Against You, You alone, have I sinned, and committed evil in Your sight; So You are just when You speak, You are pure in Your judgment.
Psalm 51 is David’s song of confession and repentance after Nathan confronted him over his sin (see 2 Samuel 11-12:15). The sin David had committed was no small matter: he lusted after Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and, consumed with covetousness, he contrived to have Uriah killed on the battlefield so he could take Bathsheba for himself. If this wasn’t enough, prior to dispatching with Uriah, David slept with Bathsheba and she became pregnant. Lust, covetousness, murder, adultery, greed–and all this from the man who wrote Psalm 23, the man with whom God made a covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-17), and the man whose descendants would one day include the Messiah.
But we mustn’t get so overwhelmed with the magnitude of David’s crimes that we lose sight of his repentance, and the grace of God. As much as we are rightly shocked at the depth of depravity to which David sank, the story of David and Bathsheba–the story behind Psalm 51–is not so much the story of David’s sin as it is the proclamation of God’s grace and mercy.
For our devotion this morning, I want us to pay particular attention to the nature of David’s repentance. The verse I selected–verse 6 in English translations, verse 4 in the Hebrew text (which explains the odd verse reference in the blog post heading)–shows that David recognized the true nature of sin. He says that it is against God, and God alone, that he has sinned. This may seem like David getting around the fact that he can’t ask Uriah’s forgiveness, but in fact, David knows that even if Uriah were still alive, his repentance wouldn’t end with an apology to the man he had wronged.
Ultimately, all sin is a violation of God’s Law. This is the basis of our judgment before God: we are all Law-breakers. The heart of the Law–the Ten Commandments–are a part of creation, and clearly existed before Exodus 20. God condemned Cain for murdering Abel (Genesis 4:10-12), and punished Pharaoh for taking Abraham’s wife (Genesis 12:15-20). Also, note God’s instructions to Israel concerning the collection of manna on the Sabbath in Exodus 16:4-7. Whenever we sin, we are, in some way, breaking one of the Ten Commandments, and falling into the hands of a just and holy God.
David knew this. He knew Uriah’s death didn’t get him off the hook. Granted, it took Nathan the prophet revealing his sin to bring David to his senses. But God did not hold David accountable for doing something he didn’t know to be wrong. David knew how bad his sin was, and that he had offended not only Uriah, but ultimately his Lord and God.
This is why David’s repentance is so heartfelt. David grieved over his sin. And it’s in this grieving that we see the sincerity of his conviction, which in turn shows us that his heart truly belonged to the Lord. God forgave David, not because David said the right words, but because David’s heart was right. He despaired of the evil within him, and cried out to God for mercy.
Are our hearts broken over our sin, as was David’s? Do we think ourselves to be generally good people, and think maybe God will accept us on that basis? We need to examine ourselves daily, recognizing that it’s only by the grace of God in Christ that we are able to stand before Him justified, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. Our hearts are no better than David’s. May our repentance be as deep and honest.
Have a great week!