The Great Fall of a Good King (2 Samuel 11, Psalm 51)

#17 in “66 in 52– A One Year Journey Through the Bible” | April 30, 2023 | Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, Alabama | James Jackson, Pastor

Good morning! Please open your Bibles to 2 Samuel 11

How many of you know the story of Humpty Dumpty? Of course you do. There’s really not much of a story to it, is there?

Humpty dumpty sat on a …

Humpty Dumpty had a great…

All the kings… and all the kings …

Couldn’t put….

This is a story that raises a lot of questions.

  • Who thought up on a wall was a good place to put a raw egg?
  • How did he get up there? Was he lured into a trap?
  • What made him fall? Did he lose his balance, or Was he pushed?
  • What did we expect all the king’s horses to do? Did anyone really expect them to put Humpty together again? I mean, they don’t even have opposable thumbs. How are you supposed to pick up eggshells with hooves?
  • And how does it end?

We just don’t know. It is a very mysterious nursery rhyme. But one thing that is clear about this story is that you don’t have to be a raw egg to have a great fall. As our administrative pastor Mike Vineyard says, every single one of us is just one bad decision away from ruining our lives (He should know. As a former cop, he spent his career as one of those “king’s men” who tries to pick up all the pieces from a whole bunch of humpty dumptys

And here’s the question maybe some of you are asking this morning. If you’re the one that has had a great fall, can anyone put Humpty together again?

Today, we are going to talk about King David, a good king (remember, he’s the one with the whole heart) who despite being a man after God’s own heart, had a great fall. And as we prepare for communion at the end of the service, I want you to pay close attention to who could put David together again. Let’s pray, and we will jump in.


In this week’s reading plan, we have mostly been in 1 Chronicles. We actually won’t get to the story of David and Bathsheba for a couple of weeks. but she and David are mentioned in this week’s reading. I have it printed on your listening guide, so follow along as I read 1 Chronicles 3:5-8:

These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel; then Ibhar, Elishama, Eliphelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine. All these were David’s sons, besides the sons of the concubines, and Tamar was their sister (1 Chronicles 3:5-8)

And this is the only mention of Bathsheba (Bath-shua here) in the entire book of 1 Chronicles. The story of David’s great fall isn’t even mentioned! Why is that?

Well, think of Chronicles as an editorial on David. 1 and 2 Chronicles were written over five hundred years after David died. After another civil war. After 400 years of bad kings. After Israel was wiped out by the Assyrians. After Judah was led into exile by the Babylonians.

So maybe the priests who compiled Chronicles when they came back to Jerusalem from Babylon looked at everything that happened after David and said, you know, compared to all the kings that came after David, David wasn’t that bad. Let’s just leave the story about his adultery and treachery out of the story.

1 Chroniclesis a reminder of our own tendency to minimize our sin over time. We think, “Well, that was a long time ago. Why bring it up now.” Or we say, “Yeah, I might have made some mistakes, but compared with most people, I consider myself a pretty good person.

Friends, neither of those work with God. He is eternal, so phrases like “a long time ago” or “a long time from now” mean nothing to him. And while we may feel like we’re good people compared to… (fill in the blank)—Hitler, Isis, Clemson fans—God doesn’t compare us to other people. He compares us to his son Jesus. And we all fall short of that standard.

That’s why we celebrate Communion several times a year. We need to come face to face with the weight of our sin and our need for a savior.

And that’s why we need 2 Samuel and the story of David and Bathsheba. Many scholars believe that 2 Samuel was written by the prophet Nathan, the same one who confronted David after his great fall.

Let’s look at the story that begins in 2 Samuel 11. We won’t read the entire story, but I want to read enough of it for you to get the basics of it if you are new to the Bible, and then make some observations about how temptation and sin work, and what repentance looks like.

Follow along in your copy of God’s word:

11 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.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.

Let me stop there and ask: has David sinned yet? No. At this point, he’s just been tempted to sin. Here’s what you need to know about temptation:

Temptation comes at the intersection of desire and opportunity (2 Samuel 11:1-2)

When the desire to sin and the opportunity to sin come together, that is a deadly intersection. You see the desire in verse 2.

David saw a beautiful woman. She was desirable, and he desired her. That is inevitable. Men are wired to respond to visual stimuli, and Bathsheba was visually stimulating. But desire by itself isn’t automatically sin. Martin Luther put it this way:

“Temptations, of course, cannot be avoided, but because we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, there is no need that we should let them nest in our hair.”

See, it’s the second look that gets us in trouble. It’s when we linger on that thought, and start to think that if we knew we wouldn’t get caught, or if we had the opportunity, we could do more than just look.

Remember temptation comes at the intersection of desire and opportunity. David had the opportunity. He is alone in his palace. Verse 1 says that Joab, his servants, and all Israel had gone to battle. But David remained in Jerusalem. David is by himself, with no accountability, when he is supposed to be somewhere else.

Remember Humpty Dumpty? What was an egg doing on top of a wall in the first place? That’s King David. He’s on top of the wall, walking on the roof. He sees a desirable woman, and he has the opportunity to sin. This is the intersection of desire and opportunity.

You might have been there. You might have thought, How could anyone say no to this? Well, God has given us some traffic lights to get us through this dangerous intersection. 1 Corinthians 13 says that no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to everyone. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but with temptation he will provide the way of escape.

Here’s the way of escape: When you have the desire to sin, ask God to take away the opportunity. And when you have the opportunity to sin, ask God to take away the desire.

Well, David didn’t do that. So far, he’s still standing at the curb. But with the Don’t walk sign blinking, he walks anyway. Here’s when temptation becomes sin: Temptation comes at the intersection of desire and opportunity.

Sin comes at the collision of entitlement and enabling.  Let’s look at the rest of the story, and I’m going to point out a few things along the way:

And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 

By the way, this is one more Don’t Walk sign God gave to David, and I think he gives to us as well. There was at least one servant who was willing to speak truth to power: Your majesty, isn’t this the daughter of Eliam? Isn’t this the wife of Uriah?

Men, what if every time you are tempted to look at porn, you reminded yourself that this is someone’s daughter? What if every time you engage in so-called harmless flirtation, you remind yourself that this is someone else’s wife. Maybe that would make you pause long enough to back away from the curb and change course.

But it didn’t work for David. He had the desire, he had the opportunity, and because he was king, he felt entitled. Let’s read some more. I want you to notice how many times David sends someone to do something:

And David sent and inquired about the woman.

So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.

Then, David finds out Bathsheba is pregnant, and so verse 6:

So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.

David’s plan A was to cover up the sin by getting Bathsheba’s husband to come off the battlefield, come home to his wife for a couple of nights, and then nine months later, everyone would assume the baby was Uriah’s.

Verse 13:

 13 And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk.

As king, David was used to giving orders and having people do what he wanted them to do. You do that often enough, and you begin to feel entitled to it. And by this point David been king for over twenty years. He’s killed a giant, he’s fought a civil war, and he’s already been told that God will establish His kingdom forever. Plus, at least one of his wives, Saul’s daughter Michal, hates his guts. So maybe he is looking at this opportunity and saying to himself, “Man, it’s good to be the king. Not only can I get what I want, but I deserve it.”

Entitlement. When you start to feel like you are owed something, or you’re entitled to something that God has forbidden in His word—boom. Satan is right there, like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

And once the devil gets you feeling entitled, then all he has to do is put at least one enabler in your life. For David, that was Joab. Let’s look at verses 13-17, and pay attention to the role Joab, David’s top general, plays in David’s sin. After Uriah refuses to go home to his wife because of his loyalty to his men who were still fighting in the trenches, watch what happens. Verse 14:

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” …

And Joab said, No, King David. I know you’re king and all, but this is wrong. I’m not going to help you murder a brave and innocent man…

Oh, that verse isn’t in your Bible? Yeah, it’s not in mine either. Read verse 16

16 And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died.

See, even though one of David’s servants was willing to speak truth to power when he said isn’t this Uriah’s wife? Ammiel’s daughter? Ahithophel’s granddaughter (you’ll read more about him later) his voice was drowned out by a man who just told David what he wanted to hear.

Listen. We need people in our lives who are going to tell us the truth, even when it hurts. Mike Tyson needed someone to tell him a face tattoo was a bad idea. Michael Jackson needed someone to tell him he didn’t need one more nose job. Because there will always be plenty of people who will tell you what you want to hear. Especially if you have power, or influence, or status.

Temptation is at the intersection of desire and opportunity.

Sin is at the collision of entitlement and enabling.

Uriah is killed, David marries Bathsheba, the child is born, and David feels like he can breathe easier because he’s gotten away with it.

But that’s not how sin works. Numbers 32:23 says, “If you sin against the Lord, be assured your sins will find you out.”

It’s like Johnny Cash sang: You can run on for a long time. Run on for a long time, run on for a long time… Sooner or later God will cut you down.  

That time came for David when God sent Nathan the prophet to him. You can read that story for yourself in Chapter 12, but the gist of it is that Nathan confronted David on his sin. He pointed his finger and said, “You are the man.” And not in a good way. He says,

Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’

Now, David’s response is what makes him a man after God’s own heart. Remember how we defined that yesterday. And unlike Saul, who rationalized and justified and blamed other people when Samuel confronted him with his sin, look at David’s response in verse:

13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

See, true repentance comes when we call sin what it is. Sin. And David accepted the consequences of his sin. Nathan told him that the first child born to David and Bathsheba would die. The sword would never depart from David’s house. Nathan told David in verse 12 that what he tried to cover up would be exposed to all Israel.

Sooner or later God will cut you down.

But David didn’t try to talk God out of it. He didn’t justify, or trivialize, or rationalize, or marginalize. He said, “I have sinned against the Lord.

Some time later, David wrote Psalm 51. I’d like you to turn there as we begin to prepare ourselves for communion. Notice the subheading of Psalm 51:

A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

Let’s just look at the first 4 verses:

Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.

Three different words for sin.

  • Transgression: Rebellion against God’s authority (Psalm 51:1)
  • Iniquity: Recognition that we are not God (Psalm 51:2, 5)
  • Sin: Realization that we have missed God’s mark (Psalm 51:4)

Remember Humpty Dumpty? All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again. So if the kings horses and the kings men couldn’t do it? Who could?

The king. Purge me with hyssop (Passover)

The door [Invitation]

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