Mitigation | In law school, while interning at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, I worked on a case where the defendant was accused of having murdered two people – the drug dealer who stole his customers and the man who stole his girlfriend. Since he faced the death penalty, the court bifurcated the process into two parts. In the guilt phase, although he argued his innocence, the jury convicted him. Then, in the sentencing phase, as a mitigating factor, he argued that he felt remorse for the crimes he had committed – crimes that he had argued he had not done.
Regret | Like the defendant, Saul only felt sorry for what he had done when he was about to face the consequences. Once again, David passed over an opportunity to kill Saul and, once again, after David told him about it, Saul expressed remorse. Last time, he said, “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly” . This time, he said, “I have sinned … I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong” . Yet, he did not stop pursuing David. His actions didn’t change because his heart hadn’t.
Repentance | David, however, after expressing remorse to Abigail about his plans to harm Nabal, immediately changed his course of action: “Praise be to the LORD … who has sent you … May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed” . Then, ten days later, when he heard that “the LORD struck Nabal and he died” , David said, “Praise be to the LORD, who has upheld my cause … and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head” .
Beauty | Although sin is ugly, repentance is beautiful. Yet, as Jonathan Edwards wrote, the only way to experience the sorrow of repentance is first to see the delight of God: “Repentance of sin is a sorrow arising from the sight of God’s excellency and mercy” . In other words, the more captured we are by His beauty, the more grieved we are that we do not live more consistently with it.
Prayer | Lord, We long to repent as a response to Your beauty, not as a fearful response to the consequences after we’ve been caught. Give us hearts that are piqued and eyes that are open to Your delight and forgive us when we do not live consistently in it. Amen.