Let’s look closer at Psalm 51. This psalm is a special psalm because it is one of the few that actually gives us the context in the heading. If you look at the heading it says,”A psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” David had an affair with Bathsheba, he was confronted about his sin by Nathan, and when he realized his sin, David was broken over it. This psalm is a product of his remorse and confession.
One thing that is true about sin, is that you rely on the character of the one you have sinned against to offer forgiveness. Think about it. If you offend or hurt your spouse or parent, I cannot step in and say, “you are forgiven.” No, your spouse or parent would be like…”thats not up to you, they offended ME.” And you would not be forgiven until your spouse or parent chose to do so.
You see, our sin is an offense against a Holy God. David recognizes this and says it in verse 4, “Against you, you only have I sinned.”
So what David does is, he calls upon the character of God for forgiveness in verse 1. He says, “have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy.”
You must realize that God is Holy, merciful, and loving, and He is also just! This means that there is judgment for our sin unless God chooses to forgive us. In His love and mercy, God chooses to forgive us. That is exactly what He has chosen to do through faith in His son Jesus Christ. In His love and Mercy God offered His son as a sacrifice for our our sin, to wash us and cleanse us of all of our transgressions (verses 2, 7, 14).
When we trust Jesus as our savior, He then gives us a clean heart and His spirit lives within us (verse 10). You see, God is not pleased by our good works; our good works do not wash us clean from sin. David says this in verse 16, “for you do not delight in sacrifice or I would give it, you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.” God is more pleased with a heart that is broken over sin, repentant of sin, and trusting in the forgiveness of His son, Jesus.
You may say, well I don’t really need forgiveness or salvation like David, because I haven’t had an affair, nor have I murdered anyone. But, David points out to us that we are all born in sin. Look at verse 5, he says, “behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We are all born in sin and in need of forgiveness, otherwise Jesus’ death on the cross would be pointless. What would we need salvation from if we are not all guilty of sin?
The cross of Jesus is both God’s righteous judgement of sin and His loving mercy displayed at the same time. All in one moment, God says you are guilty and forgiven! If you would just confess your sin, (like David) and trust in my sacrifice for your sin I will forgive you. This is the beauty of God’s wisdom on display! Doesn’t this truth make you want to praise God (verse 15) and share the good news with others (verse 13)?
Let us as a church be quick to confess our sin to God and trust His loving mercy! Let us ask God to give us clean hearts and renewed spirits that have been washed white as snow and let us live praising God and telling others this good news of forgiveness of sin through faith in Jesus! We could change our culture and our world if we lived in this way!