Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. – Psalm 51:14-15 ESV
David was guilty of murder. He had arranged for the death of an innocent man, all in order to justify his taking of that man’s wife. What started out as an act of adultery ended up leading to murder. And David was fully aware of his guiltiness before God. But because he knew of God’s unfailing love and mercy, he asked God to deliver him from the very guilt he deserved. The Hebrew word David uses is natsal and it literally means, “to snatch away.” David was asking God to reach down and rescue him out of the predicament in which he found himself. Like someone who finds himself drowning in a river, David desperately called out to God for deliverance. He couldn’t save himself. David could confess his sin, but he couldn’t do a thing about his guilt. He needed salvation. He required God’s divine intervention and deliverance.
The penalty for David’s two sins of adultery and murder was severe. At best, he deserved alienation from God. At worst, he deserved death. But here he was, begging God for mercy and forgiveness. He was asking God to forgive and deliver him from his well-deserved guilt. In essence, David was asking God to commute his death sentence. The seriousness of David’s situation sometimes escapes us. We are so used to reading this Psalm and so accustomed to viewing God as merciful, loving and always forgiving, that we fail to recognize what David did – that God is holy and obligated by His nature to deal with sin in a just and righteous manner. He cannot ignore or overlook it. To do so would make Him an unjust judge. He also cannot be impartial, treating David differently just because he was a man after His own heart. God loved David, but He was not going to disregard David’s sin. David’s sin deserved death. And while God would spare David’s life, the baby born as a result of David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba would die. The prophet, Nathan, shared with David the judgment of God. “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 ESV). Not only that, Nathan warned David that one of his own sons would end up doing to him what he had done to Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. “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” (2 Samuel 12:11-12 ESV). David would escape death, but he would not escape the discipline of God.
It is most likely that David wrote this psalm after he had received this bad news from Nathan. He knew punishment was coming. He would mourn the death of his young son. But he would also praise God for His loving deliverance of his life. David had deserved death, but he had been allowed to live. He had been allowed to continue serving God as king of Israel. While his actions had forfeited him that right, God had shown him mercy, rescuing him from his guilt and shame. And David would go on to praise God for all He had done. David had promised God that he would “sing aloud of your righteousness” and “declare your praise.” And David would do just that. He would write many more psalms declaring the greatness, goodness, graciousness and glory of God. He would spend years singing of God’s mighty deeds and shouting about God’s unfailing love. David’s life would not be easy. He would see one of his own sons rape his half-sister. He would watch as one of his other sons took revenge by murdering the brother who had committed this act. David’s sin would have long-lasting implications. He would experience God’s forgiveness and deliverance, but he would not escape the consequences of his actions. Our sins, while forgiven by God, still have consequences. Our actions have implications. David was graciously forgiven by God and allowed to live, rather than die as he deserved. But David’s sin would have a ripple effect that impacted the lives of his children. David would have to watch as his infant son died. But immediately after David received the news of his death, the Scriptures tell us, “Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped” (2 Samuel 12:20 ESV). David praised God. He knew that God had been just in all that He had done. David didn’t rail against God. He didn’t become angry and bitter. He knew that God had saved him. He realized that God had delivered him from the guilt of his sin and provided him with life when what he had deserved was death. He had reason to praise God, so he did. He had motivation to be grateful, so he was. In spite of David’s sin, God had been loving, gracious, kind and forgiving. And David was forever grateful.