Every Thought Captive

When Kings Don't Go To War

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. 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?”

2 Samuel 11:1-3

The Gospel according to Matthew opens with a genealogy where Jesus is called “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). In this same genealogy David is subtly described as “David the king,” and then as “the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah” (Matthew 1:6).

Here we have a paradox. David is named king. We know from the story so far that David was a much better replacement for Saul as king. We also see the testimony of the psalmists building quite a large consensus that David is the Lord’s favored recipient of an eternal covenant and promises which come along. There was a palpable Jewish consciousness that David not only represented the ideal king, but ultimately pointed towards that ideal king who was to finally come into their history, as God had promised them.

But David is also named as one who had a child by another man’s wife. This instance alone means he could never be, for Israel, the ideal king they longed for. David was a warrior-king. But he didn’t go to battle this time. This was not an exclusively physical action. It was primarily a matter of the heart. And that is really what makes a king.

What happened in his heart on the roof? Whatever it specifically was, it happened not in the morning, but in the afternoon, which implies he was not busy with another task but probably dozing or even sleeping. He then lounges about on the roof. After that, the events descend rather rapidly into darkness.
The apostle Peter says to “be sober-minded” and to “be watchful” (1 Peter 5:8). David is neither. He then exhorts the church to “resist the devil” (5:9). The apostle James commands the same—“resist the devil”—promising that, if we do, “he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The practical reason David falls is that he did not resist the devil, and so the devil did not flee from him.

Jesus, on the other hand, was led by the Spirit directly into the wilderness for the express purpose of handling the oppressive weight of temptation (Luke 4:1-2), and he did not fall. Why? Because he resisted the devil. Peter connects the idea of resisting with the idea of being “firm in your faith” (1 Peter 5:9). We are told elsewhere that Jesus is full of faith (Hebrews 12:2; Romans 3:22). Jesus’ resistance was intimately bound up with the words of God—really an eating of his Father’s words (Matthew 4:4). Righteously aggressive with the adversary, Jesus finally tells him to go away (“Be gone, Satan!”) and connects this command to the following command from his Father: to love the Lord your God and serve him only. And “then the devil left him” (4:11), fled him. So the promise of James and the exhortation of Peter find their "Yes" in Jesus (2 Corinthians1:20).

We are told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” because, without him, we, just like David, will certainly fail to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). But, conversely, “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (8:13). “If we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2 Timothy 2:13). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

About the Author

Photograph of Morgan Bandy

Morgan Bandy

Morgan is someone who loves seeing God’s beauty everywhere and talking about it. He is finishing his undergrad and aiming towards grad school to get better at seeing and talking about God, both out-loud and on paper. Texas has been his home here, and his family’s, for generations, though he would like to see the whole world. Morgan believes that food and colors and friends and family are down-payment signs from God that He is making all things new again.