By Reuben Archer Torrey
In 2 Samuel 11 we read the story of one of the saddest downfalls of a man of God recorded anywhere in history, and at the same time we read the record of one of the most contemptible and outrageous sins that any man ever perpetrated against a faithful friend. We read how David committed against his faithful warrior Uriah one of the most contemptible offenses that one man can commit against another, and how in order to cover up his sin he stained his hands with the blood of this faithful servant. After the deed was done, God in His mercy sent His prophet to David, declaring to him, "By this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme" (2 Samuel 12:14). History has proved the truth of this declaration. There is scarcely anything in the Bible that has caused more of the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme than this dastardly crime of King David. They are constantly bringing it up and making it the butt of pitiless ridicule.
Some who desire to defend the Bible have thought it necessary to defend David's action, or at least to try to make it appear that it was not as heinous as it looks at first sight. But why should we seek to defend David's action? The Bible nowhere seeks to defend it. On the contrary, God rebuked it in the sternest terms. It was punished by a train of such frightful calamities as have seldom overtaken any other man.
It is true that David is spoken of in the Scriptures as "a man after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), but this does not mean by any means that David was an absolutely faultless man. It simply means that in distinction from Saul, who was constantly disposed to go his own way, David was a man who sought to know God's will and to do it exactly. Therefore he was a man after God's own heart; but though this was the abiding attitude of David's mind and heart toward God, it was still possible for him, as it is possible for men today whose wills on the whole are entirely surrendered to God, to step out of the position of absolute surrender to God and in a moment of weakness and folly commit an act hideous in the sight of God--an act that would bring upon him His sternest judgment.
The recording of David's sin without any attempt to extenuate it in the Scripture is one of the many proofs of the divine origin and absolute reliability of the Bible. David was the great hero of his times. Unless his Bible biographers had been guided by the Holy Spirit, they certainly would have concealed or at least have sought to palliate this awful fault of David; but in point of fact they did nothing of the kind. The Holy Spirit, who guided them in their record, led them to picture this event in all its hideousness, just as it is. Here is a radical difference between Bible biographers and all other biographers. Even the heroes of the Bible, when they fall, are not whitewashed. No excuses are offered for their sins. Their sins are not concealed from the public eye. They are recorded with fullness of detail, and the sinner is held up as a warning to others.
In this matter David "despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight," and the Bible plainly says so (2 Samuel 12:9-10). "The thing that David had done displeased the LORD" (2 Samuel 11:27), and God sets him forth before the whole world as an adulterer and a murderer (2 Samuel 12:9). The whole story is horrible, but if one will read it with earnest prayer he may find exceedingly precious lessons in it. It was a dastardly and horrible crime, but I am glad it is recorded in the Bible. The record of it and its consequences has held many back from contemplated sin.
The story of David's sin abounds in great lessons. The first is that an exceptionally good man, yes, a man "after God's own heart," if he gets his eyes off God and His Word, may easily fall into very gross sin. Any man who trusts in his own heart is a fool. Any man who fancies that he is a match for the devil in his own wisdom and strength is badly deceived. David was one of the noblest men of his day. He was brave, he was generous, he had a single-hearted purpose to do the will of God; but he allowed himself to trifle with temptation, and he went down to the depths of vileness, baseness and dishonor.
The story also teaches that God never looks upon any man's sin with the least degree of allowance. God has no favorites. He allows no one's sins to go unpunished. God loved David. He had given David remarkable proofs of His love. But when David sinned, God dealt with David's sin with the sternest and most relentless judgment. He allowed David's sin to dog him and to embitter and to blast his life to his dying day. God forgave David's sin and restored him to fellowship and the joy of His salvation, but He let David drink deeply of the bitter cup he had mixed for himself. One of his sons followed him into adultery, the burden of which came upon David's own daughter. Another son followed him into murder; and, as David had rebelled against his heavenly Father, his own son rebelled against him. David reaped what he sowed. When this rebellious son lay before him silent in death, David cried, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33). David knew that Absalom's wandering and death were the fruit of his own sin.
But there is another precious lesson for us too in the history of David's sin. There is full and free pardon for the vilest sinner. David's sin was black, black as midnight; it was appalling, it was inexcusable, but he found pardon full and free. David said, "I have sinned against the LORD," and God said through His prophet, "The LORD also hath put away thy sin" (2 Samuel 12:13). David himself has told us in one of his most beautiful psalms the story of his pardon (Psalm 32:1-5).
God is a holy God. He hates sin with infinite hatred. He will not look upon the smallest sin with the least bit of allowance. But God is also a God of pardoning love. He stands ready to pardon the vilest sinner. He is ever calling to men and women who have sinned: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). There are those that think they have sinned too deeply to ever find pardon, but it is not so. It would be hard to find one who had sinned more deeply than David. He had committed the greatest wrong one man can commit against another, and he had stained his hands with the blood of his victim; still he found pardon.
I do thank God for this story of David. It gives me hope for any man. In the light of it as told in the Bible, no matter who comes and asks me, "Is there salvation for me?" I do not hesitate to answer, "Yes, for you. David found mercy, and you can."