Guarding Ourselves from Occasions of Sexual Sin
It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold…
2 Samuel 11:1NKJV
Today we conclude our study Question 138 of the Larger Catechism, which asks, “What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?” The final part of the answer states, “The duties required in the seventh commandment are… diligent labour in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.” Last week we examined the duties God requires of married people with regard to sexual intimacy. Today we consider our responsibility to keep ourselves from idleness and anything else which may allow for sexual sin.
The Scripture at the head of this article begins one of the saddest stories in all of Scripture. David, the king of Israel, the man after God’s own heart, the slayer of Goliath, the sparer of Saul, the righteous king, the compassionate king, the leader of men, and the rescuer of women starts a series of decisions and actions that leads to his committing the sins of adultery and murder. However, as the verses in the text clearly indicate, the occasion for these horrible sins arose as David shirked his duty as king. It was springtime. It was the time when kings were supposed to go and fight any enemies who were threatening their nations. Israel had such enemies, and she had a capable king. Therefore it was David’s duty as king to go to war against these enemies and protect his people.
Yet the text ominously declares; after explaining how he had sent his general to go and do his job for him: “But David remained at Jerusalem.” The clear implication is that if David had only been diligent in his calling as king; he would not have been idle in Jerusalem; he would not have been restless when it was time to sleep; he would not have been looking for trouble walking around on his roof in the middle of the night; he would not have seen and lusted after Bath Sheba; he would not have fallen into the sins of adultery and murder. It is not for nothing that God calls us to work six days! Diligence in our callings is good for us. It keeps us out of trouble. It keeps us from the workshop of Satan, which is idleness. History and experience teach that it especially keeps us from sexual sin. Thus, the Catechism wisely lists “diligent labor in our callings” as one of our duties in keeping the seventh commandment.
Occupying our time in fruitful labor is important, but that alone cannot keep us from committing sexual sin. We must also be alert to shun all occasions of uncleanness. Uncleanness refers to any sexual desire or activity that is degrading to man; lewdness. We remember “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” (Gen. 1:27). And also, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh,” (Gen. 2:24). Thus, occasions and temptations to uncleanness represent opportunities and enticements to entertain or engage in any sexual thoughts and actions which are beneath the dignity of man as the image-bearer of God.
One such occasion occurred in David’s life when he went for a stroll on his roof in the middle of the night. The roof was like a porch or patio for ancient Israelites. They would go onto their roofs to relax in the breeze or when the air was cooler at night. David’s palace would have afforded him the ability to look down onto the roofs of others. Going up there at night would increase the possibility he would see something inappropriate. David should have known better. Likewise, as soon as he glimpsed a woman bathing he should have resisted the temptation to gaze on her, he should have been like Joseph and fled! David fell into great sin one small step at a time. May our good God grant us the grace to resist all occasions and temptations to any sexual thoughts or actions which lie outside the sanctity of the marriage relationship.