Reading: Psalm 51:1-9
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity (NIV).*
January cold — photo by David Kitz
Psalm 51 is the great repentance psalm. Nothing matches the deep contrition expressed here by David. There can be little doubt David was truly remorseful for what he had done. He says it with words, but according to the Scriptures, his actions which followed also revealed a repentant heart. There is no blame shifting here; David takes full responsibility for his actions. Hear his humble plea: For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
When Saul and Jonathan were slain in battle by the Philistines, David composed this lament. “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places! How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19 NRSV). David might well have sung this lament for himself. Here he was the vaunted King of Israel, the LORD’s anointed, and he had a fellow soldier murdered to cover up the adulterous affair he was having with this loyal soldier’s wife. This was the conduct of David—the man of God! Yes. “How the mighty have fallen!”
The amazing part of this story is not David’s sin or the depths of his depravity. The amazing part is that he repented—earnestly repented. In our day leader after leader has been caught red-handed in unscrupulous practices. But do they repent? Do they come clean and change their ways? Not likely. Most often they continue in denial. Those with absolute power continue to govern ruthlessly. Nathan, the prophet, was fortunate King David heard the voice of God speaking through a human vessel. David was quick to humble himself and repent. How do you respond when confronted with your sin?
Response: LORD God, I want to be like David—quick to acknowledge my sin and repent. Grant me a soft heart—a sensitive heart—a repentant heart in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: How do respond when confronted with your sin? How can we maintain a repentant heart before God? What hinders repentance?
* NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, COPYRIGHT ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 BY BIBLICA
Volume I of Psalms 365: Develop a Life of Worship and Prayer has won the 2021 Best Book of the Year Award. For those who love God’s word, it is an ideal devotional to start you off in the New Year. For a closer look at Volumes II and III click here.