In the life of King David we see how deadly presumption can be, and how it can work against the interests of God. David was a man after God’s own heart. He never followed any god but Yahweh. Regardless, he was still a man and subject to the sin of the flesh. This led him to make a tragic decision that had consequences far beyond his initial sin.
For some reason in 2 Samuel 11, David doesn’t go out to war in the spring as he should have as king of Israel. Instead he remained at his palace. Apparently at this time he was somewhat slothful, because he only got up late one afternoon rather than having been about the work of the kingdom. As a direct result, he saw Bathsheba on a nearby rooftop who was bathing. Was this exposure normal? The text does tell us that she was purifying herself from her monthly cycle. Regardless, David saw her beauty, desired her, and requested she come to him. She did, and David’s sin against the Lord resulted.
Consider David’s presumption in this matter. Because he was king, he presumed that he could have anything – or anyone – that he pleased. Likewise, he had presumed that he didn’t need to accompany his army in their continuing conquests that God had decreed. These actions led to a domino effect for the kingdom and in David’s own family. They brought about God’s curse on David and much resulting trouble.
As a result of David’s immorality with Bathsheba, God did not allow the child that was born from the union to survive. Subsequently, God told David that their second son was His chosen one to eventually succeed as king.
In the meantime, David’s son, Amnon, traveled down this path of presumption with his own tragic consequences. He lusted after his half-sister Tamar and had his way with her. Tamar was Absalom’s sister and this caused Absalom to hate Amnon and eventually kill him.
Absalom was David’s firstborn son. After his killing of Amnon, he fled from David’s presence in fear of his life, thinking that the avenger of blood, perhaps David himself, would come after him to exact justice for his murder of Amnon. Instead, David yearned to restore their relationship, and eventually Absalom came back to Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, once he’d been returned to grace, Absalom presumed that it was now his right to become king. This wasn’t God’s will, nor had David sanctioned this, and this presumptive act led to Absalom’s death.
God’s curse upon David’s house continued with his second born son Adonijah, who similarly made a huge presumptive mistake that we see in 1 Kings 1:5:
Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king.” And he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.
Perhaps since his firstborn brother was dead, Adonijah thought it was now his right to succeed to the throne. It was a bad move for Adonijah and those who supported him in this misguided effort.
Bathsheba and Nathan the prophet informed David – who was now quite old – of Adonijah’s presumption to ascend to the kingship. David had neglected up till now to officially anoint Solomon, which he should have done earlier to avoid further misunderstandings. Once he learned of this coup attempt, David quickly squashed it by publicly declaring Solomon as his successor. As 1 Kings 1:30 tells us, God had intended Solomon to be His man over the kingdom of Israel, with David recalling to Bathsheba:
“… as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ even so will I do this day.”
Upon Solomon taking the crown, he gave grace to Adonijah, where he had every right to put him to death then and there. But the curse continued. After David died, Adonija went to Bathsheba to petition Solomon to allow him to take Abishag, the Shunammite maiden as his wife. She had kept David warm in his old age, yet without him knowing her, i.e. without their having had intercourse. Thus, she was a virgin.
This was once more a deadly presumption. I believe the problem that Solomon saw with this was the fact that this young woman had been close to David. There was a practice during those times that an usurper of the throne would take the previous king’s concubines as his own. This became a public repudiation of the prior king. If this was the issue in play, then Solomon saw this action by Adonijah as one that undermined his own position as king. It was something Solomon could not allow.
Consider how Adonijah framed this issue to Bathsheba in his discussion with her in 1 Kings 2:15:
He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign. However, the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the Lord.
Bathsheba seemed to have no problem with his request, but Solomon certainly did. It led to his having his brother put to death.
In this continuing saga of David’s initial presumptive act with Bathsheba, it also affected the lives of others in his sphere. When Adonijah tried to declare himself as king, a couple of David’s prior loyal men went along with the fantasy. Joab, David’s army commander for many years, along with Abiathar the priest supported this effort. Solomon had Joab put to death. Abiathar escaped the death penalty, but was banished from the priesthood. That actually fulfilled a prior prophecy that the line of Eli during Samuel’s day would cease to have a priest in that family.
Throughout this tragic history, the one constant was the sin of presumption. It led to terrible choices and ultimately the death of many.
Today, we as Christians don’t think much about such consequences. We’ll often make decisions based on what we think is best rather than inquiring of God. When He isn’t in the picture, we may well presume things that we shouldn’t. In the absence of God, this can lead to difficulties in our own lives, yet we may never realize the reason.
We would do well to keep in mind the importance of walking in God’s way and not presuming that we know best without Him.