David’s prominent position in the kingdom of Israel made it possible for him to abuse the power that God had given him. 2 Samuel 11:1 tells us that, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” Even though it was David’s responsibility to lead his men in battle, he remained in Jerusalem. Essentially, what David was doing was taking a vacation from the wars that his country was engaged in. We aren’t told why David remained behind, but it is clear in the next verses that David was not acting according to God’s will. It says in 2 Samuel 11:2-5:
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
David knew that the woman he was attracted to was the wife of another man, and yet, he “sent messengers and took her” (2 Samuel 11:4). David’s sin might not have been discovered except that Bathsheba got pregnant. In an attempt to cover up what he had done, David sent for Uriah and tried to get him to have sex with his wife, so that it would appear that he had gotten Bathsheba pregnant instead of David (2 Samuel 11:6-13). When that failed, David sent Uriah back to the battle with a note to Joab, his commander, stating, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die” (2 Samuel 11:15).
It says in 2 Samuel 11:26-27, “When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” The Hebrew word that is translated displeased, raʿaʿ (raw-ahˊ) means “to spoil (literally, by breaking to pieces); (figurative) to make (or be) good for nothing” (H7489). A word that is derived from raʿaʿ is raʿ (rah) which means “bad or (as noun) evil (natural or moral)” (H7451). Raʿ appears three times in 2 Samuel 12:7-23 which deals with the consequences of David’s sins. When the LORD sent Nathan to confront David, he used a parable “to skillfully bring David to condemn himself, and David painfully realized the consequences of his sin. He had violated four of the ten commandments in one rash sin: you shall not commit murder, you shall not steal, you shall not commit adultery, and you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. Although it was about a year later, David sincerely repented of his sin (cf. Psalm 32:5; 51:1-19)” (note on 2 Samuel 12:1-14).
Psalm 51 gives us an intimate look at the consequences of David’s sins from a moral perspective. David began Psalm 51 with a petition for mercy. David prayed:
Have mercy on me,O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:1-4)
David was aware of his need for God’s mercy and admitted, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). David went on to say:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Psalm 51:5-6)
David indicated that truth in his inward being and wisdom in his secret heart were the result of him being confronted by Nathan about his sin. The secret heart may have been a reference to David’s conscience, which was intentionally pricked by the parable that Nathan told him. The figurative meaning of the Hebrew word satham (saw-thamˊ) is “to keep secret” (H5640). One way of thinking of the secret heart is that it’s the part of us that we are unwilling to share with God. The things that we do that we don’t want anyone to know about. It’s likely that David was ashamed of what he had done and knew that he needed forgiveness before Nathan confronted him with his sin, but David was too proud to admit his failure. It wasn’t until the wisdom of God’s parable got into his soul and made him aware of the truth in his inward being that David was willing to repent and ask God for mercy.
David’s insight into the process of sanctification is revealed in verses 7-17 of Psalm 51. David prayed:
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a rightspirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
David asked God to create in him a clean heart, to renew a right spirit within him, and to restore the joy of his salvation. David was already saved, but he wasn’t experiencing life the way he was supposed to. David understood that his sin had affected his inner being and that he needed God to make it right again. David described his condition as “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” and indicated that they were “the sacrifices of God” (Psalm 51:17). The Apostle Paul referred to this as “godly grief” and said that it “produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
The regrets that David had were an indicator that he was going through the process of sanctification and provided evidence that he had actually repented of his sins, but that wasn’t the end result that God was looking for. David’s repentance was intended to lead him “to salvation without regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). What that means is that God wanted David’s salvation to become irrevocable. In other words, there would be no turning back after that. David was fully committed to his walk with the Lord. The end result of David’s sanctification was that he was willing to testify to others about the grace of God (Psalm 51:15). David promised God that he would use his experience to help others. When the joy of his salvation was restored, David said, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Psalm 51:13).