“Pride goeth before the fall”—it’s a phrase you’ve undoubtedly heard before, a paraphrase of Proverbs 16:18. It is a warning to not think so highly of yourself that you let your guard down. There is no place so dangerous in our walk with God as the moment when we think we’ve got this and we’re doing well on our own. That is the place we find David in 2 Samuel 11, when temptation caught him in a place of vulnerability, and he failed to overcome.
David awoke from a late afternoon nap, walked out onto the terrace of his palace, and looked down on the city below. He saw a beautiful woman bathing. He inquired about her and learned that her name was Bathsheba, and she was married to one of David’s top warriors, Uriah. While Uriah was away at battle, David summoned Bathsheba, and, in an abuse of his kingly power, he had sexual relations with her before sending her home. Later, she informed David she had conceived, and David conspired to have Uriah killed on the battlefield. After Uriah died, David took Bathsheba as his wife and she gave birth to a son, who later died as a consequence of David’s sin.
Surely David did not wake that afternoon and plan to become an adulterer, conspirator, and murderer. But sin is crafty, and the temptation to sin most likely will not overwhelm us all at once. Rather, it often builds as one small compromise after another before you find yourself, like David, in a desperate place you never intended to go, damaging yourself and those around you with your destructive decisions.
Interestingly, no mention is made of David’s relationship with the Lord until the very end of this chapter when we read that David’s actions “displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27). From what we read in Scripture of David’s response, we can infer that David trusted in his own cleverness to get himself out of this situation rather than going to God for help. The end result? Death. And the fallout would impact David’s family relationships for generations to come.
David’s failure teaches an important spiritual truth: when sin comes knocking, we must humble ourselves before God and submit ourselves to his Spirit to help us overcome. Paul says it this way in the New Testament: “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:12–13).
Thankfully, David’s failure is not the end of the story. Even though David was unfaithful, God remained faithful. The fulfillment of God’s promises to David did not rest on David’s performance, and David was not to be the anointed one who would rescue God’s people. Instead, a son of David would rise who would be the promised heir to reign eternally and establish God’s kingdom forever.