Everyone has a story, and sadly, everyone has some parts of that story that they would rather forget about and are very happy if they escaped the media’s attention. Fortunately for the majority of us who are “nobodies” (so to speak, as compared to the “somebodies” of the world), even when we have done things that we later regretted, nobody either knew (well, maybe not?) or nobody really cared (although that is most likely to also be untrue).
David, of course, was a somebody! We first meet him as a simple shepherd boy playing music to his sheep, but, as it does, life moves on and changes and eventually David found himself, in the purposes of God, to be the King of Israel. He certainly didn’t have an easy life leading up to this and, as all of us know who have been in some position of leadership, life can be tough at the top.
But there came a day when temptation came to David, as it does to us all, but sadly he succumbed and, in the recent words of the Australian Prime Minister concerning the actions of his deputy, he “made a shocking error of judgement!”. And, as they say, the rest is history! But this history (both David’s and the DPM’s) didn’t “escape the media’s attention” and thousands of years later we can read about David’s life (warts and all) in the Bible and in almost every language of the world.
But, as well as David’s story, we also see the heart of this man in that we are privileged to have recorded in this marvelous Book, the Psalms of David, not the least being Psalm 32 but also, relevant to his failure, Psalm 51.
These are 2 key psalms associated with David’s sin as recorded in 1 Samuel 11-12. It would appear that Psalm 51 was written soon after David’s sin had been revealed to him by a very courageous and wise prophet of God. In fact, the heading at the beginning of this psalm says: “A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba”. In this psalm David is distraught at the depth of his sin and cries out to God for mercy and forgiveness.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Psalm 31 then seems to have been written sometime after the event, not taking for granted God’s forgiveness but reflecting upon the experience (verses 1-5), then sharing with us, his readers, what he has learnt and encouraging us to learn from his experience, not making the same mistakes but trusting in the Lord and thus, receive forgiveness and blessing (verses 6-11).
Listen again to his words as he gives thanks and reflects on his experience:
1-2 What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.
3 There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. 4 All day and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day 5 until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, “I will confess them to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.
He then talks to us and thanks God for his deliverance:
6 Now I say that each believer should confess his sins to God when he is aware of them, while there is time to be forgiven. Judgment will not touch him if he does.
7 You are my hiding place from every storm of life; you even keep me from getting into trouble! You surround me with songs of victory.
This is followed by, what most commentators consider, the words of God:
8 I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress. 9 Don’t be like a senseless horse or mule that has to have a bit in its mouth to keep it in line!
Then ends with a final exhortation to us to rejoice in God:
10 Many sorrows come to the wicked, but abiding love surrounds those who trust in the Lord. 11 So rejoice in him, all those who are his, and shout for joy, all those who try to obey him. (Living Bible)
Moore sums up this psalm as follows:
“This psalm warns us that there are many different types of sin (1-2), that failure to confess them is spiritual suicide (3-5), that God’s offer of forgiveness will not last forever (6), and that those who are forgiven must live differently as a result (8-10), full of praise towards the God who has forgiven them (11).” (#36)
Now if you live in Australia, you will know that a different story is presently being told, although the similarities between this one and David’s is striking. I am talking about the political “scandal” that, unfortunately for our Deputy Prime Minister, did not escape the attention of the media nor his political opponents. Even the Irish Times mentioned it when it stated: “Australia’s deputy prime minister under fire for affair with pregnant adviser.”
So, sadly, it seems, as the saying goes, “History proves, man learns nothing from history!”.
The good news though, is that there is forgiveness! There was for David. There has been for numerous people since David’s day, and there is today, for you, me and even politicians!
And this forgiveness is available to each one of us because as the Apostle John says:
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18 NIV)
So, what’s your story?
Father God, grant us the wisdom and insight to “confess our sins to you when we are aware of them, while there is time to be forgiven.” (verse 6) and discover that “you forgive the guilt of [our] sin” (verse 5) and that “your unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.” (verse 10). Amen.