Our Merciful God (Part 1)
Psalm 51 is believed to have been written by David shortly after Nathan exposed his sin with Bathsheba (cf. II Sam. 11,12). Samuel's account records David's sinful actions and this psalm gives us a better insight into David's actual feelings after his sin. This has to be one of the most heartfelt, moving prayers for forgiveness recorded in the Bible. Remember, this psalm is written by a man after God's own heart (cf. Acts 13:22). There is much we should learn personally from this psalm about how we should approach God. Let us read the psalm in its entirety at this time and then go back and comment upon it verse by verse.
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight--that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For you do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--these, O God, You will not despise.

Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar" (Psa. 51).

In verse 1, David immediately appeals to God's nature ("lovingkindness"), and he uses terminology appropriate for canceling a debt ("blot out my transgressions"). Spiritually-minded people take sin very seriously; they do not casually dismiss it when they know they are guilty. The only proper way to approach God for forgiveness is as a beggar pleading for mercy. The Almighty doesn't owe us forgiveness, and we have no intrinsic claim to it. It should be noted that David is concerned about the removal of guilt, not future consequences that may still have to be suffered. That is the heart of genuine repentance.

"Wash me thoroughly...cleanse me from my sin" (51:2). How dirty does David feel? He wants to be completely cleansed. Do we acknowledge our sins or deny them and make excuses? Do we desire complete cleansing like David did or are we satisfied just convincing ourselves that we're "mostly pure" or at least more pure than our neighbors? Think about it.

We'll pick up in verse 3 in our next lesson.