The struggles of a king

(2 Samuel 11 and 12)

To fully understand the context of David’s Psalm, we need to study it in relation to 2 Samuel 11 and 12—the story of David and Bathsheba and the Prophet Nathan’s Rebuke. This is a story of sin, pride, prophecy, confession, punishment and restoration.

David sinned because of the desires of his flesh. He lay with Bathsheba while her husband, Uriah, was away in battle. Bathsheba became pregnant. Instead of confessing to God his sin, David sought to hide it. He summoned Uriah from the battlefield and ordered him to sleep with his wife, Bathsheba. Uriah, however, declined saying his conscience will not let him sleep in the comforts of his home with his wife while “the ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents” in the battlefield. Frustrated, David decided to send Uriah back to battle with an order to send him in the frontline of the army. Uriah died.

Now, David exemplified pride for he refused to confess to God his sin knowing that the strongest evidence against him, Uriah, was already gone. He thought that by killing Bathsheba’s husband, everything will return  to normal. God, however, is not blind. He is just.

God sends Nathan, a prophet, to make him realize his sin. Nathan opens with a story about a man who owned a very large number of sheep and another man who owned just one. When the former had a visitor, he was reluctant to slaughter sheep from his herd so he stole the latter’s sole sheep, slaughtered it and prepared it for his guest. David flared in fury and said the man with a very large number of sheep deserved death. Nathan’s answer is striking, “You are the man!”

The prophet, then, delivered God’s message. God said because David killed Uriah and took his wife as his own, calamity will rain down on his house. David’s response is very humble, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

God punishes David by taking away the life of the son Bathsheba bore for him. Before his punishment was fulfilled, however, David tried to appease God by fasting and sacrificing. He lay face down on the ground, refused to eat, to wash himself or to change his robes. On the seventh day, however, God takes away their son. David’s reaction shows that he understands God’s judgment.

In order to see the internal struggles of David in this slice of his life, we turn to Psalm 51, and read:
 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.

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