Summary: As with David, our response to sin should involve confession, grace and transformation.
When one of my students does something bad and gets caught, there’s a number of different reactions that you can see. It depends on the student, on the teacher, and on what they’ve done. But some reactions are a lot more common than others.
• There’s the “I’m really sorry sir and I won’t do it again.” Sometimes this is genuine. Unfortunately, the sorts of kids who are most likely to be genuine about this are usually the least likely to do anything wrong in the first place – so I don’t get to hear it too often. Most of the time this statement is an attempt to get out of a punishment. When I inform them that I appreciate their remorse but they still need to do a lunchtime detention, I often hear “but you’re a Christian, sir! Aren’t you supposed to forgive?” Little do they realize that such a statement usually makes me even more determined to make them serve their time.
• There’s the straight-out denial. The number of teenagers who are quite comfortable with telling a blatant lie has, unfortunately, seriously dented my ability to trust anyone’s word – and I say that quite seriously. They may have thrown a wad of paper across the room right in front of me, but some people will still deny it. Many will lie without thought, without conscience, and if they’re found out will simply shrug and say “well, it was worth a try”. As a teacher, untruth makes me particular angry and disappointed.
• Perhaps most popular of all is the blaming of others. He started it. She called me this first. Somebody else was talking as well, why are you picking on me? She gave me the cigarette. If God didn’t want us to swear, why did he invent the words? The woman you put here with me, she gave me the fruit and I ate it!
Well, Psalm 51 is essentially a prayer written by David when he’s caught out in sin. We read yesterday in Psalm 14 that there is no one who does good, and we see that oh so clearly here. King David was, of course, God’s chosen king. He was the anointed one, the Messiah, the Christ. The LORD described him as being a man after God’s own heart. With that sort of rap we expect a king of unquestionable righteousness, impeccable strength of character and morality. And he’s better than most.
But then we get to 2 Samuel 11 and one of the more famous stories of a fallen hero.
David has built for himself a huge palace on the hilltop and could stand out on his balcony and look down over the city. The way many homes were built back then was with a sort of flat enclosed roof, and because David was up in his palace he could see down onto these roofs. One evening he caught sight of a woman called Bathsheba having a bath on her roof, and David liked what he saw. He decided he wanted to get some of that. So he sent a servant to find out who she was. The servant reported back that this was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite who was a soldier in David’s army. The King knew the Law, he knew God’s commandments, but still he sent the servant back to fetch Bathsheba and bring her to him. She came and they committed adultery together. A few months later she found out she was pregnant.
David had many other wives, but he still wanted this woman all to himself. So he hatched a plan to get rid of her husband, Uriah. He even had him around for dinner one evening. But a short time later, when Uriah was away fighting David’s war, the king secretly instructed his general to make sure Uriah was placed where the fighting was heaviest and where the best enemy soldiers were stationed. David even told his general to withdraw and leave Uriah alone on the battlefield to die. Sure enough, Uriah dies and David marries Bathsheba. He thinks he’s gotten away with it. But God knows, and God’s prophet Nathan confronts David with his sin.
Psalm 51 is David’s response.
I’m going focus on three main parts of David’s response, and what I’ll suggest should be three main parts of our response to our own sin.
Now they’re sort of jargony Christian words, but hopefully we’ll all understand what they mean by the end.
So, firstly confession.
PS 51:3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
PS 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak