Have you ever noticed how much literary real estate is given to David in the Old Testament? Chapter after chapter sing the praises of this man. He is the obvious main character of both Samuels. His family details are splayed out all over the place like some kind of Semitic soap opera.
For the last couple of weeks, I have been reading through the section of the Old Testament that tells David’s story. In the beginning, it seemed like he could do no wrong. He starts off as a little kid destined to do big things. He kills a lion, and then he kills a giant. He fights battles for the king, and he cannot lose. “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands,” sang the people.
Saul gets jealous and chases David all over the countryside, but he cannot kill him. Saul dies, and David becomes king. He continues to fight and he continues to win. David beats armies he has no business beating, like Syria. He was unstoppable. And after all this, God tells David he will establish a dynasty that will reign for eternity. Through his lineage would come the king of all kings, whose rule would never end. Talk about a pretty sweet life.
But then I got to today’s passage.
II Samuel 11 begins like this,
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. (II Samuel 11:1 emphasis added)
Now it does not take a brainiac to realize this is foreshadowing. This not-so-subtle introduction marks a turning point in David’s story. The David that could do no wrong spirals down into acts that seem unthinkable, and even cowardly. This chapter goes on to detail adultery and murder, both committed by his hand. For the remainder of II Samuel, David is dealing with the consequences of remaining in Jerusalem during that campaign.
Have you ever been in the right place at the wrong time? On this particular instance, David was.
Instead of demonizing David, which is a common tendency when we get to this passage, I think it is important to point out that David was not really doing anything bad. David was not out actively seeking trouble. He was not walking the streets of Jerusalem looking for a good time. No, he had just stayed at home. He was in his house when this whole situation began. David was not in bad place; he was simply at home. However, he was at home when he should have been at war.
The example for us is revealed in that truth.
Good church folk are skilled at avoiding the bad. We know better than to be in certain places or trying to do certain things. We often think it is enough to not do the bad stuff. We think that if we avoid that list of things church folk are not supposed to do, then we are being a good Christian. But this passage proves that to be a false assumption.
As best we can tell from scripture, David was not looking for an adulterous relationship. It found him. He was not seeking out the bad, but he was also not running toward the best. Temptation sought David out, and it found him idle. He cornered himself by being in the right place at the wrong time. Ultimately temptation won, and David gave in to sin.
Avoiding bad stuff is not enough. God did not simply give us a list of things not to do. He also gave us a mission to pursue. When we lull ourselves into thinking that we are alright because we are not really doing anything bad, then we have fooled ourselves. We open the door to temptation just as David did.
We have heard stories of good men on staff at churches who fall into an adulterous relationship with a secretary. We know of families who are ruined, not because of a crazy lifestyle, but simply because of idleness in front of an Internet connection. We know stories of wives who leave their husbands, not because of some unpardonable sin against her, but because of a selfishness that sets in and says, “I deserve better.”
That pastor I just mentioned did not find his adulterous relationship in a bar; he found it in his church. That wife was not sneaking around on her husband, she had just sat and listened to the lies that tell her perfect happiness and self-fulfillment are hers if she will only get rid of the things that hold her down.
If we think it is enough to remove bad habits from our life and live in a passive idleness, then temptation will seek us out. We must not only avoid the bad, but we must run towards the good. We must not live in idleness. Instead, we must pursue the purpose for which we have been called.
Instead of sitting at home, we should be at war.
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