What Is Repentance? Gaining Inspiration From the Story of King David
By Shuxun, Italy
Whenever King David is mentioned, my mind conjures up the image of when he was in his teens and, by relying on the strength of Jehovah, he used a slingshot to kill the giant Goliath with a stone. Afterward, he went to war, won many battles and did many heroic deeds. It is also recorded in the Bible, however, that when David became the king of Israel, he had Uriah killed and then took his wife Bathsheba. God’s righteous disposition therefore came upon David and, through the prophet Nathan, God spoke to him, saying, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house; because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (2 Samuel 12:10). King David had sinned, and God had punished him. So why did God thereafter take delight in David and say that David was a man after His own heart? I felt very puzzled by this. In order to figure this out, I sought and prayed to God many times, and I found many verses in the Bible. Through seeking and fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters, I finally found the answer.
King David Truly Repented to God
Only through fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters did I come to understand that, when God said that King David was a man after His own heart, He meant that David’s essence was in accord with God’s will. Although David had committed an impulsive transgression, he was able to truly repent. It is recorded in the Bible that, after King David had sinned, He prayed to God, saying, “Return, O Jehovah, deliver my soul: oh save me for Your mercies’ sake. … all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears” (Psalm 6:4,6). Because of his sin, King David felt deep remorse, and every day he repented and confessed, fasted and prayed before God, and he prayed for God to be merciful. His words spoken in prayer, “all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears,” embody the extent of his remorse and how much he hated himself.
It is also recorded in the Bible: “Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he got no heat. Why his servants said to him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may get heat. So they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel, and found Abishag a Shunammite, and brought her to the king. And the damsel was very fair, and cherished the king, and ministered to him: but the king knew her not” (1 Kings 1:1–4). In his later years, King David was unable to sleep well, so his servants arranged for an incredibly beautiful virgin to help warm his bed, but King David never touched her. From this, we can see that, after David realized his own transgression, he completely repented and was completely changed, so that he would never commit the same sin again. David was no ordinary Israelite; he was the King of Israel, possessed of both status and power. Throughout his entire life, however, he only ever committed that one act of illicit sexual relations, and with him being who he was, in his position, it must have been extremely difficult for him not to commit more transgressions than just this one. This shows that King David had a God-fearing heart. After he was punished by God, he never again dared to treat God’s word with contempt or do anything that might offend God’s disposition, much less did he want to bring shame on God’s name. We can see from King David’s attitude toward his transgression and the degree of his repentance that his illicit sexual relations with Bathsheba were a momentary transgression. His essence, however, was that of a good man and, from antiquity to the present day, it could be said that no king has ever surpassed David.
From the experiences of King David, I came to have some real understanding of God’s righteous disposition. God’s words say, “Regardless of whether God is expressing wrath or mercy and lovingkindness, man’s conduct, behavior and attitude toward God in the depths of his heart dictate that which is expressed through the revelation of God’s disposition” (“God Himself, the Unique II”). God’s righteous disposition is vivid and real. When David took Uriah’s wife and had illicit sexual relations with her, God’s punishment came upon him, and this shows us that God is righteous, holy and tolerant of no offense; when David truly repented of his deeds, God took mercy on him and showed him lenience, and God continued to guide him and be with him.
Comparing myself to King David, I felt so ashamed. King David only committed this one wrong and was then able to repent in such a heartrending way. Furthermore, he never again made the same mistake for as long as he lived. I thought of myself, however, and how I’d believed in the Lord for years and yet lived in a constant state of sin: I did not abandon things, expend myself and toil and work hard for my love of the Lord or to satisfy the Lord, but instead I did it all to gain blessings and get into heaven—it was all me making deals with God. When I worked and preached, I often talked about how much I’d suffered, how busy I’d been and how much work I’d done, all so that my co-workers and my brothers and sisters would hold me in high esteem and look up to me, yet there was no place for God in their heart. Whenever I discussed church work with my co-workers, I always wanted to make them accept my views and, if they didn’t, I would become hot-headed and would argue with them. Sometimes, in order to maintain my prestige and position, I would tell lies and cheat other people. Sometimes, when I saw my co-workers giving better sermons than me, and all the brothers and sisters willing to hear them, I would feel envy in my heart, resentment would rear its ugly head, and I would even judge, belittle and try to exclude them. These are just some examples of my behavior over my time believing in the Lord. After committing a sin, I would pray to the Lord and wish to repent, and sometimes I would even hate myself and cry bitter tears. But whenever I encountered a similar situation again, I would be unable to stop myself from sinning again and rebelling against God; I had been living within a vicious cycle of sinning and confessing that I was unable to escape. Now, I finally realized that my repentance was just words, and that it was not the same as King David’s repentance. Because King David revered and feared God, he was able to truly hate himself from the bottom of his heart, and he used his living reality to prove his repentance. It seemed as though, if I did not possess a heart which fervently desired God, then I would not be able to truly repent to Him and it would then be very hard for me to win His praise. The true repentance of King David was certainly something I had to emulate.
King David’s Lifelong Desire Was to Build a Temple for God
The words King David spoke to the people are recorded in the Bible: “The work is great: for the palace is not for man, but for Jehovah God. Now I have prepared with all my might for the house of my God the gold for things to be made of gold, and the silver for things of silver, and the brass for things of brass, the iron for things of iron, and wood for things of wood; onyx stones, and stones to be set, glistering stones, and of divers colors, and all manner of precious stones, and marble stones in abundance. Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of my own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house” (1 Chronicles 29:1–3). David extolled Jehovah before the people, saying, “Blessed be You, Jehovah God of Israel our Father, for ever and ever” (1 Chronicles 29:10). There is also the psalm written by David, which says: “For the zeal of Your house has eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached You are fallen on me” (Psalm 69:9).
During the Age of Law, God’s work on earth was done to make man come before Him and worship Him. King David was the one who most understood God’s heart and who was most considerate to His will. King David’s lifelong desire was to build a temple for Jehovah, so that the people could come before God and worship Him, and no longer commit sin by worshiping Satan or idols. King David had a heart that both feared and loved God; he was considerate to God’s will, and he was able to treat as urgent that which God treated as urgent and think as God thought. He was also able to pay a real price and was devoted to God. From the Scriptures, we can see that King David put all his heart and strength into preparing everything necessary for the building of the temple, and he offered up all the wealth he had accumulated. Although King David was never able to build this temple during his own lifetime, he exhorted his son Solomon to carry on and achieve his dream that had not been realized while he was alive, and the temple was built at last.
How could God not be delighted in King David, a man who was so considerate to God’s will and who had a place for God in his heart? Take a very sensible child who sees his parents working very hard, for example. In his heart he thinks: “What can I do for my parents to lighten their burden?” With this thought in his head, he begins to do as much as he is capable of doing. And when his parents see that their son is able to show understanding and consideration for them, and that he has taken the initiative to shoulder some of their burden, they will surely feel very gratified. Similarly, God hopes that we can be considerate toward His will, undertake His commissions and dedicate our all for the sake of His work. King David was such a person as this.
Thanks be to God! Through fellowshiping with my brothers and sisters, I found some paths of practice. I silently made a resolution: “I will certainly emulate King David and be someone who fears God, and not intentionally commit any sin or do anything that resists or shames God; when my actions are not after God’s heart, I must pay attention to my own transgressions, truly come before God and repent, and confess my sins to God. I must also focus on seeking the path of repentance and change, and use my living reality to glorify God and bear witness to God. Furthermore, I must have the correct goal to pursue in my faith in God, being that I must rectify my own motives, be considerate to God’s will and spread God’s gospel, so that more people will be brought before God.” Besides this, through seeking and fellowship, I came to understand that God weighs up and assesses a person depending on whether or not their essence is that of a good person, whether or not they truly feel remorse and truly repent whenever they commit a transgression, and whether or not they are someone who can be considerate to God and can love God. We, however, only see people’s external behaviors and expressions, and we do not see their essence. We base our appraisals and judgments of people on our own misconceptions and imaginings, and my own outlook on things had been so preposterous! Whomsoever God takes delight in and whomsoever He detests, God’s will is behind it all. Whenever I encounter this kind of issue again in the future, I shall have a God-fearing heart, I shall seek God’s will more, understand what God requires of us and I shall seek to meet God’s requirements with all my strength!