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Repentance, Restoration, Renewal–Psalm 51

Repentance, Restoration, Renewal–Psalm 51: Written by Dean Marini

The old saying “confession is good for the soul” has so much truth. The Bible promises in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The confession John the Evangelist is referring to, however, is more than just stating that we’ve sinned. After all, Christ expects us to do much more than merely say “I messed up“. He wants us to repent.

In Psalm 51 we find King David in a precarious position. He has broken the Ten Commandments and has done even more damage trying to cover it all up. The prophet Nathan has now come to the palace to call him to account. David’s prayer is not just a confession but one of sincere repentance.

As you read (and prayerfully meditate on) this psalm, you will find that it serves as a tremendous model to follow — especially when we’ve fallen short of how God has called each one of us to live…

Repentance, Restoration, Renewal–Psalm 51

Psalm 51:1-2

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 

David begins his prayer by reminding God of His unfailing love and compassion. He begs for God’s mercy to not only forgive him, but to blot out, wash away and cleanse his soul. When we truly repent, God not only forgives us, He wipes our slate clean.

Psalm 51:3-4

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge. 

As the King, nothing David had done transgressed the human law of the land. He had the right to take property (including someone’s wife), order men to be killed, and to do pretty much anything he pleased. Yet he knew that he had violated God’s Law. That is why we read the phrase “against You, You only have I sinned.” While no man on earth could punish David, he had transgressed against God — and God could.

Many of the sins we commit today would not land us in jail. We live in a world that teaches moral ambiguity. Much of what we consider lifestyle choices or “living our best life”, God calls repugnant. Leading a true Christian life requires us to examine our actions through God’s lens and Laws, not our own, man’s, or that of public opinion.

Psalm 51:5-12

5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet You desired faithfulness even in the womb; You taught me Wisdom in that secret place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 

11 Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 

In this part of the prayer, David acknowledges that even though he knew what was right, he chose to act sinfully. So he pleads for God to scrub away his sinful nature. He knows that God alone can wipe away his sins and fully restore him as new. And we, too, will fight this same battle today with our own sinful nature.

Whenever I read this passage, I’m reminded of a snow storm and how hours later even the ugliest rusted car looks pristine — covered in a perfect, white blanket of snow. To me, this is what true repentance brings — a perfect covering of God’s glory. In His eyes, we aren’t only failed and forgiven sinners. We’re His perfect, made-new, pristine creations. Hallelujah!

Psalm 51:13-19

13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, so that sinners will turn back to You. 

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, You who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare Your praise. 

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise. 18 May it please You to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. 

19 Then You will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.

David tried to manage his sin. He tried manipulating events in order to cover it up (2 Samuel 11-12). When we try to excuse or hide our sin, or make our own versions of atonement, God is displeased. The Lord desires a contrite and repentant heart as well as an obedient spirit. Nothing we do short of true repentance can forgive our sin. But, thank goodness, nothing else is required. 

As the prophet Samuel told King Saul (who God took away the kingdom from for his lack of repentance and gave it to David) obedience is better than sacrifice. God wants us to recognize our sin, confess it through repentance, and leave it behind. Doing that allows us to praise God and to teach others about the Lord’s incredible ability to renew us.

It doesn’t matter how badly you’ve sinned. God is able and willing to forgive you, renew you, fully restore you, and put you back on the right path. If you feel like you’ve broken your relationship with God, or maybe you’ve never really had one, let the words of this Psalm teach you God’s plan for repentance, restoration and renewal. With Him you’ll never go wrong.

Written by Dean Marini

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