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 my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom o in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out w all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence a or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation c and grant me a willing spirit, d to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, f so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, m and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart p you, God, will not despise. May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, s in burnt offerings t offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
51:1-19 This psalm expresses one of the clearest examples of repentance in all of Scripture. Countless broken sinners have found in these words an exquisite expression of their deeply felt need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. David’s confession has helped people examine excuses, half-hearted repentance, and lack of sorrow over sin that can keep them from experiencing pardon. David’s words also demonstrate the place of hope within confession. Use this psalm as a starting point when dealing with a sense of distance or with guilt that is affecting your relationship with God. It will help you identify and rectify sin in your life through confession and repentance.
51:1-7 David was truly sorry for his adultery with Bathsheba and for murdering her husband to cover it up. He knew that his actions had hurt many people. But because David repented of those sins, God mercifully forgave him. No sin is too great to be forgiven! Do you feel that you could never come close to God because you have done something terrible? God can and will forgive you of any sin. While God forgives us, however, he does not always erase the natural consequences of our sin. David’s life and family were never the same as a result of what he had done (see 2 Samuel 12:1-23 ).
51:4 Although David had sinned with Bathsheba, David said that he had sinned against God. When someone steals, murders, or slanders, it is against someone else—a victim. According to the world’s standards, extramarital sex between two consenting adults is acceptable if nobody gets hurt. But people do get hurt—in David’s case, a man was murdered and a baby died. All sin hurts us and others, but ultimately it offends God because sin in any form is rebellion against God’s way of living. When you are tempted to do wrong, remember that you will be sinning against God. That may help you avoid the danger.
51:10 Because we are born as sinners ( 51:5 ), our natural inclination is to please ourselves rather than God. David followed that inclination when he took another man’s wife. We also follow it when we sin in any way. Like David, we must ask God to cleanse us from within ( 51:7 ), clearing our hearts and spirits for new thoughts and desires. Right conduct can come only from a clean heart and spirit. Ask God to create a pure heart and spirit in you.
51:12 Do you ever feel stagnant in your faith, as though you are just going through the motions? Has sin ever driven a wedge between you and God, making him seem distant? David felt this way. He had sinned with Bathsheba and had just been confronted by Nathan the prophet. In his prayer he cried, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” God wants us to be close to him and to experience his full and complete life. But sin that remains unconfessed makes such intimacy impossible. Confess your sin to God. You may still have to face some earthly consequences, as David did, but God will give back the joy of your relationship with him.
51:13 When God forgives our sin and restores our relationship with him, we want to reach out to others who need this forgiveness and reconciliation. The more you have felt God’s forgiveness, the more you will desire to tell others about it.
51:17 God wants a broken spirit and contrite heart. You can never please God by outward actions—no matter how good—if your inward heart attitude is not right. Are you sorry for your sin? Do you genuinely intend to stop? God is pleased by this kind of humble repentance.
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