The Trials of a King

Bible Book: Psalms  51
Subject: Confession; Forgiveness; Sin

In his book, Cast of Characters Lost and Found, Max Lucado reports that when Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly claimed the Internet domain name for what he thought would be the name of the next pope. Cadenhead registered before the new pope’s name was announced. I don’t know HOW he knew what the new pope’s name would be but he did. He secured it before Rome knew they needed it.

By the way, the right domain name can prove to be very lucrative. A similar domain name,, sold for more than sixteen thousand dollars on eBay. But, Cadenhead didn’t want money for his correct guess. Since he is a Catholic himself, he was happy for the church to own the name. He said, “I’m going to try and avoid angering 1.1 billion Catholics and my grandmother.” However, Cadenhead DID say he would like something in return. In fact, he had a list of three things he wanted to receive from the pope in exchange for the domain name:

“one of those hats”
“a free stay at the Vatican hotel”
“and most importantly, absolution, no questions asked, for the things he did during the third week of March back in 1987.“

Makes you wonder what Cadenhead did that particular week, doesn’t it? Now, of course, as Baptists we don’t go to Pope’s for absolution because we know that the Bible teaches that we can each come directly, boldly, to God’s throne and find grace. But like our Catholic brothers we do know what it’s like to have committed a sin that we wish could be eradicated from the record. All of us have done things that we wish could be somehow undone, ABSOLVED from the record. I bring this up because this week we read about a sin that King David committed, one he tried to hide. Let me put it this way. King David is known for two main battles, the battle he won with Goliath and the battle he lost with his own lust. Last Sunday we studied the former and today we’re looking at the latter. But before we get to that sad chapter in David’s life, let’s do what all good students of the Bible should do. Let’s get the SETTING in our minds.

After the death of King Saul, David was finally crowned king and the first two decades of his monarchy could not have gone better. During these years David distinguished himself as a man of God, a composer of psalms, a valiant warrior on the battlefield, a great leader of his people. David trained and expanded the army of Israel such that his troops were feared and respected by all of the surrounding nations. In fact, under his leadership the army was able to greatly expand the boundaries of Israel, reaching 60,000 square miles. David led his forces to defeat the ferocious Philistines twice. Under David’s leadership the ark of the covenant was returned. He even freed Jerusalem from the iron hand of the Jebusites and made it his capital city. In one battle against the Arameans David’s army killed forty thousand foot soldiers, a victory so impressive that all the other kings who supported the Arameans surrendered and made peace with Israel. King David also showed himself to be a man who was capable of great compassion for he kept his vow to Saul and Jonathan by caring for Jonathan’s crippled son, Mephibosheth. In short, up until this point in his career, David was truly a GREAT king. Frazee writes “David, the dusty shepherd boy became Israel’s Renaissance man…a fierce warrior, gifted poet, and compassionate king who loved God and served Him with intense passion. Under his leadership Israel prospered.”

But as I inferred earlier, David was by no means perfect. He had flaws just like you and me and the Bible records that David’s MAIN shortcoming, the sin he is most known for stemmed from the fact that, he became selective in obeying the laws of God. I say this because in Deuteronomy 17 God had given the people of Israel three rules that its kings must not break.

The king was not to gather great numbers of horses for himself or to allow his people to return to Egypt to do this.

He was not to be a bigamist.

He was not to amass great quantities of silver and gold for himself.

Well, David was faithful in obeying the first and third of these kingly requirements but he failed miserably in the second. You see, over the years he amassed hundreds of wives and concubines because David was a man who was not willing to control his passion. David mistakenly thought, “To satisfy my sexual appetite, I must have MORE women.” But all these women did not satiate his desire, because you see, in spite of what the world says, the truth is sexual passion is not satisfied by numerous sexual partners, it is INCREASED. Having woman after woman after woman does not REDUCE a man’s libido. On the contrary, it stimulates and increases it. It leaves the person wanting something more. And in my mind this is an indication of the fact that the only thing that will satisfy is sex as God designed it to function: one man and one woman committed to each other for life.

If you did your reading this past week, then you know that when David was about 51 years old he yielded to this particular temptation. 2 Samuel 11:1 tells us that in the spring of the year, when kings usually went out to battle, David stayed in Jerusalem. In this statement we see a change in David. Remember his battle with Goliath? He used to be the “all-heart” kind of guy who ran to the battle but somehow over the years David had changed and I think his success was the culprit. I think David allowed his victories to make him proud. In any case, David changed. At this point he was a shell of the man he used to be. While his army is out there on the front line, risking their lives, defending the kingdom, sweating, bleeding, dying David was at home taking a leisurely stroll on his marble balcony. From that perch David surveyed all the signs of his success as he looked out over Jerusalem but of course that’s not all he saw that day. David heard the sound of splashing water and when he looked down, he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing and instead of turning away, he continued to look.

Now, at this point I would remind you that David wasn’t the only one who was in a place he shouldn’t have been. Bathsheba had no doubt heard that David was in the palace that night and could see that her tub was in clear view of his balcony. I imagine she made sure to splash loud enough to be heard. I mean, it takes two to tango so both of these people were asking for trouble. In his commentary on this passage, Raymond Brown writes, “If David had gone to war he would not have seen Bathsheba that night and if she had thought seriously about her actions she would not have put temptation in his path.”

This week you read what happened. David sent for Bathsheba and they had an affair. A few weeks afterward, she sent word to him that she was carrying his child. And at this point, like one of our former presidents, instead of confessing his sin, David tried to cover it up. He brought Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, a soldier in the army, home on leave to try and get him to sleep with his wife, so the people would assume the child that was born was his. But then, when Uriah’s integrity foiled that plan, David sent Uriah back to the front lines, unknowingly carrying his own death warrant in the form of hand written orders from David to Uriah’s superior, General Joab, telling him to put Uriah in the front of the battle and then to order other troops to withdraw so he would be killed. Joab realized that if all the men pull back, David’s plot would be exposed so he coldly sent an entire contingent of soldiers to die with Uriah, which they all did.

After waiting a suitable amount of time, David married the woman he both impregnated and made a widow and I think he must have thought his sin went unnoticed but of course it didn’t. As God says in His Word, “You can be sure that your sin will be found out.”(Numbers 32:23) God saw all that had gone on. He always sees. And, as 2 Samuel 11:27 says, “The thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

Well, a year later when David no doubt thought he was well in the clear, God sent his prophet Nathan to pronounce David guilty of murder and adultery. Nathan was the new prophet in town, think of him as sort of a White House chaplain and I have to say, I admire Nathan’s bravery for going to the king. After all Nathan knew what had happened to the last guy who got in the king’s way. If David would kill an innocent soldier, what would he do with a meddlesome preacher?

But Nathan knew that God was bigger than this Goliath-killing King so unlike more timid people, he boldly, bravely headed for the palace to confront David. And I’m sure that God guided him to use the impromptu parable we read about this week as a way of getting David to see the evil he had done. Rather than declare his sin right out, Nathan told a story about a poor man in David’s kingdom who owned only one sheep. David instantly connected because of course before he became king he was himself a shepherd. Plus, David had known poverty because he was the youngest son of a family too poor to hire a shepherd. Well, Nathan told how this poor shepherd loved his one sheep. He held her in his lap. She ate from his plate. She was all he had.

Then a rich man, who had huge flocks of sheep, came along. He stole the poor man’s sheep to use it in a banquet in his mansion. As David listened, the hair on the back of his neck rose. He gripped the arms of the throne and angrily rendered a verdict for the rich thief: GUILTY!

In 2 Samuel 12:5-6 David said, “The man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore four-fold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity!” At this point Nathan boldly pointed his finger at the king and said, “YOU are the man!” Lucado writes, “David’s face paled; his Adam’s apple bounced. A bead of sweat formed on his forehead. He slunk back in his chair. He made no defense. He uttered no response. He had nothing to say.” God’s strong words given through Nathan humbled David. He knew he had sinned. He had endured sleepless nights and had lost the joy that comes from walking in obedience to God. His constant guilt over Uriah’s death and that of his fellow soldiers ate away at his spirit and so he responded, not by proudly trying to defend himself or by trying to excuse his actions. David simply humbly confessed his sin.

I want you to be sure and note the difference between Saul and David. When Samuel confronted Saul with his sin, he tried to rationalize and make up excuses. He never owned up to his actions.

David, on the other hand, responded to Nathan’s accusation with three words, “I have sinned.” He took full responsibility. We see this in Psalm 51, a psalm wrote after his sin with Bathsheba.

Take your Bibles and follow along as I read. 1 – Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 – Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 – For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 – 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. 5 – Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 – Yet You desired faithfulness even in the womb; You taught me wisdom in that secret place. 7 – Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 – Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. 9 – Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 – Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 – Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 – Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 – Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, so that sinners will turn back to You. 14 – Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, You Who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 15 – Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare Your praise. 16 – You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 – My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise. 18 – May it please You to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 – Then You will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on Your altar."

This is the WORD of the LORD. Thanks be to God.

The theme of this psalm is confession, and I think it is important for you and me to have a good understanding of this particular spiritual discipline, because just like David, you and I sin. As I said earlier, we all have memories of sinful acts that we wish could be undone, things we wish could be forgiven and washed away, absolved from the record and the way that happens in through confession. Now, we may not commit adultery or murder but we lust and we hate.

Plus, we know we shouldn’t, but we yield to our sinful nature and willfully pick and choose which of God’s laws to obey and which to ignore. In short, you and I entertain thoughts and engage in actions that are just as displeasing to our Lord as were David’s. And, as David learned, our sinful acts have painful consequences. We hurt ourselves. We hurt others, and we damage our relationship with God. So it’s vital that we learn to practice the discipline of confession and this learning begins with an awareness that GENUINE confession is not a single ACT as much as it is a PROCESS. In his book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg lists the steps that go into genuine confession and I want us to review them together this morning.

1.) First of all, confession begins with asking God’s help in our PERCEPTION of sin.

This is an important first step, because as sinners you and I suffer from a certain moral myopia that distorts our ability to detect sin’s presence. A couple years ago one of the computer viruses out there was something called “the Klez32 virus” and it was a particularly nasty one because it was designed to deactivate a computer’s anti-virus software. Norton, McAffee, Trend, none of them would work. Well, sin does the same thing to our minds and hearts. It deactivates our ability to see it such that our thinking becomes infected without our knowing it. And that’s what happened to David. He slid into sin, lust, adultery, lies, deception, murder and all the time he never saw it coming because his heart had become hardened. You see, the deceptiveness of sin is that it doesn’t feel like sin when we’re doing it. It feels godlike. It feels religious. It feels fulfilling and satisfying.

I heard a celebrity recently who is a Christian and she was explaining why she FELT justified to divorce her husband to marry another man. She said in her heart she loved this other guy. At first she felt it was wrong to follow her heart but then she got to the point where she felt divorce was the right thing. She said, “I decided God could speak to me through my heart.” I wanted to say, “Listen, the Bible says, the heart is deceptive and deceitful. You can’t trust your heart. You can’t trust your feelings.” And, you can’t! Sin will make you FEEL good. It will blind you to itself.

Eugene Peterson says,

David didn’t feel like a sinner when he sent for Bathsheba; he felt like a lover and what can be better than that? David didn’t feel like a sinner when he sent for Uriah. He felt like a king—and what can be better than that? And all the time his heart died a bit more. Part of our mess is that we can’t see our mess.

So, before we can confess our sins, we need God to open our blind eyes so that we see our actions as sin. This was part of David’s prayer. Remember? In verse 10 he asked, “Create in me a pure heart, O God.” In other words, “My heart is dirty God—my ability to see sin as sin is clouded and distorted. Clean my heart God so that I clearly see the wrong that I have done.”

You know, Sue and I have “matured” to the point that to see small things, we need glasses, and, we have also “matured” to the point that we often forget where our glasses are. Fortunately one of us usually has their specs on so for example, if Sue has misplaced hers and needs to read some fine print, she calls me over and says, “Mark, you have your glasses, tell me, what does this label say?” And tilt my glasses back to the proper portion of my bi-focal comes into play and say, “Sure honey, it says ‘BEST IF USED BY 1992’…” Well, in the same way you and I require God’s eyes when it comes to seeing our sin as sin because His vision isn’t impaired by sin, so confession begins by asking for His help. As David prayed in Psalm 139 we pray to God and say, “Search me Oh God, and know my heart…LOOK and SEE if there is any sinful way in me.” Now, there are two questions that we must ask ourselves that help us gain God’s perspective on our sin and the first is this:

A.) Why did I do that?

By asking this question, we may find that we lied to try to escape the consequences of what we did, like when we tell a police officer who pulls you over for speeding that our speedometer was broken. Asking ourselves WHY WE SIN may lead us to discover that the reason we gossip about someone is that we were feeling insignificant or jealous and so we discredit a person with our gossip to make us look better in the eyes of others. This is an important question to ask because sin is usually tied to some need or other. Many times sin is the attempt to meet a LEGITIMATE need in an ILLEGITIMATE, sinful way. And so, if we don’t address that need in appropriate ways, we will go right on sinning.

The second question that helps us see sin from God’s perspective is:

B.) What happened as a result of my sin?

We must examine all the painful consequences of our actions and Nathan’s story helped David to get this perspective. With Nathan’s help, David realized anew what a horrible thing he had done. He saw how much his selfishness had cost others, like Uriah. And I must point out that, whereas God forgives our sins when we confess, we still have to face consequences of those actions. In spite of being forgiven, David faced hard times because of his actions. The baby that came from their affair died. He was not allowed to build the temple, and so on. Sin always has consequences. We must not forget that.

But the process of confession and the forgiveness that comes from it BEGINS by seeking God’s perspective on our sin as we ask ourselves why we sin and what happened as a result. Then, as God opens our eyes and reveals our sin we can move on to the second step in the process of confession.

2.) Which is a time of honest SELF-EXAMINATION.

We take time to reflect on our thoughts, words, and deeds and acknowledge that we HAVE sinned and then we take responsibility for what we have done. I think that a helpful approach to self-examination is to think through various CATEGORIES of sin. Some use the list of the seven deadly sins as a tool in this process: pride, anger, lust, envy, greed, sloth, and gluttony. Martin Luther used the 10 Commandments to examine his own life. But, regardless of what list you use, ask yourself, “Where do I stand in regard to each of these sins?” Think of this part of the confession process as a MORAL INVENTORY of your life. I find it helpful to take pen and paper and make an actual list of my sins because writing forces us to be specific. It is more effective than just settling for a mental list. As someone once said, “Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” Writing it down also helps us to avoid vagueness in confession. You know, those one-size-fits-all statements like: “God, forgive me for not doing what I should have done.” We must realize that vagueness like this is not repentance. It is presumption on God. Genuine, meaningful confession is when we are honest about our specific sins and when we take appropriate responsibility for what we have done.

The word “confess” means “to call it the same thing.” In other words, when we sin, we don’t need to make excuses, or blame somebody else, or try to wiggle out of it. We need to say, “God this was sin. You call it sin. I confess it sin and that’s all there is to it. Please forgive me.”

Genuine confession involves saying that a choice was made and it does not need to be excused, explained or even understood. We honestly admit to God that we have sinned. We confess that we chose to sin and that the choice needs to be forgiven. The slate has to be wiped clean. In his Psalm King David admitted, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You and You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved right when You speak and justified when You judge.” David was guilty, stained from His own sinful choices and he did not deny it. He agreed with God that it was sin, that he had willfully broken God’s law and he confessed it. W. S. Plumer writes, “We never see sin aright until we see it as against God. All sin is against God in this sense: it is His law that is broken, His authority that is despised, His government that is set at naught.”

So, confession involves: asking God to heal our blind eyes so we see sin AS sin. Then with this new focus we examine ourselves and take responsibility for our sin and then we move on to the third step in the process of confession in which we…

3.) Seek a new way of FEELING

You see, as I inferred a moment ago, genuine confession involves not just realizing that we sinned but also feeling the pain our sin has caused others. This is what James 4:8-9 means when it says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded LAMENT AND MOURN AND WEEP. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.”

I remember an episode of STAR TREK VOYAGER years ago in which the crew discovered a planet where punishment for crime involved forcing the criminal to feel the pain of his victim.

For example, a convicted murderer had his mind reprogrammed in such a way that for the rest of his life at the beginning of every hour, he would constantly replay the act from the perspective of the person murdered, over and over again. Well, part of true confession is asking God to help us really feel how our sin hurts people. For, when we feel their pain, we will be less likely to sin this way again. And you know, there is nothing wrong with feeling bad about sin. In fact it is spiritually healthy to feel bad when we disobey God. Think about it. As long as a diseased appendix hurts there is hope for safe removal. The danger period is when it stops hurting. When this happens it may mean the appendix has burst, spreading poison throughout the entire body. So be glad if you hurt when you sin because that means your conscience is still working! And then the fourth element of confession is to:

4.) Seek a better FUTURE

You see, confession is not just naming what we have done in the past. It involves our intentions about the future as well. As God works with us through the process of confession we will begin to feel a deep desire not to do this hurtful thing again. We vow to change with God’s help. This is what David was talking about in verse 13 when he said,

Then I will teach transgressors Your ways and sinners will turn back to You.” In other words David was saying, “God, Your forgiveness has motivated me to tell others how bad—how painful—it is to disobey you. In the future that is what I will do. I will use my influence as King to teach Your people the importance of obeying You in all things.

In these words David made a vow to God to change the way he lived his life. This is what happened to another sinner by the name of Zachaeus. Remember? As part of his confession he said, “I will repay anyone I’ve cheated four times over and half of my goods I will give to the poor.” David and Zachaeus made these commitments to change because true repentance of sin involves a desire to make a complete break from sin. Walter Trobisch said, “Christ accepts us as we are, but when He accepts us, we cannot remain as we are.” Confession involves repentance which is simply turning around, on the basis of truth, and going in the opposite direction, making a complete break with what has been. As Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgression will not prosper, but he who confesses AND FORSAKES them will find compassion.” Forsaking sin follows confession of sin. And then the last step of confession is:

5.) Receiving God’s GRACE.

In this final step we accept God’s forgiveness for our sin,realizing all along that we don’t deserve and can’t earn His forgiveness but that through His great grace when we confess our sin, He is, “faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

We discover that God forgives instantly and freely and completely and that, “There is no condemnation for those who live in union with Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

So in this part of the process of confession we pray with David, “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.”

Because David owned up to his sin and accepted the consequences of his behavior, God continued to bless him in other ways including using Solomon, Bathsheba’s son as part of the lineage of David as King of Israel. Frazee writes

It is a head-scratching demonstration of God’s grace. God could have tapped one of David’s other wives to bring us the next king of Israel. But He didn’t. He chose the relationship born out of adultery, murder, and deceit. Not only was Bathsheba’s son, Solomon, to sit on the throne by divine appointment, but it also meant that Bathsheba was now a part of the lineage of Christ.

That’s how God works. He would love it if we could all be like Uriah, the loyal soldier of integrity. He wants us to be like Nathan, with the courage to confront sin. But if, like David, we do something horribly wrong, God still loves us and can use us to draw others to Him if we own up to our sin and ask for His forgiveness.

Let us pray.