“Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’” –2 Samuel 12:7
The prophet Nathan gives one of the clearest illustrations of speaking truth to power in the Bible. King David was at the height of his power and popularity. At this height, he abused his position to satiate his lust and caused irreparable harm to the lives of others. God called on the prophet Nathan to address the situation with the king.
Nathan tells David a story about an unjust land owner who steals and slaughters a lamb from one of the poor farmers working his land. David becomes incensed by the unjust story and demands to know the identity of this land owner. Nathan then responds, “You are the man!”
This is the background for Psalm 51.
King David realizes the extent to which he has brought shame upon himself and others and he cries out to God in prayer. Psalm 51 is a deeply personal prayer. Perhaps the voice of David will resonate with your soul. I encourage you to find a space for prayer, center your heart, and read Nan Merrill’s interpretation of Psalm 51 from her book Psalms for Praying.
Have mercy on me, O Gracious One, according to your steadfast love;
According to your abundant kindness forgive me where my thoughts and deeds have hurt others.
Lead me in the paths of justice, guide my steps on paths of peace!
Teach me, that I may know my weaknesses, the shortcomings that bind me, the unloving ways that separate me, that keep me from recognizing your life in me;
For, I keep company with fear, and dwell in the house of ignorance.
Yet, I was brought forth in love and love is my birthright.
You have placed your truth in the inner being;
Therefore, teach me the wisdom of the heart.
Forgive all that binds me in fear that I might radiate love;
Cleanse me that your light might shine in me.
Fell me with gladness; help me to transform weakness into strength.
Look not on my past mistakes but on the aspirations of my heart.
Create in me a clean hart, O Gracious One, and put a new and right spirit within me.