1 Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. 2 Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. 5 Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. 6 Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. 9 Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt. 10 God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You. 14 Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 15 Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. 16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart. 18 In Your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper; build the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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Psalm 51 is a beautiful passage of Scripture where we get to listen in on an honest and vulnerable prayer from “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), King David. Remember the story of David and Bathsheba? If not, here’s a quick refresher. The complete story is found in 2nd Samuel 11-12.
While David was looking over the city from his balcony, he noticed a beautiful young woman who was taking a bath on the roof. David was intrigued. He was told her name was Bathsheba and she was married to a man named Uriah. The fact that she was married should have stopped David from inquiring any farther, but it didn’t. So he sent some men for her and eventually invited her into his bedroom. They slept together. Then the unthinkable happened. Bathsheba became pregnant with David’s child.
David knew he had done something wrong, so he did what many of us try when we do something wrong. He tried to cover it up. He sent for Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband), who was a soldier on the battlefield and asked him to come home for a short stay. David thought that since Uriah was home from being in battle for a while, he would see his wife, sleep with her and then they could make the pregnancy look like it was Uriah’s child instead of David’s. It didn’t work though. Uriah wouldn’t go home because he said it wasn’t fair to the rest of the soldiers who were out in battle. David’s plan failed.
Good kings always have a backup plan though, so David told his commander Joab to put Uriah on the front lines where the battle was the fiercest. David knew Uriah would be killed. Joab did as David requested and Uriah died. The Bible says David had committed evil in the sight of God (2 Samuel 11:27), so God sent Nathan to confront David in a very clever way.
Nathan tells David a story about two men. One was a rich man who had a lot of livestock and the other was a poor man who only had one lamb. The rich man had a guest at his house and didn’t want to kill any of his animals to prepare a meal, so he killed the poor man’s lamb and prepared the meal. David was infuriated at the rich man. Then Nathan says the words that must have felt like a ton of bricks on David’s chest.
“King David, you are that man. You took Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba.”
God’s judgment came upon David. David eventually repented of his sins. That brings us to Psalm 51. If you want to hear a heart that is truly asking for forgiveness, that truly seeks repentance, that truly confesses its shortcomings, I believe you’ll find it in this Psalm.
I hear it said often that confession isn’t a time to beat yourself up, but it’s time to agree with God that you have sinned and fallen short of His standards.
Is there something you need to confess to God? Is there something you need to repent of?
If so, make Psalm 51:1-2 your prayer today. It might sound as simple as this.
Lord, be gracious to me.
Wash away my guilt.
Cleanse me of my sin.
- Memorize Psalm 51:1-2. There is nothing like the steady ground of Scripture when it comes to voicing your prayers.
- Make confession a regular occurrence in your life. Remember confession is agreeing with God that you have sinned.
- Live as though you have been forgiven. If you have confessed, repented and been forgiven of your sins, then there’s no need to live in the daily condemnation of those sins. If God has forgiven you, let it go and move on.