One of the most troubling parts of the story of David, the man after God’s own heart, is the Bathsheba incident in 2 Samuel 11. How could someone who had been so faithful to the Lord sin in such a big way? It was like David was saving up all his sins to commit them at the same time in life! The story continues in Chapter 12 and we see David’s true repentance, which is why he was a man after God’s own heart. But through this whole scene we can see the timeline for how sin works (very similar to Achan’s sin in Joshua 7). It begins with this simple statement:
In the spring, when kings go off to war, David sent Joab, along with his servants and all the Israelites, and they destroyed the Ammonites, attacking the city of Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
First, David was not in the right place. He should have been out with the army since he was the king, but instead he chose to stay home. Intentionally being in the wrong place can be the beginning of sin.
Second, David saw what he should not have seen. David’s palace was at the top of the downward-sloping city of Jerusalem. From his palace he could see into almost all of the homes below. If he had not been where he ought not to have been, he would not have seen Bathsheba bathing.
Third, David inquired about her. Not only did David see Bathsheba, he became curious about her and sent for people to tell him about her.
Fourth, David sent for her. Now, not only was David where he wasn’t supposed to be, seeing what he shouldn’t have seen and investigating what he had seen, he sends people to bring her to him.
Fifth, David entertains his sin. He lives out what he thought about when he saw her.
Sixth, David tries to hide his sin. He recalls Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite, from battle to make it look as if he got his wife pregnant, not David.
Seventh, David tries to hide his sin a different way. He murders Uriah and then takes Bathsheba as his wife.
In each of these instances David could have stopped the timeline of sin and the guilt would not have been compounded. David could have spared Uriah. He could have admitted to Uriah he slept with his wife. He could have not sent for Bathsheba. He could have not inquired about her and thought about having an affair with her. He could have looked away when he saw her bathing and not thought about it again. He could have gone out and led the armies of Israel as he was supposed to do.
Often, when we start something little, like David not fulfilling his duty to lead Israel in battle, it leads to bigger sins. One of the hardest things to do is to stop the timeline in its tracks and confess our sin to God and to someone who can hold us accountable for our actions. It is difficult, but by having the humility to confess we can stop the sin from growing exponentially and our guilt likewise increasing. The guilt for not going to war was not great. The guilt for seeing Bathsheba bathing was not great. Yet by not stopping this timeline from progressing, David ends up being an adulterer and a murderer. This is much, much more guilt and sin than simply staying away from a battle.
Do not let pride or reputation keep you from ending a cycle of sin. Escape the timeline in which you are trapped by confessing your sin to God and to someone you trust who can hold you accountable for your actions. Admitting sin is painful, but not nearly as painful as the amount of sin that will need to be confessed later as the situation builds beyond control and the consequences of sin spill out on the ones you love.