"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to 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."
First, on the negative side, we can see three clear warnings here in the prayer David directed to his God:
Jehovah is a God who must be obeyed (Psalm 51:2,3).
The Biblical terms "iniquity," "sin," and "transgression" are often understood as synonyms, though there are some meaningful differences between the three words. Iniquity refers to that which is perverted, defiled, or twisted. God has given us a straight line to walk; when we pervert it, defile it, or twist it by changing it, we commit iniquity. We need to learn not to think beyond His word, as I Corinthians 4:6 instructs. To sin is to miss the mark. We miss God's target when we fall short of His expectations or when we go beyond them by doing our own thing and not respecting His authority (cf. Deut. 12:32; Col. 3:17; e.g., Lev. 10:1,2). A transgression is rebellion or trespassing against God. Some have likened it to clenching your fist against God and holding it up in His face. God hates iniquity, sin, and transgression against Him; He expects obedience out of His creation! Turning away from such (as David was endeavoring to do) is a wise course, indeed.
Jehovah is a God of consequences (Psalm 51:7,8).
David had sinned grievously and he would suffer the consequences as II Samuel 12:10ff details. In fact, although forgiven, the negative consequences would haunt him the rest of his life! I find Psalm 51:7,8 intriguing. Therein David is praying for forgiveness, and then he comments upon his bones that God had broken.
Of course, he is not speaking literally of broken bones; he is speaking of the consequences that God promised to bring against David. He and his family would suffer greatly for his sins; they would crush him like broken bones. David could not hide from the consequences of his sins and neither can any today. Yes, we may be able to hide our sins from men, but God sees all! He will visit sinners providentially through the consequences of their decisions (in this life to a certain degree, but especially in the life hereafter). There are other Bible passages that teach this idea: Numbers 32:23 - "Be sure your sin will find you out" and Galatians 6:7 - "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."
Jehovah is a God who will not tolerate impenitence (Psalm 51:17).
God knows we will sin (cf. Rom. 3:23) and He is patient, but His patience has a limit. God will withdraw His fellowship from one who remains in sin and refuses to repent. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart--these, O God, You will not despise" (51:17). Consider Isaiah 59:1,2 - "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." God is seeking the penitent but has little use for the stubbornly rebellious. Had David not repented, what do you think would have happened? A glimpse into Solomon's later years shows us the answer (e.g., I Kings 11:4-13).
We will conclude this study in our next lesson.