By Ben W. Curtis
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tracy City
Somewhere in the springtime around 1000 B.C., kings would go to battle. In II Samuel 11, King David shirked his responsibility and this decision proved costly. What followed would become some of the darkest moments in David’s life. These events form the backdrop for Psalm 51, a prayer which models for us what genuine confession and repentance should look like.
True confession begins with a humble heart. David acknowledges that his sin is “ever before” him and that sin has been with him from the moment of his conception (vv. 3, 5). He sees the depth of his depravity and cries out “Have mercy on me, O God” (v. 1). It is only when we see the all-encompassing nature of sin in our lives that we sense our need for God to do something in us. David’s concern becomes less about hiding his sin and more about being right with the Lord. He humbly accepts the words of a friend and allows God to work in his heart.
True confession involves running to God and not from God. David ran from the Lord all the way up until the moment when Nathan came. Yet, the very presence of this prayer is a testimony to the fact that something changed, causing him to now run to the Lord. David makes 18 requests of God in 17 verses. Like a little child who won’t take “no” for an answer, he asks over and over and over. Coming to the Lord in prayer and asking Him for help is a sign of genuine confession and repentance.
True confession makes a reverent appeal to God’s character. David’s requests flow from his knowledge of the “steadfast love” and “mercy” of God (Psalm 51:1; Exodus 34:6-8). God’s covenant love is everlasting and unbreakable, a love that will not let go. David is not asking for mercy because he deserves it; he is asking for mercy because it is God’s very nature to forgive, to cleanse, and to restore. He can be confident in speaking this way because he has spent time getting to know the God of the Scriptures (Psalm 1).
True confession is more concerned about God than about the consequences. Before Nathan came, David spent much of his energy trying to conceal his sin, hoping to avoid the potential consequences of his actions. But now, he’s more concerned about his relationship and standing with the Lord. It’s not that he is carefree about the outcome, for II Samuel shows that the consequences were disastrous. It’s just that he is no longer paralyzed by the fear of being found out.
Finally, true confession rests in the work of Jesus. David desires for his sins to be forgiven, but he realizes that there is no religious work he can do (Psalm 51:16-17). Even a priestly sacrifice will not suffice apart from brokenness. David’s intentional sin was merely symptomatic of the ongoing grip of sin on his life. The final solution to David’s sin problem and ours is only found in the broken body of Jesus who offered a once for all sacrifice on the cross so that we could enjoy complete cleansing and forgiveness (Hebrews 10:5-18). What sin are you hiding? Hear the promise of Scripture: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).