The Bible is hard on its heroes. While it records their great deeds, it also records their flaws and often their worst sins.
David, Israel’s most beloved king, is one such hero. As a young shepherd boy he fearlessly took on a lion, a bear and a giant and grew up to become a military leader without equal. He also authored dozens of the Psalms and is described as a man after God’s own heart.
But he was also a sinner -- a man of God who descended into adultery and murder.
David had been chosen king of Israel and loyally standing by him during his struggles to consolidate his kingdom and defend it from its enemies were his “mighty men.” They were a group of hardened warriors who would do anything for their leader. You can read about them in 2 Samuel 23. One of these hardened warriors was Uriah, a Hittite and a man of uncompromising loyalty and character, who was battling the Ammonites to the east, while David was in his palace in Jerusalem.
One night King David saw a woman bathing in a neighbouring house from the roof of his palace and was captivated by her beauty. Although David had a number of wives, he was used to getting what he wanted and sent to have her brought to him. The Bible tells us that David “lay with her . . . and the woman conceived” (2 Samuel 11:4-5).
David knew Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife, and he resorted to more deceit and lying to cover up his sin. He gave orders to have Uriah return from battle to his wife, assuming they would have marital relations and Uriah would think the child was his. But Uriah was a very honourable man and chose to sleep like his fellow soldiers rather than in his own bed at home with his wife.
David now compounded his sins and ordered Uriah to be placed in the midst of the fiercest fighting. The other soldiers were then to retreat, leaving Uriah to die in battle.
David’s scheme seemed to have worked, and after Bathsheba mourned for her slain husband, “...David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son” (2 Samuel 11:27).
But the story didn’t end there because of God’s grace. If it had, David would have turned out to be just one more greedy, abusive, corrupt king staining the pages of human history. Although David had drifted far from God, God didn’t give up on him.
God sent the prophet Nathan to David with a story about a rich man who slaughtered a poor man’s only lamb, although he had plenty of lambs of his own. David was outraged at hearing the story, declaring, “The man who has done this shall surely die!” (2 Samuel 12:5). But David wasn’t expecting Nathan’s response which was “... You are the man!’” (2 Samuel 12:7).
David then realised he was condemned by the very death sentence he had just pronounced, and admitted his heinous sin before God. Nathan subsequently revealed that in God’s mercy David would not die for this sin, though there would be consequences. The child, recently born to him and Bathsheba, would die (2 Samuel 12:16).
A gracious God knew that David needed to learn a painful lesson for his own spiritual well-being. And through a painful loss David gained something much greater—restoration of his relationship with God.
David wrote Psalm 51 as a result of this experience, and for 3,000 years it has stood in the Bible as a model of what a truly repentant heart and attitude should be.
Bible Study Guide - What Does The Bible Teach About Grace?