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  • Writer's pictureDavid Bent

David’s Song of Penitence (16-08-21)


As king of Israel, David had everything: power, wealth and a number of wives. He was a man who could lead other men into battle; he was also a man who had a heart for God. And yet, at a low point in his life he went through a very dark period. While Israel was at war with the Ammonites under the leadership of Joab, David stayed at home. During this time he was tempted and committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers. When Bathsheba became pregnant David arranged for her husband to be killed in battle. (2 Samuel 11 and 12)

Challenged by the prophet Nathan, David repented and found forgiveness. He wrote Psalm 51 as a response to these events.

Bible Reading: Psalms 51:1-4,10-12, 14-15

Have mercy on me, O 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, 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.

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.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

you who are God my Saviour, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.

A Reflection

David had certainly transgressed. He had committed adultery and then, in an attempt to cover his tracks, had arranged a murder. Was there any way back?

David’s journey back to God had two key elements. Firstly there was his assurance of God's mercy and of his unfailing love, and then there was his acknowledgement of his own failings and the recognition that his sin was not just against Bathsheba and Uriah, but also against God.

With this twin realisation of God's unfailing love and of his own failures and sin, David asks God to cleanse him from sin and to create in him a pure heart. Only then is the joy of his salvation restored to him, only then is he able to declare his praise for God and to sing of his righteousness.

Sometimes we might think our past sins don’t matter. They do; they are why Jesus died. At other times we might be tempted to sweep them under the carpet and hope that God won't notice. He will, and they will become a hazard we will later trip over. Far better to confess our sins to God and to trust in his mercy and unfailing love. Then, delivered form the guilt, we can join with David in praise of our loving and merciful God and share with him in the joy of our salvation.


Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,

that my tongue might sing of your righteousness and my mouth declare your praise.


My Lord, what love is this?

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