12 divorces. When I add together the divorces in the immediate families of me and my wife there have been twelve divorces. I have had a front row seat to the tragedy that divorce wreaks on those it touches. As a result every time I hear of a patient’s marriage ending my heart breaks. I mourn for the couple and I mourn for their children. Too often divorce is a direct result of sexual failing.
God made marriage and with it He made the family. It is the primary vehicle for religious instruction and training and it is designed to be representative of man’s relationship with God (Eph 5–6). As a result, God has a vested interest in healthy, intact families. Robust, godly families are the objective of the commandment against adultery. Adultery destroys families and is (understandably) hated by the God who created them.
To see the horrible consequences of adultery one need look no further than the story of the Israelite King David and the woman Bathsheba (2 Sam 11–12). David’s lust for another man’s wife led to adultery, murder, and ultimately the death of a child. As the years passed, David’s family was plagued by idolatry, immorality, incestuous rape, and sibling murder. David’s unfaithfulness in adultery weakened the foundations of his family––with devastating long-term effects.
From David’s story we learn about the roots of adultery as well. David’s sin was not a spontaneous act arising out of a chance encounter. Although he pursued Bathsheba only after he had unintentionally observed her bathing, the seeds of immorality had taken root many years earlier. A close look at the life of David reveals that his sin with Bathsheba was not the first time he had made a wrong decision about a woman. As with all sin, David’s adultery began with a wrong attitude of the heart. Just like David, if we do not avoid the attitudes and desires that can lead us astray, we will fail in our quest to live sexually pure lives.
The story of David’s relationships with women began many years prior to Bathsheba. When David killed the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Sam 17), he was promised the daughter of King Saul as his wife. Although the promised daughter was eventually given to another man, Saul ultimately gave his other daughter Michal to be David’s wife. David’s response to Saul’s offer of his daughter’s hand tells us much about David as a man. We see from the story that David was a humble man who did not consider himself worthy to be the king’s son-in-law. This initial attitude of believing himself unworthy of such a wife suggests David began with a healthy appreciation of the blessing that a wife is.
David’s attitude is well described in the text:
Then Saul ordered his attendants: “Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king is pleased with you, and his attendants all like you; now become his son-in-law.’ They repeated these words to David. But David said, “Do you think it is a small matter to become the king’s son-in-law? I’m only a poor man and little known.” (1 Sam 18:22–23)
At this point in David’s life he was a humble shepherd boy. Although he was adored by the people of Israel, who danced and sang “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” when David returned from killing Goliath (1 Sam 18:5–7), David refused to view himself as better than anyone else.
Unfortunately for David, this attitude did not last. Not long after David took Saul’s daughter Michal as his wife, Saul turned against David and tried to kill him. David and a small band of soldiers found themselves on the run from Saul and his men. They moved from place to place to avoid being captured and killed by King Saul. Eventually they arrived at a desert in a place called Maon. Near where they were staying lived a wealthy but unpleasant man by the name of Nabal. Nabal was married to Abigail, a beautiful and intelligent woman (1 Sam 25:3).
David sent men to Nabal and asked if he might give some blessing and aid to David and his men. Nabal responded to David in a rude and demeaning way:
Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” (1 Sam 25:10–11)
Nabal said of David something very similar to what David had said of himself a short while earlier. Nabal asked, “Who is this David?” Although David had once questioned his own worthiness when it came to marrying the king’s daughter, the events that followed show that the humble Who am I? David was gone. In his place was a man filled with a sense of importance and entitlement. Who am I? David had been replaced by How dare he talk to me that way! David. Nabal’s response was an insult to this new David, so David and his men took up arms and set off to avenge their impugned honor.
With vengeance in their hearts they approached the place where Nabal lived. It was their intent to kill not only Nabal, but also every man who worked for him. Only the wise intervention of Abigail prevented a terrible slaughter. She met David and his men while they were coming to attack, bringing food and gifts to appease David’s anger. Her thoughtful actions saved the life of her foolish husband and the lives of their servants as well.
Ten days after Abigail’s shrewd actions, Nabal died. The beautiful, intelligent, and wealthy Abigail was suddenly single and available––all of which certainly did not go unnoticed. Travelling with David were some 600 men. I have no doubt there was at least one single man among those serving David who would have loved to be blessed with such an amazing woman as a wife. As ecstatic as one of David’s men would have been to marry Abigail, none of them were given the chance. Even though he was already married, David decided that he deserved Abigail more than anyone else did. He took her as his second wife.
David had changed. He had gone from someone who felt he did not deserve a wife at all to someone who felt entitled to more than one. He had gone from someone who served others to someone who believed that others existed for him. Here, in his decision to take Abigail, we see the beginning of the attitude that led to his moral failure with Bathsheba. The act with Bathsheba revealed the culmination of the mindset that he was entitled to any woman he wanted. Instead of being a physical expression of the union of one man and one woman, for David sexual intimacy became about his own personal pleasure. He exchanged God’s beautiful plan of intimacy for irrational lust, a compulsion that led to his adultery with Bathsheba and the resultant devastating consequences.
It is my prayer that we all learn the lesson of David and take intentional steps to guard ourselves and protect our marriages. It is the greatest of all earthly endeavors.
This is the 5th in an 8 part series on Adultery, taken from my book Life Medicine, an exploration and application of the principles of the 10 Commandments. The book is available at Amazon. If you are interested in purchasing copies for your church or small group, please contact me through the site to get the books at cost. A small group study guide is linked from the book page on this site, and my sermon series on the book can me accessed on my vimeo page.