BACKGROUND: Read this paragraph before you read the passage; it will help you understand the full weight of what David is talking about when he writes.
One spring, while his armies were out fighting, King David was standing on the roof of his palace when he noticed a woman bathing. He noticed that she was incredibly beautiful and had his servants bring her to him. Well, it turned out that she was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. And it would’ve been pretty jerky for David to sleep with her even if he didn’t know Uriah. But here’s the catch: he did. Uriah was not only one of his best and bravest army commanders, but also Uriah was one of the Gibborim – also known as David’s Mighty Men – which were a group of David’s closest friends and companions who had fought with and for him since the beginning.
Obviously David was the king so he did the right thing, right? No. He slept with Uriah’s wife. And she got pregnant. And when she told him she was pregnant he tried to get tricky. So he called his friend Uriah back from the battle – where he was a key commander – and told him to go hang out with his wife. But Uriah didn’t sleep with Bathsheba like David had hoped. He couldn’t think of that while his men were in battle. So, with his initial plan foiled, David instructed the commander of his armies to send Uriah into the fiercest part of the battle where he would die. He did. And then David took Bathsheba to be his wife – though he already had a few wives of his own.
So, just to recap: David demanded that a woman he saw be brought to him so he could sleep with her, he realized it was his friend and loyal servant’s wife and then slept with her anyways, he tried to trick his buddy into sleeping with her so he’d think the kid was his, then when his plan failed he purposefully put his friend in a situation where he’d be killed, and then after his friend died he took his friend’s wife to add to his collection of wives.
We’ve all sinned. We’ve all done some horrible things that we regret. But this whole situation is a doozy! And when the prophet Nathan came to David and called him out on his sin, David got some serious clarity about what he had done and the incredible weight of his sin. In his brokenness, David wrote Psalm 51.
READ: Psalm 51
THINK: This Psalm is one of the most powerful, compelling, and inspiring pieces of poetry in the entire Bible. And it provides us with an amazing understanding of what repentance and forgiveness really look like. It’s an important understanding for all of us to come to grips with because we all sin! Take a few moments on each of these to consider what it means for you and for your relationship with God that:
– Our sin isn’t just about the action, it’s about violating God and sinning against him.
– When God forgives us we are washed whiter than snow.
– Confession isn’t about dwelling in our guilt, it’s about honestly repenting and then moving forward.
– What God desires most from us in our sin isn’t sacrifice but a broken and contrite heart, a heart that is genuinely sorry and that acknowledges the depth of the separation between us in our sin and God in his holiness.
PRAY: Take some time to confess your sins. Truly examine yourself before God and come before him broken and contrite. Confess with confidence that he will forgive and wash you whiter than snow.
Maybe you’ll even want to use the words of this Psalm as a part of your prayer. I frequently pray Psalm 51:10-12 as a prayer of repentance. Also, if you like to communicate with God through song, check out this song based on Psalm 51.