Start of a Shameful Season
It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1)
It is one of the saddest chapters in the Old Testament, and the tragic scandal that unfolds in 1 Samuel 11 cast a dark shadow over the glorious reign of King David. It was not his first season of spiritual decline, but it was certainly the most notorious. It’s painful to consider that David’s adultery with Bathsheba is almost as well known as his victory over Goliath.
The chapter begins with a time (in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle) and a place (at Jerusalem). In that part of the world, wars were not normally fought during the winter months because rain and cold weather made travel and campaigning difficult. Fighting resumed in the spring, but David didn’t take up the battle. He stayed home in Jerusalem and instead, David sent Joab. Through both custom and experience God told David, “You need to be at the battle.” But David remained at Jerusalem.
The principle of Galatians 5:16 rings true: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” If David had his attention where God wanted it, he would never put his attention where God didn’t want it. Joab was busy preparing the attack against the Ammonite city of Rabbah, but Satan was busy preparing the attack against King David. Satan succeeded in his attack before Joab.
Nevertheless, it is wrong to think that this was the beginning of the chain of events David followed down to adultery and murder. Long before 2 Samuel 11:1 David showed his disregard for God’s plan for marriage when he took more than one wife (see 1 Samuel 25:42-43 and 2 Samuel 3:2-5). David’s practice of adding wives showed a lack of romantic restraint and the indulgence of his passions. This corrupt seed, sown long before, grew unchecked long enough and will now begin to bear bitter fruit.
The Christian writer and commentator Alan Redpath wrote, “As I think of what happened, of this I am sure, that it did not happen all at once. This matter of Bathsheba was simply the climax of something that had been going on in his life for twenty years.”
From this we see that though it was dangerous for David to stay home from the battle, that error merely provided opportunity for the long-standing lack of romantic restraint and indulgence of passion to display itself. No doubt God had spoken to David’s heart about these matters many times before – and David did not listen or respond. Then, God warned David by the events recorded at the end of 2 Samuel 10, showing him the great importance of being in the battle – but David didn’t listen. The long-sown seeds of sin, together with ignoring God’s warning, combined with opportunity, all came together to produce David’s most shameful season.
What long-sown seeds of sin are there in your life? What warnings are you ignoring? Can you see the love and goodness of God in the warnings He gives you? He wants to spare you your own shameful season.