Psalm 51: A Psalm of Sin and Forgiveness

First Off…read Psalm 51!

Our psalm today reflects an emotional plea from someone who gets it. Someone who knows what life is all about. An emotional crying out from a man who is reflecting on a recent past that was full of deceit, lies, adultery, and eventually murder (you can find that here in 2 Sam 11).

A man after our own heart…someone we can all relate to – whether we want to or not. Because, truthfully – we all deceive, we all lie, we all commit adultery with our hearts and our eyes. We murder with our thoughts and feelings…our emotions – our senses.

You…me…none of us are any better than this sinful man, King David.

Psalm 51 is a prayer for cleansing and a realization that true cleansing only happens when we have been forgiven. When we have allowed God in, exposed our sins, truly repented for them, and asked God to intervene – to take over. It is the laying down of our sins that are weighing heavy on us, that which burdens us, and asking God to remove the weight from our chest. Sins and heaviness that hit us from every angle – every day – every hour. It’s not just a, “I have done something bad and I must now repent”….it’s a daily walk. A daily repentance. Because we might as well have a sign on us that says, “Sins Live Here – But Not Welcomed. Forgiveness In Progress.”

Psalms are written in reflection of something real – something personal – but something honest as well. And they are intentionally a-historical. That is, they are applicable then and today –eternally relevant. Composed quite some time ago but still ringing true today. And while we read about David’s thoughts we are then encouraged to reflect upon our own thoughts on the sinful actions WE TOO make. But what’s encouraging is that in this moment of reflection we do not dwell because we are ALSO reminded that we are delivered from those pits.

THAT is what this Psalm is about – and this is what our lives are about. Let me explain.

Everything we do is riddled with sin. It’s who we are. It’s in our nature. Now that is not an excuse and should never be used as a crutch either. And this doesn’t mean that we are to go out and sin freely. What this means is that our festering stink-u-bus of sin must be understood, realized, acknowledged, and addressed because ultimately ALL sins are a direct attack against God – And David realizes it.

In verse 4 he says, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

Even in David’s case where it was adultery and murder…David realizes that all sins are against God. Because the true nature of a sin is an offence against the beauty and perfection of God – against his majesty. This is what David is lamenting about!

Ahhhh…..but it is also what he is thankful for! Because God is able to do something about it.

When we neglect our families or friends or neighbors…anyone…we are breaking the commands of God. When we act on our own impulses, as David did, we are going against God because he deserves our emotions, our thoughts – and he requires us to be holy – to be “set apart.” We are here to love, to serve, to take care of each other…which we cannot completely do. Because my own personal desires and thoughts always get in the way. And it isn’t until we realize that we are in this predicament that we then can realize that we need Christ. That we need a Savior to save us from ourselves and to save us from God’s judgment.

Galatians 5:17“The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” And this is why we have this lament – why David pours out his heart on this rollercoaster of emotions. Psalm 51 is a teeter-totter where we have the extreme sins that he committed – but the extreme love and pardon that he receives from God. It’s an emotional plea that is bordering between this low of reflection and this high of knowing that God can, and will do something about it. David sees his humanness – his mortality…sees everything that makes him a sinner – but also sees everything that is our Father. His love. His forgiving nature. His demands and yet God’s own personal sacrifice he made for David – and you and I.

I like how we read about needing to be “washed thoroughly” and “cleansed”. When we wash things we don’t wash things half-way. It’s not a wash only this side…or leave a stain here, a speck of dirt there. It’s a complete washing. When we take a shower we don’t do so with only washing a leg – we completely bathe. That’s what David is asking for. And this is what David realizes that God can do and that he does do for us. He completely washes anew. God completely forgives. Completely taking away that which makes us dirty (1 Cor 6:11)

I want you to see something else here too. David uses this verb, “have mercy” in verse 1 because this is a prayer to God. A prayer to God to act in accordance with who He is – God’s nature. But it’s also a recognition that David realizes that he does not deserve any forgiveness. That his sins are his own – that he cannot blame anyone else.

We do not deserve God’s forgiveness – but it comes because of God’s grace. A grace given unto us by the love of the Father, the action of the Son, and the continuous work of the Spirit. Thanks be to God!

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