King David certainly knew what it felt like to be on top of the world. Slaying giants, being anointed as king, and leading an entire nation were some of his major accomplishments. Writing Psalms, shepherding sheep, and walking in close fellowship with God also brought him great satisfaction and joy.
However, David also knew what it felt like to be tempted and to fall. He knew the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the gnawing in his gut when he did things that were wrong and displeasing to the Lord. Perhaps his most scandalous sin was when he used his power to seduce Bathsheba, and then later had her husband killed in an intentional military maneuver. David committed adultery and murder. His sin was profound.
When the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin, David was cut to the heart. He knew he was guilty. He penned Psalm 51 to express his sorrow over his sin and his desire to have a clean heart and life before the Lord. He wanted to relate to God and to people in a pure way.
Let me highlight four things David says in this powerful Psalm. And as you read them, think about this: God inspired David to write these words 3000 years ago, and they still help us today! When we have sinned, we can be assured that forgiveness, cleansing and a fresh start are available through Christ.
In Psalm 51, David writes:
“God, make me clean.”
1 Be gracious to me, God, according to Your faithful love; according to Your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion. 2 Wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in Your sight. So You are right when You pass sentence; You are blameless when You judge. 5 Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me. 6 Surely You desire integrity in the inner self, and You teach me wisdom deep within. 7 Purify 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 Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt.
“God, renew my spirit.”
10 God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
“God, restore my joy.”
12 Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and give me a willing spirit. 13 Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You.
“God, I worship You.”
14 Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 15 Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise. 16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart. 18 In Your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper; build the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.
Create in me a clean heart, O Lord my God, and renew a right spirit in me.