2 Samuel 11 has to be one of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Especially given the previous ten chapters. 2 Samuel 1 – 10 reads like the plot of King David’s own Marvel movie. He consolidates his rule over the nation of Israel in the first six chapters. In Chapter 7, God makes an extraordinary covenant to David saying that his “throne shall be established forever.” Chapters 8 – 10 bring us stories of David winning in every facet of life – defeating his enemies, executing justice, demonstrating compassion, and for good measure, winning a few more battles. It’s time to cue “Eye of the Tiger,” roll the credits, and buy the King David action figure and matching family PJs!
But then, Chapter 11. “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle … David remained in Jerusalem.” And so, “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch … that David saw … and David sent and inquired … So David sent messengers and took her … and he lay with her.” (11:1-4)
Like a train wreck in slow motion, David then piles sin upon sin in an attempt to cover his guilt. Deception, murder, profound arrogance, and callous indifference to the suffering of others – David gave himself completely to his sinful desires.
What went wrong? How could a man after God’s own heart fall so fast and so hard? How could he go from the pinnacle of success and blessing to making an absolute dumpster fire of his life and dragging so many others down with him?
- A Change in the Routine – the text implies that David should have been with his army. Instead, for whatever reason, he wasn’t. As a result, his routine was changed, and he found himself with more free time on his hands with less structure and less accountability.
- A Chance for His Heart – the external change in circumstances didn’t cause his failure, but simply provided context for his internal desires to act. Already in his heart, these desires now had the chance to fully express themselves. What desires were in David’s heart? The Bible doesn’t say specifically, but it’s likely that it was a toxic combination of arrogance (“I’m the man! I deserve better.”), discontentment (I’m not satisfied with what God has given me), and lethargy (I’m tired of the pressures of normal life and need pleasure).
Today, our quarantined hearts face an abrupt change of routine and more free time than usual. In this scenario, it’s likely you’ll face new or more intense temptations and opportunities to sin. Our enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8) and would love to use this time of self-isolation to gain and secure a foothold in our hearts. Where are you at risk?
- Fear / anxiety
- Lack of self-control
- Anger / impatience
- Ungracious speech
- Fill in the blank
None of us is beyond temptation or the ability to make shockingly foolish and sinful choices. In nearly every instance, major failures don’t happen all at once, but are the product of a slow fade comprised of subtle compromises. So let’s consider how we can remain faithful to God and guard our hearts while sheltering at home.
One, look to Christ. When He is precious, sin’s allure diminishes. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace!” He is our help and it’s in his strength that we fight against temptation. So cry out to our great High Priest “who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He is able to give us “mercy and grace to help in time of need.”(Heb. 4:15-16) Pray that he would “deliver [you] from evil.” (Matt. 6:13) If you’ve chosen sin, confess it and forsake it. There is mercy for the most significant sin. (Read David’s testimony in Psalm 32 & 51) John also provides a glorious reminder that “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath from us] for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2) May his amazing love give you assurance in your guilt and motivation to hate sin and pursue righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Two, renew your mind. There is no substitute for regular, meaningful intake of God’s Word – reading, studying, meditating, memorizing – in our fight against sin and temptation. Battle the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Eph. 6:17) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16) that you may “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Rom. 12:2)
Three, distrust your own heart. The Bible offers many clear warnings about the true nature of our hearts, including Jeremiah 17:9 which says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” and 1 Corinthians 10:12 which instructs, “let anything who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” The old Rich Mullins song rings true, “We are not as strong as we think we are.” Distrust the strength of your sinful desires, the craftiness of your enemy, and your ability to withstand in your own strength. Simultaneously, rejoice in the power of God who is faithful and “with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)
Four, guard against idleness. If you have more time on your hands than normal, praise the Lord. Put it to good use. Read your Bible, pray, exercise, write letters of encouragement, do online training, knock out past-due projects, invest in the people in your home, reconnect with a friend at church or in your community, plant a garden, etc. Don’t settle for non-redemptive activity simply to pass the time. Avoid binge-watching the never ending stream of entertainment, doubling down on gaming, or mindlessly scrolling through more social media. Let’s guard against legalism, but take seriously God’s command to make “the best use of the time because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16)
Five, fight for community. Just because you can’t go to church, attend growth group, or have coffee meetings in person, doesn’t mean that you can’t do everything in your power to stay connected with your church family. Sin lies to you and will thrive in secrecy and isolation. Now, more than ever, we need to take seriously the command to “exhort one another every day … that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13) Pray for and with one another. Ask good and direct questions. Be honest about struggles and failings. Confess your sin to one another. Consider how you can spur one another to love and good deeds. (Heb. 10:24)
By the grace of God, let’s take steps during this global pandemic so that our “prone to wander” hearts don’t succumb to wickedness. Rather, for the glory of God, may we emerge stronger in faith, more fervent in love for God and neighbor, increasingly wise in how we spend our time, and more capable of identifying temptation and resisting sin.