As David discovered, it is often harder to deal with one’s own betrayal and failure, than forgiving another’s vindictiveness and treachery. A soul that is burdened by guilt and shame feels dirty, depressed, down and deserted by God. But God is forever ready to forgive and restore.
Psalms 51:1-19 – A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had sinned sexually with Bathsheba and orchestrated the death of her husband Uriah.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
- Describe David’s emotional state in writing this Psalm. (v8-14)
- Look at verses 1-2.
- What is David’s chief motive(s) for this prayer?
- How does David know God to be, and on what basis does David approach God?
- What does David want from God? (v7-14)
- What does God want from David? (v17)
- Who was involved in this sin of David? (see the heading of the Psalm before verse 1). But against whom does David say he sinned? (v4) Why does he write that?
- What is the root cause of David’s sinful acts? (v5)
- What is the David’s hope to overcome his sinfulness? (v6)
Personal reflection and Prayer
David’s conscience constantly convicted him of his lust and betrayal of his marital vows to his wife, his leadership entrustment for Uriah, his kingship entrusted by God and his devotion to his Lord. In his guilt-ridden state he felt dirty, depressed, down and deserted by God. But he knew God to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15) and humbled himself before God who hears.
- Try to imagine yourself before God after committing adultery and murder. Do you have the same confidence as David that God would show you mercy? Ask God reveal himself as the God of Mercy to you.
- In which way can you identify with David’s betrayal of his wife, his soldiers, his convictions and his God? Have you been there? Speak to God about that. Ask him for “a new spirit” and “truth in the inward parts.”
- Can you presently identify with David’s feeling of guilt and shame before God or others? Follow the pattern of this psalm and pray your own words to God, confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness and a new nature. Pray until you feel the burden of guilt lift.