“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit.” (Ps 51:10-12)
The story of David and Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 is a familiar one to most of us. Even so, to get the most out of this, you might want to pause and read it again now. Over the centuries, so many valuable lessons and principles have been drawn from this tale, making it a favourite choice for preachers and teachers, playwrights and poets.
One of the reasons it seems such a popular choice is that it makes David a kind of “everyman” – filled with noble potential, yet handicapped by the flaws of a base nature. The story makes him a more accessible personality to us than does, say, the story of his slaying Goliath with a pebble. I find it difficult to identify with a hero. However, I can easily relate to a man who shoves aside his morality for a moment in order to act out a selfish impulse – and who then finds himself paying dearly for it for years to come.
Through his failure, David came to experience what many of us are experiencing today: a loss of spiritual cohesiveness, a loss of purpose and direction as a servant of Yahweh, a loss of intimacy with God. This king’s slide began with that deadly forerunner to most periods of moral decline and increasing hard-heartedness – compromise.
With that second look across the rooftop at the bathing beauty, he entered the darkest time of his spiritual life – darker than the dry years hiding from Saul, darker than the decades spent awaiting God’s promise of coronation. We can discover this is true by comparing Psalm 51 (coming at the end of the Bathsheba episode) with his writings from those earlier periods such as Psalms 34 and 54. The despair and agony David felt as a result of his slide down the slippery slope of sin far outweigh the suffering of persecution for being loyal to God’s directives. For the simple reason that he was now separated from the very Person to whom he had been able to turn during those other seasons.
In Psalm 51, David is brought face to face with the reality of his situation. For him the fire he felt in his youth has gone out. He is no longer passionate about the Lord. Instead he feels distant from Him and is fearful that this will continue indefinitely, perhaps forever. If you are reading this post, you may feel the same way though you haven't done all the naughty things that David did. You may not have committed murder and adultery, yet the place in which you find yourself may be just as spiritually cold and dry and empty as it was for him.
We can see that the foremost thing in David’s mind was his relationship with God. How so we know that? Look at Ps 51:4,
“Against You and You only have I sinned…”
Now this is where I stop and say "Pardon, David? say what?? What about Uriah? What about Bathsheba? What about the nation that looked up to you? What about the sons whose picture of manhood and kingly conduct is now soiled because of your example? How can you say you have sinned against God alone?"
If David could answer me I’m sure his reply would reflect a single principle that operated in his life: the health of every other aspect of living flows from one’s relationship to God and with God. Perhaps we can only truly obey Jesus’ “second greatest commandment” (love your neighbour) if we obey the first (love the Lord your God)?
Therefore (in his recovery from his "fall"), this man was solely concerned with the person God. He was primarily aware of the offence he had now become to his Lord, the separation he had created between them, the way he had relegated the most important Person in his world to an historical position while he indulged in a fleeting moment of self-pleasure.
How did David regain that intimacy with God as well as his passion for God’s cause? Several years ago, I felt like I discovered four steps in the story, not a formula, but a pattern. Although I may describe them differently here, a study of 2 Samuel 12 essentially reveals four principles that fall into the categories of repentance, restitution, motivation and rightful position. As we read our way through each of the steps he took, it will require you to be open minded and honest with God before you can personally move through any of them yourself. At the end of some of my posts, the teacher and coach in me will assert itself, and there'll be some exercises for you to do to explore these principles in your own life. I would strongly encourage you to take each of these seriously, spending as long as you need in completing them, before moving on to the next chapters. If it takes weeks, so be it! I don’t believe the process was instantaneous for David either.
So, journals out...
- Where do you feel like God has been relegated to an "historical position" in your life?
- On an increasing scale of 1-10, how high is your commitment to being open-minded and honest before God? (If your score is lower than 10, what would it take to bring it up to 10?)
- How much effort are you prepared to make at this stage?
- If you were to write your own request to God (as David did in Ps51:10-12), what would it be?
Present your request for help to God.
If this is the first time you've read one of this series of posts, please click on the label at the end of the post (Relighting the Fire) to read all entires...