"David and Nathan", Matthias Scheitts, 1672
Image: David and Nathan Matthias Scheitts, 1672

Finally Treating God as God

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion … Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness.
Psalm 51:1, 14

According to the law, David’s “bloodguilt” placed him under the sentence of death. His seduction of Bathsheba, and the subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, as he ordered carried out in the guise of battle, is perhaps the most infamous transgression in all the Bible. Adultery and murder were capital crimes in Israel under the law of Moses (Deut. 22:22, Num. 35:16-41). For such wrongs there was no possible restitution. David could not give life back to Uriah. He could not give purity back to Bathsheba. God spares his life but the prophet Nathan tells him the son born to you will die (2 Sam 12:14).

The season of Lent invites us to consider our similar plight. I cannot really make up for what I have done. Because of sin’s irreversible course, we are all criminals in God’s cosmos and under the sentence of death. What should we do? What does David do? He prays. In his book, Prayer, Tim Keller helpfully notes that prayer is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God (p.18).

David prays to God as He has made Himself known: Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion (Ps.51:1). Here again is the influence of Moses. In Exodus 34:6 when God passes in front of Moses, He is declared The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. David knew he stood condemned by God’s law, but he also knew he was not without God’s love.

The same is true for us. The Apostle Paul writes, You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly…God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom.5:6,8). We cannot undo things. I cannot give back to God what I have taken from Him. No meaningful restitution is possible but according to the gospel, God has pardoned us but taken the life of His own son for our punishment.

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