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.

Psalm 51:1-6

What have you done that is most worthy of God’s judgement?  Which of your sins brings you the most shame and guilt?  We see in this passage that David is bringing his sin to God.  After lusting and committing adultery, he tries to cover it up by having Bathsheba’s husband murdered on the battlefield.  The prophet Nathan confronts him of his sin and David falls to his knees in repentance.  He writes this Psalm shortly after begging for the Lord’s forgiveness.  David’s spirit has been crushed by the weight of this sin before God.

He firstly calls for mercy from God.  Instead of promising to turn over a new leaf he throws himself on the mercy of God.  He confesses his weakness in the face of his sin and that God is the one ultimately affected by sin.  Yet this is not just David repenting of the sin of Bathsheba, but of all his sin.  He notes that he was sinful at birth, sinful at conception.  That God desires absolute faithfulness and we cannot measure up.  David sees his treason against God even while in his mother’s womb.  David understands the depths of his sinfulness, and so rightfully throws himself on the mercy of God.

Yet how can God be both merciful and just?  If God judges us as sinful, how can we then appeal to his mercy?  Shouldn’t these both be in opposition?  Throughout the Old Testament these two idea of justice and mercy travel together, yet never fully explained.  It is only at the cross we see these two come together.  At the cross we see God’s mercy and judgement come together.  God’s judgement is poured out on Jesus for treason, while the same act shows mercy to us for our treason.  We, like David, can come to God with confidence that he is the God of mercy.  We can throw ourselves in repentance on the mercy of God, displayed for us at the cross.

Grow Deeper

Read Psalm 51 and notice all the things David asks of God.

What kind of heart does David desire?

Why does David desire to be clean?

It is because of our sinfulness to the core that we need God to work in us an act of recreation.  We need God to clean us and make us pure.


Heavenly Father,

I confess my sin to you.  That even in my mother’s womb I was sinful.  That I desire to make life all about me as David did, as I continue to do.  Lord I thankyou that you are the God of mercy, that at the cross judgement was poured out on Jesus so I could have mercy.  Thankyou that Jesus paid the price for all my treason, for all my sin.

Lord create in me a pure heart.  Wash me and cleanse me.  Help me to stop making life all about me.  Help me to grow a servant heart.

In Jesus name,