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Saturday, September 14, 2013

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Prayer of a penitent heart

David is cited as a model king, a man who followed and honored God. However, he was often rash and foolish. Twice his public sins were rebuked by prophets. Two sins required public repentance: the sexual affair with Bathsheba and her husband’s murder (II Sam12)—and about 15 years later near the end of David’s reign, numbering the men of war (II Sam. 24). Psalm 32 and Psalm 38 both commemorate David’s grief over a specific sin and offer other sinners an example of a prayer for forgiveness.

Let us imagine that Psalm 38 accompanies David’s penitential offering after the prophet Gad’s reproof. David says, “Let me fall into the hands of God, not man.” The wounds of a friend, he knows, bring healing, no matter how much they hurt. David is a warrior who has seen, and probably inflicted, the most horrific slaughter of enemy troops, has probably been wounded himself on several occasions. He uses battlefield images to describe his spiritual wounds: God’s arrows have sunk deep into his body. His flesh is weak, his bones are broken. Sin is a burden too heavy to carry. His wounds ooze infection. He roars in pain, he groans. He stumbles, panting in exhaustion.

The most terrible experience is that his friends, lifelong companions in the battle, stand back, disgusted by his actions. His true friends will forgive him, as God does. But his enemies use this occasion to cast reproach on David and his God. Micah 7:8 and Proverbs 24:17 echo David’s anguish. Proverbs 24:16 gives hope. The just man rises when he falls because God’s judgment is an act of grace, a means of salvation since it brings the sinner to repentance.

Prayer: Father, You have witnessed my sin and wounded my heart with conviction, the faithful wounds of a Friend. I do not need to plead for compassion, for in compassion you have arrested me in my course. In mercy, remind me often that when I trust my own opinion and follow my own whims, I dishonor You and bring disaster after disaster upon myself. Hold me fast. I cannot myself hold on. Amen.

Helen Pyke
Retired Professor
Southern Adventist University