Lesson 5

January 27 - February 2

Prayers of Penitence: David

Sabbath Afternoon   January 27

HARRY ORCHARD WAS ONE OF THE MOST NOTORIOUS KILLERS OF HIS TIME. He became involved in the bloody wars between miners and mine operators from 1896 to 1905. The early labor organizations considered themselves to be engaged in social revolution against the "unscrupulous capitalist forces." The labor leaders thought of themselves as the saviors of the downtrodden masses. Under their direction, Orchard blew up trains, mills, and mines to intimidate mine operators, workers, and government agencies and cause a reign of terror. He was especially bitter against Frank Steunenberg, governor of Idaho, for breaking the union's power in that state. On December 30, 1905, he planted a bomb in the snow by the gate of Steunenberg's home so when the gate opened it would explode. The huge blast killed Steunenberg and shook the town of Caldwell. Orchard was arrested and jailed. As he lay in his cell, the terrible scenes of his past life tormented him. He considered suicide, but was appalled at the thought of hellfire. One question haunted him: "Can God forgive a murderer?"

This week's lesson answers that question and tells the rest of Harry Orchard's story.


I.     Sin, Coverup, Exposure (2 Sam. 11; 12).

II.    Remorse and Repentance (Ps. 51:1-5).

III.  Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth (Pss. 32:1-5; 51:1-6).

IV.  Clean! (Ps. 51:7-15).

V.   Reflections on Sinning (Rom. 6:1-4).

MEMORY TEXT: "Have mercy on me, 0 God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions" (Psalm 51:1, NIV).   

Sunday  January 28

SIN, COVERUP, EXPOSURE (2 Sam. 11; 12).

King David was Israel's greatest king-a brave shepherd boy who conquered formidable enemies, extended the boundaries of Israel to their farthest extent, and established Jerusalem as the capital. His psalms have influenced the worship of God's people for three thousand years. He became the ancestor and type of Christ, the Messiah. A series of shameful sins, however, marred David's life.

What temptation led to David's downfall? 2 Sam. 11:1-4.  

Decisions made in the heat of passion are always bad. Why was David vulnerable to temptation just then? Flattery, the subtle allurements of power and luxury, and association with surrounding nations were not tolerated in subjects but went uncondemned in the king and lessened his sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin. "As soon as Satan can separate the soul from God, the only Source of strength, he will seek to arouse the unholy desires of man's carnal nature. The work of the enemy is not abrupt; it is not, at the outset, sudden and startling; it is a secret undermining of the strongholds of principle."—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 717, 718. Satan lures us step by step from God until we are separated from Him—then he springs his trap.

Describe at least two of the strategies David used to cover up his sin. 2 Sam. 11:5-27.

1.  ______________________________________________________________________________

2.  ___________________________________________________________________________  

The coverup was worse than the initial wrong. Sin gripped him like an octopus. As he tried to pull off one tentacle, another fastened itself until he was hopelessly entangled. When he thought he had freed himself, he found that his troubles were just beginning (2 Sam. 11:27; 12:10).

How did the Lord bring David to his senses?  2 Sam. 12:1-14.  

After David's initial sin (lust in his heart), everything spun quickly out of control.  Can you think of other examples in which one sin quickly led to another?  What lesson can we learn regarding even "small" sins?  

Monday  January 29


David wrote Psalm 51 in the anguish of remorse and self-abhorrence. It explores not only the depths of David's guilt but the farthest reaches of salvation (see Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books land II of the Psalms [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1973], p. 189). David gave this prayer to the chief musician to be sung in public worship services; therefore, others could learn from the sad history of his fall (Ps. 51, heading), as well as about the power of God to save even the most wretched of sinners. It's a beautiful commentary on salvation by faith in Christ.

What was the basis of David's plea for mercy? Ps. 51:1; Exod. 34:6, 7.  

As a lover of the Torah—the books of Moses—David knew the character of his God (Ps. 119:97). Perhaps the very words of Exodus 34:6 and 7, detailing the Lord's revelation of His glory (33:18), brought him comfort in his hour of grief. The heart of God cannot resist the plea—"God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" (Luke 18:13).

"There is in this cry no excuse, no apology, no attempt to vindicate, no complaint against the justice of the law that condemned him. In true humility David blames no one but himself."—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 755:1, "Have mercy."

How did David describe the misery of a guilty conscience?

Ps. 51:33  __________________________________________________________________________

Ps. 2:3, 4  _______________________________________________________________________  

In prison, Harry Orchard endured mental agony as he reviewed his past life—the wife and baby girl he had abandoned, the drinking and gambling that had led him deeper into sin, the string of horrible crimes he had committed. He saw one small ray of hope. Maybe God could forgive him. Dr. David Paulson of Hinsdale Sanitarium sent him a little Bible, which Harry read diligently. There he found the story of David's sin and repentance.

However unique the specifics of David's sin, his experience of repentance and forgiveness is universal, at least among those who know the power of the gospel.  How could you use David's story to help someone who feels that he or she is too evil to be forgiven?  

Tuesday  January 30


According to David's prayers of penitence, how can one find relief from guilt?

Ps. 32:5  _______________________________________________________________________

Ps. 51:4  _____________________________________________________________________  

After Nathan confronted David with the enormity of his sin, David made a public confession. He did not attempt to neutralize his sin by dwelling on the good he had done. Instead, he approached God as a sinner from birth (vs. 5), pleading for mercy. He even defended the Lord's severe judgment of his sin (2 Sam. 12:10; Ps. 51:4).

What does God require of the sinner? Ps. 51:6, 7.  

True confession does not excuse sin or blame others. How rare such a virtue is in our day! How many millions are spent on lawyers to find loopholes in the law. How many innocent people are punished while the guilty remain free. How much injustice exists in this world because people do not tell the truth.

Harry Orchard decided to make no attempt to save himself. He would not plea-bargain for a lighter sentence. Neither would he let the labor union with its huge funds hire lawyers to defend him, even when he knew he could have gone free as many of his fellow criminals had done. "I could find absolutely no way out," he wrote, "except through an open, true confession, regardless of consequences, and with not the slightest deviation from, or modification of, the facts."—Harry Orchard: The Man God Made Again (Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1952), p. 103. This resolution to tell the truth enabled him to be consistent through intense cross-examination by lawyers determined to discredit his story. When the famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, asked him what his real motive was in telling about his life of crime, he replied, "I wished to make myself right with God and man, as far as lay within my power."—Orchard, p. 105.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Ps. 51:17, NIV).

What can you do, if anything, to help a person who refuses to confess his or her sins before God or man?  Suppose you find yourself struggling with this problem?  How could prayer help? 

Wednesday  January 31

CLEAN! (Ps. 51:7-15).

What does David's prayer teach us about how to become clean after we sin? What vivid details, or imagery, does David use to describe what he wants God to do?

Ps. 51:1, 2  ______________________________________________________________________

Ps. 51:7, 9  __________________________________________________________________  

David didn't say "Lord, preserve my reputation" as Saul had done (1 Sam. 15:30). He wanted God to transform his corrupt nature.

Blotting out means to erase the record of sin from the books God keeps (see Exod. 32:32, 33). David prayed that God would not count his sins against him in the judgment day (Ps. 32:1, 2).

Purging (cleansing) with hyssop refers to the cleansing of a leper by dipping hyssop in blood and sprinkling it upon the person (Lev. 14:6, 7). The writer of Hebrews identified the sprinkled blood with the blood of Jesus (Heb. 12:24). Also, the Israelites used hyssop branches to sprinkle the lamb's blood on the doorposts of their homes. This kept them safe from death (Exod. 12:22), because it symbolized the righteousness of Christ imputed to them through faith.

Washing white as snow suggests laundering clothes (Isa. 1:18). The result of such intense cleansing is a sparkling white garment.  "'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow' " (Isa. 1:18, NIV).

What did David want beyond having his guilt removed? What kind of power would it take? Ps. 51:10.  

God uses the same power with which He created the world to make a sinner whole. Harry Orchard knew that God had worked a miracle in his life. " 'Before God came into my life. . . I could sit for hours and listen to vulgar, immoral stories, play almost any kind of game, and could scarcely talk without intermingling a string of curses. With the new birth all those old things passed out of my life. . . . They. . . have no attraction for me now.' "—Orchard, pp. 153, 154.

Thursday  February 1


God delights to uplift fallen human beings. He can save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him (Heb. 7:25). No matter how terrible our sin, God can forgive; no matter how badly our lives are damaged, God can repair.

Some of the greatest saints were once despicable sinners-in fact, even after conversion they still struggled. Christ assured the thief on the cross a place in Paradise. Paul the persecutor became the great apostle. John Newton, a pastor and the composer of the hymn "Amazing Grace," wrote his epitaph to read:

"John Newton

Once an Infidel and Libertine,

A Servant of Slaves in Africa,…

By the Rich Mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,

Preserved, Restored, Pardoned

And Appointed to Preach the Faith

He had Long Laboured to Destroy."

—Grace Irwin, Servant of Slaves: A Biographical Novel of John Newton (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1961), p. 433.

George Mueller, a dissolute youth, became a great man of faith and a father to thousands of orphans. Out of his recovery from alcoholism, Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous. The salvation that all these people experienced gave them a ministry to the fallen.

Some people might be tempted to think If God's grace is so abundant, why not sin all the more? Why is this idea wrong? Rom. 6:1-4.  

All of the saints mentioned above regretted their past sin. Furthermore, though God forgives sin, He does not prevent its consequences (Exod. 34:7). David's sin led to the death of four of his sons, caused a civil war, and weakened the moral fiber of the nation. "Though David repented of his sin and was forgiven and accepted by the Lord, he reaped the baleful harvest of the seed he himself had sown."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 723. The pleasures of sin are only "for a season" (Heb. 11:25), while the results are long-lasting and bitter.

A young woman, pregnant out of wedlock, accepts Jesus Christ as her Savior.  How do you help her understand that though her sins are forgiven, the consequences can remain?  Is not part of our ministry as Christians to help people work through these consequences?  

Friday February 2

FURTHER STUDY:  Read Psalm 130. This psalm is another prayer of penitence. It "is the confession of a sinner who in despair cries unto the Lord for forgiveness. He recognizes that if the Lord should deal with him according to his sin, his case would be hopeless. The Lord reveals Himself to this sinner as a pardoning God."-The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 915.

Read "Repentance" and "Confession" in the book Steps to Christ, pp. 23-41.  

"David often triumphed in God, and yet he dwelt much upon his own unworthiness and sinfulness. His conscience was not asleep or dead. 'My sin,' he cried, 'is ever before me.' He did not flatter himself that sin was a matter with which he had nothing to do, and that should not concern him. As he saw the depths of deceit in his heart, he was deeply disgusted with himself, and prayed that God would keep him back by His power from presumptuous sins, and cleanse him from secret faults."—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 1147:3, "A Live Conscience Leads to Confession."

"God intended the history of David's fall to serve as a warning that even those whom He has greatly blessed and favored are not to feel secure and neglect watchfulness and prayer."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 724.

1. What ultimately was the foundation of David's acceptance with God?  Was it his sorrow, his confession, his repentance?  Or was it the righteousness of Christ credited to Him?  
2. Why must our hope of salvation be rooted not in ourselves but in Christ?  
3. Why is David's mention of Jerusalem in Psalm 51:18, 19 an appropriate conclusion to his prayer?  Apply your answer to your personal prayers for forgiveness and how you perhaps should conclude them.  
4. What role does prayer have in confession and in repentance?  

SUMMARY:  David's prayers of penitence teach us that to become right with God we must come to Him as we are, confess our sins, and ask Him to cleanse and recreate us anew. "No one who conceals transgressions will prosper, but one who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy" (Prov. 28:13, NRSV).  

God Gave Her Music

J. H. Zachary

SOLOMON ISLANDS-The happiness of the new parents turned to sorrow when they discovered that their infant daughter was blind. They named her Metol Maki, but people called her Blind Metol Maki.

The little girl did not go to school, but she was a natural leader. When she was a teenager she became the village devil priestess.

Not everyone in the village was a devil worshiper; the village chief had become a Christian. He asked for someone to come and teach his people about God. Beven Stephen, an Adventist lay preacher, answered the call and came to teach the people about Christ. Blind Metol Maki and several others in the village turned from the devil and embraced Christianity.

The new members felt an urgent need for a church in which to worship. They did what they could to make their dream come true. They went into the forest and cut timber and prepared local materials for the walls. But they needed money for the metal roof, for paint and nails, and for the cement floor. How could they raise the funds when they had nothing to sell in the neighboring towns to earn money? Blind Metol Maid wanted to help too, but she wondered what a blind teenager could do to help raise money to build God's house.

Beven Stephen, serving as the lay minister, had listened to Blind Metol Maid sing. He was convinced that God had given her a gift of music, and he encouraged her to learn some Christian songs and make a cassette recording to sell. Her cassette would bless others and raise funds for the church.

She agreed to try and began memorizing some songs. Soon her cassette was ready. The believers each took some to sell, praying that people would buy the recordings that would enable them to build their church. Within a few days the cassettes had all sold. Blind Metol Maid's efforts encouraged other members to work harder for their church. Thrilled by the sales of the cassette, Beven Stephen encouraged Blind Metol Maid to enlarge her repertoire and present a benefit concert in the largest city on the island.

By the time you read this, Blind Metol Maki's mountain village will have a new Adventist church. But even more important, a young woman who was born blind and never attended school is using her talents to encourage others to follow Jesus as their personal Savior.

J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.

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