Summary: Psalm 51 gives us an insight to the deeply personal confession of David and a glimpse of the grace God affords sinners like us. The emphasis isn't on judgement, it is on confession, repentance and grace. Our response is worship, thansgiving and testimony.


Psalm 51: 1-19

Matthew 7: 1-5

"NEVER! I'll never in a million years forgive that man! After what he's done to me, he can just forget about ever talking to me again! That's one thing I can never do. I just can't forgive what he has done."

Have you ever been that angry with a person that you feel that you will never be able to forgive him? Have you ever felt that there is nothing that will ever make things right between you and someone else because the hurt has gone too deep? If this comes close to describing you, listen up! On the other hand, if you have ever felt that you have never been forgiven for something for which you know you need forgiveness, you too may need to listen to this especially.

Of course each one of us stands in need of God's forgiveness in a very real way. Without his forgiveness we will be forever lost. We may affirm “thanks be to God, he has shown us his mercy and love in Jesus Christ”. I will suggest humbly, however, we all tend to trivialize forgiveness when we generalize such statements, no matter how correct. Our human natures ensure we will be prone to avoid confronting our own sin while perversely finding satisfaction in pointing out the sins of another We don’t often “personalize” our own need for forgiveness. In one way or another, this describes every one of us. WHAT A SHAME! Forgiveness is one aspect of Christian life we must desperately understand. It is a matter of

• “life and death” for us personally

• extreme importance in our Christian witness

• a practice which is an essential characteristic of a mature Christian personality

What better way to understand forgiveness than to examine God's Word found in Psalm 51 where David “pours out his heart” to God. There is here a nourishing draught of thirst quenching truth in this deeply personal confession emanating from the heart of David from which we may drink deeply and grow.

Psalm 51 is an intensely personal Psalm David wrote when he was feeling particularly vulnerable. You see, he had been found out! Nathan the prophet had confronted him with a grievous accusation of sin, and David was, literally, “guilty as hell”.

Do you remember the double crime committed by David? Not only had he deliberately committed adultery with Bathsheba and conveniently murdered her husband Uriah the Hittite, a faithful officer in David’s army but he had attempted to cover it up; to hide from his own perfidy. It is unnecessary to explore the details of David’s sin. This Psalm isn’t about judgment it is about repentance and forgiveness.

In Psalm 51 David lays his heart bare before the Lord. Although our sins may not be so shocking as those of David, we may yet be able to learn something about repentance and something about God's great forgiveness of our own sin, and we may yet be able to learn something about forgiving others.

In order to help us understand what David is experiencing in this Psalm it is important for us to know that there are two main Hebrew words which we translate as repent. The first suggests “being sorry about something”, about someone else's action or misfortune or about one's own action. It always leads to practical efforts to meet the need of those for whom one is sorry, whether it is someone else or one's self. It indicates a feeling of sorrow, BUT MORE THAN THAT... it always leads to action! It leads to practical efforts to change the course of action for which you are sorry. Repentance is not only a change of heart it is a change of direction.

The other main Hebrew word which we translate as "repentance" is the regular word for "turning away from" or "turning around". It means turning away from one particular course of action and starting out on a different one; turning from one pathway and taking another; turning one’s life around.

In Psalm 51 we see both an attitude of sorrow and the determination to begin a new life. In it we can see the different elements of turning to God for forgiveness and life. The first thing we see is “facing up to the fact of sin”. What is implied in the first two verses is specific in the third. We see that David faces up to his sin.

"Have mercy on me, Oh God according to your

unfailing love according to your great compassion

blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my

iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. FOR I KNOW


David is not hiding from his sin.

Notice in verse nine David asks the Lord to “hide his face from his sin”. We can all vouch for the fact that to turn our attention away from the one who has hurt us is not an easy thing for us to do. It is far easier to hide our face from our own sin, than it is to hide our face from someone else's sin. (Bear in mind, though we may want to “hide our face” from our own sin, but it always stays with us!)

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