Summary: A look at the confession of David in psalm 51. David reveals a heart that is truly pursuing God

Calling Out in Confession

Psalm 51:1-17

Spring Life Series

May 4, 2008

Morning Service


In the late 1850’s immigrants from Europe settled in the hills of Appalachia and brought some strange and unique customs with them. One of the more unusual customs was that of the sin eater.

The sin eater provided a way of confession and forgiveness through human means. The belief was that if you took an offering to the sin eater and confessed your sins, the sin eater would take your sins upon himself.

Francine Rivers wrote of this custom in her book the Last Sin Eater. In the book a young girl named Cadie Forbes seeks out the sin eater to have her sins taken away. Here is a clip from The Last Sin Eater.

Play Clip

Cadie is searching for an inner cleansing that even the sin eater could not provide. She was seeking an inner change and redemption from her sins. Cadie was seeking what the sin eater could never provide.

How often do people feel the need for inner change but so often look at only the solutions that they can provide?

What does it mean to confess?

Many times we simply apply confession to the life of someone who is admitting their sins before God. However, there is more to confession than just admitting wrongdoing. Confession is an open manner of speaking out. Paul tells the Romans that they must confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord. Is Paul telling them to confess their sins in this statement? Not at all. Paul is telling the Roman believers to boldly speak out in the name of Christ and tell what He had done for them.


To admit or declare

To declare openly by the way of speaking out freely

To admit wrongdoing through the result of inner conviction

Biblical examples of confession

• Aaron confessed his sin to Moses

• Israel confessed their sins after God sent the serpents into their camp in the wilderness

• Saul confessed to Samuel

• Nehemiah confessed the sins of the Israelites before God

• Peter confessed his sin to Jesus after the great catch of fish

• The thief on the cross confessed his sin to Jesus before he died

This morning I want to look at one of the best Biblical examples of confession. Open your Bibles with me to Psalm 51.

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.

David’s Five Step Process of Confession

1.) Ask for Mercy

Before David says anything else he asks God for mercy. Why does David do this? He is revealing the humble nature of his heart. Look at those first words again: have mercy on me O God. Can you feel the emotion in them? Can you see the depth of personal brokenness? We have to remember that before we can approach God, we must first humble ourselves.

God is merciful beyond our ability to measure. If you doubt this, you need to remember that God sent Jesus to the cross as an act of divine mercy. God is rich in mercy and gives the gift of new life through Jesus.

Notice the language that David uses here:

• Blot out my transgressions

• Wash away all my iniquity

• Cleanse me from my sin

Listen to what the psalmist says in Psalm 32:3-4

3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

God has proven over and over that He is willing to forgive sin but we need to ask Him for that forgiveness. God has a listening ear and is waiting for people to begin or to renew their personal relationship with Him. We must be willing to fall into the waiting arms of God’s limitless mercy. Mercy is a gift of God to all humanity. It is truly sad that so few find it.

2.) Confess sinful behavior

David lays his heart before God and allows the flood of sinfulness to pour out. We can never expect to have hearts filled with peace until we pour our heart out before God. David had tried to hide his sin and had done a fairly good job. Some may have suspected something with his relationship with Bathsheba but no one dared to say anything. At least not until Nathan speaks to David. We forget that god does not look at the outward appearance but He looks to the heart.

Nathan was a prophet of God and a personal friend of David. God spoke to Nathan and Nathan confronted his friend and king about his sin. David is convicted and confesses to God. This psalm is an outgrowth of David’s confession.

There is a difference between confession and repentance. Both are reflected in this psalm. Confession is the admitting of sin and repentance is the turning from sin. Our problem is that we often run from God instead of running to God and we never deal with the shame and guilt of sin.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:5

The truth is simple; God already knows the sins that you have committed. He knows everything that you have ever done. There is nothing that you can tell God that will surprise Him in the least. God loves us in spite of our sins and is willing to forgive us if we seek Him. He promises to wash us of our iniquities and make us pure in His sight once again.

3.) Request the restoration of divine favor

David seeks out a renewal with God. David wanted to get back the relationship with God he had lost. We do not know how long it was between David’s sin and Nathan’s confrontation. During this length of time David lost his closeness with God.

Our walk with God is part of God’s divine favor. As we seek a closer walk with Him, He draws closer to us. David wanted that back. Can you remember a time in your life when you were closer to God than you are right now?

Once we are forgiven, we need to be placed back into a right standing with God. God gives back to us the divine favor and blessing of those who are among the faithful. He gives us a restoration of the joy and peace that we can only experience through Him.

4.) Give thanks

My tongue will sing of your righteousness

David’s words echo with genuine praise to God for all He had done. When God grants His divine forgiveness, we need to offer praise. As God does what only he can do, we need to be thankful. We express thanks to God for all of His other blessings in our lives, why not His forgiveness as well? David expressed his thanks in song and declaring praise.

Forgiveness is an act of divine grace and a gift of God’s mercy. When we are forgiven, the proper response must be to give thanks to God. We should thanks God for His infinite grace and favor that we do not deserve. We should thank Him for the love that He has shown us through Christ’s work on the cross. It is right and good to praise God for His mighty acts on our behalf.

5.) Request corporate restoration

We forget that our sinful actions have an effect on others. There is not such thing as a solitary sin. Even our “secret” sins, the ones we hide from everyone but God, will have an effect on our families and work environments. We need to seek God’s face for those relationships and circumstances to be restored. Everyone who was hurt by the sin, needs God’s divine touch. When David sinned, the whole nation of Israel was affected. When Christians sin today, even those who are not leaders, the church feels the affects spiritually. Sin affects the church like an illness affects the body. One area may be infected but the whole body suffers.


Prussian king Frederick the Great was once touring a Berlin prison. The prisoners fell on their knees before him to proclaim their innocence -- except for one man, who remained silent. Frederick called to him, "Why are you here?" "Armed robbery, Your Majesty," was the reply. "And are you guilty?" "Yes indeed, Your Majesty, I deserve my punishment." Frederick then summoned the jailer and ordered him, "Release this guilty wretch at once. I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it."

When we confess we find the fullness of God’s mercy and grace. Confession is the hinge to heaven’s door. We will never know the depth of peace and joy that God has for us until we confess our sins.

John gives us a glimpse of this mercy and grace found in Jesus, listen to his words in his first letter.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. 1 John 1:9

The only way to find God’s mercy is to admit the fact of our sins. This morning if God is speaking to you, move out and make your way forward and pour out your heart to God.