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Psalm 51 - David Confronted By Nathan

INTRODUCTION: Jehovah sent Nathan to David so he would face the truth of what he had done with Bathsheba and the way it led him to plan the death of her husband. Because of this sin before Jehovah, David would face consequences for many years with the first being the death of the baby from Bathsheba. Jehovah forgave David for the sin that had been revealed, and David prayed fervently for the newborn baby to be spared, but he stopped mourning and worshipped Jehovah when the baby died. Those details are not specified in the psalm, which may make it easier for some to apply the content to their own situation and their need for mercy and forgiveness. However, by knowing the background some elements may be better appreciated.

NOTE: Bible passages are taken from the 1901 American Standard Version.


2 Samuel 12 "1 And Jehovah sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own morsel, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4 And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him, but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. 5 And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As Jehovah liveth, the man that hath done this is worthy to die: 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 and I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added unto thee such and such things. 9 Wherefore hast thou despised the word of Jehovah, to do that which is evil in his sight? thou hast smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11 Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house; and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against Jehovah. And Nathan said unto David, Jehovah also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die."

2 Samuel 12 "15 And Nathan departed unto his house. And Jehovah struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. 16 David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17 And the elders of his house arose, [and stood] beside him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead; for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he hearkened not unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead! 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; and David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. 20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel; and he came into the house of Jehovah, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. 21 Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. 22 And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who knoweth whether Jehovah will not be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me. 24 And David comforted Bath-sheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon. And Jehovah loved him; 25 and he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, for Jehovah's sake."

COMMENTS: The beginning of this episode in David's life is recorded in 2 Samuel chapter 11. David and Bathsheba conceived a child together while her husband was on the battlefield for Israel. When David learned of the pregnancy he tried to arrange it so it would appear that the child was from Bathsheba's husband. When that failed, David sent a message to his commander Joab to assign Uriah to a position in battle that would result in his death. David then took Bathsheba as his wife and did not at that time seek any forgiveness from God for these things he had done.

In 2 Samuel chapter 12:1-14 Jehovah sent Nathan to David and the story Nathan told of a man in power with no pity brought a strong reaction of indignation from David. Nathan then told David that the story represented him as he had done an even more despicable thing before God. Nathan then delivered the message from Jehovah reminding him how much Jehovah had done for David from the time he was anointed to be king, and would have supplied even more to him. But because David had despised the name of Jehovah the sword of violence would remain around him the rest of his life. Jehovah would raise up evil out of David's own house, and the things David had done in secret would be done publicly. David confessed that he had sinned against Jehovah, and Nathan said Jehovah had put away the sin so David would not die. However, because by the conception of this child David had given great occasion to the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme, the child that was born would surely die.

Verses 15-25 in 2 Samuel chapter 12 describe David's fasting and prayer to Jehovah for the child over the seven days until the child died. After that he made himself presentable and then went to the tabernacle to offer worship to Jehovah. This child was never given a name and there is no mention of him in any listing of the sons of David. The child was conceived before Bathsheba was David's wife, but later Jehovah blessed that couple with four sons, with the first one being Solomon. Jehovah loved Solomon and he sent Nathan the prophet to give him the name Jedidiah, for Jehovah's sake. That name has the meaning "beloved of the Lord," and he later succeeded David as king.


Psalm 51 "1 [For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David; when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba.] Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: According to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions; And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thy sight; That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest."

COMMENTS: David immediately began to ask for mercy through the lovingkindness of God, and to have his violation of God's law cleared from his record. He asked to have his grossly immoral act washed away and to be cleansed from his sin. He did not mention the one who had joined in his immoral act as he made his confession that he knew he had gone past God's righteous limitations and his sin was continually in his thoughts. Like Joseph who had refused immorality, when David confessed violation of God's standards, sin against another person, was first an offense to a Holy God. Genesis 39 "9 he is not greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" David took Uriah's widow as a wife and she would be part of the reminder to him for the rest of his life of his sin, but also of God's forgiveness. There could be no recompense to Uriah, but David felt conviction knowing that what he had done was evil in God's sight. David accepted the consequences to come, as God had spoken through Nathan, as fully justified judgment that would be in the purist form.


Psalm 51 "5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; And in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom. 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice."

COMMENTS: Whatever may have been credited as virtuous in David's life up to this point could not cancel the sin that was inherent in his nature, and sin can only be cleansed by the mercy of God. When Noah emerged from the ark he offered a sacrifice by faith to God. The record of God's response tells us that everyone has evil in their heart from their youth. Genesis 8 "21 And Jehovah smelled the sweet savor; and Jehovah said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, for that the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done. 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease." As long as the present earth remains God's mercy is the only hope for mankind. David authored another psalm which embodies the concept that no person can be righteous before God on their own merit. Psalm 14 "2 Jehovah looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, That did seek after God. 3 They are all gone aside; They are together become filthy; There is none that doeth good, no, not one." Passages in the New Testament also underscore this truth that every person is a sinner before God.

David understood that God desires that truth penetrate to our inner being and not be just on the surface when convenient. God will then cause wisdom to be developed within our character. When David spoke of purification with hyssop it was a way of asking God for his cleansing that was superior to the Levitical priests using hyssop to sprinkle with the cleansing blood of a sacrifice. What a wonderful picture of the way that Christ has now provided the cleansing sacrifice of his own blood for those who ask forgiveness of sin by faith. David had felt the crushing pain that was like broken bones in the righteous judgment as he had allowed his sin to separate him from God. Now he asked God to cause him to hear joy and gladness that would bring him to rejoice.


Psalm 51 "9 Hide thy face from my sins, And blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; And sinners shall be converted unto thee."

COMMENTS: David knew that in mercy, God could look away from the sin he had committed, and even through forgiveness remove it from the record as though it had not been done. God would do this for his own righteousness as might be understood from this later record in scripture. Isaiah 43 "25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake; and I will not remember thy sins." David knew he had to place his dependence upon God to create in him a clean heart, And to renew a right spirit within him. The experience with Bathsheba, and then what had followed with Uriah as he tried to hide his sin, surely had made it very evident to him that he could not resist every temptation without the help of God.

David also became very concerned that he not lose the relationship he had with Jehovah and wanted reassurance that he would not be sent out from the presence of God, or that the holy Spirit would depart from him. Their is scriptural reference that the Spirit of God was among believers even in the time of Moses, so David had a legitimate concern. Isaiah 63 "10 But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, [and] himself fought against them. 11 Then he remembered the days of old, Moses [and] his people, [saying], Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit in the midst of them? 12 that caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses? that divided the waters before them, to make himself an everlasting name?" Therefore, David requested that the joy of God's salvation be restored to him, and that God would support and sustain him with a willing spirit. This would enable David to teach others about the ways of God so they could turn from their sin and be converted by faith to become followers of God.


Psalm 51 "14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; [And] my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. 15 O Lord, open thou my lips; And my mouth shall show forth thy praise. 16 For thou delightest not in sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou hast no pleasure in burnt-offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

COMMENTS: when David asked to be set free from the guilt he had when Uriah and others were killed because of his instructions to Joab, he knew that God alone could give him salvation from such heinous sin. Such deliverance from the deserved penalty and from his guilty conscience would certainly give him reason to lavish praise aloud about the righteousness of God. In what seems to be a plea, David asks the Lord to open his lips so he could speak about all the praise he wanted to give to the Lord. He knew that sacrifices and burnt offerings even in great quantity were not pleasing to God if they were falsely presented, but God wants the believer, from the heart, to come before him in complete humility with sincere repentance. Though David may not have known the specific details, he knew that Saul had been rejected as king by God, and the scriptural record speaks clearly to us. 1 Samuel 15 "21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the devoted things, to sacrifice unto Jehovah thy God in Gilgal. 22 And Samuel said, Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, he hath also rejected thee from being king."


Psalms 51 "18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: Build thou the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then will thou delight in the sacrifices of righteousness, In burnt-offering and in whole burnt-offering: Then will they offer bullocks upon thine altar."

COMMENTS: David had a heart for Jerusalem because Jehovah had established it as a resting place for the tabernacle and as a center to glorify the name of the Lord. When he requested that Jehovah build the walls in his good pleasure he likely also had in mind that God would establish a place of strength defined by the inhabitants being true worshipers of the living God. Then the sacrifices offered on the alter would be fully acceptable in the sight of Jehovah. David had made his commitment afresh to be the proper kind of witness to draw others to the Lord.


Lord, I thank you for the way you have taken away my sin in those times when I have confessed to you and fallen upon your mercy and lovingkindness. You have then cleansed me from sin that I have committed against your holiness, and I accept your righteous judgment for what is evil in your sight. I know, Lord, that I have the sin nature as a descendent of Adam, and this is part of the truth that you desire that I accept in my heart from the wisdom of your word. I look to you for the power of the blood that was offered to cleanse me of all my sin. Whenever I think about this it brings me great joy for your grace and mercy. Lord, I know that I need you every day to create in me a clean heart and that you will not take your Spirit from me, but empower me to surrender my will to you if I resist not. Remind me that I should be a witness for you to bring others to see their need to become part of your kingdom. Lord I want to be humble before you and remember that no service or offering can be substituted for a broken and contrite heart as we are always in your presence. I pray, Lord, that your kingdom come, and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen and amen.

Published 30 May 2015