Have you ever been traveling, using a GPS or just on a mission to get somewhere, and got turned around? Nowadays most GPS’s let you know right away and tell you when you can make a U-turn. But even when they do you may not believe them.
I like to use a GPS when I’m in new territory, a place I’ve never been before. I find them helpful when I don’t know my way. We do a lot of stupid things when we get lost, including refusing to stop and asked directions from someone who knows the way.
Our next prayer model is David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51. But before we go through his approach to confession we need to understand how David got to this place. He did a lot of things wrong for quite some time. But when it came to it, when he was confronted, he made all the right decisions.
None of us is impervious to temptation and it’s possible for any of us to fall into sin. John tells us in the New Testament that if we sin, Jesus is our Advocate and he forgives us of our sins (1 John 1:9). But that doesn’t preclude our confession. We all need to learn humility and confession and David is a great teacher.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
The Bible records the history of David’s confession in 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25. The writer of 2 Samuel takes great pains to give us the context. He starts with “in the spring” (2 Samuel 11:1). Then he clarifies that this is the time kings go out to battle.
Instead of going himself and performing his kingly duties, he sends one of his generals out to battle in his place. He stays in Jerusalem at the palace. This is the first mistake David makes. He isn’t where he should be at that time.
We don’t know why David doesn’t go out to battle like all the other kings. Perhaps he has a reason to stay behind. But that’s not the way the writer of 2 Samuel wants us to understand. He points out that David is not where he should be on purpose.
This is the wrong place for David. As a king, he needs to be on the battlefield. He is at home in the palace instead. And it’s the wrong time. It’s not that he couldn’t be in the palace. But at this time in his life he should be somewhere else.
When we step out of God’s will and the place he has us, we can get into a lot of trouble. Many times the temptations we face occur because we are not where we should be. We don’t do what we’re supposed to, and open ourselves up to temptation.
Temptation happens even when we are in the middle of God’s will. But it is at a much higher percentage when we let ourselves slack from the task at hand. We allow distractions to enter into our lives. We start playing around with those distractions and create monsters.
Many people know the story of David and Bathsheba. David sees her bathing from the palace (2 Samuel 11:2). Then David makes his second mistake: he inquires about the woman he saw (2 Samuel 11:3). We can’t stop what we see in the world. But we can decide what to do with what our eyes take in.
They tell him who the woman is. But that doesn’t stop him. By the way, Uriah the Hittite is one of David’s mighty men of valor. He knows her husband. But that doesn’t matter in the moment of passion. The verses describing his action of adultery go by fast (2 Samuel 11:4-5) with the wrong conclusion for David.
His moment of passion costs him the proof of his sin. Bathsheba is pregnant. Here is David’s opportunity to fess up to what he did before things get worse. But that’s not what he does and that’s often not what we do. He decided he had to cover it up.
David has at least six wives (2 Samuel 3). Six wives, and he was on the balcony checking out another woman. This is another mistake David made. They’re starting to pile up. Even though David knows better and has this intimate and vibrant relationship with God, he still doesn’t stop.
The best thing would have been to admit his sin and deal with the consequences then and there. Kings took advantage of their place throughout the ancient world. No one knows what would’ve happened if David fessed up to what he did thus far.
He adds on top of adultery conspiracy to commit murder. He sends word to his general on the battlefield and calls back his warrior, Uriah the Hittite, her husband. And when he arrives, David tries to get him to sleep with his wife while he is off the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:6-8).
But Uriah proves more honorable than King David. He doesn’t go home to sleep with his wife while his fellow warriors suffer on the battlefield. He sleeps at the King’s door instead. David finds out and tries to get him drunk so that he’ll go home. But he still doesn’t do it (2 Samuel 11:9-13).
The next morning when David finds out he still didn’t go to his house he exercises Plan B. He ends a letter with him with instructions to put Uriah at the front of the battle. He put his life in danger with that command. And he sends it with Uriah! Uriah carries the instructions for his own demise back to the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:14-16).
As expected, a warrior like Uriah fearlessly embraces whatever challenge he is given. He dies on the battlefield and his wife becomes a widow. David receives the news from his general who tries to cover his own rear end with the king by reminding him that some great warriors fall to the most unusual circumstances (2 Samuel 11:17-21).
David gets the news and tells his general not to beat himself up about it (2 Samuel 11:22-25). This all looks good in the public eye. It looks like an honest thing that happened to a great warrior. I don’t even know if Bathsheba finds out about how David kills her husband.
She mourns her husband for the proper time but then David brings her to his house. He marries her and she bears him a son (2 Samuel 11:26-27). The writer of 2 Samuel lets us know again with his note that this displeases the Lord.
We may think that we have covered up our sin but the Lord knows what happened. We cannot get away with it even if it’s a secret. It is better to deal with our sin before it becomes public. This is why we need the prayer of confession.
David would let it alone but God would not allow that. It hurts to come in humility to the Lord and confess our sins. But it’s a whole lot better than the alternative. God won’t let it go. We must deal with our sins through confession and his forgiveness.
Nathan the prophet shows up at King David’s door. The prophets were often a check spiritually for the kings of Israel. God used them to speak to the wickedness of kings and keep them from abusing their power over the people and the nation.
God sends Nathan to address King David’s heart (2 Samuel 12). Nathan wisely tells King David a story, pulling at his heartstrings. David began as a shepherd and so Nathaniel tells him the story of a poor shepherd’s sheep that was part of the family.
The shepherd only had this one sheep but a rich man had many flocks. This rich man took the poor shepherd’s sheep for his own purposes. As a former shepherd himself, David reacts with anger at the injustice of the situation (2 Samuel 12:5).
David thinks this is happening in Israel right now and wants to exact proper justice for the poor shepherd he identified with. This is when Nathan says the phrase we still use today, “You’re the man!”
At that moment David realizes the injustice he did to Uriah the Hittite. As King he has many lives, but Uriah only has Bathsheba. He takes the man’s wife and life. His sinful actions hit him like a ton of bricks.
Through prophecy, God uses Nathan to exact the discipline for David’s sins. They cost him a great deal.
- The sword would never depart from David’s house (2 Samuel 12:10).
- A political rival would sleep with David’s wives in public (2 Samuel 12:11).
- The child David had with Bathsheba would die in David’s place (2 Samuel 12:14-15).
It’s only after the prophecy of David’s punishment that his heart breaks as you realized the implications and the consequences of his sin (2 Samuel 12:13). That is when he realizes everything that he has done, when it affects his house.
If only we realized what our sin costs us and the Lord. He hung on a cross in our place for our sins. And yet we don’t always think of this or how much we heard God’s heart when we sin. Praise the Lord for the prayer of confession!
David got a lot of things right in his life. But I like to say that when David sinned, he really sinned. I mean, he went from close to God’s heart to lust, adultery, cover-up, murder, and then getting it right.
And none of us is any different. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. If we sin against the Lord, David also paved the way on how we confess those sins to him. He knew how to mourn for his loss and bear the results of his sin.
As we go through David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51, we will find that there are few Old Testament things that have changed since his time. We will also find that being a king in Israel was different than being a New Testament Christian.
And we will get to all of those. But we take a healthy step when we look at the context of David’s prayer of confession. It gives us deeper understanding about how to approach our own lives and evaluate them. We must always begin by putting ourselves on the Lords altar, laying ourselves bear and he will tell us if there is anything in us that he must prune to please him.
Leave a comment if looking at the context of David’s prayer of confession has helped you to understand why we need the prayer of confession.