To the choirmaster. A psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. (Psalm 51, Title)
Most of the Psalms have titles, which tend just to say who wrote the verses: “A Psalm of David” and so on. Every now and again, though, you get a title which ties its composition to a particular event and so it is with Psalm 51. This is a psalm written in the aftermath of the whole sorry affair with Bathsheba, some three thousand years ago..
You’ll remember how King David tried to cover up his affair with Bathsheba, which had resulted in her pregnancy. Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, was away fighting the Ammonites, but King David had stayed at home and had spied Bathsheba bathing. When he discovers her pregnancy he summoned Uriah back from the front, plied him with food and wine, and hoped he would sleep with his wife. Unfortunately for David, Uriah was more loyal to his fellow troops and refused to go home whilst they were in tents on the battlefield.
In the end David ordered Uriah back to the front, carrying a letter to give to his commander. Unbeknownst to Uriah, the letter was his death sentence. David had ordered that Uriah be put where the fighting was fiercest. So it was that Uriah died and, as soon as she had finished the period of mourning, Bathsheba was added to David’s wives.
The story didn’t end there, for “the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27). The prophet Nathan was sent to David, and he told him a story about a rich man who took a poor man’s beloved lamb to feed a traveller. David was outraged. Who was this man! He should be made to pay! Nathan responded: “You are the man!”.
Then the guilt rushed in. Nathan’s parable had brought home to David what he had done. He turned to prayer, not afraid to bring his guilt to the God who already knew of it. Over the next few days we’ll see how David deals with his guilt, but for now remember this: God already knows, so don’t be afraid to bring your guilt to him in prayer.