Tag Archives: Psalm 51

Asking for Mercy

He was taking a stroll on the rooftop, looking over the kingdom he ruled, when someone caught his eye. She was beautiful, and he longed to spend some time with her. He sent for her, and she spent the night with him in the palace. The next morning, with the one-night stand over, he sent her home.

Some time later, she sent him a message informing him they were expecting a child. This was a problem because her husband had been on the battlefield for a long period of time, so the king thought he could trick the man into coming home and spending the night with his wife. After all, this would keep their affair secret. It didn’t work, so David eventually gave orders for Uriah to be killed in battle, and Bathsheba became his wife.

The Bible tells us the Lord sent Nathan to David to deliver a rebuke for his sins. It seems David is filled with guilt and shame because of his actions, and after Nathan’s visit, David pleads for forgiveness as he writes Psalm 51.

“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love, because of your great compassion,” David writes. “Blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean of my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion, for it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, I have sinned. I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just…. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow. O, give me back my joy again. You have broken me, now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins; remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God, renew a loyal spirit within me.”

David realized he messed up. In recognizing his mistake, David understood the Lord would forgive him, so David asked for forgiveness. We read in the Bible the Lord did forgive David, and he will forgive us as well.

We know we’ve messed up, and the Lord invites us to exchange that guilt for the peace he offers. Jesus invites us to exchange our heavy load of guilt for his light load of peace (Matthew 11:28-30), so make that exchange today.

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Fixing the Mess

“I’m pregnant!”

This was the message that came to David. Ordinarily, these are exciting words, but for David, they are frightening words. It is going to be clear he committed adultery. It is going to be clear he slept with another man’s wife. It is going to be clear he sinned.

So, David tries to fix it himself.

2 Samuel 11 records David sending for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, and having Uriah come home from the battlefield. If Uriah sleeps with Bathsheba, then everyone will assume Uriah is the father of the child. This doesn’t work though; Uriah is so loyal to his comrades that he refused to go home.

David tried getting Uriah drunk. If a sober Uriah wouldn’t go home, maybe a drunken Uriah would desire his wife’s company over loyalty, but Uriah still did not go home.

Another failure didn’t stop David. 2 Samuel 11 records his next move:

14 So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers.

The Lord was displeased.

2 Samuel 11 tells us the Lord was displeased with David’s actions, and he summoned Nathan, a prophet, to pay David a visit. This was an unwelcomed visit filled with bad news. It thrust David’s sin with Bathsheba right in front of his face; he could not ignore it. It also served as a reminder of the Lord’s grace.

Not our actions, but God’s grace.

After chatting with Nathan, David wrote the words of Psalm 51. This is a great reminder of the Lord’s gracious response to us. Notice verse 1:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.

David wasn’t appealing for mercy and forgiveness based on his own actions. His request had nothing to do with what he had done; it had everything to do with the Lord’s character. David’s hope was in God’s unfailing love and great compassion. Left alone David made a bigger mess, but with the Lord, David found true forgiveness.

The same unfailing love and great compassion David saw in the Lord is there for us. Perhaps we’ve tried fixing our mistakes only to make a bigger mess, but the Lord can wash away our guilt just like he did David’s.

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