Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!Psalm 51:1-2
When was the last time you laid it all out to God? Like, really let it all hang out. No hesitation, no concern for what He might think of you or the mess.
When we the last time you just got real with God?
David’s Psalm 51 is maybe my favorite psalm because that’s exactly what he does. He gives us an inside view into his confessional life with God. It wasn’t pretty, and it sure wasn’t censored. He didn’t hold back the brokenness he felt, the deep desire for something greater in his life.
And you know what prompted him to write this Psalm?
Being called to the floor by the Prophet Nathan for his adultery with Bathsheba, his murder of her husband, and his neglect of kingly duty. I mean, you have to understand the significance of the situation. The King of God’s chooses people, anointed by God, is confronted by God’s Prophet who guided by the Spirit leads David into admission and confession for his sin.
To approach a King was a dangerous venture in and of itself. Add to it bringing hefty charges against him as Nathan did, that could easily be the end of your life. But both parties here understood who was really in control, they understood their place before a Holy God. (Check out 2 Samuel 11-12 for the whole story).
David knew his sin had found him. And he knew Nathan was right in his actions. More importantly, he understood the need for cleansing, to be purified of his sin and restored into a right relationship with God.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.Psalm 51:7-12
David uses familiar imagery for himself and his time. Hyssop was often used for medicinal purposes, but it was also used to sprinkle in Jewish rites of practice. In Exodus 12:22 hyssop is used to spread the blood on the doorposts in preparation for the first Passover. The correction of discipline can be painful, like breaking bones. It can leave a mark, much like David’s adulterous behavior had. But when they heal, there is rejoicing as function and ability is restored.
David comes to understand healing in a deeper, more significant way through this experience. He understands that while his confession and submission is essential, the true work of cleansing is done by God. It is God who makes his heart clean; it is God who renews his spirit.
It is God who brings restoration and salvation.
In a time when sin was reconciled by ceremonial sacrificial offerings, David understood that his need for restoration could not be met by the blood or burning of an animal on the alter.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.Psalm 51:16-17
The animal sacrifices were symbolic of the perfect sacrificial lamb that would be given up as Jesus Christ. And while David probably did not fully know that, he did understand what God was truly interested in. Genuine confession and repentance, a heart and spirit broken by an understanding of the pain our sin brings to God. Understanding our brokenness as sinners, in desperate need of redemption.
See, what I admire most about David is that despite his massive mistakes, that even as King he understood his need to repent. He recognized his brokenness and unworthiness before a Holy God, and his need to be restored before Him.
He wasn’t hesitant when confronted with his sin, to fall face first before God and seek His forgiveness, His mercy and grace. He knew that the only way to have restoration was to lean into God, to trust Him entirely, and rely on His process.
Do you do that? I’ll admit, it’s hard for me sometimes. There are moments that I’m really good at letting down my walls and getting real life itch God. But there are other times that I keep my defenses up, acting like God can’t handle my mess. Not only do I rob myself of the blessing of His love, grace, and restoration, but I rob Him of the joy to bless me with those things. I in essence say “no God, I don’t need that from you” when I know I do.
What would our life be like if we engaged God like David did in Psalm 51? Think about it. How would your prayer life be different? How would your interactions with friends, family, co-workers be if we would let down our defenses with God? What would our life be like if we surrendered ourself to Him, and allowed Him to intervene in the storms we find ourselves in?
Maybe it’s just me reading into it, but I think David found peace. I think he found a renewed purpose to live, and serve in the place God put him.
What’s that worth to you?