I'm reading through the Book of Psalms again and my psalm today is Psalm 51. This is a psalm of David written after the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery and murder. I want to highlight a few of the lines of this amazing psalm of confession and a plea for mercy.
"Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from sin." Psalm 51:1
I love how David begins his plea for mercy because it is so Gospel. David pleas for God to have mercy NOT because of David's goodness or David's being super sorry or David's future promises of good deeds but because of God's character. Our only hope for forgiveness is God's unfailing love and compassion. We see these two attributes of God very clearly in Jesus' death on the cross for our sins.
"Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight." Psalm 5:1:4a
What on earth does David mean? Against only God has he sinned? Didn't he have Uriah killed after he impregnated Uriah's wife? I think David sinned against Uriah. And what about Bathsheba who had little to no choice about whether or not to sleep with King David? Didn't David sin against her?
This line of the psalm does not mean that our sins don't hurt other people. Sin always has consequences that affect others because we do not live in a vacuum. What this line highlights is that every sin is directly against God. Every single sin is a directly rebellious act against God. In fact, every single sin directly hurt Jesus as He took every single one upon Himself at the cross.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:10-12
Christians of a certain age have a Keith Green song stuck in their head right now (some of you will get this and some will click on the link and wonder who that bearded man is).
I love these verses because, again, they are so Gospel. The only hope we have of obtaining a pure heart is God creating one. Ezekiel 36:26 says that God will give us a new heart and a new spirit. We are inherently sinful, from conception says Psalm 51:5, and we need a renewed heart and spirit. When we are convicted of sin, like David was, we are powerfully reminded of that fact. The Gospel promises what David cried out for.
Those of us who have already been justified by God can related to these verses as well. How many of us have wanted the joy of our salvation to be restored. When we are convicted of sin we are reminded of how we want and need that fervor for God like we had at conversion. We're reminded that we need to remember the joy of our salvation to push forward toward sanctification.
"You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:16-17
Did God command sacrifices? Yes. Was David saying that God didn't want sacrifices and offerings? No. What David is highlighting here is that outward actions are not what God is after. In the psalm prior, Psalm 50, God said that He had no need for sacrifices or offerings because all the animals and all the wealth of the world is His already. Rather, God is looking for us to be truly sorry for our sin. He wants for us the "sorrow that leads to repentance" (2 Corinthians 2:10). What is happening inside us is what God is after. He wants to renew us from the inside out.
So, take time to read Psalm 51 and do your own confessing and thank God that He offers full forgiveness to us through Jesus Christ today.