A Tale of Two Davids: Petraeus and the Biblical King (Pt. 1)
Editor's Note: This is the first installment of a special series on adultery for the column "Counseling Corner."
When you think about "King David," what words come to mind? For starters, how about: bold risk taker, popular leader, military hero. All true ... but precisely which King David are we referring to? Realize, many Iraqis admiringly called General David Petraeus – "King David."
In truth, many similarities can be drawn between the American General David Petraeus and the Israelite king. Tragically, the most prominent and striking parallel in today's headlines is not the heralded public victories, but the hidden personal defeat – the moral defeat of adultery.
Israel's King David was the respected leader of his people, yet he risked his reputation for a single night of sensuality. Rather than obeying God's command regarding adultery and honoring his rightful duty, he enticed another man's wife and had an affair. His scandalous story includes themes of entitlement, deception, isolation, lust, and murder – all culminating in catastrophic consequences. (The biblical narrative is recorded in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12.).
Sadly, David's "kingly" contemporary has reenacted most of these same themes. Meanwhile, for both men, adultery has shown to be a tragic, personal failure with far-reaching repercussions.
The collective question in the year 2012 has been "Why?" What on earth was he thinking? Likewise, the same why question was posed in the Bible, "Why ... did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?" (2 Samuel 12:9).
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What a piercing question, intended to stir the spirit of a man who has been living in the fullness of lust. Not only does God characterize David's actions as evil, he also likens his disobedience to showing contempt for the Word of God. David is silent as God through the prophet Nathan lists reason after reason why there simply is no excuse for his self-centered judgment.
"I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more" (2 Samuel 12:7-8).
Apart from these specifics, let's look at a more basic reason as to why people can justify their infidelity. In the light of truth, they somehow feel they were deceived.
Why Is Adultery So Deceptive?
• It skews objectivity.
• It feels good physically.
• It numbs emotional pain.
• It makes both persons feel wanted.
• It gives an illusion of being loved.
• It gives a false sense of significance.
• It gives a false feeling of being connected.
• It can be a weapon to punish the spouse.
• It provides a temporary sense of security.
• It diverts attention away from family problems
Nevertheless, the following words appear twice in the Bible ... and for good reason, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25)
Why Stop Committing Adultery?
Regardless of the rationalizations, a second question is absolutely vital: "Why should I stop?" Consider these two compellingly powerful reasons to stop committing adultery: the removal of the blessing of God ... and the receiving of the judgment of God.
Ultimately, anyone who is being unfaithful needs to admit these ten realities:
• "My Bible forbids it."
• "My mate is betrayed."
• "My peace is forfeited."
• "My health is jeopardized."
• "My future cannot be blessed."
• "My morality is compromised."
• "My children lose their hero."
• "My conscience is scarred."
• "My integrity is destroyed."
• "My God condemns it."
While leading the "War on Terror" in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the four-star King David earned the reputation of a driven and disciplined military leader intent on putting his counter-insurgency theories into practice – and he succeeded. His career path indeed has mirrored that of the earlier King David's: great military success – but tainted with great moral failure. The General's professional commitment only showcased prominence and highest respect due a hero, however, his personal lack of commitment – now splattered across every media outlet worldwide – revealed a wife and children who lost their hero.
The Rest of the Story
King David's story did not end with his fall into adultery. He faced his sin, expressed godly sorrow, asked for forgiveness, and changed his harmful behavior. Following his sin with Bathsheba, he prayed: "I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. …Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. …Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you" (Psalm 51:3, 10, 13 NIV).
We pray that General Petraeus's story will move toward authentic forgiveness and restoration. And for those who today find themselves caught in the snare of an affair – just like these two famous "Davids" – they can choose now to demonstrate the courage to face their failure, say no to sin, and to return to a life of integrity. God is still in the business of changing hearts and redeeming lives.
It's never too late to do what is right.