David demonstrates that repenting out of conviction is possible after sinning. It’s possible to return to the person God called you to be. For David, he returned to the person he once was – a Shepherd, a King, a Worshipper.
October 12, 2023
Speaker: David Mitchell
Passage: Psalm 51:1-19
A couple of weeks ago, Gary was teaching on David and was talking about the lowest point of David’s life when he committed adultery, murder, and sexual predation. These acts were far beneath the calling of the king that he was called to be.
We see how that can happen in his life, and those kinds of things can happen in our own lives when we ride on the momentum of past successes, or we live in the momentum of the intimacy of a past relationship with God. We see what happens when we stay home rather than go out to fight the battles that we are called to fight.
There are a number of different books or topics or archetypes written about the stages of a man or woman’s life. One that most resonates with me talks about the six stages of a man’s life. Of course, there’s a parallel to this for women as well.
In the early years, often in the 20s, those youthful years, a man is pursuing a career. He’s pursuing a spouse. He’s pursuing a family or those kinds of things.
Then, often in his 30s or thereabouts, he steps into the warrior years of life, according to these archetypes, where he is pursuing great change. He wants to change the world. He wants to impact others. He wants to build something great. Often, followers of Jesus want to go out and change the world and save the world. There can be good motives in that, and there can also be risks in that. Some talk about the risk of the junior Messiah Complex, where we think we’re going to go change the world.
Then we run into life, we run into this wall, and we run into what the stages of life would call the Wounded Warrior years. Life is a warzone; we get hit with failure, and things don’t work out the way we think they’re going to work out. We have failures in business or our relationships. We have health issues, all these kinds of things. What we are created to do and designed to do is to move through that season from being wounded, through surrender, through a posture that turns towards God, into the king and sage years of our life.
Again, there’s a parallel journey for women in this, but what we so often see is that the Wounded Warrior is so hurt and so wracked with failure that rather than progressing forward into the king and sage years of their life, they regress back to the youth years of their life. We see that it’s a great tragedy when we see a man in his 40s acting like a man in his 20s. Some of us have been there and done that. I believe that in the life of David, as Gary was talking about a couple of weeks ago, in this moment of great sin and failure with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah, rather than stepping into the kingship that he was called to. Rather than acting like a king, he is acting like a boy.
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to act and live in the season in which we are in. We are called to act like sons and daughters of the King. We are not called to act like children or youth playing around with this stuff. In the life of David, we see that although he commits this sin, this terrible act, there is a pathway of redemption that he steps into. It’s a pathway that I want to walk with you through today.
It begins with staying open to correction. It moves into staying open to conviction. Lastly, it lands at a posture of contrition, which is brokenness. Psalm 51, which is our text for today, is a Psalm of David written after his adultery, written after this sin with Bathsheba, written after his predator time where he preys upon her. He not only abuses her but also, of course, her husband, Uriah, who is out fighting a battle on his behalf.
Psalm 51 says, “Have mercy on me, oh God, according to Your unfailing love. According to Your great compassion, blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against You only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. So You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me, yet You desired faithfulness, even in the womb, You taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean, wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness. Let the bones You have crushed rejoice, hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways so that sinners will turn back to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, oh God, You who are God, my Savior, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare Your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it. You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, oh, God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise. May it please You to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem, then You will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous and burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.”
David commits this terrible act, this deep betrayal, not only towards God but also towards his own family and towards the military–the army that is serving on his behalf. Yet Psalm 51 tells us that he comes to a place of brokenness and contrition. How did he end up here? I think in the life of David, we see these three snapshots that we, as followers of Jesus, are called to follow.
The first is that David stays open to the gentle correction of the Spirit of God. In Second Samuel seven, we see David and Nathan. Nathan is the prophet who will later show up after David’s sin. But David and Nathan are talking, and David, in Second Samuel seven, has been given rest by God. He’s won a bunch of victories. He turns to Nathan and says, this is wrong. I live in this palace and God lives in a tent. That isn’t right. I need to build Him a beautiful house, a beautiful temple. Nathan responds initially and says to the king, do whatever is in your mind to do for God is with you.
Nathan, we’re going to see later, responds with great courage and correction. But initially, Nathan’s response to the king is following the rules of earthly protocol. When the king has an idea, you say what? That’s a great idea. The king’s never had a bad idea. That’s a great idea. He says, do whatever is in your mind for God is with you. The first lesson in staying open to correction is we are not called to follow what is in our mind. We are called to build what is in His heart.
We have to be careful ascribing the will of God to things that sound good to us. Go do it. That sounds great. David’s not trying to do anything selfish. He’s trying to build something for God. It is important for us to remember the driving compass of our lives cannot be, “What can I do for God?” The driving compass of our lives has to be, “What is God doing? And does he have a role for me to play?”
Nathan’s initial response is, do whatever is in your mind, because God is with you. The reality is as friends to each other, as disciples to each other, we are not called to have that posture. We are not called to simply ascribe the will of God to something. We are called to seek the voice of God over something.
That night, Nathan goes home and goes to bed. God speaks to him at night and gives him a vision and a dream. Nathan comes back the next day, and imagine how you and I would have felt returning to the king, essentially saying to him, yesterday, I gave you a yes, today I’m giving you a no.
I don’t know about you, but it would not have been so easy. If I’m in Nathan’s shoes, I might say to God, no we’re good. It’s going to be good. Trust me, God, it’s going to be a great place. David has impeccable taste. You’re going to love it. But God speaks through Nathan to David, and says, this is not your job. God says to David through Nathan, David, this is not about you building me a house. This is about me building my people a house. He says I am going to establish a throne forever.
The first lesson we see is that because David moves to a posture of thanksgiving, God has opened his eyes to a compelling vision. David began that time by saying, I need to do something great for God. God responds and says, no, no, I’m doing something great for my people and the Kingdom of God. David, it is not built on what is in your mind. The Kingdom of God is built on what is in God’s heart.
David then responds with a posture of thanksgiving, not a posture of pride. He stays open to correction, and the time when we are often most resistant to correction is when we are seeking to do something great for God. Correction from the Spirit of God is where He comes, and He redirects us. He says, I love your heart. I love what you’re seeking to do. I know you’re trying to build me a cool house and a cool temple. But David, I’m establishing a throne forever. The first lesson is that David stays open to correction.
We see that both David and Nathan are tender to the Word of the Lord and stay tender to the voice of God. If you are pursuing even good things right now for God, if you’re seeking to build a business that will impact this community in a beautiful way, or if you’re pursuing a relationship and you want it to be godly, those things are good, but it says in Proverbs, the Lord tests the motives. He cares about the motives. He honors the right motives, but you and I must stay open to the gentle correction of God.
Number two, he stayed open and sensitive to conviction. In Second Samuel seven, Nathan comes to David with correction. In Second Samuel 12, Nathan comes to David with conviction. There are four chapters between those two. In between those four chapters of David’s tender receiving of correction for his great sin, he experiences great success on the battlefield.
Then he stays home. In Second Samuel chapter 11, as Gary was teaching us a couple of weeks ago, he goes up onto the roof, sees Bathsheba bathing, and says, bring her to me. Then he sleeps with her which was, of course, against her will. She comes to him shortly after that, and she says, king, I’m pregnant. Now David has a problem, because the thing that he desired to keep private is now going to be made public.
David begins with the fear that maybe you’ve experienced, where you’re terrified of your sin catching up with you. Sin has this great, seductive way of saying, trust me, this will be great, this will be beautiful. Then you engage in that sin and then the fear comes in. The sin says, now you can’t hide anymore.
David responds the way often we would respond in Second Samuel chapter 11. He does a couple of things. He’s afraid of this news getting out because the woman is now pregnant. He calls Uriah back from the battlefield. Remember, Uriah is out there fighting on behalf of this king who has taken his wife in secret. He calls Uriah back from the battlefield. He first brings Uriah in and says, how’s the battle going? How are you doing? How’s it going? Uriah gives him a report. Then he says, Uriah, this is great. Why don’t you go home tonight and spend time with your wife?
Uriah knows the law, and because he is a soldier fighting a holy war, he is not allowed by the law to go home and be with his wife until the war is finished. Why is David doing that? He’s trying to get him to go home to sleep with his wife so that then, when the baby’s born nine months from now, they’ll assume it was Uriah’s baby and not his. That’ll just be his secret and Bathsheba’s secret. But Uriah is a man of integrity. He says, I cannot go home. That night, Uriah sleeps on the steps outside the palace where David is sleeping. Now David has another problem because he’s trying to get Uriah to go home.
The next night, he brings Uriah in, and he serves him food and drink, and they both get drunk. He’s trying to get him drunk so that he’ll go home to be with his wife. This is how juvenile this stuff is. This is in the Bible. We will do anything to try and cover up our sins. But in Psalm 51:2, after saying, “God have mercy on me,” David says, “Wash away my iniquity.”
This sin cannot be covered up by man, it can only be washed away by God. David, in Second Samuel chapter 11, is fighting for his life, trying to cover up his sin. If anybody here is seeking to do that, I understand. We understand. We understand that desperate pursuit of saying, “I need to cover this thing up.” But what the gospel tells us is that you cannot cover it up. You need to invite Him to wash it away.
He tries this cover, and then in Second Samuel 12, Nathan comes back. The last time in scripture we saw that David saw Nathan was when Nathan came with a word of correction. Nathan comes back now. I don’t know how courageous you are, but what if you get a word from God where you have to go back to the king and talk to him about something he’s done wrong?
Here’s how Second Samuel chapter 12 begins. It says Nathan was sent by God to David. You and I are not given the license and freedom to just walk around telling people what they’re doing wrong. That’s not what we’re allowed to do. But Second Samuel 12 does tell us that Nathan was sent on assignment by God to go to David and bring the Word of the Spirit of God that would lead to conviction.
Nathan goes out of obedience, and when he comes in, he doesn’t show up to David in Second Samuel 12 and say, you did this with Bathsheba and Uriah, and you’re a sinner. He comes inspired by the Spirit of God. Remember, the work of conviction is not the work of man. It is the work of God. You and I have no power to convict people. We do have the power to condemn people and bring condemnation and shame. I’m pretty good at that. We can do all of that. But if we want to bring conviction, which is the turning, conviction is a response. It is a returning, a repenting, a redeeming, and a resetting of our lives.
Nathan comes to David, not with some preachy condemnation message. He comes with a story. He comes to David and tells him a story of two men. One was very rich and had all these cattle and all these sheep. The other was very poor and just had one lamb. Eventually, the rich man came and took the poor man’s only lamb. David gets riled up and angry and says that man needs to die. At that moment, Nathan says, you are that man.
What I love about that story is that what Nathan is doing is not showing up with simply a word of shame and condemnation. He’s showing up with a story to test the tenderness of David’s heart. David’s life began as a shepherd. God inspires Nathan to come back with this story about a shepherd. He’s saying, Remember who you are. The Gospel is a gospel of remembering.
Remember who you are. We take the bread and cup each week. Remember. Remember, the Gospel is a gospel of returning. It is the Gospel of the prodigal son eating the food with the pigs. He then says, I need to go home.
Nathan, through the inspiration of the Spirit of God, brings this story to David that reminds him who he is and tests the tenderness of his heart. In that moment, David responds and says, I have sinned. He stays open to correction. Then he stays open to conviction.
The last part that we see in Psalm 51 is that David chooses and steps into a posture of contrition. The word contrition is in Psalm 51:17, which says, “My sacrifice, oh, God is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart You God will not despise.” The word “contrition” and the word “brokenness.”
Contrition almost means deflated. It means to collapse in on itself. The word brokenness means to be shattered or to be shipwrecked. That is the posture he assumes in Psalm 51.
He begins by saying, “Have mercy on me, Oh, God.” Mercy is this understanding that the God he is speaking to could crush him and yet chooses not to. In the first few verses, he says, “my iniquity,” “my transgression,” “my sin.” David takes full ownership of what he has done. So often we can be distracted by the things going on around us or the sins done to us. The invitation of Psalm 51 is to live a life of correction, conviction, and contrition. It is to take ownership of your sin, your iniquity, your transgression, and to cast yourself upon the mercy of God.
He writes in Psalm 51, “Against you, you only have I sinned, God.” Wasn’t it true that he had also sinned against Bathsheba, against Uriah, and against all his men out fighting the battle? Imagine how this word would have spread. Do you know that king we’re fighting for? He’ll take your wife and have you killed.
But what David understands in Psalm 51 is that yes, it was true that he had caused great sin outwardly. But any sin that is outward is also a sin that is upward. Sometimes you and I can get caught in our sin in this narrative, this idea where we say, yeah, I know I have this issue going on with that person or that thing, or that whatever it is, but God and I are good.
That’s the problem. What Psalm 51 is telling us is that in order to get to a place of redemption, healing, brokenness, and contrition, we have to say “It’s my iniquity, it’s my transgression, it’s my sin, and God, it is against You.”
He says in verse seven, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
Hyssop is a plant found in this region of the world. We see this imagery a few times throughout the scriptures. We see it in Exodus chapter 12 when God is bringing His people, the people of Israel, out of slavery. They’ve been enslaved for 400 years, and He’s bringing them from slavery to freedom. On the night that He’s setting them free, they have to sacrifice a lamb. Then, they have to have their house covered with blood. So He says, when you’ve sacrificed the lamb and laid it out, I want you to take some hyssop and dip it in the blood. I want you to paint it over your doorposts so that when you pass out from slavery to freedom, you know that you are set free by the blood of the Lamb.
We also see hyssop in John chapter 19 when Jesus is on the cross. John 19:28-30 says, “At that time, Jesus, knowing that it was late and that the Scripture needed to be fulfilled, said, ‘I’m thirsty.’ The soldiers around Him took a sponge and soaked it in some wine vinegar. Then they stuck it on the plant of a hyssop and extended it up to Him. After He took a drink, Jesus, knowing all things were fulfilled, said, ‘It is finished,” and bowed His head and breathed His last.
In Psalm 51 David is saying to God, cleanse me with hyssop. He’s saying, God, take me to the doorposts so that I might be covered with blood and take me prophetically to the cross where I might see Christ dying for me. He says, I need I have a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
Here’s the reality: we are all broken. The only question is, is your heart broken? It’s a given that every other part of you is broken. But the Gospel says you need a broken heart. David comes in and says, my heart is broken, contrite, shattered. This is not a brokenness that can be fixed by Gorilla Glue and it can’t be duct-taped.
The word “broken” or “shattered” says of Jesus in Luke 4:18. Jesus says, “I have come to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captives free. “If you and I are to place ourselves into the healing power of Jesus, we have to come with a broken heart. We are broken people. The question is, are we brokenhearted?
It’s this death and resurrection thing. It’s not just a glue back together. The Gospel is not a quick fix-it job. It’s a death and resurrection thing. That’s why in Psalm 51, David goes back to his birth. For you and I to be healed by the healer, we have to be completely shattered before Him. We have to be at a place where we say God, I can’t put myself back together. We have to place ourselves in the hands of God.
Lastly, we see in the life of David the ripple effect of sin. We like to think sometimes that it’s our sin, so we can just hold on. Unfortunately, sin has a ripple effect of damage to it. We don’t know for sure all the timeline in this, but in Second Samuel 11, Absalom, who’s David’s son, is maybe a teenager at this point. This is the time when his dad, who’s the king of Israel, goes and gets Bathsheba and sleeps with her. He has her husband killed and does all this stuff. I’m sure the word somehow spread.
We don’t know exactly what impact that had. But we know that years later, Absalom wanted his dad dead. A lot of things went into that, like Absalom’s pride, his desire for power, and all of those things, but make no mistake, David’s choices had a ripple effect of impact. That’s why, in the Gospel, it’s so essential for us to come and say, God, I need to stay sensitive and open to correction. I need to stay tender-hearted to conviction. I need to always posture myself in a place of contrition.
Not only is there a ripple effect of sin, but what David shows us in Psalm 51 is that there is also a ripple effect of the mercy of God. In Psalm 51, later in that chapter, David says, “Open my mouth that I might teach transgressors Your ways.” David wasn’t interested in teaching them his ways. His ways were a mess. But David was interested in teaching them God’s ways and showing them, I don’t want you to end up in the same mess that I ended up in.
He is the king who had everything at his disposal and had reached for one more thing that ended up almost destroying his life. He says, God, in Your mercy, I want to teach other people about you.
The lesson for us today is if we’re pursuing things that feel right and feel good and the motive is good, bring them before God and say, “God, do You have any correction for me?” If you are pursuing or have engaged in sin that you know is not dealt with, I want to encourage you to let go of the cover-up and take hold of His washing away. Lastly, that we would be people prepared to be broken and shattered before Him. That we, by our lives, might teach people not how to live like us, but rather to teach them His ways.
Father God, we, like David, as he begins in that Psalm, come to you this morning and today, and we say, Have mercy on us. God, when we look out at Israel and the devastation there, we say, God, have mercy. We come, and we ask that You would keep our hearts tender and help us to come to You. You have made a way — the only way — to have our brokenness healed and our sins forgiven. Help us as a church and as individuals to have the courage to hear Your voice of correction, to fall on You in our conviction, and to be brought back to life by You. We love You. We love the Gospel of Jesus. We’re so grateful for Your work at Calvary. We thank You for this in Jesus’ name, amen.
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