David has broken the moral law. He does not rationalize or blame others for his sinful ways. Nor does he try to cover up what he has done wrong. Instead, he repents and laments. He turns to God to be cleansed. He prays that God will have mercy on him and blot out his transgressions.
Sin is any thought, word, or deed that separates us from God, our neighbors, or ourselves. Therefore, we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s intention for us. We do not have the natural strength to cleanse ourselves. Denial or keeping quiet will not heal our brokenness. It will not rejoin us to others, to ourselves, or to God.
We can try to justify ourselves, or we can follow the example portrayed in Psalm 51. This writing speaks about the importance of lament and repentance. I once attended a congregation that did not have a prayer of confession before inviting worshipers to the Communion table to receive the bread and wine. It is important for us to confess our personal and social sins before receiving these symbols of God’s forgiveness.
The congregations that I served as pastor always had a prayer of confession. That has also been my experience since childhood. One Sunday morning a man with a frown on his face came out of the sanctuary and came charging over to me. He said, “Why do we need to have that confession of sin? I haven’t done anything wrong!” He thought that he did not need to be cleansed. He had no guilt or shame about how he might have hurt others or himself.
If we desire truth in our inward being, we must truly believe that God stands ready to wash us thoroughly, as only God can. This happens when we sincerely confess and repent.
Loving God, help me to be honest with myself about my sinful ways so that I am ready to repent. Amen.
David thinks he has gotten away with his sins, but God sends Nathan to tell David a story. The story angers David, but Nathan reveals that the story is really about David’s own behavior. Indeed, it can be tempting to condemn others’ sin, while we justify our own. Psalm 51 is David’s appeal to God for forgiveness and restoration. If we want to please God in our own lives, what does this look like? Ephesians tells us that the signs of a redeemed life include humility, love, patience, and building up one another (the opposite of what David displayed). In John, Jesus has crowds following him because they want a free meal. The lasting nourishment they truly need, Jesus teaches, comes through believing that God has sent him.
Read 2 Samuel 11:26–12:13a. When has someone else helped you see that you have sinned? How did you respond to that person?
Read Psalm 51:1-12. When have you felt “unclean” before God? How did God restore you?
Read Ephesians 4:1-16. What are your gifts? How do you use them to build up the body of Christ?
Read John 6:24-35. How do you feed your soul?
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