David’s Damaged Authority
By Patricia Backora, author of Tough Love in Christ’s Millennium
Numbers 32:23; II Samuel Chapters 11, 12, and 13; Proverbs 17:25; and 19:13; Romans 6:23
David found fleeting pleasure in those stolen moments, lying with the wife of one of his most loyal army officers. Young Bathsheba felt a mixture of bewilderment, awe and shame. Just why had he asked her to come lie with him? Didn’t the King have many other wives and concubines to satisfy his longings? Did this great ruler’s authority, she wonder, even extend to taking any woman of his choice, whatever her marital status? What would her long-absent husband Uriah say, if he should find out? And once he came home to her, how could she ever look him in the eye again? Surely her beautifully expressive eyes would let him know something was amiss.
As she was soon to discover, something else would give her dark secret away. There were signs in her body which portended the birth of a child_and it was not to be Uriah’s. He had been gone from home far too long.
David began to sweat when a courier brought some upsetting news. He had gambled with his body and hers, and lost. It had taken just one sin session to get them both into this awful mess. What could he do now? There seemed to be but one answer, however distasteful it was to him. Get Uriah home at once!
On the pretext that he wanted only a detailed report on the progress of the war with the Ammonites, David had Uriah dispatched from the battle front to the Royal Palace. After conferring with him just long enough to avert suspicion, David dismissed him to go home and spend the night with his wife.
But Uriah foiled his King’s plot. The next morning, David discovered that his conscientious army officer had refused to go home, preferring instead to sleep in the army barracks. He would not, he said, bask in the pleasures of home while all the other soldiers were out on the battlefield fighting for their country.
David resorted to desperate tactics. That evening, he invited Uriah to dinner and got him drunk. But it didn’t work. Uriah just wouldn’t go home to sleep with Bathsheba.
By now David was beside himself with dread of what was to come. He could be deposed as King, or even stoned to death for adultery, along with Bathsheba. Now sin had come between him and his God. David knew He could not ask the Lord to help him deceive Uriah, because God’s ways are infinitely higher than those of man, and He would not aid and abet his sin.
David sent a sealed letter by courier to General Joab, instructing him to set Uriah at the forefront of the fighting, where the battle was hottest. The first phase of his plan worked. Uriah was killed almost immediately, and David thought his problem was solved. After a respectable period of mourning, he brought Uriah’s grieving widow back to the Palace to be his bride. Surely, he thought, no one would be any the wiser after the baby was born. People might even think it was his own child born prematurely.
But Nathan the Prophet knew the truth. He told David a shocking parable, which forced the erring King to own up to his sin. David tearfully repented and was forgiven, but was told severe punishment would surely follow.
Trouble began immediately. David’s little son fell sick with a high fever. David fasted and prayed for seven days, but the child died. David’s reputation was besmirched. His foes gloated over his humiliation. The very atmosphere of the Palace began to be soured by strife. There would be no peace there after that, only thinly veiled hostilities between rival factions. Some of David’s wives, sons, and courtiers quarrelled over who would ascend to the Throne after he died. Spying ears were pressed hard against doorways throughout the Palace, and no one felt truly secure. Through David’s great sin, evil spirits of hatred, vice and contention had been unleashed upon the royal court, and would be deeply entrenched for generations to come.
David sat dejectedly on his Throne. Never had he had known greater heartache. His foot had been taken in a deep snare. His villainous son Amnon had pretended to be sick in bed. What was wrong? the King had asked. Stomach ache, Amnon replied; from overindulgence, perhaps, but perhaps a change of diet would aid his digestion.
Undiscerning to the danger, David had been duped into sending Amnon’s beautiful half-sister Tamar to the schemer’s home so she could bake him some honey cakes to help him feel better. Amnon lured his godly sister into his bed chamber and violated her. Afterward he threw her out of his house in disgust.
Now was the awful moment when Amnon must face the King’s judgment. Amnon knew that this time his indulgent dad might not go so easy on him. He’d better keep his wits about him, he thought, and do his best to pacify the old man. This was an extremely serious offense he’d committed, a felony punishable by death. His cunning brain got to work, and he hit on a solution. He had a real ace up his sleeve for sure!
Never in his entire life had Amnon seen the King so enraged over anything. The lionlike fury on his face looked like a furnace of fire heated seven times. The royal rascal trembled. He hoped he wouldn’t have to drop his big bombshell to save his skin. That could be dangerous.
This time it wasn’t his amiable dad calling him in for a paternal chat; this was the offended King of the Realm sitting in judgment on a capital case. After David finished giving his despicable son such a blistering sermon that he feared for his life, the lad whimpered: “Who are YOU to talk? YOU made me into what I am! YOU know what YOU did to get Bathsheba_or have YOU already forgotten? YOU didn’t have to die for YOUR sin. YOU didn’t even lose YOUR throne! If YOU got off so easy, then why shouldn’t I? Whatever punishment YOU inflict on me, YOU should also suffer YOURSELF!”
David reeled from the hammering blows of those words. He remembered how the Prophet Nathan had stood before his Throne, and told him that damning parable about a rich man who’d stolen his poor neighbor’s only pet lamb to kill and cook for his dinner guest, rather than slaughtering an animal from his own vast flock. The prophet’s ringing indictment reverberated through his mind: YOU are the man!
David’s expression melted from lionlike indignation to deep penitence. Amnon’s insolent rebuke had hit its mark, and stung the King’s heart heart deeply. Here he was, King over the Lord’s Heritage, with the power of life and death over all his subjects, and he had just lost authority in his own home. His own son didn’t reverence him. All David could do was meekly mutter: “You’re right about that, son. Who am I to punish you?”
Amnon smirked with serpentine satisfaction. Now things were going his way, he thought. His father was subdued. He was no longer yelling insults at him. He seemed rather composed now, meek as a lamb. Amnon thought he’d won, that he was off the hook completely.
But David wasn’t quite finished castigating the impudent lad. “I cannot lay my hand upon you, perverse son of wickedness. Indeed, your crime merits punishment far worse than any mere man could visit upon you. It is true I am unworthy to mete out such terrible retribution as you deserve. You have judged rightly, son. I, who protected my sheep from the perils of the wilderness, have led you astray. I must answer to God for what I’ve done, but don’t flatter yourself by thinking no evil shall ever be visited upon you. You also must face the Great Judge of all the earth, that One Whose ways you hold in contempt. You shall be punished as I am being punished, even by the Hand of the Most High.”
“Truly my sin was a sin worthy of death. But because I have humbled myself before my Maker, He has blotted out my transgression, great as it was, and He has redeemed my soul from the Pit. In mercy He has allowed His unworthy servant to remain upon this Throne, which is rightfully His. And once He sees fit to depose me by death, He alone shall have the right to decide Who occupies it thereafter.”
“Naturally, Father, it must be I,” said Amnon nervously. “I am your first-born son, am I not?”
“You were my rightful heir, Amnon, but no more,” said David wearily. “It is not for me to say who shall get what is the Lord’s to give. The Lord has already chosen a man to sit upon My Throne when I am gone.”
Greatly unsettled, Amnon sputtered, “But, Sire, I’m still your first-born son! I have a right to reign on your Throne! You’re no better than I am, and you know it! Where, in heaven’s name, is the justice in all this madness? Or, have you already reserved the Throne for Bathsheba’s latest son?”
David winced, struggling to control his temper. “Amnon, you have forfeited your own inheritance as firstborn son, even as the Patriarch Reuben did when he lay with his father’s concubine Bilhah. Regardless of which wife I cherish the most, only the Hand of God shall set one of my many sons upon the Throne of Israel. Moreover, you are a fool to think that this Throne could ever shield me from the awful judgment which is yet to descend upon my head. All the wealth of my kingdom was insufficient to redeem the life of my innocent little son who was struck dead by the Hand of the Almighty because of my folly. God only knows who else must die because of me. And through your sin, my house has been struck again with sorrow. My desolate daughter might as well be dead. Indeed, her heart has already withered because you killed it. As for me, death would have given me too quiet an end. No, but I must live to pay for the theft of my poor neighbor’s little lamb, and be requited in kind for the innocent blood I shed to cover up my crime.”
Amnon raised his eyebrows and shrugged. He plucked some grapes from a fruit bowl. All this to-do over a mere woman, he thought, giving his father a vacuous look.
“Do you not care,” inquired David, “that your mother now bears the reproach of your sin; that ever since the terrible news reached the Palace, she and Maachah have been at each other’s throats, and my other wives and concubines have been quarrelling, taking sides against each other in the matter?”
“That silly flock of hens,” chuckled Amnon. “Always cackling and pecking at each other. Women are like that. Never mind, Father. They’ll tire of quibbling over it soon enough.”
Fire rekindled in David’s eyes. “You fool! How DARE you speak to me like that! After all your mother suffered with me in the desolate wilderness of my exile, do you think she deserves such an arrogant ass as you for a son, heaping yet more affliction upon her head? Were it not for the high esteem in which I hold this good and decent woman, I would thrust you through with my sword at this very moment!”
Amnon cringed. It would not do to rouse the ire of this seasoned old lion of war. “Oh, please, sire,” he whimpered. “I spoke out of turn. I’m so sorry for upsetting the womenfolk. I swear, I’ll say nothing more to offend you. And,” he added diplomatically, “God grant you respite from all the turmoil of this place!”
“Oh,” sighed David, “ that I could flee this quarrelsome place and take refuge in the hills of Judah, there to tend my docile flock once more. But that is not to be. You, Amnon, are a pestilence sent to vex me and afflict me for what I have done. I must remain here to be tormented by the likes of you. No, I cannot escape God’s righteous judgment. In great fearfulness I await the full measure of my just punishment which is yet to descend upon my head. Daily I live in dread of it. Had my fate been placed in the hands of my enemies, I would long ago have been slain. I live, rather, to endure the chastening of My Maker. Oh, that I could flee and find rest! Even so, Sheol itself could not hide me from Him, for there is no place hidden from His sight. All my ways are open and manifest before Him.”
A tear stole down David’s cheek. “You do not fear God, son, nor do you seek His pardon. I know in my heart that even if I were to offer up ten thousand bullocks today on your behalf, the Lord would not accept one such as you. I fear that He is even now your enemy, and that you shall die even before I do.”
Amnon’s face whitened, but he dared not voice his thought: Surely my father is growing more fanatical and fear-ridden by the day. “Oh, surely not, sire, I’m in the best of health.”
The King was a broken man. “Please go,” he sobbed, his head bowed. “ I fear for you so much I can no longer be angry with you. The sight of your face makes me sick. A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him. Go now, and leave me alone in my sorrow.”
Amnon slinked away, muttering that David wasn’t fit to be King of Israel, and just let him or his God try to stop his ambitions for glory.
But Amnon was stopped. Tamar’s equally ambitious, and hot-headed brother Absalom held a grudge against the King for leaving Amnon’s punishment in God’s hands. Not even the whispered rumor that Amnon might have been demoted as heir to the Throne quenched Absalom’s burning lust for revenge. To David’s great grief, he lived to see his lascivious son murdered by Absalom, who fled to Geshur, homeland of his mother Maachah. Absalom later took advantage of his father’s merciful nature so he could return to Israel in order to stage a revolt. What indescribable agony to David’s sensitive soul, just knowing his own son hated him enough to want to kill him!
How Absalom broke his father’s heart. Absalom hated him for sparing Amnon’s life after the outrage perpetrated on his sister. He drove David into political exile and went hunting for him to kill him_the very same trials David had suffered at the hand of King Saul in his youth. Absalom mustered an army to try to seize the Throne of Israel by a military coup. This was one of the worst trials of David’s life, being persecuted by a treacherous son who was bent on murdering him to get his throne. Absalom succeeded in persuading many of the choicest warriors of Israel to join in his rebellion against his own father. Moreover, he insulted his own father by seducing ten of his concubines. He knew full well this vile deed would be interpreted as a claim to the Throne of Israel.
But Absalom’s diabolical bid for power was unsuccessful. For his insurrection, he was executed by General Joab. His tender-hearted father was grief-stricken for the rest of his days.
Death is the wages of sin. Sin robs saints of victory and authority, and is an open door for the devil to oppress them in every area of life.
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