The story of David and Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite is compelling. It almost seems like the kind of thing you’d hear on a soap opera or some kind of crime drama. But here we have it right at the beginning of our Liturgy of the Word today. This reading is teaching us the fact that we all need a Savior. Even the greatest among us is a sinner. David, the Lord’s anointed, the one from whose lineage the Savior was to be born, even his was tragically flawed and needed that very Savior.
We see David’s sin grow in intensity. First he does not go down with his army on the campaign, but instead takes a siesta in his palace. Then he rises and notices Bathsheba. Then he lusts after her. He then sends for her and has relations with her – he may even have raped her, because we are not told how willing a participant Bathsheba was in all this. Finally, when it became apparent that the affair would be known, he has Uriah the Hittite killed in battle to cover up the sin. This is the kind of thing that happens when sin is unconfessed and is allowed to fester.
Today’s Psalm, Psalm 51, was written by David after the Lord convicts him of the sin. He makes a perfect act of contrition: he confesses his sin, asks pardon for his offense, and prays that he would be restored to the rejoicing and gladness that God’s people are promised.
The Kingdom of God is supposed to be like that tiny mustard seed, planted in the garden, that grows to a humongous plant that becomes a refuge for the birds of the air. The way to water and tend that seed is by confessing our sin, allowing God to work his mercy in our lives, and allowing him to restore us to the rejoicing and gladness that we were created for. Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.