Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:10-12

The Bible, and the whole of church history is filled with people who have committed egregious sins, yet despite these failings, God has used them for good, and as integral parts in His plan for salvation. In this unit, we will meet several figures who have gone from sinner to saint, and we begin with David, the King and Prophet.

One of the first Biblical figures we met when we were children was David. The story of David and Goliath grips the attention of children, probably because it is an action story, and maybe it’s because David was a child himself when he came in from the fields where he was tending sheep, visited his brothers who were soldiers and ended up defeating their nemesis.

David was the youngest of eight brothers. He also had a sister. In 1 Samuel 16, we read how the Lord told Samuel to go and anoint the next king, and to go to the home of Jesse the Bethlehemite and that one of his sons was the chosen one. Jesse presented each of his seven sons to Samuel and each time the Lord told Samuel that this was not the one. Finally, he asked Jesse if these seven were all of his sons. And Jesse said there was one more who was out tending sheep. Samuel asked that this one be brought. It was David and he was the one anointed king by Samuel.

David became a mighty king, respected and feared. He had power. He united all twelve of the tribes of Israel. He is also a quiet man at times who delights in playing the harp. And like all of us, he is a sinful man. Not content with a wife and children, his eyes wandered to the wife of his friend Uriah, a woman named Bathsheba. While Uriah was away fighting in the army, David committed adultery with Bathsheba. When he found out she was pregnant, he arranged to have Uriah moved to the front lines where he was killed in battle. Now David had committed murder on top of adultery.

In 2 Samuel 12:1-7, we read the story of Nathan the prophet visiting David:

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man.”

Nathan went on to tell David the things that God would cause to befall him because of his sin, and because of his ingratitude for all that God had blessed him with, including the death of the child that Bathsheba was pregnant with. Then David, crying out from the depths of his soul, wrote the 51st Psalm and these words:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Because David realized that only God could create in him a clean heart and give him a new and correct spirit. David went on to write 150 Psalms, capturing all of his emotions, his triumphs, his sorrows, his witnessing of God’s glory and the depth of his sinfulness. David had another son by Bathsheba, whose name was Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man who had ever lived, and he also committed major sins.

In Matthew 1:1-17, we read of the genealogy of Christ. In Matthew 1:1, we read three names: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  In Matthew 1:6, we read that David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah. This is significant for two reasons—David and Solomon are two of the generations in the direct line from Abraham to Christ. And there is an acknowledgement that Solomon was the son of the union of David with Bathsheba, in other words, of a sinful union. It just goes to show that God works even through our sinfulness, because centuries later, as the story is told of the lineage of Christ, it passes through David and Bathsheba.

Bethlehem was the city where David was born. And it is also the city where the Incarnation happened. The angels told the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” David is mentioned more than 1,000 times in the Bible. Many of them are in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Additionally, many of them are in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and David is mentioned fifty-five times in the New Testament. He is a major figure of the Old Testament.

At the end of David’s life, we see a man who is sorrowful for his sins, but who has a renewed faith in the Lord. In 1 Kings 2:1-4, we read,

When David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and keeping His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may establish His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel.”

In the end, David got it right. And that’s what matters most to God. We will meet several people in this unit who got it right at the end after taking some pretty serious missteps along the way.

Have mercy on Me, O God. Have mercy on me.
I fall down, Jesus, at Your feet; I have sinned against You, be merciful to me. Take from me the heavy yoke of sin, and in Your compassion, O God, accept me in repentance. (Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode One, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

We will all make mistakes. It’s how we learn from those mistakes that matters. And when we’ve fallen so far that we think we can’t get up or are unworthy to get up, it is important to remember the words of David in Psalm 50/51, that only God can create in us a clean heart and a renewed spirit, and He CAN do this for us if we are willing to work in concert with Him.