For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 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. – Psalm 51:3-4 ESV
Over in 2 Corinthians 7:10, the apostle Paul wrote about two kinds of sorrow. One he called “godly sorrow.” It is the kind of sorrow that God wants us to experience, because it leads us away from sin and results in salvation. And while it’s still sorrow, in the long run, it comes with no regrets. On the other hand, there is “worldly sorrow.” That kind of sorrow is superficial, lacking true repentance and ultimately results in spiritual death. It may appear genuine and be accompanied by true remorse, but remorse is nothing more than
David seemed to understand this truth. He had great sorrow over what he had done. He realized that his sin with Bathsheba was serious and that he deserved God’s punishment for it. I am sure he felt sorrow, regret, remorse, as well as guilt and shame for what he had done. Word had gotten out. His reputation had been sullied. He had gotten what he had wanted: Bathsheba as his wife, but not without great cost. He was stuck trying to continue the cover up of his sin, including Bathsheba’s pregnancy with the child from their immoral relationship. David knew he was responsible for the death of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. And he knew that Joab, his military commander and the one who carried out the death sentence, knew as well. David’s little house of cards was beginning to tremble all around him. Every night he went to be he couldn’t help but think about the gravity of what he had done. But with the help of Nathan the prophet, David was brought to his senses and convicted of his sin and his need for repentance. He had to return to God. David woke up to the fact that his sin had been against God. Yes, he had most definitely sinned against Uriah by having sex with his wife, then by attempting to deceive him by trying to get him to sleep with Bathsheba in order to cover up who was the true father of the child. David had sinned against Bathsheba as well, using his power and influence as king to coerce her to be unfaithful to her husband and commit adultery. But at the end of the day, David had to acknowledge that his sin had been against God. Which is why he prayed, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” David took ownership for what he had done and acknowledge that his actions had been against God. He had broken God’s laws. He had disobeyed God’s commands. And he recognized that God had every right to do with him as He saw fit. God would be fully justified to punish David for all he had done. Sin against God always comes with consequences and David knew it. And he was ready to accept whatever God decided to do.
But David had begun his prayer with a cry for mercy. He knew that he was at God’s mercy. God could do with him whatever he wanted and would have been justified in whatever punishment he deemed necessary. And David knew there was nothing he could do to rectify his problem. The deed was done. The sin had been committed. He couldn’t bring Uriah back to life. He couldn’t reverse the affair he had had with Bathsheba. And there she was, walking around the palace, carrying his child, as a daily reminder of his sin. That is why David had asked God to “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” (Psalm 51:2 ESV). David was powerless to remedy his situation. But he knew that God could forgive him and cleanse him from the damaging influence of his own actions.
David needed to repent. He needed to turn back to God. His sin had created a barrier between he and God. Emotionally, he found himself separated from God. His guilt made it difficult to face God. His inability to fix what he had done allowed the enemy to step in and accuse him of his failure to remain faithful to God. All David would do was feel guilt for what he had done or attempt feel nothing, trying to rationalize his actions away and learn to minimize his sin. Fortunately, David repented. He turned away from his sin and back to the one who could help him do something about it. He turned to God. But to do so, he had to come in humility and with a heart ready to confess what he had done. No more running. No more ignoring. No more rationalizing and justifying. No more blame. It was time for godly sorrow, the kind that leads to repentance and restoration. God wants to restore. He wants to renew. But He requires that we come to Him with broken and contrite hearts. Later on in this same Psalm, David will express that very sentiment. “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:17 NLT). God desires to see our hearts truly repentant and ready to return to Him for help, hope and healing. We can’t fix what we have done, but He can.