“David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”
-2 Samuel 12:13-14
When I was a child, I occasionally attended Sunday school with an aunt when I would stay overnight at her house. The trouble with attending Sunday school irregularly is that I got a somewhat irregular education about famed Bible characters. I remember learning about Bible characters like they were superheroes. I saw illustrations of Moses, staff in hand, standing before the parted Red Sea. I saw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego huddled together with flames surrounding them but never hurting them. And I saw the child David, clutching a slingshot, ready to battle the terrifying Goliath. What I didn’t understand then was that the real superhero of these scenarios was God, protecting each of these characters from trouble.
The trouble with assigning superhero status to a character like David is that I ignored the most important part of his story.
King David’s life is rich with evidence of conflict. As a child, he defeated Goliath with just a stone, as I had seen in my Sunday school lesson. He endured the jealous, irrational King Saul to eventually become King of Israel. He fought countless battles to deliver nations into the hands of the nation of Israel. If we could put just those conflicts into a neat little box, David’s story would be one of triumph in the service of God. However, David’s story is much more complicated, and as a result, we are blessed with an example, a man after God’s own heart, who struggled with conflict and sin just like we do.
What we learn from David is that sometimes our conflict is really a conflict with and a sin against God. At the beginning of 2 Samuel 11, when the rest of Israel was at war, King David stayed in Jerusalem. While David was at home, he found himself in conflict. I’m not sure what caused David to even look upon Bathsheba, but the results were disastrous: adultery, betrayal, murder, and ultimately, infant death.
The Sunday school version of David certainly left out that this superhero warrior had committed adultery with a woman and killed her husband to cover it up. But I’m so grateful for the damaged, broken, and authentic David we read about in scripture, because when THAT David was confronted with his sins, he responded simply with “I have sinned against the Lord.” We have a record of the true David’s life and songs to forever provide wisdom as we encounter the conflicts in our lives, and the response we should give when we’re confronted with the ways we’ve sinned against God. We learn from David that our God is endlessly merciful and conflict does not disqualify us from a life of service to God.
Is there a conflict in your life that you need to repent of? What lesson can we take from David about how to repent?
Lord, I am so thankful for your mercy in light of my mistakes. Be with me so that I’m making choices that are honoring to you. I pray David’s prayer in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Verse 10)