David leaves us a lesson in true repentance

Nathan accuses David of adultery,
Matthias Scheits, 1672

Some brief comments on Psalm 51 — Part 1.

{By Rev Ivan Foster, Rtd}

This Psalm was part of my daily reading today (9.9.23). I have read it many times before BUT I always see something fresh and to the blessing of my soul.

We must ever remember the words of John.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us,” 1 John 1:8-10.

Because we ever sin and have need of repentance, which is a gift from God and not self-induced (Acts 5:31), we need the instructions and guidance given us here by divine inspiration from the pen of David.

As the fall of the Jewish people brought blessings to the Gentiles, (Romans 11:11-12) even so the sad lapse by David has brought instruction to all believers who read the Bible and find themselves in the same erring circumstances as David, perhaps not the exact same turn of events but in the same place of disobedience and transgression as his terrible offence.

From the title of the Psalm given us in our Authorised Version, there come some precious truths.

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1. Even when we deserve to be forsaken, the Lord pities erring believers.

David’s sin was a most grievous breach of God’s Law, made all the more so in that the Lord had permitted David to have many wives, in exemption to the general order established by Him. For him then to steal the wife of a good, loyal and godly soldier like Uriah by murdering him, was a most heinous crime.

 2. God’s mercy always comes to us via His Word.

Nathan was sent of God to David. “And the LORD sent Nathan unto David,”2 Samuel 12:1. It was not an easy task to undertake. I have no doubt that the actions of David, surely known by all within his court, would have been most distressing to a man of God such as Nathan. Furthermore, approaching David on such a solemn mission with a most dreadful outcome, would not have been easy. David was at the zenith of his kingly power. Perhaps this why Nathan never approached David before being sent on that task by the Lord.

David’s response to Nathan’s ‘parable’ sets forth his demeanour. “And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die,” 2 Samuel 12:5. He was not one to be thwarted!

It took great faithfulness and a readily obedient heart as well as courage on the part of Nathan to face David and that most bluntly, ‘pulling no punches’, as it were.

Let every servant from God learn from faithful Nathan’s actions. Sometimes our best friends and those we much admire have to be challenged in the name of the Lord. If that is so, then let Nathan be our pattern!

3. The blindness of the human heart to its own sin is seen in David’s first reaction to the words of Nathan.

One would think that the ‘parable’ of Nathan, 2 Samuel 12:1-4, would have immediately hit home to David. After all it was less than nine months since he had committed the dreadful double crime! But no, his reaction shows a blindness that is hard to be understood yet, dear friends, it is a blindness with which we are all afflicted!

David’s fury at the actions of the ‘fictional’ man in Nathan’s parable, who was guilty of unkindness and greed regarding the lamb of a poor man, serves to show just how great was David’s sin and how worthy it was of the sternest judgment. If the selfish and sinful appropriation of a lamb was worthy of death, how much more was David’s wickedness!

I still remember vividly a morning in our ‘English Bible’ studies under ‘the old Pastor’, as Pastor James Kyle Paisley was affectionately known by us back in his latter days, when he was expounding 2 Samuel 11-12. As we looked at the record of David’s sin, the dear old man of God shook his head in grief and said,’How could David do such a thing?”

I have lived with that sight ever since, recognising it as the reaction of a man for whom the Word of God lived and presented to him the truth of God regarding men, even the errors of the righteous. Yes, David’s sin is yet to be mourned over for it still today, as it did 300 years ago, has “given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme,” 2 Samuel 12:14.

In my early days in Kilskeery, I recall the incident of David’s wickedness being cast in my face by a old man seeking to avoid the challenge of the gospel. Mercifully, the God of David was kind to him as He was to David and shortly after the old man repented of his sin and was saved.

4. There are times when we must publicly own our sin and wickedness as part of our repentance.

How public was David repentance? Millions of people, believers and unbelievers, have read of David’s contrite response to God’s rebuke. It has been a most effective rebuttal of all those who have seized upon David’s dreadful folly and who seek to use it to the shaming of God and His people.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said of David’s words in this psalm: “When we remember his sin, let us dwell most upon his penitence, and upon the long series of chastisements which rendered the after part of his life such a mournful history.”

Not all who sin against the Lord are required to exercise such a public repentance. Peter sinned most shamefully when He denied theLord. Yet, I believe that his repentance was private before the Lord though we are given a record of it having taken place.

“And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly,” Luke 22:59-62.

But true repentance whether public or private will be before the Lord and will, I believe, entail tears.

Rev Ivan Foster Rtd.
9th September 2023