David has committed a terrible sin with Bathsheba in committing adultery and then having her husband killed in battle. David will pay the price for it. David knows it. David doesn’t run from his guilt.
David does the only thing he can. David pleads to God for mercy.
I must do the same. I have missed God’s goal (aka sin). I must confess that to God and ask for mercy. Master Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. That is my prayer. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, I obtain mercy.
Generous in love — God, give grace! Huge in mercy — wipe out my bad record. Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry. I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down. | Psalm 51:1-3 (The Message Bible)
This Psalm illustrates true repentance, in which are comprised conviction, confession, sorrow, prayer for mercy, and purposes of amendment, and it is accompanied by a lively faith.
David starts with a plea for mercy and a confession of guilt. David doesn’t dodge anything here. David faces it head on with God.
David asks God to blot out his sin, as from a register. This is a plea to wipe it out altogether, as if it didn’t even exist. Poof, it is gone. God can and will do this.
David admits his transgressions. The word literally means “rebellions”. David sees what he has done as a rebellion against God.
Wash me; scrub away my sins. Purity as well as pardon is desired by true penitents. I must have a desire to be pure. The issue must be dealt with and removed from life. I need to act differently. Confession without change is useless.
Conviction precedes forgiveness; and, as a gift of God, is a plea for it. In confessing his sin, the psalmist recognizes that he has sinned against God Himself. He acknowledges God’s right to judge him. While his sin may have involved and harmed others, the psalmist is primarily concerned with his offense against God. This fits David’s response when Nathan confronts him about his sin with Bathsheba.
Repentance (changing how I think and act) is the big thing here. The need for repentance is highlighted in Jesus’ earliest preaching: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1:15).
Repentance is rooted in the human consciousness of sin, an awareness of falling short of a standard, relational brokenness and alienation, and fear of judgment. Whether motivated by inner guilt or shameful loss of face, repentance involves attitudes and acts that aim at setting things right. Coupled with confession, repentance is involved in the process of receiving forgiveness from God through Jesus the Messiah and provides a model for person-to-person reconciliation as well.
The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 51:3–4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 363). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.