This has been on my mind for a long time: David’s psalm post-adultery with Bathsheba. This is what he wrote in Psalm 51:
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
I get it when people say that they think ‘sin’ is a bit overplayed. Really? So sometimes I get angry at people when I shouldn’t. It’s bad, but do you have to go on about how serious it is and how Jesus had to die? We all get angry, we get over it, and whoever we were angry at gets over it. Or, you make a bad call, sleep with someone’s wife because they’re hot. Kill the man – because you can. (This is King David.) This is more serious, because you harmed another person. So depose the guy and give him a life sentence.
But what if Bathsheba ganged up with David, and divorced Uriah due to “irreconcilable differences” because he just wasn’t making her happy anymore? I think our society would say ,”Fair enough,” and “Get over her, Uriah, there are other women out there.” “David and Bathsheba, that was pretty low, but whatever, you have personal liberty.”
See, maybe I’ve gone on too long to make my point well, but what I’m trying to say is, sin doesn’t make sense as long as we measure the badness of ‘sin’ in our heads. “Against you, you only, have I sinned.” David knew that what he had done was bad for Bathsheba. Worse for Uriah. Pretty down and dirty. But that wasn’t the point. Even if they forgave him, it still remains that he did a terrible thing. Why? If they didn’t care, what does it matter?
God gave specific commandments not to covet your neighbour’s property. To love Him before all else – not to be mastered by anything else. And so David’s heart cries out. The world can forgive him, forget his stain, and just remember him for his young heroic victory over Goliath, but his sin will ever be before him and God. Against God, God only, did he sin. Sin by definition must recognise that the only one wronged is God; it is something we owe to God and no one else.
And such a screw-up, such a debt – who can deal with this mess but God himself?
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
And so the Spirit regenerates us, because Christ paid that amount we owe God. David did not only understand his poverty, but he understood that all he could do was helplessly allow himself to be helped by God. “Create in me,” “renew … within me,” “cast me not,” “take not,” “restore to me,” “uphold me.” God is the great initiator. God only has the agency to do anything. I have a thought about being young and being female: what a strategic learning position! You are often accepting things you don’t necessarily deserve, whether it be money from parents, or guys letting you stand first in line. It seems simple, but hey, I can see a middle-aged providing father not wanting to accept anything he didn’t earn himself – bread he did not win. Women, children, the infirm … we all have this great strategic role for understanding the blessedness of receiving. King David was patriarch of a country! He should have bossed it out and sought to have agency over solving his own problems, if we are to stereotype his manhood. That’s enough dominating masculinity to upset any feminist. But he had a humble heart that broke before God.
Instead, his heart cried: I can do nothing, Holy God. Clean me.