God be merciful to me – David chooses repentance over defensiveness

King David, while regarded as a great king of Israel and a man after God’s own heart, was by no means a perfect man. When we think of his failures, his infidelity with Bathsheba and murder of her husband is likely the first thing to come to mind. After this abuse, the prophet Nathan goes to David to confront him.

Now bear in mind that a king doesn’t have to listen to a prophet or even be nice to them. When Nathan calls out David for his sin, David could’ve made life miserable for Nathan. No one likes to be called out, criticized, judged. We don’t tend to seek out opportunities for our secret sins to be named. Yet, David, the man as king who could’ve done anything to continue to cover up his sin, doesn’t choose further defensiveness. When Nathan comes to him, David is broken and he repents.

The narrative of this is recorded in 2 Samuel 12, and in our readings this week David’s response is recorded poetically in Psalm 51. We may quickly skim the headings of the psalms, but there we see that 51 is written after Nathan rebukes David, leading to this long confession of sin.

It’s a beautiful psalm with a tragic backstory. It reveals a desire for real repentance, not merely to deal with the outward appearances or public actions. David asks that God create in him a clean heart and renew a right spirit. For while all the external actions and sacrifices could continue, we see in verses 16-17 that what matters most to God is the heart behind it.

May we learn from David’s mistakes and from his repentance, and rather than be defensive, be open to confess.

I’d recommend reading Psalm 51 and listening to this song taken from this scripture.

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