Perhaps you know this Old Testament story (2 Samuel 11). King David, on his roof after a nap, spied a married woman, Bathsheba, bathing on her own roof below. Admiring her beauty, he sent for her and lay with her. Shortly afterward, Bathsheba sent the king word that she was pregnant. After several attempts to cover it up, the king resorted to having her husband killed. To the sin of adultery, David added murder.
How did this happen? After all, David is known in the Scriptures as a man after God’s own heart. He loved the Lord, and loved the Lord’s commandments (Psalm 19). He was the one who, as a teenager, went forth to fight Goliath to defend the Lord’s honor, in disbelief that the whole Israelite army would allow this Philistine to taunt the armies of the living God (1 Samuel 17). A worshipper who wrote roughly half of the psalms in the Old Testament, David was the one through whom the Lord had promised the Messiah would come (2 Samuel 7). How then did he find himself an adulterer and a murderer?
The answer appears to be relatively simple. The tale of David’s fall begins with the following words: “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. . . . But David remained at Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1). David’s calling as king was to accompany his army to battle. Yet he stayed at home. A short time later he finds himself responsible for a pregnant widow, her husband’s blood upon his hands. And while the sin still remained hidden from many, “the evil thing David had done was in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27, my translation).
I suspect this is the way such events often unfold. A young man, once enthusiastic about the things of God, committed to walk faithfully and serve Him well, begins to slide from the Lord. At first the drift is subtle. He fails to attend to the things to which God has called him. He isolates himself from Christian community and begins to be careless with his time, forgetting the good purposes for which God has created him. He no longer finds life in the Scriptures as he once did, he ceases to pray, and God, who was once near to him, is far from his thoughts. Becoming less attentive to his relationships, he notices a girl he finds attractive, and before long she tells him she is pregnant. Now, feeling cornered, his head spinning at the situation in which he finds himself, he seeks to cover his sin and pushes her toward abortion. Like David, he has moved from carelessness to sexual sin to murder.
Of course, abortion doesn’t always happen that way. But I suspect the above scenario is common, for statistics tell us that abortion is not just the sin of the world, but also of the church. Perhaps we should not be surprised. One of the frightening things about sexual sin is that we can be in over our heads before we know it. What may appear to be a small drift from the Lord can quickly slide into deep sin that cannot be undone.
We know the end of the story. The Lord mercifully put David’s sin away (2 Samuel 11:13). He was forgiven. He learned that God will not reject a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17), a word desperately needed in a world weary and heavy-laden with the sins of sexual immorality and abortion. He went on to marry Bathsheba, the Lord eventually raising up their son Solomon as King David’s successor. Yet painful effects of his sin remained throughout David’s life (2 Samuel 12:11-12). In all of it, David learned a sobering lesson concerning both the love of God and the danger of his own waywardness.
David did not set out to impregnate Bathsheba or to kill her husband. If he had known where his idleness would lead, I suspect in the spring of that fateful year he would have gone to fight with his army—and the ensuing adultery and murder would never have happened. Which is precisely the point. Often what becomes clear in hindsight is not at all clear beforehand. Backsliding may seem a small matter in the beginning, but in the end can have devastating consequences. It is then that we realize what seemed to be a small matter has turned out to be a big one. If it can happen to David, it can happen to anyone.