King David of Israel has lusted after Bathsheba (the wife of another man), he has taken her from her home into his bedroom, then conspired to murder her husband to cover up the affair (2 Samuel 11:2-17). God’s prophet, Nathan, confronts David about his lust, murder, and deception. And David realizes the horror of his crimes (2 Samuel 12:13). In this psalm, he cries out to God to have mercy on him because he knows God’s love never fails to show compassion (Psalm 51:1).
David wants his sins blotted out, washed away, and cleansed (Psalm 51:1-2).
David sees his sins as, first, crimes against God. He does not dismiss the harm he caused his citizens, but brings their case to the highest court he can (Psalm 51:4). His sins are heinous crimes against humanity, and they are also high treason against the Sovereign God of the universe. Only God can forgive his sins and blot them out of his record.
David confesses that he has been corrupt since conception (Psalm 51:5). He knows that God desires purity at his very core, and he is keenly aware that he is unclean. But David also knows God will provide what he lacks (Psalm 51:6). As a sin-rotted creature David needs God to do what only he can do: make him into a new creation. Only God can create a pure heart, so David asks God to “un-sin” him and make him as clean as a man who had never sinned (Psalm 51:10).
Moreover, David wants to worship God freely with a cleansed conscience. He prays that his crushed bones will dance again (Psalm 51:8). He longs to sing to God and tell other sinners like himself of God’s compassionate dealings with him (Psalm 51:12-13, 15). David begs God not to depart from him (Psalm 51:11). David knows that offering an animal won’t cleanse his conscience. He can only offer his broken heart, but he knows God accepts simple remorse as a worthy sacrifice (Psalm 51:16-17).
Where is the Gospel?
Like David, we’ve all wanted what isn’t ours and conspired to obtain what we think we deserve. Like David, we’ve scandalized the Creator of the universe. Like David, we are sinners down to the core, and we need to be made into new creations but are unable to do so. But we don’t need to fear that kind of honesty about ourselves. The good news is that what is lacking in us, God provides in Jesus.
We need mercy, a pure heart, and a clean conscience. So, in mercy, Jesus goes to a cross. Jesus becomes our sin, but in his death, blots out our sins out of God’s record (2 Corinthians 5:21; Matthew 27:46). In Jesus’ death we’re given a pure heart. But in Jesus’ resurrection, we’re given a new life where we were once rotten to the core (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)! And Jesus is the sacrifice that pleased God and made it possible for sinners like us to approach God with nothing but a broken heart (Hebrews 10:10). Jesus gives us everything David prays God would give him. Jesus cleans our conscience and accepts us completely. Jesus blots out our crimes against God. Jesus’ mercy un-sins our rotten core. Jesus’ sacrifice cleans our conscience.
So like David, cry out to God for mercy. Honestly bring your sins and treason to the highest court of heaven and know that because of Jesus you are forgiven.
See for Yourself
I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see the God who forgives sinners. And may you see Jesus as the sacrifice who cleans you from sin and makes you a new creation.