“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.” — Psalm 51:1-4
If we ever wanted proof that we can be real with God, we only need to look to the Psalms to discover every emotion — from anger to fear, frustration and elation — expressed within these written prayers. King David wrote about 75 of the Psalms, one of which he wrote after being caught by Nathan the prophet in the sins of adultery and murder. This was unquestionably David’s darkest hour. (You can read the whole story in 2 Samuel 11-12). Psalm 51 is a personal outpouring from the heart of a broken man. In it, David gets real with God, confesses his sin and pleads for forgiveness.
One commentator called Psalm 51, “The liturgy of a broken heart.” I find it so amazing that God honored the transparent prayer of a broken man caught in great sin. The very presence of this prayer in Scripture affirms that, when David humbled himself, God’s Spirit began to work through him again, and the Holy Spirit inspired David’s journal entry. Do you think you can’t talk to God about your mess? Well, David did, and his confession is now placed in the canon of Scripture. What an encouragement to all of us that we can be real with God.
I want to share seven short applications from Psalm 51, and see what we can learn from the way that David opened up to God in confession:
- David appeals to God on the basis of His character.
“… because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion …” (verse 1)
David begins his prayer by professing to God what he believes to be true about His divine nature and ability. He doesn’t lean on his own ability to fix the mess he’s in, or his own commitment to do better next time. No, David appeals to the goodness of God — His unfailing love and compassion — as his basis for acquittal. In this, David expresses faith in who God is — merciful, loving, faithful and compassionate.
- David acknowledges his sin and experiences Godly sorrow.
“For I recognize my rebellion, it haunts me day and night” (verse 3)
David names his sin. He doesn’t sweep it under the rug. He faces it head on. And he grieves over it. This is significant. We must come to a place where we actually “hate” our sin. We don’t hate ourselves, for we are made in the image of God. Rather, we become intolerant with the very presence of sin in our lives, to the point that we allow God to have full permission to transform us. We become transparent before our God and open to His power to change us.
- David repents for his wrongdoing and asks God to forgive him.
“Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.” (verse 14)
David realizes that ultimately, it is against the Lord that he has sinned, and it is before the Lord that he must plead forgiveness. So David says he is sorry to God, and he asks the only one who is able to forgive him. We must do the same, coming before the Lord Jesus for forgiveness of our offenses. Then, when we are right with God once again, we can seek reconciliation in our relationships with one another.
- David asks for renewal and restoration from God.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (verse 10)
There’s an amazing progression of language in Psalm 51, where David moves from, “wash me, blot out, remove, and purify” to a more generative language of “create, renew and restore me.” David realizes that God not only takes away what is wrong, but our Creator God also makes something new — a new heart, a new will, and a new joy and intimacy with the Lord. We shouldn’t stop our prayers at redemption alone, but pray through for full transformation with Jesus.
- David pleads with God not to remove His presence from him.
“Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.” (verse 11)
David lived during an old covenant season where God’s Spirit came upon particular people at particular times for particular assignments. He saw the hand of God lifted off King Saul’s life. And he knew that there was a very real possibility God’s Spirit could depart from him as well. We, on the other hand, live under a new covenant of God’s grace. The Holy Spirit is given to all who believe in Jesus as a free gift. He will not remove His Spirit from our lives because we have sinned. This is a promise. But we can grieve Holy Spirit. We can get out of step with Holy Spirit. And we can make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to rest on our shoulders with fresh grace. David knew that God’s presence represented His anointing, and he wanted it desperately. And we need God’s anointing on our lives as well. We need God’s presence to give us fresh guidance, revelation and anointing.
- David knows that God looks at the heart.
“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (verse 17)
David had prophetic insight to look beyond a sacrificial system of bulls, rams, lambs and goats, and discerned that ultimately God was concerned with an inward sacrifice of a broken spirit. God isn’t interested in our outward appearances. He’s after our hearts. And He’s attracted to our humility.
- David declares that the value of his restoration is his testimony.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will
teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.” (verse 13)
David picked up on a key Kingdom value — that our vulnerability creates grace for breakthrough in the lives of others. When we reveal our struggles instead of hiding them in cycles of guilt and shame, it creates grace for others to open up. It releases faith in their lives to experience healing as well. We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony! (Revelation 12:11)
Friends, there’s so much grace present for us to get right with God. No matter what we’ve done, David’s story reveals that God is able to forgive and restore us of any wrongdoing. But He cannot remove what we do not reveal to Him. And this requires us to get real with Him. Today, in your First 20, why not spend some time pouring out your own heart to the one who loves you. He’s been waiting for you all along.
Our God hears,