1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. 4 Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in His eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’”
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.
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 that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost 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.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.
14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, 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 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
This Psalm was written by David, and it came about as a result of his sin with Bathsheba. He abused his position of authority as king and committed adultery with her, and in an effort to cover it up, he went so far as to commit murder by arranging for her husband Uriah to be killed in battle. After a while, David was confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, and it was only after his sins were made public that David chose to repent. It was during this time of repentance and deep soul-searching that David wrote this Psalm. In this Psalm he expresses the heartfelt need of a believer to be right with God.
The devotional Our Daily Bread calls Psalm 51 a “Legacy of repentance”, and introduces a series of devotions based on the psalm by saying, “Step-by-step, the psalm takes the reader through the stages of repentance. It describes the constant mental replays, the gnawing guilt, the shame, and finally the hope of a new beginning that springs from true repentance. In a remarkable way, Psalm 51 reveals the true nature of sin as a broken relationship with God. David cries out, ‘Against You, You only, have I sinned.’ He sees that the sacrifices God wants are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. Those, David has. In his prayer, David looks for possible good that might come out of his tragedy and sees a glimmer of light. Perhaps by reading this story of sin others might avoid the same pitfalls, or by reading his confession they might gain hope in forgiveness. David’s prayer is answered and becomes his greatest legacy as king. The best king of Israel has fallen the furthest. But neither he, nor anyone, can fall beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness.”
One of satan’s favourite tactics when he tempts us is to tell us things like we can away with it, and no-one will ever know about it. Then, the moment you give in to the temptation and commit the sin, he stands as the accuser. You find yourself wracked with guilt as he accuses you by saying that you won’t get away with it, because everyone is going to find out. And of course, he will tell you that because you’ve let God down again, you are no longer good enough for him.
If you are a Christian and you have accepted salvation through Jesus, the devil knows that he cannot have your soul, but what he can do and where he often succeeds, is he tries desperately to get you down, leaving you feeling discouraged and defeated. He wants to convince you that you are not good enough for God.
But this is what Jesus has to say about satan in John 8:44: “There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” There is no truth in him. Nothing that satan says is true. So when he tells you that you’re not good enough for God and He will never forgive you for that sin, he is lying. You are good enough for God! It’s crucial for us to keep this in the front of our minds today as we look at the burden of sin that affects us all.
Each of us has been in that place and some of us here today may be there right now. You’re in a place of spiritual dryness. That bubbling enthusiasm and the sheer joy of knowing Jesus has begun to fizzle out, and you feel as if you’re just going through the motions.
What has happened is that you have been fooled into believing the lies and you find yourself wondering if God will ever really forgive you.
But the truth is that the Bible very clearly teaches us that we can return to God. Not only that, but it also tells us how.
We start though, with the bad news. Salvation saves the sinner, but our salvation does
not take away our desire and the ability to fall into sin. We know this to be true because we all face this daily struggle ourselves. Any Christian who claims total sinless perfection is deceived. 1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives.”
Sin cannot take away our salvation, but it does tear us down spiritually and emotionally. Sin has the capacity to cripple our walk of faith.
What we must remember is that Jesus died for all sin – past, present and future. The price has been paid, and it has been paid in full. So if sin does not take away our salvation, what does it do, because sin clearly affects the Christian?
Someone once said that Psalm 51 was written by a sinning saint. As David faced up to the consequences of what he had done, he pleads for mercy. And why was he pleading for mercy? Because he was overcome with guilt and shame. As Christians, we have seen the light, and we know how we should be conducting our lives. We should know better, and this is one of the reasons we struggle with shame when we sin. Something else that we must also remember though is that satan is the one who accuses us of our sin, while God’s Holy Spirit is the one who convicts us of our sin – He exposes those things that are wrong in our lives, but at the same time the Spirit reminds us that God’s grace is sufficient for us.
But this doesn’t change the fact that a sinning saint struggles with feelings of guilt. As a Bible-believing Christian I know that ‘everybody else does it’ is not good enough. I have seen the light, and I know how I should be living my life, because God’s Spirit of truth is my guide. As with every other sinning saint I often choose to ignore the prompting of the Spirit though.
Just like David we can find ourselves in a place where we are consumed by our sin. As he wrote in verse 3, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”
David’s sin hurt a lot of people, but ultimately he came to realise that his sin was against a Holy God. Verse 4: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”
Understanding this truth is one of the keys to finding God’s forgiveness and grace. If I sin against you, it is only right that as far as is possible, I should confess to you and seek your forgiveness, but I also need to understand that I have sinned against a Holy God, and more than anything else, I need His forgiveness. One of the worst feelings in the world is when you have hurt someone else, and because you broke their trust, they cannot bring themselves to forgive you. But God forgives, and this is why we need to know our sin offends Him the most.
We need to weep not only over the consequences of our actions, but also because we have offended the God who created us.
Sin saddens our hearts. In verses 8 and 12 David says, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let
the bones you have crushed rejoice. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” David lost his joy and he wanted it back.
True joy is one of the by-products of a right relationship with God. Are you missing that true joy that you once knew? If so, maybe it’s time for some soul-searching. Something has robbed you of your joy, but Jesus can restore it, and this is the hope we have.
Don’t listen to the lies of satan. Remember that Jesus died for you. The price He paid for your soul cannot be measured in rands and cents. You are priceless in His sight, and we can thank God that things don’t have to stay the way they are.
There are basically two emotions we experience as sinning saints. One is sorrow, and the other is guilt.
Sorrow comes through the Spirit, and the good news about sorrow is that it is a clean wound, which God will heal when we turn to Him in repentance. Guilt on the other hand, is not from God. It comes from satan, and unlike sorrow it does not heal well. Guilt has the potential to fester and can infect every part of our lives. If we don’t deal with our feelings of guilt, we find ourselves drifting away from God as we begin to believe the lie that we are not good enough for Him. We find ourselves in a place of spiritual dryness, our prayer life suffers, and unless if we do something about it with God’s help, eventually we’ll wonder if we’ll ever get back to God. And that’s not a good place to be.
Guilt has the potential to eat you up, but it doesn’t have to, because Jesus offers cleansing and forgiveness.
It starts by remembering God’s immeasurable and unending love. David knew that. Even with all the sin he was guilty of, God still loved him, and David believed that truth implicitly. satan will tell you that God doesn’t care and that He no longer loves you, but he is a liar, remember?
No matter what you’ve done, or how far you’ve fallen, God still loves you and wants to be in a right relationship with you. This does not mean your sin doesn’t matter. It does matter, and it cost Jesus everything, but the good news is that for great sin, there is great grace. Romans 5:20 says, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” Amazing grace – how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…
So what do we do?
David wrote in verse 4 of Psalm 51, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” He confessed his sins and acknowledged God’s right to judge him. God is not looking for excuses or alibis. Rather, He is looking for honesty. The basic definition of the word confess is to agree with God. When you confess, you’re essentially saying, “Lord, you were right, and I was wrong.” 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Next, allow God to cleanse you. Verse 7: “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
When we allow God to cleanse us, He removes our guilt and condemnation. We are freed from the accusing voice of satan, and God reminds us of what happened on the cross, the place where He exchanged the condemnation of our sin for the righteousness of Jesus.
This is a mystery that we should ponder more often: Two things happened on the Cross of Calvary. As Jesus bled and died for us, He bore the burden of our sin, and our forgiveness is secured. That alone should give us cause to celebrate, but the second thing that happened is this: The righteousness of Jesus was transferred to us in exchange for the punishment He took on our behalf. So when God looks at you now, He sees more than a forgiven sinner. He sees the righteousness of His own Son! The next time you think you’re not good enough for God, remember this. When He looks at you, He sees the righteousness of Jesus. In the words of Isaiah 59:1, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.” He truly is the God of second chances. And third, and fourth, and however many chances you need to be convinced of His amazing grace to you.
Where are you in your walk of discipleship this morning? Are you close to Him, or have you allowed your sin to become a barrier that has robbed you of your joy in Jesus?
Which word best describes your spiritual barometer today: Joy or guilt?
You do have a loving Father waiting and watching for you. When He sees you returning to Him, He will run to meet you just like the younger son experienced in the parable we know as the Prodigal Son. You do need to know that that it may well involve some deep soul-searching. The son in Jesus’ parable was full of remorse as he swallowed his pride. It is hard to humble yourself in the presence of God and admit that He was right and you were wrong. Jesus says in John 3:19-21, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
God’s light will expose you, but do you really want to live in spiritual darkness? Or would you rather be in that place where you experience true joy by walking in the light of God?
But again, we need to know that ignoring sin will cripple our walk with God. He cannot and He will not use us to our full potential while we knowingly disobey Him. Our sin matters, but God does hear us when we cry out just like David did, “Create in me a pure heart, O God.”
Where did David begin in his confession? He began with God. His confession showed great faith in God’s character: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.” He trusted in God’s power to forgive sin - to blot it out and wash him clean. His confession also demonstrated spiritual brokenness. He understood how much he’d offended God. In fact, he couldn’t forget it. He grieved deeply over what he’d done, and it felt as though his bones had been crushed. He acknowledged the justice of God’s punishment, and that’s when God began turning his life around. That was when He created a pure heart in David. And He can do the same for you.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Psalm 51.
In this remarkable prayer of confession David takes full responsibility for his actions. We are quick to blame others or our circumstances when we sin, but one of the first steps in returning to God is admitting that we are at fault.
If you feel able, share an example from your own life.
How did you experience the grace and forgiveness of God?
A point made on Sunday was that sin causes 2 emotions within us: Sorrow and guilt. The Bible teaches that the Spirit convicts us of our sin, while the devil condemns us.
Discuss the difference between these two principles.
What are the differences between sorrow and guilt?
What are some of the “tools” God has given us to cope with the feelings of guilt we inevitably experience when we give in to temptation?
Discuss some of the promises we find in the Bible that reassure us of God’s forgiveness.
How are we able to face up to our feelings of inadequacy and guilt?