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Discovery Magazine 6/1/2005

A Great King Repents

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

David was the king of Israel. He had taken his vows before God (read Psalm 101), and had insisted upon righteousness in his nation. The people had been taught to love and honor God. David, their king, was their example. He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

But he sinned when he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12) and had her husband, Uriah, murdered. The prophet Nathan was sent by God to the great king. He told David the story of a rich man who had many sheep, and of a poor man who had but one small sheep that was practically part of his family. When a visitor appeared at the rich man’s door, the rich man slaughtered the poor man’s sheep for the visitor’s meal. Upon hearing this, David was angry and said, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die!” (2 Samuel 12:5).

Nathan then said to David, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). The horror of David’s actions swept over him, and he said, “I have sinned” (2 Samuel 12:13). David’s agonizing prayer is recorded in Psalm 51. David cried out: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness.”

David repented, and cast himself on the mercy and grace of God. The great king laid on the altar his own sinful heart, and begged God to forgive, cleanse, recreate, and restore his life. God did forgive. He did cleanse. He did recreate. He did restore.

But the consequences of David’s sin remained. The child growing in Bathsheba’s womb died shortly after birth. In addition, Nathan told David that “the sword shall never depart from your house,” and that God would “raise up adversity against you from your own house” (2 Samuel 12:10-11). David’s life never again would be the same. His child was dead. His reputation was damaged. His future was marred.

It is to David’s credit that once his sin was uncovered, he did not try to deny it. Solomon, his son, later would write: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Because David repented, God forgave his sins—just as He will forgive ours when we truly repent.

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