The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 71: David's Sin and Repentance
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The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is
given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who
have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without
a lesson. All the good qualities that men possess are the gift
of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God
through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever
they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in
His hands. More than this—as all the lessons of Bible history
teach—it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one
comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust
to his own strength, he is sure to fall. Man is contending with
foes who are stronger than he. "We wrestle not against flesh
and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the
rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in
high places." Ephesians 6:12, margin. It is impossible for us in
our own strength to maintain the conflict; and whatever diverts
the mind from God, whatever leads to self-exaltation or to
self-dependence, is surely preparing the way for our overthrow. The
tenor of the Bible is to inculcate distrust of human power and
to encourage trust in divine power.
It was the spirit of self-confidence and self-exaltation that
prepared the way for David's fall. Flattery and the subtle allurements
of power and luxury were not without effect upon him. Intercourse
with surrounding nations also exerted an influence for evil.
According to the customs prevailing among Eastern rulers, crimes
not to be tolerated in subjects were uncondemned in the king;
the monarch was not under obligation to exercise the same
self-restraint as the subject. All this tended to lessen David's sense
of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. And instead of relying in
humility upon the power of Jehovah, he began to trust to his own
wisdom and might. As soon as Satan can separate the soul from [p. 718] God, the only Source of strength, he will seek to arouse the
unholy desires of man's carnal nature. The work of the enemy
is not abrupt; it is not, at the outset, sudden and startling; it is
a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle. It begins
in apparently small things—the neglect to be true to God and
to rely upon Him wholly, the disposition to follow the customs
and practices of the world.
Before the conclusion of the war with the Ammonites, David,
leaving the conduct of the army to Joab, returned to Jerusalem.
The Syrians had already submitted to Israel, and the complete
overthrow of the Ammonites appeared certain. David was
surrounded by the fruits of victory and the honors of his wise and
able rule. It was now, while he was at ease and unguarded, that
the tempter seized the opportunity to occupy his mind. The fact
that God had taken David into so close connection with Himself
and had manifested so great favor toward him, should have been
to him the strongest of incentives to preserve his character unblemished.
But when in ease and self-security he let go his hold upon
God, David yielded to Satan and brought upon his soul the stain
of guilt. He, the Heaven-appointed leader of the nation, chosen
by God to execute His law, himself trampled upon its precepts.
He who should have been a terror to evildoers, by his own act
strengthened their hands.
Amid the perils of his earlier life David in conscious integrity
could trust his case with God. The Lord's hand had guided him
safely past the unnumbered snares that had been laid for his
feet. But now, guilty and unrepentant, he did not ask help and
guidance from Heaven, but sought to extricate himself from the
dangers in which sin had involved him. Bathsheba, whose fatal
beauty had proved a snare to the king, was the wife of Uriah
the Hittite, one of David's bravest and most faithful officers.
None could foresee what would be the result should the crime
become known. The law of God pronounced the adulterer guilty
of death, and the proud-spirited soldier, so shamefully wronged,
might avenge himself by taking the life of the king or by exciting
the nation to revolt.
Every effort which David made to conceal his guilt proved
unavailing. He had betrayed himself into the power of Satan;
danger surrounded him, dishonor more bitter than death was [p. 719] before him. There appeared but one way of escape, and in his
desperation he was hurried on to add murder to adultery. He
who had compassed the destruction of Saul was seeking to lead
David also to ruin. Though the temptations were different, they
were alike in leading to transgression of God's law. David reasoned
that if Uriah were slain by the hand of enemies in battle,
the guilt of his death could not be traced home to the king,
Bathsheba would be free to become David's wife, suspicion could
be averted, and the royal honor would be maintained.
Uriah was made the bearer of his own death warrant. A
letter sent by his hand to Joab from the king commanded, "Set
ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from
him, that he may be smitten, and die." Joab, already stained
with the guilt of one wanton murder, did not hesitate to obey the
king's instructions, and Uriah fell by the sword of the children
Heretofore David's record as a ruler had been such as few
monarchs have ever equaled. It is written of him that he "executed
judgment and justice unto all his people." 2 Samuel 8:15.
His integrity had won the confidence and fealty of the nation.
But as he departed from God and yielded himself to the wicked
one, he became for the time the agent of Satan; yet he still held
the position and authority that God had given him, and because
of this, claimed obedience that would imperil the soul of him
who should yield it. And Joab, whose allegiance had been given
to the king rather than to God, transgressed God's law because
the king commanded it.
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