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Learn from David’s Failures

We can learn from David, a man who committed adultery and murder

Doug Britton, MFT

Page Summary
Summary: You can overcome failure. David really failed, yet he turned to God, repented, and overcame his failure. Although he failed, God forgave him and used him to accomplish amazing things. With God’s help, David was an overcomer.

Part 1 of a 4-part series on “Overcoming Failure”

Part 2      Part 3      Part 4


In this four-part study, you will read about something most of us don’t like to think about—failure. More importantly, you will read about three men in the Bible who overcame failure, learned from their failures, and who later were used by God to accomplish amazing things. I pray that their stories will encourage you.

We all fail sometimes

No one can live for very long without failing. Sometimes our failures are relatively minor, sometimes they are serious. But we can be sure that we will fail—many times. The important question is, how will we respond to our failures? Will failure overcome us, or will we overcome failure?

David’s example

David, King of Israel, failed in major ways. Let’s review his story:

David sinned.

One evening, while his army was away fighting a war, David was walking on the roof of his palace when he saw a beautiful woman bathing, apparently on a neighboring roof. Although he knew Bathsheba was married, he also knew that her husband Uriah was off fighting in the war, so David had her come to the palace and had sex with her. Later Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant. She sent word to David. (Read 2 Samuel 11:2-5.)

Make it personal

1. David committed two sins in this passage. What were they?

2. What do you think God thought about David’s actions? Explain your answer.

David tried to hide his sin by being sneaky.

David didn’t want anyone to know he had gotten Bathsheba pregnant. He gave orders for Uriah to be brought back to Jerusalem. David hoped Uriah would have sex with Bathsheba, and when the child was born, Uriah would assume it was his own. Uriah, however, chose not to have sex with her, because he thought it would be wrong to make love while his fellow soldiers were fighting.

David didn’t give up on his plan. He invited Uriah to dinner and got him drunk, hoping Uriah then would go home and have sex with his wife. Once again, Uriah chose not to have sex with Bathsheba. (Read 2 Samuel 11:6-13.)

Related: If you love someone, you’ll wait

What do you think?

3. Was David’s plan to get Uriah drunk and then have sex with his wife a good idea? Why or why not?

4. After David learned Bathsheba was pregnant, what should he have done?

David tried to hide his sin by killing Uriah.

When his plans didn’t work out, David arranged for Uriah to get killed in battle when Uriah went back to the war. Some other soldiers were killed at the same time. (Read 2 Samuel 11:14-25.)

What do you think?

5. David’s strategy seemed to work, since Uriah wouldn’t be able to confront him. Do you think God was impressed by David’s “clever” plan? Why or why not?

6. Have you ever failed in a major way and then tried to cover it up? If so, what do you think God would have wanted you to do?

After Bathsheba’s time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife. She gave birth to a son. But David’s actions displeased the Lord. (Read 2 Samuel 11:26-27.)

The prophet Nathan confronted David, and David confessed.

God had the prophet Nathan confront David about his sin. It took David a few minutes to understand what Nathan was saying, but when he understood, he replied, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan responded by saying that God “took away” the sin. (Read 2 Samuel 12:1-13.)

What do you think?

7. Did David respond to the confrontation properly? Why or why not?

Read 2 Samuel, and you will see that David’s sins resulted in serious consequences. The son conceived in adultery died. But as you continue reading, you will learn that Bathsheba and David had another son, Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24). Solomon became a great king in Israel.

God brought unexpected (good) consequences.

Although David and Bathsheba started their marriage in such a sinful way, God brought good out of their failures.

  • David wrote inspiring Psalms that tell of God’s character, love, and forgiveness.
  • Many centuries later Joseph, a direct descendent of David and Solomon, became the “father” of Jesus.

Make it personal

8. Why do you think God had Jesus born in a direct lineage from David and Bathsheba since their marriage was based on deceit, sexual sin, and murder? Does that mean God approved of what they did? Explain your answer.

9. Think about your failures. Does the story of David and Bathsheba give you hope that you too can overcome your failure and be close to God in the future? Why or why not?

Another result of David’s sins was the moving Psalms he wrote about his actions and God’s forgiveness. For example, he wrote Psalm 51:

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar. (Psalm 51:1-19)

Make it personal

10. Read one or two sentences from Psalm 51 that stand out to you. Explain why you chose these sentences.

Lessons we can learn from David

  • With God’s help, you can overcome failure. You don’t need to let failure overcome you.
  • It’s better to fight temptation in your mind than it is to give in to temptation and then deal with the consequences.
  • When you sin, deal with it. Don’t try to cover it.
  • When you sin, don’t commit more sins to cover it up.
  • It’s never too late to confess.
  • When you confess, God will forgive you.
  • After you confess, deal with the consequences.

Related: Before you act — stop, think, pray

Make it personal

11. Describe how one or more of these lessons we can learn from David encourages you.

Memory verse

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:2)

Personal application

1. What was David’s first mistake (or sin) in this story? Explain your answer.

2. What were some sneaky ways David tried to deal with Bathsheba being pregnant?

3. Have you ever tried using sneaky techniques to get out of something wrong that you did? If so, briefly explain what you did.

4. David didn’t confess his sin right away, but he finally did. Do you think his confession was genuine? Why or why not?

5. How easy is it for you to genuinely confess when you commit a sin? Explain your answer.

6. Write a prayer asking God to help you honestly confess any sins you commit in the future.

7. How did God bring good things out of David’s sins?

8. What are some good things God could bring out of your past sins?

Parts 3 and 4 of this study are coming soon

Check back for Parts 3 and 4 in a few weeks, or sign up for Doug Britton’s newsletter to be one of the first to learn when they are posted.

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About Doug Britton, MFT

Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)

Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.

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