Skip Heitzig - The Four Seasons of Failure
Would you please turn in your Bibles to the book of Second Samuel chapter 11, Second Samuel chapter 11. There was a story told a few years ago. It was, I believe, then on ABC Nightly News about a very strange piece of art. It was a chair, and fixed to the chair was a shotgun that was loaded and on a timer. That is, it would go off some time in the next 100 years. The shotgun could go off immediately, in a week, 20 years, 100 years.
The way the art was viewed, it was to be viewed by sitting in the chair and staring right down the barrel of that shot gun for one minute. Now you might think that nobody would want to see that thing, right. You'd be surprised to know that there were lines of people who were waiting to have their one minute in the chair. Because they were gambling on the idea that, well, it's going to go off, but it won't go off while I'm in the chair. What we essentially have in chapter 11 of Second Samuel is David's one minute in the chair. Only while he's in it, the gun goes off. And everything that he knew, especially his reputation, is ruined.
Second Samuel chapter 11 verse 1. "It happened in the spring of the year at the time when the kings go out to battle that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all of Israel. And they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing. And the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of your Uriah the Hittite? Then David sent messengers and took her and she came to him and he lay with her. For she was cleansed from her impurity as she returned to her house. And the woman conceived. So she sent and told David, I am with child."
I brought a book with me today. You may have heard of this book. It's been around for a few years. It is called Every Man's Battle, Every Man's Battle. And the subtitle is Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time. It's a book that's designed to help men who struggle with lust. But also to help women understand a man's struggle. The special target of the book is especially men who feel trapped and feel desperate.
But what is most noticeable is the title? It's not called one man's battle or a few dudes' problem. Isn't it interesting that it's called Every Man's Battle? That should tell you something. As the authors of this book write, "our maleness brings a natural vulnerability to sexual sin." That was David's battle. And when David should have been out fighting different battles, he was at home losing this one.
And here's what's remarkable. This is David, the one after God's own heart. This is the David who went out after Goliath and won. This is David who became the commander of Saul's army. This is David of whom the song was written, Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his tens of thousands. This is David, this sweet psalmist of Israel. This is David, who has a city named after him. They call Jerusalem the City of David. To this day, the Israelis bear Flag, a blue and white flag. And on that flag is the star of David. This is that David who is tempted. Oscar Wilde, the Irish playwright, said, "I can resist anything except temptation." David could have written that line.
What we have in Second Samuel 11 is the Old Testament version of Humpty Dumpty. We might say Humpty David sat on a wall. Humpty David had a great fall. Here is David looking over the walls of Jerusalem. The view from his pinnacle was of the kingdom that he ruled and reigned over. But he had a great fall, and he would never be the same after this fall. Oh, he'll be forgiven, but he'll never be the same. What you need to keep in mind is what we're reading about is not some sexual pervert or some wild guy at a party. But we're looking at a middle aged leader's one minute in the chair.
I've called this message The Four Seasons of Failure, because I've outlined it according to the seasons of the year, spring, summer, fall, and winter. And I've done that because temptations often are like seasons in the year. The warm, alluring breezes that temptation sends forth that draw us into its allure will leave us with that cold, icy, wintry distance from people that we love and from God. The four seasons of failure.
Something else that I think is important before we jump into the text and examine it is what we are reading about did not happen all of a sudden. It was severe, but it was not sudden anymore than a tree doesn't rot suddenly or a couple gets divorced suddenly. There are underlying, overriding factors that had been going on that lead to a culminating moment. As FBM Meyer wrote, "No man suddenly becomes base."
So we're going to begin in the springtime, because that is where the text takes us. It's springtime in Jerusalem, in the City of David. It says in verse one, "it happened in the spring of the year at the time when the 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, but, you could underline that word. "David remained at Jerusalem." You can immediately see the problem. Why, if it's spring, and spring is the time that kings go to war, why does this king not go to war? Why does he stay home? David, the king, stays home when kings go to war.
Now just a little note about that little phrase, because it sounds odd to us. It's springtime and it's sort of like oh, it's baseball season. You know, it's fighting season. It's war time. The rains fell in the winter time and the roads for chariots became very soft and muddy. So you'd want to wait till the latter rains were finished. So sometime the end of April, beginning of May it was fighting time. And if you know anything about David at all, besides being a psalmist, he was a fighter. It was his wheelhouse. He was a man of the battlefield.
Listen to his resume. First Samuel, chapter 17, David fought against Goliath and the Philistines. First Samuel chapter 18, David is given a high rank in Saul's army. First Samuel 18, verse 13, David has given charge over 1,000 men. First Samuel 22, he gathers a ragtag army of malcontents around him. This is when Saul pursues him to kill him. First Samuel 23, he attacks the Philistines and saves Keilah. First Samuel 25, his army grows to several hundred men. First Samuel 27, David and his men flee to Gath. He is given the city of Ziklag to settle in. And from there he conducts raids against the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites. First Samuel chapter 30, David defeats the Amalekites. Second Samuel chapter five, David becomes King of Israel and conquers Jerusalem, the City of David. Second Samuel chapter eight, he has a war against the Philistines, the Moabites, the Syrians, the Edomites.
What's my point? Simply this. David belonged among the soldiers. That's what he did. The Bible records him among all the things that he did as a man of the battlefield. He was a warrior. And this is the very reason God wouldn't allow him to build the temple. Because he was called a man of blood. David, you have blood on your hands. I don't want you to touch my temple. So why does he stay back? You want to hear my profound answer? I have no idea. We're not told why. I can only guess. We know he's older now, he's middle aged. And maybe he's thinking look, I've fought enough battles. I'm older now, that's a young man's game. I'll stay home. Let them take care of it.
Number two, he's gotten used to the soft life. He's a king, he's in a palace. And when you're surrounded by wealth and poshness, you don't long to be on a tent in a sleeping bag on a battlefield. He's gotten a little softer.
Or number three, perhaps he's thinking since Rabbah isn't too far from Jerusalem, I can manage the battle from here. I can get people to run up and run back to the battle lines. And I can get and give information and conduct the battle long distance.
I don't know why, but I know this. If David would have been on the battlefield with his men, he would not have been in bed with a woman. And here's the point, your greatest battles don't come when you're busy. They come when you're bored. Now I'm going to risk sounding like your grandmother. Beware of idleness. You've heard your grandma or your grandpa say an idle mind is the devil's workshop. One thing we know is that up to this point David was always busy doing something. He was a shepherd. After a shepherd he was a musician.
Then he returned to the sheepfold to be a shepherd. Then he was an errand boy for the king. Then he was a soldier, then he became a commander, then he became a fugitive, and now he's the king. And he slows down, he stops, he puts it all away and he stays back. I mentioned that he's older now. He's in middle age by chapter 11. And maybe you think that the older you get the easier it gets in terms of temptation. That every man's battle gets easier as every man gets older.
If you think that, you're mistaken. The authors of this book write this. "Perhaps you've mustered the hope that you would someday be free from sexual sin and expected to grow at of it as naturally as you grew into it, like outgrowing acne. Perhaps you wait at each birthday for your sexual purity to clear up, but it never did. Later, you assumed you would be free naturally through marriage. But as for many of us, that didn't happen either."
Didn't happen for David. David was married. He had seven wives and 10 concubines. He had 17 women in his life. It didn't clear up for him. And he's now in his middle age with several women. So we go from springtime in David's city to summertime in David's sight. Things are sizzling inside his mind, his heart, what he sees.
Verse two, then it happened. One evening then David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful to behold. My guess is David couldn't sleep. He's probably thinking about the battle or he's thinking about expanding the kingdom. So he gets up and he takes a walk on his house. Now Jerusalem is built on hills. And guess where kings lived? Top of the hill.
The only thing higher than his house was God's house. The temple was a little bit higher. But just next to the temple down on a little precipice was the palace of the king. Many of us stood in David's palace or the foundations of it just months ago. From there, the city drops off very steeply. So that from the king's house you can virtually see every house around you in plain view. Rooftops are flat, people will often be out there. So David's on his rooftop looking down at every other rooftop in the valley.
And he saw something. Something entered his view that every man, every man, can understand. He saw a woman, very beautiful to behold. I suppose if this were written in modern times it might say that David was sitting on the couch with his TV remote late at night. Or David was sitting in front of his computer screen, sort of aimlessly searching and surfing the internet. But David, the King of Israel, was on his house and he was looking out.
Now there's two words in verse two I want you to compare. I'm glad you brought your bibles to see this. Notice the two words. The first is he saw a woman and that she was very beautiful to what? What's the next word? Behold. See those two words, saw, and behold, now those words are different. The first word suggests a glance. He just saw her, he noticed her. Couldn't help that. That's what he saw. It came into his view. But the second word suggests a gaze, not a glance.
He went from seeing to beholding. He couldn't help the first look. It's the double take that killed him. It's the what, what. And he stayed looking and fixated. And it turned into a lustful look. Jesus said in Matthew five, you have heard that it was said to those of old you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust after her in his heart has already committed adultery with her in his heart. As I said, David's sin wasn't the look, it was the lingering look.
Men, every man, men have a visual ignition switch. That is, the pleasure centers of the male brain are turned on, revved up by simply seeing someone like David saw. And by the way, those pleasure sinners are indiscriminate. It could be any woman. And this is where the battle is won or lost. Because once you see something, it's now what do you do with what you see? Do you keep on seeing? Do you go from seeing to beholding? Or do you turn away and see something else?
David should have done that. What David should have done, couldn't help the first look. He noticed and oops, outta here. I mean, Joseph literally ran from his situation. Genesis 39, Potiphar's wife grabs him and says, come to bed with me. And he didn't stay around and go well, let me pray about that. He just ran away. So can you.
Job understood the power of the look. That's why in Job chapter 31 verse one he says, "I have made a covenant with my eyes that I will not look upon a young woman." A wise driver once said, he who looketh on a woman loseth a fender.
I'll tell you a true story, honest confession. I was 15, maybe 16 years of age. I went from a permit to a driver's license, Southern California. My mode of transportation was a Honda 305 motorcycle. And the first, the only accident I've ever been in where I got in an accident while I was driving was this one. I'm on a motorcycle. I'm driving down the street, almost home. I'm following a car, but I'm distracted by a beautiful girl on the side of the road. And my eyes followed her. I'm following her and I'm following her, and I'm supposed to be driving. And what I don't notice is the car in front of me is now slowing down to make a turn. I plow into the back of the car. I fly over the car and land on the street in front of the car. Talk about a wake up call in this area. That did it.
Now we naturally focus on David and David's lust and David's sin. But I do have to say something about Bathsheba. If Bathsheba wasn't taking a bath out on the top of her rooftop in plain sight it sure would have helped. She had to have known the vulnerability of that situation given the topography of Jerusalem. If you can walk out on your roof and see it that easily, she had to have known that. So I just want to say women, try to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. Help us out here a little bit. You know what I'm saying. Your physical appearance can be a snare. Don't give us something to lust after. Don't make it easy.
AW Pink, Arthur Pink writes, "If lustful looking is so grievous a sin, then those who dress and expose themselves with a desire to be looked at and lusted after are not less, but perhaps more guilty." In this matter, it is not only too often the case that men sin, but women tempt them to do so. How great then must be the guilt of a great majority of modern Mrs. who deliberately seek to arouse the sexual passions of young men." Bathsheba, take it inside.
So now we go down to verse three. And we go from the springtime in David's city, the summertime and David's sight, to the fall. This is the fall. This is Humpty Dumpty falling. This is fall time in David's sanctity. So David sent and inquired about the woman. Seems innocent at first. I just want to ask a few questions, find out a few facts. Just one little step toward Sodom like Lot did. Just find out. He inquired about the woman. And someone said, "is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? Then David sent messengers and took her. And she came to him. And he lay with her."
Oh, I hate reading this. It's so quick. It's so cold. There's no love here. This is just pure passion, raw sex. "For she was cleansed from her impurity as she returned to her house. And the woman conceived and she sent and told David and said, I am with child." You probably know that kings in those days could take anything they wanted, anyone they wanted. They would develop a harem. But, but this is a different king. This is God's king. This is the kingdom of Israel. And according to the law of Israel, there should be one man and one woman for one lifetime. And kings especially, were told in the scriptures to not multiply wives unto themselves. How many women did he have altogether? 17. Seven wives, 10 concubines.
What does that tell us? It tells us this is a pattern with David. He's a polygamist. He has a harem full of women. Now, now now think about this. You would think 17 women would satisfy him. It doesn't. And why is that? For a very simple reason. The more you have the more you want. It's not like the more you have you'll finally reach a saturation point. I'm done. David's not done. David looked and David lusted and David lived out his fantasy because he had done it before over and over again. This is a pattern with him. David didn't collapse in a weak moment. David cultivated a weak moment. This is his one minute in the chair, but he has cultivated for a long time.
I see verse three as a warning. Do you? "Somebody said, is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of a Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite." That's a warning. Hey David, David. That's somebody's daughter. David, that's somebody's wife. Hands off. You already stole from her in looking at her privacy. You already took from her what belonged only to her husband when you gazed at her. This is somebody's wife. This is the somebody's daughter.
Can I be blunt? Not that I haven't already, do you think it was fun? Do you think that night David had with Bathsheba was fun? I mean, you can be honest here. Was it pleasurable? Absolutely it was. It was hot. It was sizzling. As they crawl between David sheets, it was magnificent. But it lasted one night. And it's over.
Hebrews 11 says, it speaks of those who enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Do you ever hear, ever note that phrase? It's the passing pleasures of sin. It's pleasurable. It is pleasurable. But it's passing. What David and Bathsheba thought they had only lasted for one night. Well, she gets pregnant. The rest of the chapter is a cover up. So David sends for Uriah, her husband, from the lines of the battle to come home, hoping that he'll spend a night with his wife, sleep with his wife, and nobody will ever know the kid that will be born is my child. But what he underestimates is the integrity of Uriah, verse 11.
Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents. And my Lord Joab and the servants of my Lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, to lie with my wife? As you live and as your soul lives I will not do this thing." Uriah that Hittite has more integrity than the king of Jerusalem. That must have pierced David's heart when his man Uriah said this.
Now who is Uriah? Who is this guy? Uriah the Hittite was not a common soldier. He was one of David's 30 valiant men, the Bible tells us. That's why his house was so close to David's house. He had been one of David's valiant men since David had been a fugitive running from King Saul. He was born a Hittite. His parents converted to Judaism and gave him a Hebrew name. The name Uriah means "My light is the Lord." But this soldier comes home. And he says David, I should be in battle, not sitting in a palace. Well, David now tries to get him drunk. Thinking if he's drunk he'll go home, lie with his wife. Didn't happen. His plan failed. So David arranges for his assassination. He says take Uriah the Hittite. Place him in the fiercest part of the battle and let him get killed.
Here's what I want you to see. One sin always leads to another sin. It's not like one and it's over. David's lust led to adultery that led to deception that led to entrapment that led to murder. And that's not the end of the story. It's not going to just blow over. Like the husband and wife who are shopping at Christmastime in the mall. They're in the same store. And as they're shopping for items, this beautiful woman walks through the store. And the man's eyes follow her throughout the whole store. His wife didn't even look up, but she says, was it worth the trouble you're now in?
We might ask David. David, was it worth the trouble you're now in? And you know who David is in trouble with. He's in trouble not only with his family and his army, but with his God. So Uriah the Hittite goes back. He gets killed. And a report comes back in verse 24. "The archers shot from the wall at your servants. And some of the King's servants are dead. And your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also."
Now listen to David's response. "David said to the messenger. Thus you shall say to Joab. Do not let this thing displease you. For the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it." So encourage him. We go from springtime in David's city, summertime in David sights, fall time in David's sanctity, to the coldest time of all. It is now winter time in David's soul. Listen to how callous he is about one of his mighty men. Ah, whatever. People die. He caused his death. No remorse. You know why? Because David's doing this inside. Whew, man. No one will ever know what I've done. Ah, he's leaving something out.
Look at verse 26. When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. It tore her apart. And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house. And she became his wife and bore him a son. But notice this last sentence. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord. Ponder that phrase. Let that sink in. But the thing that he had done displeased the Lord. Sin is the most expensive thing in the world, because it offends God.
David thought, it's hidden from everyone. Nope. Proverbs five, written by David's son later on, Solomon. Says "the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord and he ponders all of his goings." David is busted. Chapter 12 will tell the story when God sends Nathan the prophet to him. Now David will confess his sin. You know Psalm 51. You know Psalm 32. Those are both written after this. This is David's confession of his sin. And listen to how deep it is.
Psalm 51, "Have mercy on me, O God. Wash me thoroughly, cleanse me from my sin." Can't you hear the emotion in David? Here's the deal, though. You know how long it was from the night David fell? That night with Bathsheba until the time he confessed in chapter 12? One year. One year. The best time for David to cry out to God was between verse four and five. Sitting on the edge of his bed say oh God, what have I done? Oh Lord, forgive me. But he covers it up, kills a man, gets him drunk, orders his assassination, and doesn't pray for one year. It is wintertime in David's soul. David loses trust with his family. He loses trust with his army. And he loses intimacy with God.
Now when David saw Bathsheba, when he's standing on his veranda, his rooftop, and he's looking down at her bathing, he must have thought he has never seen a more beautiful sight in all of his life. That's how men think at times like that. I've never seen a more beautiful woman in all my life. And at that moment when the look turned into a lingering look, a lustful look, David forgot everything. Because sin, especially lust, does that. It just sort of cauterizes sense. You become insane. David forgot who he was. David forgot about his family. David forgot about his army. David forgot about all those psalms he had ever written. David forgot God. He wasn't mad at God, he just forgot God. That's why if you could just somehow rehearse before you act what the consequences might be would stop a person.
Randy Alcorn, who has written so many good books, he's a pastor and an author. Said when I feel particularly vulnerable to sexual temptation, I find it helpful to review what effects my action could have. And he makes a list. I'll just read a few. Grieving the Lord who redeemed me. Dragging His sacred name through the mud. One day having the look Jesus, the righteous judge, in the face and give an account of my actions. Inflicting untold hurt on Nancy, my best friend and loyal wife. Losing Nancy's respect and trust. Hurting my beloved daughters Karina and Angie. Causing shame to my family as they ask, why isn't daddy a pastor anymore? Losing self respect. Creating a form of guilt awfully hard to shake.
Even though God would forgive me, would I forgive myself? Bringing great pleasure to Satan, the enemy of God and all that is good. Causing shame and hurt to friends, especially those I have led to Christ and discipled. And he says, I list those names. Boy, that would stop you if you could rehearse the consequences before you act. Did David write more psalms? Yes, he did, he will. Will David be forgiven? Yes, he will. Immorality is not an unforgivable sin. Of course, he'll be forgiven. Yes, and that's a whole different message. But what I want you to hear is that the consequences of sexual sin are unique in the pain and the shame that they bring.
And as we are about to close in prayer, I want you to think of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians when he said, "let him who thinks he stand take heed, lest he fall." All of us, every man, all of us, men and women, we are all vulnerable. So as you're sitting in your chair for one minute, looking at the shotgun, is it worth it?
Father, we want to close on that note. And we confess Lord, that we confess what you already know. Psalm 103, you know our frame. You know what we're made of. You remember that we are dust. You know our struggles better than we do. And you are ready to help in time of trouble. You are ready to give us the escape hatch in time of temptation. No temptation has taken you, but such as is common to man, your word says. But with that temptation, you have provided a way of escape. Lord, help us to know and to rehearse in advance what the consequences could be and where the escape hatch is now. Turning it off, walking away, running out, engaging in a different conversation. Because we don't want to drag your name through the mud, and we don't want to hurt people around us just for one minute in the chair. Though we all face these battles, we look to you as our commander-in-chief. Give us your strength. In Jesus' name, amen.