The epigraph at the beginning of Psalm 51 reads, "To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba."
Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, an officer in Davidâ€™s army. King David, who was called a man after Godâ€™s heart, let down his guard and fell into temptation. He defiled Bathsheba, and in order to prevent the scandal from spreading, he had her husband murdered. Yet the eyes of the Lord range throughout the land. He knew what David had done in secret.
God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David with a parable that pointedly paralleled Davidâ€™s sins. When David heard Godâ€™s message, he immediately came to his senses and confessed his sins in humility and penitence. Davidâ€™s humility is shown in a song of repentance that he wrote to give to the director of musicâ€”a song for the encouragement of his people.
Though he carried the dignity of king of a nation, David lost his guard and pursued the fleeting pleasures of sin. He made a horrible mistake that would remain his lifelong regret. David fully understood the damage to his honor as king of Israel. He knew how to lower himself before God and his people. And it was only through his penitence that Godâ€™s forgiveness and restoration could come about. Only through full repentance could Davidâ€™s relationship with God be renewed.
In his story, we see the weakness of human nature in stark contrast with the power of the devil. The journey of faith is an endless struggle. Our enemies are the rulers of the world, and they are also the forces of evil in the spiritual realm. In this spiritual battle, we can be caught up in the lust of the flesh. We may fail to be watchful and therefore stumble. Yet our God is gracious and full of mercy. He understands our weaknesses and will not reproach us or harbor anger against us forever. The sacrifices that God desires are not material, but rather a broken and contrite spirit. These our God will never despise!