Psalm 51

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 that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost 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.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

King David had accidentally seen Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop and was immediately smitten. Only one problem. She was married to a man serving in the army. David conspired with the man’s Commanding Officer to have him isolated at a point where the enemy forces were strong. When the enemy attacked, the man was killed and David took the newly widowed Bathsheba as his wife.

How could God permit such a thing and continue to bless David’s reign as King? Certainly not because David reminded God that he’d been born with a sin nature and couldn’t help himself. Nor was it because David promised to be good from then on and to teach people to stop sinning in exchange for his forgiveness. He knew David couldn’t be good and He had other more credible teachers among His people.

God forgave David because David asked Him to. He asked with such profound regret that at one point tradition says he even went into the Holy of Holies, placed his hand on the Ark of the Covenant expecting to be killed. He’d seen that happen to one of his soldiers who had instinctively reached out to keep the Ark from falling off its cart. (1 Chron. 13:7-10) No one but specially designated members of the tribe of Levi could touch the Ark, and that soldier wasn’t one of them. Neither was David.

But God didn’t kill David, He forgave him. It was a dramatic demonstration of His grace and proved that David was correct when he said, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

It’s impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebr. 10:4) They only held the sins in abeyance until the Perfect Sacrifice was made. And then only if the Lord saw sincerity in the heart of the one presenting them. Like everything else with God, it’s not the action but the motive in the heart of the one performing it that counts.

You’ve probably never committed such a great and public sin as David’s. But remember, in the Lord’s eyes there’s no degree of sinfulness. We must understand that all sin is mortal and requires confession from the heart. Confess early and often. Confess sincerely and passionately. Ask the Lord to grant you a willing spirit to sustain you. Then your sacrifices of praise will be offered in righteousness, pleasing to the Lord.