King David burned with anger as the prophet Nathan described a terrible injustice. In David’s mind, anyone who would so brazenly take a poor man’s only lamb for himself, despite having flocks and herds of his own, was deserving only one thing—death (II Sam. 12:1-5).
Imagine the shock when the prophet revealed that David himself was the perpetrator (vs. 7)!
Nathan’s shrewd illustration of David’s sin, committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband Uriah killed, caused the king to pass a death sentence. David, by his own admission, deserved to be executed—yet he was not. How he acted when he realized his guilt allowed him to be spared.
David had many notable traits and abilities. He was a warrior, poet, musician, judge and king. In all of these endeavors, the man showed tremendous zeal and passion for God’s Way. Because of this, God will resurrect him to rule over the 12 tribes of Israel in the Millennium (Ezek. 34:23-24; Matt. 19:28).
As a young shepherd boy, David demonstrated absolute faith in God. He recognized it was God who allowed him to slay a lion and a bear to protect his sheep (I Sam. 17:34). At about age 20, God gave him the power to defeat Goliath when all others were afraid (vs. 46-49). David eventually became king of Israel and had many triumphs. God considered him “a man after His own heart” (13:14).
Despite his greatness, David, like all of us, had faults. His sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah were not his only mistakes. Transgressions such as numbering his army (I Chron. 21:1-4) and cutting King Saul’s garment (I Sam. 24:4-5) further reveal his weaknesses.
The aftermath of these errors, however, revealed David’s zealous passion in action as he sought forgiveness and repentance. He understood that God is not focused solely on the outward appearance of a man, but on the heart. God seeks one who is “of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isa. 66:2). Though David deserved death, God spared him because of his repentant attitude.
Repentance is a word many think they understand. Often it is only associated with what one does at baptism. But repentance is much more than this. The simple definition is to make a 180-degree reversal from doing what is wrong toward doing what is right.
David demonstrated what this often misunderstood word is all about. The scriptures provide both inspiring and sobering glimpses into the depth of his repentance.
This Bible study will give a thorough understanding of repentance, highlighting its importance in maintaining a proper relationship with God and building His character. Because the Passover season is approaching, additional questions have been included for you to examine yourself.
To begin, get your Bible, pen and notebook. Be sure to read all Bible references and take notes on what you learn. You can use index cards to jot down important points and scriptures for later reference.
(1) What was David’s response to the sins he committed? Psalm 51:3; 32:5; I Samuel 15:15, 21, 24; 13:11-13.
Though David sinned big, he also repented big. Listen to his heartfelt prayer: “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psa. 51:3). “I acknowledged my sin unto You, and my iniquity have I not hid…” (Psa. 32:5). He described his guilt in vivid detail: “…when I kept silence, my bones waxed old…For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me…” (vs. 3-4).
David admitted his guilt without hesitation. He did not justify his sin or blame it on someone else. Contrast him with Saul who admitted he had sinned but also blamed the people for what he did.
Ask yourself, do I take responsibility for my actions?
(2) Did David point to his good deeds as a way to decrease his guilt? Psalm 51:4; 14:2-3; James 2:10; Isaiah 64:6. Also see Matthew 5:19 and Galatians 5:3.
David understood he was accountable for his actions. He knew that his transgression stood on its own and that God had every right to punish him.
Some wrongly believe that what they perceive to be “good deeds” will somehow justify their bad actions. Mankind is accountable to the whole Law. We are incapable of entirely keeping it without God’s help. Even “our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” meaning we are unable to meet God’s high standards on our own.
Ask yourself, do I attempt to justify my mistakes and make excuses? If the answer is yes, ask yourself why.
(3) Was David grieved by his actions? Psalm 32:3-5; 118:3.
The king felt the agony and grief that can come with transgressing God’s Law. Sin separates mankind from God (Isa. 59:2).
David knew that sin not repented of would result in loss of fellowship with God. The possibility of being cast away from God’s presence, consequently losing His Spirit and the joy of His salvation, was too much for him to bear. He understood, as should we, that real repentance can be a painful process.
Another example of heartfelt repentance can be found in Ezra 10.
Ask yourself, do I grieve over the sin I commit? Am I disappointed when I fall short of what God expects of me?
(4) Did David willfully repeat his sins after he repented of them? Romans 6:1-2.
Once David acknowledged his wrongdoing, he made every effort not to repeat the same mistake. Contrast this with the repentance of Saul. He kept “repenting” of his desire to kill David and yet kept trying to do so! (See I Samuel 19:6-15.) The false repentance of Pharaoh could be added (Ex. 9:27-28, 34; 8:8-10, 15).
Another example of avoiding the same mistake was shown by Joseph’s brothers while in Egypt. Given the opportunity to abandon their younger brother Benjamin as a slave, the brothers decided against it and Judah offered himself instead. This proved they regretted selling Joseph into slavery years earlier. (Read the full story in Genesis 44.)
We occasionally make mistakes and transgress God’s Law. If we repent, God is willing to forgive us. Yet this is not an excuse to willfully commit sin. Paul disapproved of using God’s grace to justify continued sin.
Ask yourself, do I find myself repeating some sins? Have I fully repented of these issues? (If you feel as though you have repented yet are still not able to overcome, you should eagerly seek advice and counsel from the ministry.)
(5) Were there long-term consequences to David’s transgressions? II Samuel 13:10-14, 28-31; I Chronicles 21:14.
Though David was quick to repent and undoubtedly learned lessons, his mistakes were not without lasting effects.
He suffered terrible family trials such as the death of a baby, the violation of his daughter by her half-brother, and the murder of this same brother by another of David’s sons. Punishment went beyond just his family when pestilence killed 70,000 men of Israel because David numbered the nation’s army.
Sin can bring painful, lasting consequences. Facing consequences does not necessarily mean we are not forgiven. We usually reap what we sow. Though we can and should repent when we err, it is best to submit to God and try with all our might to avoid sin in the first place. Nonetheless, there are always lessons to be learned when we fall into temptation and sin. The life of David provides a clear model of repentance in the life of a Christian.
(6) How does the Bible define repentance? II Corinthians 7:9; Psalm 51:4; Isaiah 66:2; Mark 7:9.
According to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, repentance includes compunction, which means regret and implies a reversal of actions. To repent, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “to feel or show that you are sorry for something bad or wrong that you did and that you want to do what is right.”
Put together, repentance involves regret for one’s actions and a commitment to change. Both remorse and making a change are necessary for true repentance. Regret alone is not enough. This is why Paul said: “I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance: for you were made sorry after a godly manner” (II Cor. 7:9).
A truly repentant person is not just sorry for his actions. Beyond this, he desires to correct his behavior. The motive for repentance should not be the removal of consequences but rather to accept responsibility for wrongs. The goal is to be in right standing with God and measure up to His standards—not our own opinions, customs and traditions.
Do you go beyond simply feeling bad when you make a mistake? Do you grieve because of the sin or do you feel bad purely based on the consequences of your transgression?
(7) What role does sorrow or regret play in the repentance process? Psalm 51:5, 17; Acts 2:37; Joel 2:12-13; Job 42:6; Romans 6:1-2.
Sorrow is the first step. Without sorrow there is no repentance. David displayed a “broken and a contrite heart.” The word contrite means “to collapse (physically or mentally)” (Strong’s).
According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online, “A contrite heart is one in which the natural pride and self-sufficiency have been completely humbled by the consciousness of guilt.”
Those who heard Peter preach his sermon on Pentecost were first “pricked in their heart.” The word “pricked” is a weak translation for the Greek word that means to “pierce thoroughly, that is, (figuratively) to agitate violently” (Strong’s). This strong emotion brought with it the motivation to change.
Job, who God declared a righteous man, had to go through severe trials to see himself the way God did. This servant abhorred what he saw, which led him to make a change. Abhor means “to spurn…despise, disdain, (become) loathe (-some)…reject, reprobate…vile person” (Strong’s). Job was disgusted with himself, which spurred him to make lasting change.
A person with a contrite heart knows he deserves God’s wrath. He does not take God’s grace and forgiveness for granted.
(8) What are we to repent of? What is the purpose of the Law? I John 3:4; Romans 5:12; 7:12.
We repent of sin, which “is the transgression of the law.” God’s Law is given to guide man and eventually lead him to eternal life. Without the Law, there would be no knowledge of sin. There must be a standard by which we can examine our behavior. Choosing to break the Law brings unhappiness, misery and, if not repented of, eternal damnation!
(9) Do we all sin? What is the end result of sin? Romans 3:23; Psalm 51:5; I John 1:8-9; Romans 6:23; Luke 22:61-62; Genesis 4:7.
Sin affects every individual. All have transgressed God’s Law at one time or another and will continue to do so. The “wages” or result of sin is death. On the way to this result is much sorrow and misery. Consider the despair Peter felt after rejecting Christ during His illegal trial. Despite our good intentions, sin can overcome us and lead to unhappiness.
As we saw with King David, sin not only affects the sinner directly. It can also affect those around him.
(10) What does repentance have to do with salvation? Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:32; 17:30; 26:20; Luke 13:3, 5.
Repentance is the first vital step towards salvation and everlasting life. Once we see ourselves as God does, it should bring regret. But along with this should come the motivation and ability to change by the power of God’s Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes as a result of obedience. Once God sees our effort in obeying Him, He is willing to give us the help we need.
This process of seeing ourselves as God does when we fall short, being disappointed, then striving to improve is the essence of the character-building process. Repentance allows mankind, who must battle sin for a lifetime, to remain in good standing with God.
(11) How does repentance come? II Timothy 2:25; Romans 2:4, Acts 5:31; 11:18; John 6:44, 65; II Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 2:12.
True repentance, the kind required for salvation, allows us to see ourselves as God does. Just as no man can come to God on his own, we cannot see our true selves without God’s help.
Godly repentance is a gift. God puts in us the ability to see what He sees, the desire to seek change, and the ability to change by the power of His Spirit. Upon true repentance and receiving God’s Spirit, we have a fresh start. We must then fear God and do all we can to avoid willful sin.
(12) How does repentance impact our relationship with God? I Peter 1:16; Isaiah 59:2; Psalm 51:11; Habakkuk 1:13; John 16:33.
God says, “Be you holy, for I am holy.” This means we are to be sacred or separate in our conduct. Sin puts a barrier between mankind and God. Genuine repentance restores our fellowship with the Eternal. It is through much tribulation and the ups and downs of life that we can and must overcome sin.
(13) Is repentance a one-time event? Proverbs 24:16; Matthew 5:48; I John 1:8-9; II Peter 2:20.
Repentance occurs over a lifetime. After being granted the gift of repentance at baptism, we must repeatedly come before God when we fail. We should earnestly ask for His forgiveness and for the strength to overcome. Christian growth is a gradual, lifelong process. Each Passover season, we are to reflect on the reason for Christ’s sacrifice, which includes giving us access to God and the ability to be forgiven.
List changes you have seen in your life as a result of your repentance.
(14) Does repentance require personal sacrifice? Matthew 7:14; I John 2:16; Matthew 18:8-9.
Change is hardly ever easy. True repentance requires a commitment to living God’s Way and avoiding “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”
Are you fully committed to doing what it takes to enter into the kingdom of God—no matter the cost?
King David was a living example of God’s mercy and graciousness toward mankind. Our Father knows the challenges that come with living in the flesh. He knows that lasting change comes from realizing and regretting a mistake. The process should not stop there. We must quickly admit our wrongdoing and approach God for help.
Repentance is not a momentary emotional outburst followed by continuing in and enjoying sin. Real repentance produces the fear of God and makes us see sin as He does. It therefore helps us to do all we can to avoid it.
As we approach Passover, let us thoroughly examine ourselves to see where repentance is needed. Apply all the tools learned from this study to have “a broken and a contrite heart,” which is the sacrifice God desires.