A Man After God’s Own Heart: David’s Story of Addiction… Repentance, Redemption, Relapse & Restoration

by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project

“It’s long, but it’s worth the read to the one who will take the time. It is admirable that you took on David’s sexual addiction head-on, whereas most Bible scholars seem to treat the polygamy of the monarchy as a sort of sexual “grace period” in the otherwise monogamous command of God.” —Pastor Fran Leeman, Chicago (Plainfield), Ilinois

The LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people. 1 Samuel 13:14

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

Like anyone else, King David of the Bible suffered from a cunning, baffling disease known as addiction—addiction to self. Borne out of addiction to self comes all other symptoms of addiction. David strayed from the truth of what he understood intellectually to be good and right according to the will of God. Lost was the innocence of the young warrior who killed a lion to protect his sheep, and took down a giant of a man to defend a nation. Even with the anointing and power and all of the blessing bestowed on him by his Heavenly Father, David grew in pride and selfish ambition, overrun by his sin nature, rooted in a core belief of entitlement in his flesh. David would have to submit one day at a time, even one moment at a time to the will of his Lord or David would succumb to the unimaginable temptation that would avail itself to him as the King of all Israel.

Consider the “drugs” of temptation that David had to choose from as both a king, and as a human being: sexual temptation; every form of lust, power, and greed; money and possessions; alcohol and “herbs”; anger, rage, resentment, and revenge; lying and deceit; self-preservation at all cost (even if it meant murder to protect his reputation); issues of codependency; and the list goes on. The difference for David that you and I cannot relate to is that unless he was surrendered to the will and care of God moment by moment there was no one else to tell him “no” or “stop” or “wait”. He had advisers in his ear constantly but David was the man in charge and too often ignored sound counsel.

The truth is that no matter who you are, if you are living outside of God’s perfect will and plan, then you are living according to your own desires and intentions driven by a systemic pattern of brain activity that wants what it wants when it wants it. It’s not that the self-centered brain is some monster come alive in you to do its bidding; but I suppose it’s something like that. The Apostle Paul wrote from a deeply sincere heart when he said (I’m paraphrasing Romans 7 stuff), “What I do and don’t do often goes against my God-driven conscience and I am ashamed of myself. It’s as though I’m not even the one doing it but it’s the sin in me controlling my mind and behavior. I am a slave to this thing alive in me. I am sick in it and I am sick about it.” When we put our faith in ourselves, even as we claim to put our faith in Christ, we think ambitiously, feel protective of ourselves, and behave badly and foolish.

The primary focus of this writing is not to villianize or stigmatize King David as a sex addict but rather bring attention to the reality that deviant selfish sin is a cunning and powerful weapon against even the best of people; even “a man after God’s own heart.” People can love God deeply and intensely, yet still struggle with the addiction to self—MEdom. People can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, according to His merciful grace, and struggle with addiction to lust, greed, and sexual sin. The key to recovery empowered by the Spirit of God happens one day at a time committed to faith-driven principles: Admit the sin by confession; Believe in the truth of redemption by a Sympathetic Savior with complete authority; and, Commit to a lifestyle of repentant recovery by turning everything over in submission to the One in authority according to that belief.

The Story Inside the Story

“How could one who was known for his devotion to God fall so horribly? What were the steps that led to his demise? David’s steps to losing his first love were subtle; but very real. When David sat on his rooftop watching Bathsheba bathe on that fateful night, he was not walking with the Lord as he once had… At this particular point in his life, we don’t read of him worshipping or singing love songs to God. David was spiritually idle.” —Pastor Greg Laurie, Harvest Ministries

Faithful Young Man of Valor

Early on in his life, David was the boy, and then the young man, that was too good of a kid to be brassy enough to someday be king. David was one of those kids you kind of hope never grows up. He was innocent and you didn’t want growing up to ruin that. He was compassionate, and the Bible called him good looking. The King James translation suggests David had a “beautiful countenance”, likely a reflection of a good-natured heart (disposition). David was a skilled musician. He had a way about him. He was also courageous and strongly determined when he put his mind to something. He was also skilled at tending sheep. He was the kind of teenager, then young adult, who had that moxy, that special something that you can’t quite put your finger on exactly what it is but you know when someone’s got it. That was David.

One of the servants said to Saul, “One of Jesse’s sons from Bethlehem is a talented harp player. Not only that, he is a brave warrior, a man of war, and has good judgment. He is also a fine-looking young man, and the Lord is with him.” 1 Samuel 16:18 (NLT)

At a young age, David was one that worshipped God. He loved God and played his instrument to the glory of God. When Samuel (the last of the judges) was led by the Spirit of God to Jesse of Bethlehem to identify and anoint the next king of Israel, well, here’s the story…

4 So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”

5 “Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.

6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” 9 Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”

“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.

And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”

13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. 1 Samuel 16:4-13 (NLT)

David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and seemed very comfortable as the shepherd of sheep that also seemed to enjoy adventure from time to time. The Scriptures tell us that David killed vicious wild animals to protect his flock of sheep. He was a compassionate kid that was growing up. By the time he was in his mid to late teens, David was anointed the next king of Israel who would then be the one who would be the musician with the charge to console the down-trodden king he would replace.

Then came the signature event in the life of a young man that would prove he was indeed the man. David would be respected and recognized as a fearless leader. Stepping into the on deck circle would catch the real men of war by surprise. Even his older brothers didn’t think David should even be at the end of the bench in the dugout.

Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” Then he turned from him toward another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first ones did. Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:28-32 (NKJV)

The rest is history; a phenomenal feet. David would trash talk the giant Philistine soldier and then back up every word with action.

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” 1 Samuel 17:45-47 (NKJV)

The only thing David cared about was bringing glory to his Lord, the great God of Israel that would go before David and the army standing behind David, leading them to victory.

It is interesting to me that King Saul put the fate of a nation into the hands of this spunky good-looking teenager. Did Saul really trust David? Did he have faith in God to use David? Or was there a back-up plan had David failed, whether it was to attack, run, or surrender? Well, no matter, because David slayed the giant with a stone and Goliath’s own sword. David would continue to love and worship God, who was indeed glorified.

2 Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats.

3 At the place where the road passes some sheepfolds, Saul went into a cave to relieve himself. But as it happened, David and his men were hiding farther back in that very cave!

4 “Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe.

5 But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king. I shouldn’t attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” 7 So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.

After Saul had left the cave and gone on his way, 8 David came out and shouted after him, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked around, David bowed low before him.

9 Then he shouted to Saul, “Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? 10 This very day you can see with your own eyes it isn’t true. For the Lord placed you at my mercy back there in the cave. Some of my men told me to kill you, but I spared you. For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’ 11 Look, my father, at what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe! I cut it off, but I didn’t kill you. This proves that I am not trying to harm you and that I have not sinned against you, even though you have been hunting for me to kill me. 1 Samuel 24:2-11 (NLT)

David was then sought after by Saul, who wanted the threat to his reign killed. David was the kind of man that was so driven by the presence and power of God that even when he had opportunity to stop the manhunt by killing Saul he would not. Saul was his king and David was loyal and faithful to him. David spared his pursuers life and showed him mercy. That is what a man after God’s own heart would do. Soon enough though, after his adventures with Saul, David would become king and the story would change.

Unfaithful Man with Power

King David, may be the most esteemed hero of the Old Testament. According to historians he lived to be around 70 years of age from 1040 to 970 BC. David was a family man. He was married to Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, Abigail the Carmelitess, Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, Michal, and Bathshua (Bathsheba) the daughter of Ammiel. 1 Samuel 19 also identifies Merab who was given to David by her father Saul.

David’s first wife was Michal who loved David very much (1 Samuel 18:18, 20). She was the key to David’s freedom from her father, King Saul, helping David to escape (1 Samuel 19). It is not reported that David loved Michal in return but he married her, perhaps to enhance his lineage and improve his claim to the throne. Perhaps David married her out of convenience and ambition and not love. In fact, when David married two more women, Abigail (after her first husband died, David praised God that she became eligible to be his wife) and Ahinoam, King Saul took Michal back to be married to another man, Palti, recognizing no longer her marriage to David—perhaps because Saul hated his enemy David out of jealousy (the king’s subjects adored David and placed their confidence in him), and because he understood that his daughter, Michal, was unloved and neglected by her husband.

When Saul died, David made it a point to have Michal brought back to him (2 Samuel 3:13-15) since he had paid the steep price of 100 Philistines killed by his sword for her. Michal’s new husband, Palti (according to King Saul’s “executive order” to annul her marriage to David), loved her and followed her along the way back to David weeping for her until he was sent home by David’s thugs. Anointed by God, David, a 30 year old man in the prime of his life, would become king over all of Israel. As king, David captured Jerusalem, moved into the Zion fortress, and called it the City of David. David conquered the Philistines and then gathered his troops (some 30,000 of them) to go to Baalah of Judah to retrieve the ark of the Lord, symbolic of the armies of heaven, which would proceed them into battle from that point forward.

A powerful trigger for David’s engaging in addictive behavior was victory and celebration. While David was in awe of the power of the Lord God, he was fearful of it. So much so that he did not want the ark of God in his home. For three months, David housed the ark of God at the house of a trusted friend, whom the Lord blessed richly while his friend held onto it. Then he had the ark of God returned to the palace and had it placed in a special tent. As David celebrated his triumphs with invited guests, he danced before the Lord, wearing a priestly garment that exposed his sexuality before his guests.

When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.  But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life. 2 Samuel 6:20-23 (NLT)

David was wearing a linen undergarment, resembling an apron. It was thigh to knee length and would flop up as David danced. Did David deliberately expose himself before the servant girls? Or was David’s “nakedness” a symbol of humble worship before the Lord? Was David merely angry and used sarcasm to express his anger to Michal? Or was he making the point that he was chosen to lead? Is David’s point of appearing “distinguished” a reference to his genitalia? Or is David emphasizing that he is to be respected as God’s anointed king among the servants? Both rationales are possible depending on one’s perspective and interpretation. If the presumption is acceptable that David was obsessed with women with the authority to have any woman he wanted whenever he wanted her, it fits a pattern.

Michal at one time loved David and was happy to be married to him. However neglected by her husband David, she was given in marriage by her father to another and grew to love him. And then, reclaimed by David after her father died, she is back into marriage with a man who seems to have always had some kind of contempt for her. And there she would remain in a loveless marriage, not even with the honor of motherhood (since it is likely that her husband withheld from her his sexuality).

David would go on to marry four more women, a practice common to kings and wealthy men in David’s time but never sanctioned by God (Abraham had one wife; Isaac had one wife; and Jacob one wife upon his conversion). During that time he would be sexually active with his servants as well. David took on a number of what are referred to as concubines (“sort of” wives), and he would have children with them. Concubines were slaves of the palace that also provided sexual services for their master. However, with all of these women at his beckoned call throughout the palace, David still had some time alone to look out over the city. Perhaps he worried about his army in battle. Maybe he was concerned for his children. Could he have been in prayer for the nation under his reign? Or, I suppose it was possible that this king was feeling discontent in his circumstances and wondering what it was he was missing.

David and Bathsheba

While looking out over the city from the palace roof, David’s eyes beheld the beauty of Bathsheba while she bathed on the roof of her house, customary for a woman to do to clean herself during her menstrual period. King David sent messengers to call on her, and she went to the king who engaged her in adulterous sex. Was Bathsheba a willing participant? She may have been ambitious enough that she was a willing adulterer who seduced the king from her roof and got what she wanted; or, maybe she was taken by strong suggestion by the king’s guys that the king values her company—or possibly taken by force—and seduced by him; or worse, “coerced”. It’s important to note that if Bathsheba was recently part of an arranged marriage she most likely would have been a young teenager and that much more vulnerable; as may have been the case with the rest of his wives and concubines, which was customary in that culture. (Please understand that the point of emphasizing the severity of David’s addictive—even horrific deviant—sin is to bring into focus the merciful grace of God whenever any sinner repents.)

Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”

Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. 2 Samuel 11:2-4 (NLT)

Whether adultery or rape, these would not be David’s only crimes. When learning that Bathsheba became pregnant, it was obvious to David that the baby was his since her husband, Uriah had been away in battle for months. David got word to Uriah to take some leave and spend some quality time with his wife and family. If Uriah made love to his wife, it would not so be untimely that Bathsheba’s pregnancy would be the outcome of her time with her husband. But Uriah, out of respect for his fellow soldiers, warriors in the midst of battle, would not allow himself to experience pleasure by sleeping with his wife (I suppose a custom of nobility of some kind).

When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard.

When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?” Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.”

“Well, stay here today,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. 2 Samuel 11:7-13

“You’ve got to be kidding. I got him drunk; sent a gift with him that would enhance the mood, but… Now what do I do? The people can’t know that I am so heartless as to sleep with a commander’s wife while he’s fighting for our country. How now do I cover up this  mess (addictive behavior) I’ve gotten myself into?” Typical of addicted people is that as mistakes are made it becomes imperative to cover it up through lies and deceit. “The more I mess up, the more I gotta cover and lie; and the more I cover and lie, the bigger my mess.”

So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers. 2 Samuel 11:14-17 (NLT)

When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives. Then she gave birth to a son. But the Lord was displeased with what David had done. 2 Samuel 11:26-27 (NLT)

David Confesses

As the story goes, King David was so caught up in himself that he did not consider the gravity of his egregious behavior against even the most fundamental precepts of God as it pertains to creation, life, and worship to God. David had lost his way; that is until Nathan, his trusted advisor and beloved friend, got up the courage to confront his friend who was, first and foremost, King of Israel. Here is what Nathan the prophet said to David:

“There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”

David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife.” 2 Samuel 12:1-9 (NLT)

Nathan would go on to prophecy that David would experience the circumstances of his addictive sin. David’s first newborn child with Bathsheba became sick and died. The consequences are what they are and David’s family would reap what they sowed. David fell prostrate on the ground and repented of his sin to God, from which we get the following famous Psalm of repentance, Psalm 51:

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
2 Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
5 For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.

7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.

16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
18 Look with favor on Zion and help her;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—
with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.

What an incredible prayer of repentance. David hit all the right notes. He did know the heart of God. He understood that no matter how vile and deviant his sin, and no matter who all he violated as a result of his sin, ultimately all that mattered was that he sinned against God. He violated the law of God carrying with it the most severe of consequences. David spoke of his sin as being guilty of hostile rebellion and evil. It would require the mercy of a compassionate God of unfailing love to be cleansed of his guilt and shame. It would require this king to be completely broken and contrite before God to experience true repentance. David knew intellectually that any act of sacrificial worship would need to be from this broken repentant heart since if his lifestyle did not reflect as such his acts of praise to God would be in vain. He cannot worship two masters. To worship by living to please himself would render his praise to God as insincere and nullify the benefit of true spiritual worship in his life.

So the question for David is the same as it would be for you and me: What in the life of David changed?

Reality of Consequences

Was it the intentional plan of God that a man be married to more than one woman?

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him… This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Genesis 2:18, 24 (NLT)

It is made clear in Scripture that God intended for one man and one woman to be united into marriage. While Moses wrote (Deuteronomy 21:15-17) that a man could be married more than once, it was in direct contrast to the unity God intended for marriage. Not only was David married to all of these women, but we are informed by Scripture that he was sexually involved with numerous other women (concubines) that were servants of his many wives. If the king found the woman attractive, he would not deny his sexual urges but rather give in to those urges whenever inclined to do so. While this was considered typical, even acceptable social behavior, I suppose we are to believe that it was harmless fun within the friendly confines of marriage and family, and that all participants were delighted with this arrangement of sexual freedom.

Sexual freedom, or sexually deviant addictive behavior? Let us continue the examination.

This sexual freedom in the immediate family of David produced dozens of children, the Book of 1 Chronicles lists David’s sons by various wives and concubines. In Hebron he had six sons: Amnon, by Ahinoam; Daniel, by Abigail; Absalom, by Maachah; Adonijah, by Haggith; Shephatiah, by Abital; and Ithream, by Eglah. By Bathsheba, his sons were Shammua; Shobab; Nathan; and Solomon. His sons born in Jerusalem by other wives included: Ibhar; Elishua; Eliphelet; Nogah; Nepheg; Japhia; Elishama; and Eliada. According to 2 Chronicles 11:18, Jerimoth, who is not mentioned in any of the genealogies, is mentioned as another of David’s sons. According to 2 Samuel 9:11, David adopted Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth as his own. David also had at least one daughter, Tamar by Maachah. In addition to the documented children from his wives were the children from his concubines. David was king for more than 30 years and produced at least as many children.

Imagine the confusion and complexity of emotion in a family of that size under what was essentially one roof in the presidential palace that they all lived in together. All of these children with different mothers as half-brothers and sisters living as one giant community. It was as combustible a blended family situation as one could imagine. Probably not all of the time, but as children grew up it is reported in The Old Testament that at least one sexual attraction developed between David’s oldest son, Amnon, and his daughter, Tamar. Amnon and Tamar have different mothers. One can presume that Tamar was quite fond of Amnon, but understood plainly that he was her brother, even though a half-brother. For Amnon, heir to David’s throne, though he could have married any woman/women of his choosing, was so drawn by his attraction to Tamar that he had to have her.

1 Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. And Amnon, her half brother, fell desperately in love with her. 2 Amnon became so obsessed with Tamar that he became ill. She was a virgin, and Amnon thought he could never have her.

3 But Amnon had a very crafty friend—his cousin Jonadab. He was the son of David’s brother Shimea. 4One day Jonadab said to Amnon, “What’s the trouble? Why should the son of a king look so dejected morning after morning?” So Amnon told him, “I am in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” 5 “Well,” Jonadab said, “I’ll tell you what to do. Go back to bed and pretend you are ill. When your father comes to see you, ask him to let Tamar come and prepare some food for you. Tell him you’ll feel better if she prepares it as you watch and feeds you with her own hands.”

6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. And when the king came to see him, Amnon asked him, “Please let my sister Tamar come and cook my favorite dish as I watch. Then I can eat it from her own hands.” 7 So David agreed and sent Tamar to Amnon’s house to prepare some food for him.

8 When Tamar arrived at Amnon’s house, she went to the place where he was lying down so he could watch her mix some dough. Then she baked his favorite dish for him. 9 But when she set the serving tray before him, he refused to eat. “Everyone get out of here,” Amnon told his servants. So they all left. 10 Then he said to Tamar, “Now bring the food into my bedroom and feed it to me here.” So Tamar took his favorite dish to him. 11 But as she was feeding him, he grabbed her and demanded, “Come to bed with me, my darling sister.” 12 “No, my brother!” she cried. “Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! Such wicked things aren’t done in Israel. 13 Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called one of the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, and he will let you marry me.”

14 But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her, and since he was stronger than she was, he raped her. 15 Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. “Get out of here!” he snarled at her. 16 “No, no!” Tamar cried. “Sending me away now is worse than what you’ve already done to me.” But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her. 17 He shouted for his servant and demanded, “Throw this woman out, and lock the door behind her!” 18 So the servant put her out and locked the door behind her. She was wearing a long, beautiful robe, as was the custom in those days for the king’s virgin daughters. 19 But now Tamar tore her robe and put ashes on her head. And then, with her face in her hands, she went away crying.

20 Her brother Absalom saw her and asked, “Is it true that Amnon has been with you? Well, my sister, keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother. Don’t you worry about it.” So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house. 21 When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry. 22 And though Absalom never spoke to Amnon about this, he hated Amnon deeply because of what he had done to his sister. 2 Samuel 13:1-22 (NLT)

Imagine seeing this graphic scene in a movie. You would be horrified. What we are dealing with here are the logical, sensible consequences of addiction. It is entirely possible that the scene portrayed in 2 Samuel 13 between Amnon and Tamar is eerily similar to the scene between David and Bathsheba. It is possible that David had nothing more to do with Bathsheba until discovering that she was pregnant. In David’s case it was not incest with Bathsheba but it was at the very least adultery, and possibly it was rape. In either case, with all that David had in his garden of Eden kingdom, it was an addiction that required gratification.

So far, 2 Samuel 13 has been about addiction that led to incestuous rape, but the rest of the chapter tells the story of murderous revenge. Absalom would let enough time tick off the clock (two years) that Amnon would let his guard down leaving him vulnerable to his brother’s scheme of revenge. Amnon fell into Absalom’s trap as Absalom got Amnon drunk and persuaded all of King David’s sons to kill Amnon and they did.

Ah, sweet revenge. Is there anything more obsessive than the drive for revenge when one is seething in resentment. Rage, resentment and revenge was the code that David lived by when you examine the story behind the story. Rape, revenge, murder, shame and mourning. Like father, like sons. Victims and villains caught up in the vice grip of addiction. (Even David’s son Solomon, who would succeed David as king, repeated the sins of his father many times over—Deuteronomy 17:16-17, 1 Kings 11)

As they were on the way back to Jerusalem, this report reached David: “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons; not one is left alive!” The king got up, tore his robe, and threw himself on the ground. His advisers also tore their clothes in horror and sorrow. 2 Samuel 13:30-31 (NLT)

Would it soften the blow, lessen the pain for David that only Amnon was dead and now Absalom was fleeing for his life having given the order to murder his brother. (Sort of like a mob hit; the one giving the orders is ultimately held responsible.) Absalom would stay away for three years only to resurface (when David relented and reconciled with this son) to plot and scheme how to deceive and conquer the will of his father by aligning with enough of the military to actually drive his father out of the city of David into hiding; that is until the king would turn the tables and chase down Absalom. King David gave strict orders that those still aligned with Absalom be defeated and killed but that Absalom’s life be spared. However, when Joab and his men found Absalom helpless, caught by his hair hanging from a tree branch after his horse raced under it, they knew that to extinguish any future threat of risk that lie in wake in this bad seed, they needed to kill him and so they did just that; reporting to the king that Absalom’s death was in the chaos of the battle (2 Samuel 14-18).

24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates of the town, the watchman climbed to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked, he saw a lone man running toward them. 25 He shouted the news down to David, and the king replied, “If he is alone, he has news.” As the messenger came closer, 26 the watchman saw another man running toward them. He shouted down, “Here comes another one!” The king replied, “He also will have news.” 27 “The first man runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok,” the watchman said. “He is a good man and comes with good news,” the king replied.

28 Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, “Everything is all right!” He bowed before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise to the Lord your God, who has handed over the rebels who dared to stand against my lord the king.” 29 “What about young Absalom?” the king demanded. “Is he all right?” Ahimaaz replied, “When Joab told me to come, there was a lot of commotion. But I didn’t know what was happening.” 30 “Wait here,” the king told him. So Ahimaaz stepped aside.

31 Then the man from Ethiopia arrived and said, “I have good news for my lord the king. Today the Lord has rescued you from all those who rebelled against you.” 32 “What about young Absalom?” the king demanded. “Is he all right?” And the Ethiopian replied, “May all of your enemies, my lord the king, both now and in the future, share the fate of that young man!”

33 The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.” 2 Samuel 18:24-33 (NLT)

Rock Bottom

David experienced the full weight of addiction’s consequences. He had come full circle in the cycle of addiction and finally hit rock bottom. Except at the bottom he was beaten up physically, emotionally, and spiritually. From what I am about to show you from Psalm 38, David is not sure how to express himself to God as he cries out to Him. It is from a broken spirit from a deeply wounded man who cannot take another thing. It also sounds like a man so broken and powerless before God that he is done chasing after the next thing for gratification since there is nothing left to gratify him. Booze won’t do it for him. Sex won’t do it for him. Possessions won’t do it for him. Being worshiped and adored by the people won’t do it. His family has withdrawn from him. He has lost the respect of a nation, and his reign is again in jeopardy. David is in the throes of severe grief; his heart is broken; he may even be experiencing symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol or something that has affected his physical body; but whatever it is, he is dying inside.

1 O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage! 2 Your arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me. 3 Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins. 4 My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear. 5 My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins. 6 I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief. 7 A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. 8 I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. 9 You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. 10 My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. 11 My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.

12 Meanwhile, my enemies lay traps to kill me. Those who wish me harm make plans to ruin me. All day long they plan their treachery. 13 But I am deaf to all their threats. I am silent before them as one who cannot speak. 14 I choose to hear nothing, and I make no reply. 15 For I am waiting for you, O Lord. You must answer for me, O Lord my God. 16 I prayed, “Don’t let my enemies gloat over me or rejoice at my downfall.” 17 I am on the verge of collapse, facing constant pain.

18 But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done. 19 I have many aggressive enemies; they hate me without reason. 20 They repay me evil for good and oppose me for pursuing good. 21 Do not abandon me, O Lord. Do not stand at a distance, my God. 22 Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior. Psalm 38 (NLT)

Where does one go from here? For David, he was confronted by Joab (2 Samuel 19) who told him if he didn’t pull it together he would lose everything. David needed to sober up quickly or it was all over for him. That is how it is for anyone paralyzed by addiction. David acknowledged in Psalm 38 that the power of addiction in his life was so much bigger than he was, and that he would need the only One bigger than the power of his addiction and its consequences.

For a long time I considered David’s crying out in this fashion as a kind of victim pleading for mercy, rather than the repentant determination of David’s Psalm 51 confession that reads with a great deal of humility. His Psalm 38 confession has always wreaked of self-pity that I found a bit pathetic. However, upon further review I have come to realize that this confession (Psalm 38 was written years, maybe a decade or two after Psalm 51) is real. The emotion of this confession is raw and authentic. It not only contains an honest contriteness, but includes the anger and self-loathing of a man without answers who cannot turn back the clock for a do-over with a lifetime of regret. David, like anyone, if he knew then what he knows now, would have done a number of things quite differently. The problem with that is that he could not know then. He didn’t have the pain as his incentive to do things differently.

Repentance, Redemption, and Restoration

In the end through all of the ups and downs in David’s life, Faithful God saved him from his enemies. David had a repentant heart. And every single time that David went to Merciful God by confession seeking forgiveness, God was faithful to forgive him. Why? Because God loves his sons and daughters, and God loved David.

You might wonder, how sincere was David’s confession if he turned around and repeated the same sin again and again and again. I think it is safe to assume that David led a very conflicted life. When he was so caught up in self-centered obsessions and addictive behavior, like any addict, he did not have foresight to realize he was in the wrong and that his thoughts and actions on those thoughts and feelings was so destructive to himself, his family, and others. Whenever he came into awareness of his faults and sinful behavior he went to God in all sincerity and confessed his sin. With a broken humble spirit David confessed his sin and repented before the Lord. God forgave David and restored him.

As time wound down toward the end of David’s life, he sang the following from 2 Samuel 22:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; 3 my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence. 4 I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. 5 “The waves of death overwhelmed me; floods of destruction swept over me. 6 The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. 7 But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I cried to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears.

20 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me. 21 The Lord rewarded me for doing right; he restored me because of my innocence. 22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. 23 I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees. 24 I am blameless before God; I have kept myself from sin. 25 The Lord rewarded me for doing right. He has seen my innocence.

47 “The Lord lives! Praise to my Rock! May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted!”

As I read this psalm of worship from the lips of David, I ponder the question, “Is David delusional? He speaks of his innocence as having never sinned. The thing is: God is faithful! When He cleansed David of all unrighteousness, He washed him white as snow. The slate was wiped clean; a new start; renewed in the grace of Almighty God. It’s as if David never sinned in the eyes of God. David confessed his sin, and God was faithful and just to forgive him (1 John 1:9). In addition to David, there are so many more examples in Scripture of this unimaginable mercy—Paul (murder), Mary Magdalene (demon possession), Peter (denied knowing Jesus), the thief on the cross (crimes against humanity), you and me.

21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. 27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. Romans 3:21-28 (NLT)

One might say, “Grace? Jesus hadn’t been to the cross yet when David declared his innocence.” God has always been a compassionate merciful gracious God of unfailing love. David was God’s servant—a man after His own heart—and when he experienced the mercy of his Lord it was indeed an experience. In fact, when you read the words of David from 2 Samuel 22, you get the sense that David was keenly aware of the Messiah (by revelation from God’s Spirit) as the Savior from his selfish sin. He seemed to have relationship with Immanuel, meaning “God is with us” (Isaiah 7:14). David experienced the mercy of the Lord.

It was only fair—just—that God forgive David of his past. Fair to whom? Where is the justice for the Uriahs of the world—the victims of the perpetrators of sin? The truth of the matter is that while Uriah was a victim of David’s selfishness, He was a perpetrator of selfish sin against victims of his selfishness. We are all victims as well as perpetrators of selfish sin. God’s demonstration of His idea of justice applies to repentant perpetrators and to their victims. Jesus died that all would have new life. It is only just and fair to God that all who repent receive the gift of the sacrifice of His Son since all have fallen short of God’s standard without grace. David was the recipient of the gracious gift of new life just as you and I are.

The point here for you is that no matter what you have thought, felt, or done, nothing can keep you from the love of God, and if you humbly confess your sin with a sincere heart, nothing can keep you or hide you from the mercy of God. You can experience the innocence that David knew in his experience whenever he repented of his selfish addictive sin (“I am blameless before God”).

David said, “May God, the Rock of my salvation, be exalted!” The most meaningful synonym of the word ‘salvation’ is recovery. This is what David experienced and what God would love for you to experience today. Please, even now, reach out to a reachable accessible Father and tell Him whatever it is you need to tell Him, and discover a wonderful treasure that will set your soul free and lead you into the new life experience of real peace and real joy.

In the end, David was about building the Temple to the Lord. While David experienced a history of addiction to selfishness that led to consequences beyond imagination suffered by his family as well as an entire nation—Hundreds of thousands of people were directly impacted by David’s choices as a result of obsession and addiction to self—his legacy would include his commitment to doing the work required to fulfill the plan and purpose of God.

Then King David turned to the entire assembly and said, “My son Solomon, whom God has clearly chosen as the next king of Israel, is still young and inexperienced. The work ahead of him is enormous, for the Temple he will build is not for mere mortals—it is for the Lord God himself! Using every resource at my command, I have gathered as much as I could for building the Temple of my God. Now there is enough gold, silver, bronze, iron, and wood, as well as great quantities of onyx, other precious stones, costly jewels, and all kinds of fine stone and marble. “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy Temple. 1 Chronicles 29:1-3 (NLT)

David became fearless in his pursuit of obediently serving the Lord God in preparation of the Temple. His heart of repentant obedience and commitment to serving of God was the crowning jewel of a roller coaster existence. David’s recovery and final legacy ultimately was a 180 degree turn from doing whatever he could to gratify is addictive impulses to giving everything back to God that was God’s (on loan to David) in the first place. He surrendered all of his prosperous resources and wealth to the building of the Temple, a place where the Spirit of God would literally dwell.

Then David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly:

“O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised forever and ever! Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.

“O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace. “O Lord our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you! I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously. 1 Chronicles 29:10-18 (NLT)

Call of Recovery

What does this mean for you and I today concerning our recovery?

Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 (NLT)

Because, the Bible says, we in our bodies are the Temple where the Spirit of God dwells, like the surrendered commitment of David, we must obediently be doing the work of the Lord by the way we live each hour of each day. This is the call of recovery. Like David, we must be so careful not to bring harm to the Temple of the Lord but be willing to serve however we are called to serve. First, we must preserve the Temple of God. The Temple of God where the Spirit of Christ dwells is our body and mind, heart and soul. It is incumbent on us then that we abstain from that which in any way causes harm to the Temple. Second, we are called to do the work of building on the foundation that God has laid down for us in His Son. It is in responding to this call of obedience to service and giving that the blessing and promise—the miracle—is realized in this life of faithful recovery. When we really come to understand this truth, like David, we win the ultimate prize. Like David, we are people of God’s own heart… the apple of His eye.

Then David continued, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly. 1 Chronicles 28:20 (NLT)

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

Lesson: MEdom = Worship of Self (TWIRL 023)

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9 Responses to A Man After God’s Own Heart: David’s Story of Addiction… Repentance, Redemption, Relapse & Restoration

  1. Alvin says:

    I am thankful that I was lead to find this expository today. It was not my intent to look for this specifically. I came across it by accident online and I’ve spent over 1 hr and 30 minutes reading it in amazement. It really opened up my eyes and made me understand so many things. Indeed, we are born into sin. We make mistakes daily. But with sincere hearts and constant repentance, God is gracious enough to forgive us. Now, I never want to give up! Praise God!

    • Alvin, I sincerely appreciate your feedback. Sometimes I wonder how God is using this ministry. Thank you for the affirmation. I hope you’ll pass it along to family, friends, and your church family.


  2. Joseph Grant- Freetown, SierraLeone. says:

    Thanks for the expository.
    It is really an extensive one and a must read analysis.
    God bless you.

  3. Joseph Grant- Freetown, SierraLeone. says:

    This is a good lesson to be learnt by modern day Christians.
    It is a lesson of reaping what you sow.
    A lesson of no sin will go unpunished.
    My prayer is that God would en-grace us to apply the lessons in this expository.
    God bless you.

  4. Noriyuki says:

    David has always been one of my favorite Bible characters because he messed up so badly, in so many ways! His emotions are all over the place. One minute he’s chasing after God, the next he’s mad at God, and then he outright does something dumb. Yet, he was still called a man after God’s own heart. David has always given me hope that, even though I make more mistakes than get it right, it’s okay. If I keep picking myself up, God’s gonna be there for me.

  5. Craig S. says:

    Hello it’s me, I am also visiting this website on a regular basis, this site is genuinely good and the users are in fact sharing nice thoughts.

  6. chudao says:

    Hi Friend,
    Its pretty good stuff. You have taken David’s addiction alive into the modern adulterous context. Well done.

  7. I really liked this Steve. It’s long, but it’s worth the read to the one who will take the time. It is admirable that you took on David’s sexual addiction head-on, whereas most Bible scholars seem to treat the polygamy of the monarchy as a sort of sexual “grace period” in the otherwise monogamous command of God. It can’t be healthy for a man to have unlimited sexual partners available day and night!

    I also liked your use of recovery as a synonym for salvation—that could be really helpful for people to take the religion out of the notions of salvation, and infuse the term with a restoration mentality. Good stuff.

    Pastor Fran Leeman


      Your in-depth and intensive expository account on the life, addiction, relapse, conviction, and restoration of David is well thought through and it was worth my while. I appreciate you and would want to know if possible you may have similar treats for me that would help me further in my study program in theology here in Warri, Nigeria?

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