God, Create a Clean Heart In Me
“David said… ‘I have sinned against Yahweh.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘Yahweh also has put away your sin, you shall not die.’”In the midst of David’s verbal confession before the prophet Nathan, David wrote (or said) a prayer- now known as Psalm 51. It is important to remember that biblical prose is not journalistic in nature, but it is storytelling. The events are not fictional, but they are narrated and told “at a distance” from the raw, historical happenings. David’s confession may not have been at the same time that Nathan had confronted him. It seems, that David’s confession here is a representative statement of his prayer and Nathan’s response is God’s response.
David’s prayer is full of asking God to do things. David fully recognizes that in order to get the effects of cleanliness and restoration, God must be the cause. David asks God to create a clean heart in him. The Hebrew word for create here, bara is a verb that only has God as the cause (according to Dr. Michael Heiser). Again, David asks God for his mercy, his cleansing, deliverance and restoration. David makes a point to confess- but his confession is firmly rooted in the sole power of God to change anything. David appeals to God’s attributes of love and mercy so that he could experience mercy and have his transgressions removed from the record. Specifically, David asks God to be “delivered from bloodguiltiness” or to be acquitted of the charges of murder, the punishment for which is death. David extends his confession to a commitment to better serve and be a witness to Yahweh throughout Israel (Psa 51:13-19).
“[David] did not turn aside from anything that [God] commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite”- 1 Kings 15:5In the period of time after David’s murder and adultery, but before his repentance- David was not walking with God. It is hard to say exactly how long David was in the state of unconfessed sin, but he was unrepentant for at least a month, but very possibly much longer- up until or shortly after the birth of his son, some nine months after his adultery and eight after murder. When the Book of Kings says David “did not turn aside from anything” does not mean he never sinned. The key difference is that David remained in a sinful state and was unrepentant, until God brought the matter to him personally.
When David had sinned at other times in his life, he had not stopped his pursuit of God. David’s sin was so deep here that he stopped following God. He only repented when he was directly confronted with it. He may have continued to pray and lived his “life as normal”, but with his sin left unresolved, David was not truly walking with God. This is essential to understand the depth of David’s repentance Psalm. David did not have the relationship with God he had for a few month period, he had not been walking with God for a long period of time.
David fully recognized that transformation of heart and cleansing from sin is only doable by God. Once confronted with his sin, David confessed:
“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”- Psa 51:16-17There was nothing that David could to right the wrongs he had done. Furthermore, after his repentance David committed himself to a greater degree of obedience. David’s repentance is a model for all of us. No matter how far we fall from God, God will always take us back- not on our own merit, but wholly on his goodness