Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
For I acknowledge my offense;
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned;
and done what is evil in your sight.”
That you may be justified in your sentence,
vindicated when you condemn.
Indeed, in guilt was I born,
and in sin my mother conceived me.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not off from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
(Psalm 51:3-7, 12-13)
51:3–4 In confessing his sin, the psalmist recognizes that he has sinned against God Himself. He acknowledges God’s right to judge him. While his sin may have involved and harmed others, the psalmist is primarily concerned with his offense against God. This fits David’s response when Nathan confronts him about his sin with Bathsheba.
51:5 Behold, in iniquity I was born The psalmist makes no excuses but recognizes that iniquity has been with him since birth. In doing so, he does not condemn his mother or conception; rather, he confesses the extent of his iniquity (Isa 6:5).
51:7 hyssop Israelites used hyssop branches to apply the blood of the Passover lamb to their doorposts (see Exod 12:22 and note). They were also used in other purifying rituals (Lev 14:49–53; Num 19:18–19). I shall be whiter than snow Signifies the complete purity the psalmist wishes for
51:13 I will teach transgressors your ways When restored, the psalmist pledges to teach other sinners about God’s restorative forgiveness. Because of this, they will also turn to God.
Psalm 51 is an individual prayer for help, “Be gracious to me, O God.” The psalm is a prayer made by David after the prophet Nathan had confronted him with his sin in the affair with Bathsheba.
The confession of sin is based on the grace of God. The plea appeals to God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy and is not merely an expression of human remorse or preoccupation with failure and guilt; it looks beyond self to God and lays hold on the marvelous possibilities of God’s grace.
Those who confess their sin know and believe that their life is judged by God. The confession of sin seeks renewal as well as forgiveness, “Create a clean heart for me, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” The synonyms “heart” and “spirit” do not merely designate parts of a person; rather, they stand for that through which the self is expressed. A clean heart would be a mind and will open to God, oriented to God. A steadfast spirit would be a mind and will fixed and steady toward God—ready to praise, true to God’s covenant, and always trusting.
– James Mays
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.