The Guilt of King David

Posted under The Rectory Bulletin

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.

Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun

It is Pentecost in 1862, some one hundred and twenty years after Watts’ death, and a great open air service is in play. Missionaries have brought the gospel to the Island of Tonga, and it now considers itself Christian. As the singing begins, those who can understand the local language would have been able to discern the words of Watts’ setting of Psalm 72 coming through: Jesus shall reign where'er the sun doth its successive journeys run; His Kingdoms stretch from shore to shore, Till moons shall wax and wane no more.


“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! (Ezekiel 18:30 - 31) - God is neither unjust nor unmerciful. We are fairly judged according to our deeds, and against the standards he has clearly set out in the scriptures. Yet we always, always have the chance to “turn and live”. God desires the death of no-one, but rather to be reconciled.

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