“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.”
Psalm 51:1-6 ESV
In the previous psalm God rebuked His people for their wrong motives in sacrifice and worship. In Psalm 51, we get a glimpse into king David’s repentant heart after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and sent her husband, Uriah, to his death. David shows us an example of genuine sacrifice and true worship in Spirit and in Truth, through his authentic repentance: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)
How does this “broken and contrite heart” look? First and foremost, David realized his own sin. This might seem like an obvious point, but it’s vital that David saw himself by God’s perfect law. Secondly, David turned to God in repentance. He knew that besides the terrible things that he did to both Bathsheba and Uriah, he ultimate sinned against God (“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”). The effects of sinning against God, is that it hurts others.
Consequently, David also knew that the only place where he could find mercy, forgiveness and cleansing from his sin, was with the Lord. Even though David didn’t see Jesus on the cross, he knew God’s promises and covenant with His people. He knew that the Lord God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).
David wouldn’t have said any of this if he didn’t himself feel grieved and heartbroken by his own sin. There is a grief and humiliation that comes simply as a result from being caught out and causes bitterness and self-justification – this is not repentance at all. God sees into our very souls – what we try to hide from others, we cannot hide from Him – He “delight(s) in truth in the inward being”.
In due course, this heartfelt repentance leads to sanctification through the Holy Spirit – God teaches us wisdom in our secret heart. As the Holy Spirit helps us to “put to death the deed of the body” (Romans 8:13), we are being conformed to the image of Jesus.
Questions for reflection: When is the last time you confessed and repented of your everyday sins to God? Are there any hidden sins that you justify yourself for? Do you take your sin as seriously as God does?
Pray together with king David:
“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.”