have been better if he had died at the age of 46. You know the story. David is on the rooftop and he’s having a nap. Across the way there is a woman who is bathing. What I would like us to do is to look at the steps that led downward. What happened in David’s life to cause him to throw it all away for this moment of opportunity, of sexual euphoria?

Let’s look at those steps rather quickly. First of all, he saw a woman. I’m in verse two of 2 Samuel, chapter 11: “It happened late one afternoon when David arose from his couch and he was walking on the roof of the king’s house that he saw from the roof a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful.” Step number one: David saw. At that moment his sexual desires were strongly awakened as he gazed upon this beautiful woman. So there he was absorbing the situation into his own soul and creating in his own mind a scenario that he later would act upon. David saw.

What I find interesting is what David didn’t see. He didn’t see the death of his four sons. He didn’t see himself becoming a murderer. He didn’t see the disintegration of his kingdom. How different it would have been if David had seen that. For now all that really mattered was the present moment. David was not thinking about God right then.

Let me ask you, as David was looking at Bathsheba, was he thinking, “You know I hate God. God, I don’t like your rules and I don’t like the commandments.” No. At moments like that, Satan does not fill us with hatred for God, just forgetfulness of God. Like one man told me, “I am going to enjoy myself today and then deal with the devil and God tomorrow.” Forgetfulness of God.

You can’t help but think how different it would have been if David, while looking at Bathsheba, would have said two things to God in prayer. First of all, “God, I want to thank you for creating such a beautiful woman. I know that she belongs to another man.” That should have been the first part of his prayer. The second part should have been this: “God, thank you for all the wonderful wives you have given me, for the blessings you have given me. You’ve made me king and you’ve given me rest from my enemies. You are such a good God. May I be satisfied with you.” And then he should have turned around and gone into the house. How different the story would have been.

But, when David was looking at Bathsheba, he was taking his little boat and he was cutting the anchor. He was cutting the rope and he was about to descend upon a river whose speed and whose size was going to continually increase. There were rapids up ahead, but at the moment David didn’t care. Only one thing mattered.

And so David begins and hits a series of dominoes that have terrible, terrible consequences. First of all, David saw. Now it says in verse three that he sent and inquired about the woman. Wouldn’t it be fun to imagine? I wonder what he said. Maybe he said to the servants, “You know I have been living in this neighborhood for a long time. It just dawned on me that I don’t know our neighbors very well. I wonder if you’d find out who lives in that house, because someday we may want a block party and we have to know who we are going to invite.”

I wonder what lies he told. Remember, a person who commits adultery has made a decision to lie. It’s part of it. And if you can do the big sin, to do the smaller sin of lying, if I can put it that way, that just comes naturally. Once you are committed to hide your sin you are committed to lie about your sin. So David sent.

The third step is in verse four: David took her. Twice it says he took her. We want to know if Bathsheba gave in because of the prestige of being with the king. Did she say to herself, “At last I’ve found my soulmate, because Uriah is not a very good husband.” What was the attitude of David toward what was happening? We don’t know. All that we know is that she became pregnant.

Now let us suppose that she wouldn’t have become pregnant. They weren’t thinking of that, of course, at that moment. They were captured by the euphoria of the moment. Would David have been able to get by? Well, I don’t think so. First of all, Bathsheba would have had to live with the guilt, David would have had to live with the guilt, and God knew the whole situation. Maybe she would end up having to bribe the king, who knows. Nobody knows, but once you cross that boundary the consequences are out of your control because sin has a way of popping up in unexpected places. It is like trying to keep down a basketball in a swimming pool. Somehow you push it under and then it pops up where you least expect it.

David now has a problem on his hands because this casual relationship is not as casual as he thought it would be. There is a third person involved now. Bathsheba is going to have a baby. She sends a note to the king that says, “To the king: I’m pregnant, signed B.” Now David has a problem on his hands and the coverup begins. David has lost a game but he is absolutely determined that he will not lose the tournament, so he begins to cover it up.

So let’s walk through the coverup and analyze how well David did at covering it. Plan A is in verse eight. He says to some of his messengers, “Bring Uriah home from the battle. I want to have a little talk with him. You know Uriah is such a good soldier.” He happens of course to be the husband of Bathsheba. “Bring him home and give him a little R and R.” In fact, the Bible says that when Uriah did come home David gave him some presents and said, These presents are to spark the romance. Go home to your wife.”

He wanted Uriah to become intimate with his own wife, Bathsheba, and therefore cover what David did. Then Uriah would think that this child would actually be his. So he says, “Uriah come on home and enjoy your beautiful wife.” But Uriah is such a good soldier he says, in effect, “David I can’t do this because my buddies are dying. How can I go home and see my wife and have some R and R? I won’t.” Plan A didn’t work.

What about plan B? Plan B is in verse 13 where David gets Uriah drunk. It says in verse 13, “David invited him and he ate and drank in his presence so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of the lord. But Uriah did not go down to his house.” David, Uriah is a better man drunk than you are sober. So Uriah was to go home but he doesn’t.

You say, “What should David have done in the middle of that predicament?” You know what he should have done? He should have called Uriah home and he should have said, “Uriah guess what? Your wife is pregnant and I am the father of the child,” and work it out. You say, “Well, that is really sticky.” Yeah, it’s really sticky. I’ve been in ministry for many years and one of the most difficult, excruciating, agonizing counseling situations many years ago was when a mother came to me and said, “Would you be present when I tell my husband that one of our children is not his?” Sticky stuff, difficult stuff, but that would have been better than what David is going to do now.

Plan A didn’t work, plan B didn’t work, and David says, “This is one tournament I cannot lose.” And you know there are times when a man just has to do what a man has to do. So he writes a note and the note says, “Dear Joab (Joab is the commander of David’s army), take Uriah in the heat of the battle, put Uriah in the middle of it and withdraw from him so that he will be killed, signed David.”

He takes the note and he folds it. I’m sure if he had some glue in those days he would have added a little bit of glue because he gives the note to Uriah and says, “Give this note to Joab.” He trusts Uriah so much that he knows Uriah will not open that note. Joab gets the note, and when you are in battle, you are supposed to do what the commander-in-chief asks you to. They come very close to a wall and there’s a heated battle, they withdraw from Uriah and Uriah dies.

And in accordance with the agreement, the messenger comes running to David and says, “David, guess what? We were in the midst of a battle, we were close to a wall, the enemy was getting to us, and by the way Uriah is dead.”

Look at how David handles this. This is in verse 25, now, where David is speaking to the messenger and he says, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this matter trouble you; the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ Say this to encourage him.” “You know life is tough. You win some, you lose some. Don’t let it trouble you because it is not going to trouble me. I had to do what I had to do. I am the king. I need Bathsheba as my wife. I need to cover my sin.”

Well isn’t it time for us to pause here for a moment and ask, “How is the coverup doing, anyway?” David knows the truth, Bathsheba knows the truth, Joab knows the truth, the people are going to know the truth, they can count to nine, and Nathan knows the truth. It’s not going too well. And then most ominously, God knows the truth. Ouch. Look at the way the chapter ends. With your eyes focused on the last line, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” Ouch. God knows. So the coverup hasn’t worked too well and Nathan the prophet comes to him in chapter 12.

Sometimes I teach preaching to young preachers and I always tell them, “Whenever you can, give a good introduction to the sermon. Try to hook people in.” Nathan is an example of a great preacher. He’s got a really good story and a good hook. He says, “David, here is a rich man who had all of these lands, goats, and sheep. And over here there was a poor man who had one small sheep. Do you know what the rich man did? He stole that one lamb from the poor man. What do you think should be done?”

The Bible says that, “David’s anger was kindled and he said, ‘The man ought to die, but at least he should pay fourfold for his sin.’” Nathan says to him, “You are that man. David, that’s you. You’re mad because somebody stole a little lamb, yet you are not mad at the fact that somebody has stolen another man’s wife and has covered it with a crime of murder. That doesn’t seem to trouble you, does it David?”

As you know if you listen to my preaching, I am always interested in the causes of human behavior and the way in which we humans deceive ourselves. The human heart has been a subject of my study for many years—both because I have one and I can see myself and I can see others, too.

Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t that the way some people are? They become very critical of others, chipping away, cynical, angry, “Look at what so and so is doing,” and then you have this huge sin of attitude and they can’t see it at all. What other people do troubles them very, very deeply. They say, “They ought to do such and such,” and they don’t see their own sin. They are as blind as the proverbial bat.

David, in fact, says that the man should pay fourfold. Do you know what happens? God says, “David, you thought that the man who stole that little lamb should pay fourfold? Guess what? That is the standard I am going to use for you.” That is why Jesus said, “Judge not lest you be judged,” because the standard with which you judge others is the standard with which you will be judged. Come on now, you critical people who only see the flaws of others, how are you going to stand in the day when God takes your standard and applies it to your life? How will you do?

Nathan goes on to say, “David, God blessed you. He gave you wives, He made you king, He gave you rest from your enemies and you’re the biggest thing in the land. Why did you despise the word of the Lord and take Bathsheba and kill Uriah?” So Nathan says, “This is God’s word to you, King David.”

There are a couple of things God is saying. First of all, “the sword will never depart from your house.” It turns out that four of David’s sons all die because of warfare within their own family. Let’s think about it for a moment. Amnon rapes Tamar and so he is murdered by Absalom, that’s Amnon. Then you have Absalom and his rebellion against his dad. He dies in the civil war against his own father. Then you have Adonijah who wants to be king. So Solomon, who ends up being king, has to kill him—another of David’s sons. Also, the son whom Bathsheba was bearing will also die.

“David, you did this secretly and it is going to be done throughout all Israel.” Absalom takes David’s own wives and violates them on a roof top in the presence of all of Israel. “David, you were concerned about that little lamb? Can you see your own sin, David?” Well, you’ll notice that David saw his own sin.

You say, “Pastor Lutzer, this is a sermon about making the best of a bad decision. Help me here. I don’t see where any good is coming from this. All you are doing is talking about the discipline of God and we need a little bit of hope, here.” Particularly those of you who are involved in sexual sin, you need some hope. Well there is hope and it is going to be served in just a minute. It is already in the kitchen; it’s on the platter, and in a moment it will be brought to your table. But first of all I want to make some other observations of great importance.

First of all, anyone can commit sexual sin. Committed Christians have done it, uncommitted Christians have done it, missionaries, pastors, Christian leaders, Sunday school teachers, elders, deacons, you name it—anyone can commit sexual sin. Here’s David, a man after God’s own heart. And in a moment of passion, he throws it all away because, “Nothing matters except this moment of euphoria. Nothing matters except finally connecting with my soulmate.” Like one man involved in adultery told me, “I’ve lived in a desert all these years and now I have found my oasis and you are telling me that I should renounce that oasis? I can’t.”

A pastor many years ago in the city of Chicago committed adultery. I called him to try to talk him out of his ways and I will never forget this. He said, “David had a price to pay, but he did get his Bathsheba.” Yeah, he did get his Bathsheba. The destruction of his family and the disintegration of his kingdom; he paid for his Bathsheba.

The second observation is that God is always the loser. Verse 14 here I think should be translated differently. It is in all other translations. Nathan says, “Nevertheless because of this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord.” Notice that the marginal rendering is the “enemies of the Lord.” Most translations translate it, “You’ve caused the enemies of the Lord to scorn God.” That’s the idea.

God says, “David, don’t you realize that your sin makes me look really bad, because now word has gone throughout all the surrounding communities and even the other nations have heard.” You know David, the guy who wrote all the Psalms, who loves God and who keeps trusting God? Do you know what he did? He committed adultery with another man’s wife and then killed the guy. Yet David is the great man, the great lover of Jehovah. Give me a break. God says, “David, you know my reputation is at stake here.” You know people in the world don’t make up their minds about God until they see us, or what they think of God often depends on how we live.

You say, “Pastor Lutzer, give us some grace.” The grace is coming. Notice David says to Nathan in verse thirteen, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Praise God, he got the message. And I wish we had time to turn to Psalm 51 and Psalm 32. We don’t, but you can do that on your own. It is the great prayer of confession in Psalm 51 and the great affirmation of God’s forgiveness in Psalm 32.

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. How blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” David says, “When I kept quiet my bones were crying all the day long. When I was going through this and I was stifling my conscience and telling myself that, ‘It is no big deal,’ when anybody came into my office I wondered, ‘Does he know?’ I walked down the streets and I said to myself, ‘I wonder if they know.’”

He says in Psalm 51, “My sin was ever before me, even though I was trying to cover it up. But how blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered.” God says, “David, I have covered your sin.” In fact in Psalm 51 He says, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation.”

You say, “Pastor Lutzer that’s not possible. How can he be joyful? All the tears in the world cannot bring back the purity of Bathsheba. All of the weeping on planet Earth is never going to bring Uriah back from the dead. How does he rejoice?” Follow carefully: guilt is not a part of God’s discipline for those who come clean. Oh, the other consequences can’t be reversed. But guilt is not part of God’s discipline for those who hurry to Jesus. There is pardon for guilt, and God says, “I’ve taken away your sin. You can sing again. You can experience the joy of your salvation.” That’s the first blessing.

There’s a second blessing. It says in verse 24, and this is after the child she was bearing dies, “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba and he went to her and lay with her. And she bore a son and David called his name Solomon. In Hebrew, the name sounds like “Shalom.” David says, “This little boy that Bathsheba is bearing I am going to call ‘peaceful.’ I need some peace after all that I have been through. My family has totally disintegrated. I need some peace.”

God says, “You know, that’s wonderful that you are naming him ‘peaceful,’ but I’ve got another name for him.” And the prophet Nathan who brought the message of judgment now is sent by God with a message of grace and says, “God himself is naming this boy and He is going to call him Jedidiah,” notice it there in the text. Jedidiah means, “Beloved by the Lord.” Wow.

Strictly speaking, Solomon should not have been born. Later on, when Solomon is old enough to hear the voice of the Lord, He says, “Solomon, guess what? You’re going to build a big temple for me. It’s going to be the most magnificent thing that has ever been built. And you know what? I am going to bless you and love you for your dad’s sake.” Because of your [God’s] servant David. God and David had something going; there was just no doubt about it. And God says, “I am going to bless you, Solomon.”

And then we open the first chapter of Matthew and we realize that Solomon is in the genealogy of Jesus. He carries on the line from which Jesus is born. And so God says, “In the midst of all of what you deserve, I give you mercy.”

Not too long ago I was asked to fly to Canada to do the funeral of a marvelous Christian leader who died in his early 90s. In order to get back to Chicago, for reasons that are unclear to me, I was routed through Toronto. Now if you know where Regina is, it is way out west and Toronto is in the east. Then from Toronto I caught a flight to Chicago. Now there are other ways to do it that are a little simpler, but sometimes the airlines don’t do it as simple as you wish they would.

So I think to myself, “Three hours on a plane from Regina to Toronto. I’ve got a couple of books I should read, I’ve got this other thing to do, I’ve got a message that I’ve got to work on.” Who does God put me next to but a wonderful well-dressed, educated, successful Hindu. He and I talked for two of the three hours on that flight. I asked him about Hinduism, learned a lot about Hinduism, and I helped him to understand the difference between that and Christianity.

We got to the subject of karma and he says, “If you are suffering today it is because in a previous life you did something wrong.” And then he said this: “Karma means that everyone gets exactly what they deserve.” I looked at him with a smile, because we are sitting next to each other and I said, “I am so glad that karma is wrong.” I said, “Because of Jesus I am not going to get what I deserve. When Jesus died on the cross He got what He didn’t deserve, namely our sin. When I trust Him, I now get what I don’t deserve, namely His forgiveness and righteousness. I’m so glad karma is wrong.” In the midst of failure, in the midst of terrible decisions, there is God for David.

You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, I am listening to this message and I am in a predicament something like David, what do I do?” There are two things. First: Run, don’t walk; run to God and admit your sin. Second: Go quickly to someone who can help you because you need some help and some counsel. If you are involved in an adulterous relationship there needs to be counseling and the revitalization of trust that needs to be built up. You need some wisdom as to who to tell, what to tell, and if to tell, because it’s a mess. But in the midst of the mess, God says, “There is grace, there’s forgiveness and there’s help.” God can make the best out of a tragic, tragic decision.

Let us pray.

Father, thank you that we don’t get what we deserve. Thank you that because of Jesus we can be forgiven, restored, and cleansed. Thank you, Father, that David’s story does not end until his life ends, when he is back in fellowship, when he is back writing Psalms, when he is back blessing people because of his own relationship even as he watches his family unravel. Thank you for Solomon who was not at all a perfect king. In fact, his heart was turned from the Lord. Nevertheless, you loved him and you kept on loving him. You did it because of grace. Grant to us, Father, that grace. And in the midst of the mess, show your love and your mercy to hurting, regretful people.”

What do you have to say to God now as I close? Let’s have a moment of quietness. What is God saying to you today that you must do? Father, would you grant grace to those who have decisions to make? It is easy to make them in this setting. We pray that you will give them the strength to follow through. Make us obedient and keep us, Father, from sexual sin. Protect us because we are all vulnerable. Help us as a community to know that you’re there—caring, forgiving, restoring, in Jesus’ name we ask, Amen.

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