This introduction serves as an invitation to join in an on-going journey of discovery. You will not need to buy tickets nor make travel plans. All that's required is your Bible and a quiet place to read and meditate. Together we'll explore the Book of Psalms, Israel’s hymnal and longest collection of poetry.  

Psalm 51:1-6

Acknowledging My Sin

(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David (composed) when Nathan the prophet came in to him after he had gone in to Bathsheba. (1) Be gracious to me, O God, according to your steadfast love. According to your abundant compassion, blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin, (3) for I know my transgressions, and my sin (is) always before me. (4) Against you, you alone, have I sinned and committed this evil in your sight so that you may be righteous in your speaking and blameless in your judging. (5) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (6) Behold, you delight in truth in the inner person, and in the inmost place you teach me wisdom.

This psalm has one of the longest headings found in the Psalms. We should note the play on words, using the same verb form: Nathan “came in” to David after David had “gone in” to Bathsheba, David to commit sin and Nathan to confront the sin that had been committed.

We should also note several words that refer to David’s sin. First, we encounter four nouns: “transgressions,” violations of God’s law (vss. 1 & 3), ”iniquity,” immoral action, (vss. 2 & 5), “sin,” missing the mark (vss. 2, 3, & 5), and ”evil,” a general term for wickedness (vs. 4). We also encounter two verbs: “to sin” as well as “to commit evil” (both in vs. 4). In making his confession, David seeks to include every aspect of his rebellion against God. One more repetition, the contrastive use of ”behold” (vss. 5 & 6), should be noted in this opening segment. In the first case, David speaks negatively of having begun his life in sin. In the second, he refers positively to the spiritual capacity for inward truth and wisdom which God gives us when he redeems us.

I.  Appealing to God for compassion and cleansing  (1 & 2)
II.  Acknowledging the breadth and depth of personal sinfulness  (3 & 4)
III.  Apologizing for failure to measure up to what God desires  (5 & 6)

When we rebel against a holy God, we must confess our sins to him, seeking the cleansing and compassion we do not deserve.

The Old Testament clearly distinguishes between intentional and unintentional sins. If someone sinned “unintentionally,” provision was made through sacrificial offerings for the individual’s cleansing and forgiveness. However, according to the Torah, intentional, premeditated sin was to be treated quite differently: “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes Yahweh, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised Yahweh’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him” (Num. 15:30-31).

David’s adultery with Bathsheba was clearly a deliberate, defiant violation of God’s law accompanied by numerous attempts to cover up what had taken place including the murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. Any one of these grievous sins should have been enough to result in David’s removal from the throne and subsequent execution. He had recklessly violated virtually all of the Ten Commandments. His desperate appeal to Yahweh for compassion based on grace represented his only recourse.

We all too quickly forget how offensive our sins are in God’s sight. We commit a sin and then glibly quote verses like, “If we confess our sins, he will forgive us and cleanse us...” (1 Jn. 1:9). We all too easily appeal to the infinite grace of God and become abusers of his compassion, taking advantage of his love. Everything depends on our heart attitude. We should regularly ask ourselves probing questions like, “Am I really growing in my hatred for sin? Am I doing everything I can to live a godly life, or am I becoming too tolerant of that which so deeply offends my loving heavenly father?” We need to be sure that our appeals for forgiveness represent genuine repentance and a determination to turn away from our sinful ways. If not, we demonstrate a dangerously cavalier attitude toward our loving God and may well experience his chastisement for our insincerity.

Psalm 51:7-12

Psalm 50:16-23