As great a man as King David was, he was also a sinful man. He stood one night upon his roof and was probably casually glancing around him to take in the beautiful evening. Suddenly, something caught his eye. Did he see what he thought he saw? He focused more intently and there before him was a lovely woman bathing in what she would have thought was a private moment. David sent for the woman, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and committed sexual assault.
Not only did he commit this sexual sin, he tried to cover it up eventually by having Uriah killed at the battle front. One sin led to another. David probably thought he had gotten away with it, but God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David with his sin (II Samuel 11-12). David knew he was guilty of a travesty and his heart was overwhelmed with guilt for his actions. That is what happens when a person of faith sins.
Psalm 51 is David’s appeal to God for forgiveness of his sins. He acknowledges that his sin is against God, and only God could remove the stain of his actions – “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (v. 7b). His plea to the Lord includes a great statement of desire for restoration which many today still pray to the Lord when they acknowledge their sin before Him:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God.
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your Salvation.” (vv. 10-12a)
Sin results in guilt, not because God likes making us feel dirty, but because His love compels Him to do that which will lead us to desire restoration in our relationship with Him. Some psychology “experts” try to tell us that preaching about sin and it’s guilt is damaging to the psyche’ of a person. Actually, the opposite is true. Preaching about sin and guilt, and the grace which will cleanse that sin, is the best thing which can be done for the human psyche’ and spirit. Many times I have called out to the Lord to cleanse my heart (my whole being) from the sin and guilt which burdened me. The Lord’s promise is that He will create in us a new heart, that is, He will forgive us and rebuild our lives.
The second thing David cries out for in this passage is for God to “renew a steadfast spirit within me.” This is simply David’s pleas for God to undergird his desire to do that which is right in God’s eyes. David realized that even his spirit was willing to do right, his flesh was weak. Ever been there? Of course! We all have! The Christian life cannot be lived in our own strength. We must have God’s power to overcome the world, and overcome we will when we look to God constantly and lean upon His power.
Finally, David asked God for the favor of restoring the joy he knew in his relationship with Him. It’s important to note here that David did not lose his salvation (relationship with God), but he did lose the joy of that relationship. The relationship may not be over, but there is certainly no joy in it when we sin. The joy of our salvation is the sweet fellowship we experience with God. Cleansing from our sin restores the fullness of that relationship, and joy fills our lives.
Do you have sin which you need to confess to the Father? You can’t hope to win your way back into His good graces through any means other than confessing from a heart which broken for what you’ve done. David knew that God wanted no burnt offering, no sacrifice, other than this:
“The sacrifices of God are broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart –
These, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)