I Will Confess My Transgressions to the Lord
2 Samuel 11:26–12:14 (ESV) When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD. And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’ ” 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.”
Joseph’s brothers feared his retribution against them after Jacob was dead, but he assured them, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). The Lord does something similar with David’s shameful adultery with Bathsheba and his cover-up through the ruthless murder of Uriah. Through the pen of the sinner David, he has given us poor, miserable sinners prayers for and promises of forgiveness from the Lord.
Two important parts of our Divine Service are related to this event. Prior to the Confession and Absolution, the pastor says, “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord,” and the congregation says, “and thou forgavest the iniquity of sin” (Psalm 32:5). And after the sermon we sing in the Offertory, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free Spirit” (Psalm 51:10-12).
We know that Psalm 51 is associated with David’s fall and restoration, since its superscription says: “TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA.” Psalm 32 seems also to be written about David’s fall and subsequent repentance and forgiveness. Psalm 32:3-5 says, “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” For all of us wallowing in the depths of guilt over our sin, we have divinely inspired words given here to pray, and the example of a fallen sinner who was raised back up by the Absolution of the Lord!
St. Paul cites Psalm 32:1-2 in Romans 4:5–8 in order to emphasize the central doctrine of Christianity: justification by grace received through faith for the sake of Christ. He writes, “To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’” There is no question David was ungodly, but through Nathan, God justified him. There is no doubt that we are ungodly, but for the sake of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, God justifies us. Thanks be to God!
Prayer: Almighty God, call us to repentance as Nathan called David to repentance, so by the blood of Jesus, the Son of David, we may receive the forgiveness of all our sins. We give You thanks for David who, through the Psalter, gave Your people hymns to sing with joy in our worship on earth so that we may glimpse Your beauty. Bring us to the fulfillment of that hope of perfection that will be ours as we stand before Your unveiled glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.