Psalm 51:3 - "For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." One may flee from many things, but his sins go with him wherever he goes! There is no real joy or lasting gladness in sinful indulgences. The pleasure of sin only lasts for a short time and is often followed by enduring pain and trouble (cf. Heb. 11:25). Although it takes two to commit the sin of adultery, David is not concerned about Bathsheba's guilt. He is focused on his own sin. He could have tried to justify himself (e.g., "She was the one publicly exposing herself" or "She was just asking for trouble showing off her body like that", etc.). But David didn't shift the blame or make excuses. His conscience was pricking him continuously, and he confesses his sin to God. We must do the same.
David, in verse 4, states that his sin was only against God. Literally, this is not true. He certainly sinned against Uriah (cf. Exo. 20:13-17), but in an absolute sense all sin is against God and must be forgiven by Him. Furthermore, at this point there is nothing David can do to make restitution to the late Uriah. He is praying to God and is focused on his guilt before the LORD. David knows that God is just in whatever judgment He renders. All mortals sin against God (cf. Rom. 3:23). The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:23ff, clearly shows the extent of our sins against Almighty God in comparison with our sins against each other.
David speaks in Psalm 51:5 - "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity." This verse has long been misused to teach the false doctrine of "Total Hereditary Depravity." Babies are not born in sin and David is not stating such here (cf. Eze. 18:20; Matt. 19:14). He does not mean that he was literally born in sin anymore than he means that God has literally broken his bones (cf. 51:8). Psalm 58:3 says that "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies." Now certainly David does not believe that the wicked are able to speak as infants. He is merely emphasizing the fact that they grow corrupt very quickly, almost from the day they are born (cf. Gen. 8:21). He is speaking poetically in both passages. Thus, the proper interpretation of Psalm 51:5 (that does not contradict the Bible elsewhere) is simply this: David is in dark despair over his sin and he is admitting that he has never really been any good, even from the day of his birth! To read anything more into this statement is poor interpretation.
David knows (verse 6) that God wants the inner man to be converted (i.e., one's spirit and attitude), and that's what David desires, too.
"Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psa. 51:7; cf. Isa. 1:18; Rev. 7:14). David is aware of the power of God's forgiving nature.
"Make me hear joy and gladness" (Psa. 51:8). David wants to know that his wrongdoing has been taken away (cf. Isa. 59:1,2). Until then he will continue to feel like a broken man. None of us can be whole without God's forgiveness.
The parallelism in verse 9 is intriguing. I believe David is saying that for God to blot out David's sins is for God to hide His face from them. As an omniscient being, God cannot absolutely forget anything. When He washes away any sin, He still remembers the offense but He chooses not to bring it up again or hold it against the person. So, in that sense, it is gone forever, forgotten; He has hidden His face from it. Our forgiveness toward others should be the same way.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (51:10). David views himself as so wicked that he needs to be created anew. He wants a new heart that is clean, not a defiled one like he has now. He wants to be strong, not wavering back and forth between righteousness and unrighteousness (cf. I Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:9). This is a good prayer for all.
David's appeal in verse 11 is that he can have a proper relationship with God again. He prays that the sin will be removed so God's presence will not leave him. I am not convinced this is a reference to his divine inspiration as a writer.
We'll pick up in verse 12 in our next lesson.