The Acknowledgment of Sin
2 Samuel 12:13
And David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said to David, The LORD also has put away your sin…

And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.

1. The words of the prophet were a decisive test of the character of David. Had he treated the messenger and his message as others have done (1 Samuel 15:12-21; 1 Kings 13:4; 1 Kings 21:20; 1 Kings 22:8; Jeremiah 36:23; Luke 3:10; Acts 24:25), his partial blindness to his sin would have become total, and he would have fallen to a still lower depth, perhaps never to rise again. But his genuine piety, as well as the exceeding grace of God (2 Samuel 7:15), ensured a better issue; and the confidence in his recovery, which Nathan probably felt in coming to him, was fully justified.

2. Hardly was the sentence pronounced, "Thou art the man!" before the long repressed confession broke from his lips (1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 15:24-31), "I am the man! Who says this of me? Yet - God knows all - yes, I am the man. I have sinned against the Lord."

"Never so fast, in silent April shower,
Flushed into green the dry and leafless bower,
As Israel's crowned mourner felt
The dull hard stone within him melt"

(Keble.) The ruling principle of his nature was like a spring of water which, though choked and buried beneath a heap of rubbish, at length finds its way again to the surface. "The fundamental trait in David's character is a deep and tender susceptibility, which, although even for a time it may yield to lust or the pressure of the world, yet always quickly rises again in repentance and faith" ('Old Test. Hist. of Redemption'). "If in this matter Nathan shows himself great, David is no less so. The cutting truth of the prophetic word shakes him out of the hollow passion in which he has lived since first he saw this woman, and rouses him again to the consciousness of his better self. His greatness, however, is shown in the fact that, king as he was, he soon humbled himself, like the lowliest, before the higher truth; and, although his penitence was as deep and sincere as possible, it did not cause him either to lose his dignity or to forget his royal duties" (Ewald).

3. There is no part of his life for the proper understanding of which it is so necessary to read the history in connection with what he himself has written - "the songs of sore repentance," which he "sang in sorrowful mood" (Dante). Psalm 51. (see inscription), 'The prayer of the penitent;' the germ of which lay in this confession, but which was composed after the utterance of the word, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin;" for "the promise of forgiveness did not take immediate possession of his soul, but simply kept him from despair at first, and gave him strength to attain to a thorough knowledge of his guilt through prayer and supplication, and to pray for its entire removal that the heart might be renewed and fortified through the Holy Ghost" (Keil). "It is a generally acknowledged experience that there is often a great gulf between the objective word of forgiveness, presented from without, and its subjective appropriation by man, which hesitating conscience is unable to bridge without great struggles" (Tholuck). Psalm 32., 'The blessedness of forgiveness;' written subsequently. Other psalms have been sometimes associated with his confession, viz. Psalm 6., 38.; three others, viz. Psalm 102., 130., 143., make up "the seven penitential psalms."

4. David is here set before us as "the model and ideal of and the encouragement to true penitence." Consider his acknowledgment of sin as to -

I. ITS MATTER; or the conviction, contrition, change of mind and will, which is expressed. For words alone are not properly confession in the view of him who "looketh at the heart." Having, by means of the prophetic word, been led to enter into himself (Luke 15:17), and had his sin brought to remembrance ("the twin-brother of repentance"), its aggravation described and its punishment declared, he not only recognizes the fact of his sin; but also:

1. Looks at it as committed against the Lord; the living God, the Holy One of Israel; and not simply against man. "Thou hast despised me" (ver. 10). "For my transgressions do I know, And my sin is ever before me. Against thee only have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thine eyes," etc. (Psalm 51:3, 4.)

2. Takes the blame of it entirely to himself, as individually responsible, inexcusable, and guilty; thus accepting the judgment of conscience, without indulging vain and misleading thoughts.

3. Feels sorrow, shame, and self-condemnation on account of its nature and enormity; transgression, iniquity, sin (Psalm 32:1, 2); rebellion against the supreme King, disobedience to his Law; debt, pollution, guile, leprosy, bloodguiltiness (Psalm 51:14). He expresses no fear of consequences, and deprecates them only in so far as they include separation from God and loss of the blessings of his fellowship.

4. Puts it away from him with aversion and hatred, and purposes to forsake it completely (Proverbs 28:13); which confession implies and testifies.

"For mine iniquity will I confess;
I will be sorry for my sin."

(Psalm 38:18.)

II. ITS MANNER; or the evidence afforded of its sincerity by the language employed and the attendant circumstances. Observe:

1. Its promptness, readiness, and spontaneity. As soon as he became fully alive to his sin, he said, "I will confess my transgressions unto Jehovah" (Psalm 32:5).

2. Its brevity. Two words only: "I-have-sinned against-Jehovah." "There is in the Bible no confession so unconditional, no expression of repentance so short, but also none so thoroughly true" (Disselhoff). "Saul confessed his sin more largely, less effectually. God cares not for phrases, but for affections" (Hall).

3. Its frankness and fulness, without prevarication or extenuation. "The plain and simple confession, 'I have sinned against God,' is a great thing, if we remember how rich the corrupt heart is in the discovery of excuses and apparent justification, and that the king was assailed by one of his subjects with hard, unsparing rebuke" (Hengstenberg).

4. Its publicity. He had sought, to hide his sin, but he did not seek to hide his penitence. He would have it set "in the sight of this sun," even as his chastisement would be; in order that the ways of God might be justified before men, and the evil effects of transgression upon them in some measure repaired. It is for this purpose, among others, that confession is made a condition of forgiveness (Job 33:27, 28; 1 John 1:9). "The necessity of confession (to God) arises from the load of unacknowledged guilt. By confession we sever ourselves from our sin and we disown it. Confession relieves by giving a sense of honesty. So long as we retain sin unconfessed, we are conscious of a secret insincerity" (F.W. Robertson, vol. 5.).

III. ITS ACCOMPANIMENT; or the further thoughts, feelings, and purposes which should be present in every ponitential confession.

1. Faith in the "loving kindness and tender mercies" of God (Psalm 51:1).

"But with thee is forgiveness,
That thou mayest be feared."

(Psalm 130:4, 7.)

2. Prayer for pardon, purity, the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 16:4-13); steadfastness, freedom, joy, and salvation (Psalm 51:7-12).

3. Submission to the will of God (Psalm 32:9; Psalm 38:13).

4. Consecration to his service (Psalm 51:13-17). "They were not many words which he spoke, but in them he owned two realities - sin and God. But to own them in their true meaning - sin as against God, and God as the Holy One, and yet God as merciful and gracious - was to return to the way of peace. Lower than this penitence could not descend, higher than this faith could not rise; and God was Jehovah, and David's sin was put away" (Edersheim). "It was not his sin, but his struggle with sin, which makes his history remarkable" (D. Macleod). "David experienced in a greater degree than any other Old Testament character the restlessness and desolation of a soul burdened with the consciousness of guilt, the desire for reconciliation with God, the struggle after purity and renovation of heart, the joy of fellowship, the heroic, the all-conquering power of confidence in God, the ardent love of a gracious heart for God; and has given in his psalms the imperishable testimony as to what is the fruit of the Law and what the fruit of the Spirit in man" (Oehler, 'Theology of the Old Test.,' 2:159). "The charm of his great name is broken. Our reverence for David is shaken, not destroyed. He is not what he was before; but he is far nobler and greater than many a just man who never fell and never repented. He is far more closely bound up with the sympathies of mankind than if he had never fallen" (Stanley). Even Bayle is constrained to say, "His amour with the wife of Uriah and the order he gave to destroy her husband are two most enormous crimes. But he was so grieved for them, and expiated them by so admirable a repentance, that this is not the passage in his life wherein he contributes the least to the instruction and edification of the faithful. We therein learn the frailty of saints, and it is a precept of vigilance; we therein learn in what manner we ought to lament our sins, and it is an excellent model." - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

WEB: David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against Yahweh." Nathan said to David, "Yahweh also has put away your sin. You will not die.

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