The concept of repentance may be easy enough to understand, but not so easy to do
3 min read
David now mustered the men who were with him…The king told his troops, ‘I am going out with you.’2 Samuel 18:1-2
It may sound odd, but one of the things we can appreciate about David of the Bible is his imperfection. How so? Well, if it weren’t for David’s disastrous lapses of judgment, then folks like us would be at a real loss if and when we find ourselves in the same predicament.
Like David, we all fall down. The details of our sin and its consequence may be different, but we all act out our humanity with regularity. On this side of Heaven, we are prone to mess up and this is why we need someone like David to show us what to do when it happens.
And by God’s grace, David did just that. Rather than disgard David when he failed, God did what he always does with the repentant: He forgave him. It’s a good thing. Some of David’s best work is found in what are called the penitential psalms – Psalm 32 and Psalm 51.
These are the prayers he penned on the other side of his personal failures, after he turned back to God. They are so powerful. These psalms will bless you anytime, but they will be especially helpful when you’ve screwed up and are feeling insecure about how to proceed.
But there’s something else. David also gives a great example of what repentance looks like when we inevitably find ourselves back in that situation again.
Remember what led to David being home that night he hooked up with Bathsheba? He was supposed to be out fighting battles with his men, but instead he gave himself a pass and stayed home:
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. -2 Samuel 11:1
Bad call, David. As we know, the fallout would be devastating.
Yet, as it normally happens, David would be in that same situation down the road, after he got his legs under him again. That is, he would be in a situation where he was presented with the same set of options that he had pre-Bathsheba. Specifically, David would have to decide if he was going to send his men to fight a battle while he stayed back, or if he was going to go with them. Was he going to repeat or was he going to repent? How would he play it?
In one word, differently. When David was rallying his men for an unavoidable showdown with his headstrong son, Absalom, David had a different mindset than before:
And David sent out the army…And the king said to the men, “I myself will also go out with you.” -2 Samuel 18:2
Instead of repeating, David repented. In other words, he had lived, he had learned, and he made an adjustment. And the same opportunity is presented to you and me. Rather than repeating our sins over and over again, the Lord empowers us to do it differently next time.
As it turned out, David’s men would advise him to stay back as a better strategy, but nevertheless, he was willing to do what he needed to do. He was done with the old way.
"Was he going to repeat or was he going to repent?"
In reality, for many of us, it takes several laps – not just one – before we figure out the repentance thing. But at some point, hopefully sooner than later, we have a change of heart that leads to a different way of living. This is the gift of repentance.
Then, when we finally get to experience the life-changing difference it makes, we wish it hadn’t taken so long.
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.