In this well-known psalm of repentance, David comes clean before God concerning his sin with Bathsheba and his having Uriah killed (read 2 Samuel 11 & 12). The words of David are especially appropriate from another occasion: “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Few passages anywhere in the Bible resonate with such truth and emotion regarding confession of sin. This psalm deals with 12 words that will change anyone’s life. Psalm 51 deals with a king on his knees.
Psalm 51 Deals With 3 Words About Sin. The 3 words are found in the first two verses: “transgressions,” “iniquity,” and “sin.” Each word speaks volumes about the nature of sin as transgressing God’s law, as overt wickedness and as missing the mark and falling short of God’s glory. We cannot take sin lightly and love God greatly! And we also must realize that ultimately – ALL SIN IS AGAINST GOD! (Psalm 51:4).
Psalm 51 Deals With 3 Words About What We Really Need When We Sin. The 3 words, found in verse one in the ESV, are “Have mercy” or “be gracious,” “steadfast love” or “lovingkindness” and “abundant mercy.” Grace is unmerited and is not only undeserved; it is ill-deserved because of sin. Steadfast love is not given due to our worthiness, but despite David’s (and our) unworthiness. Abundant, overflowing mercy is desperately needed because, like David, we too are guilty and stand condemned (Romans 3:10). These words take on even greater meaning as we contemplate the Source of grace, loving kindness and abundant mercy – God Himself (cf. Ephesians 2:4-7).
Psalm 51 Deals With 3 Words About What Is Desired From God. The expressions are “blot out” (vs. 1)’ “wash me thoroughly” and “cleanse me” (vs. 2). What beautiful ways to speak of the need for forgiveness! Sin is a stain that needs to be blotted out, defilement from which to be thoroughly washed and filth from which to be cleansed. No amount of self-effort can cleanse sin.
Psalm 51 Deals With 3 Words That Are Pleas of Genuine Repentance. Note the expressions in verses 10-12. They are “create in me a clean heart” and “renew a right spirit within me” (10), “cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me” (11), and “restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (12). These expressions powerfully convey that sin requires the most radical form of surgery, that iniquity can lead to the loss of God’s presence in one’s life and that the only lasting joy comes from God and His salvation (cf. Hebrews 11:25).
When David penned these words, the Old Testament was far from being completed and the New Testament not even begun, but oh, the view he has of God! David trusts in God, on the basis of His very character, to do something about the awfulness of sin and to provide full cleansing and forgiveness. And as we consider the subject of sin and forgiveness in light of the whole of God’s inspired revelation, all David longed for and more is found in 3 more words – salvation in Christ!