Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions . . .
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise . . . .Psalm 51
The church traditionally understands that King David wrote this song of yearning and remorse after his great sin against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. If you’ve been reading Second Samuel this past week, you’ve remembered this sad tale of David’s fall and the consequent undoing of his family.
Mercy is all there is for times like these, mercy that can stare us down, that will expose our hubris, name our deadly acts, and challenge our sinful attitudes so that we may be restored to life. This is the only way, facing the darkness within so that we might find the light; naming our brokenness so that we might be healed.
David cried out for mercy, compassion, and cleansing. So, of course, the God who is mercy, compassion, and steadfast love turned to David with that ever-amazing grace. With God nothing is unforgivable.
Even so, cycles were set into motion; Pandora’s box had been opened. God doesn’t wave a magic wand to eliminate the natural consequences of our actions.
The prophet Nathan spoke the word of the Lord to David and promised God’s unfailing faithfulness to make David and his descendants into a house, a legacy, a dynasty. It was a good word. But then Nathan was called to speak truth to power, to give another prophetic word to King David—a painful word but oh-so-needed for this one who had been blinded by power and privilege.
Remember the signature story of God’s self-revelation, the stunning description of “the Lord, the Lord” that became a golden thread woven throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.
A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation (Ex 34:6–7).Exodus 34:6-7
This glorious description includes justice as well as forgiveness . . .
Read more at Charlotte Vaughan Coyle. Living in The Story: A Year to Read the Bible and Ponder God’s Story of Love and Grace (pp. 352-353). Resource Publications. Kindle Edition.
Living in The Story readings for Week 30
2 Samuel 11-24 (Note: Bible Gateway introduces this section with the heading “David Commits Adultery with Bathsheba.” This is a widely held view but a decidedly misleading interpretation of David’s sin against Bathsheba and her husband.)
Image: Bathsheba at the Bath by Friedrich Heinrich FÜGER (b. 1751, d. 1818)
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest