One of the biggest news stories of the last few days is strangely similar to one of the biggest stories of the Bible. It’s a tale of two Davids—same name, both renowned military commanders, both highly placed government officials, both caught in a scandal, both publicly humiliated.
Yes, the sad stories of adultery involving King David of ancient Israel and General David Petraeus of the United States are remarkably comparable. The salacious details will be dug out by the press, of course; but too many people are going to get caught up in the story and miss the real lessons that affect all of us.
The truth is, we don’t really need to know all the particulars of the David Petraeus story. His story is just a different verse of the same song that too many humans have danced to for thousands of years. Besides, it won’t be all that much different from the biblical account of King David that you can read in 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12.
Let’s skip the specifics and go straight to the lessons that, unfortunately, will be lost on too many.
Lesson 1: You can accomplish great things in life; but if you lose the moral battle, you can lose everything. Both Davids won some great military battles against their enemies but lost some great moral battles within themselves. But the moral battles in life are not fought just by the mighty men. These are fights in which we are all engaged—always personally, sometimes collectively as a nation.
Lesson 2: The windows of temptation open daily in all of our lives, luring all of us to think, talk or behave immorally. As God warned Cain, “If you do not well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Anyone who lingers at that window—leaves that door open too long—will see sin come in. Every person has their soft underbelly where they are vulnerable to sin. We must understand it and guard against it.
Lesson 3: When sin comes in, it will take you farther than you think you will go, farther than you want to go.
Lesson 4: Sin will keep you longer in its grips than you want to stay. It’s natural for humans to try to rationalize, justify, cover up, deny and run from the consequences, but all of those actions spin a web that keeps us longer in its grip.
Lesson 5: Sin always costs you more than you think it will and more than you want to pay.
Lesson 6: Sin blinds. Make no mistake—sin usually offers short term gratifications that blind people from seeing the long-term penalties. Even the Bible describes it as “the pleasures of sin for a season.”
Lesson 7: The road to redemption is through repentance. None of us has any idea of the direction David Petraeus will take in putting his personal life back together. I hope that he—and all the rest of us—will follow the path King David took. He paid a brutal and dear price for his sin, but he came to his senses, bitterly repented and turned back to God. His haunting and heartfelt prayer in the 51st Psalm at this time in his life still serves to guide our thoughts and understanding back to the moral uprightness that we urgently need.
These lessons about sin and the moral war that we all wage are timeless, and they are universal. May General David Petraeus and his family find their way to healing the hurts inflicted by this sin, as King David did; and may all of us humbly learn, from their stories, these vital lessons for our own lives.
For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Clyde Kilough.