Psalm 51: Repentance

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem; then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Psalms 51:1‭-‬19 ESV

David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah. There was no provision in the law of God for atonement of sins of such magnitude. So David pleaded God’s mercy and love.

He knew he couldn’t sacrifice an animal to make everything okay. He needed God to act on his behalf. His transgressions called for his death: he needed God to blot out the call for his death.

David was spiritually filthy. He needed washing clean. He knew that ultimately it was against God that he had sinned. He knew he deserved death.

We get much of our understanding of original sin from David’s statement that he was conceived in iniquity. David wasn’t a good person who did some bad things. He was a bad person, that’s why he did bad, and that’s why we’re all bad.

David had a relationship with God which had been damaged by his sins. He longed for a restoration to closeness of relationship. He knew ultimately it was up to God to forgive him and reconcile Himself to him.

If we’re born again of the Holy Spirit, God will never remove Him from us. But if we sin against Him, we can lose our assurance of salvation and our joy in it. If that happens, we need God to restore them to us.

David wanted to be restored to a right relationship with God not just so that he could feel good about himself, but so that he might teach his fellow sinners God’s ways, and model repentance and returning to Him. God graciously answered his prayer. But the consequences of his sins remained in the chaos of his family life. God might free us from the penalty of sin, but we still have to live with the fallout from our rebellion against Him.

We need to be consciously broken by our sins in order for God to heal us. We might delude ourselves that we’re not broken, but we’re all broken by our sins. We need God to put our pieces together again.

David wasn’t just about “Jesus and me”. Having been restored by God’s infinite mercy and grace, he wanted his people to be similarly blessed. God knows we don’t deserve His goodness, but thankfully He delights to restore us to Himself in His great, unfailing love.

“Oh God, we plead Your mercy in our lives. We know we deserve Your condemnation. But we plead the blood of Christ, shed on our behalf. Please continue Your work of salvation on our lives we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen”

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