What a remarkable change of heart took part in David’s life to have written, as Blaiklock calls it, the “most moving of the penitential psalms”. Consider where he had come from spiritually: ”In the comfort of the city, amid the adulation of an eastern court, the great psalmist’s heart had grown cold. None rebuked him. His power was absolute, and
corrupted him…[until] brave Nathan, who saw what had to be done, and at peril of his life did it, breaking, with a courageous sentence [“You are the man!”] the shell of insensitive and unfeeling self-righteousness which David wore, and whose wearing shows the sickness of his soul and the distance he had slipped from the God he had once served.” (# 37)
Let’s now look closely at this psalm and see the wonder of this transformation for ourselves. David, cries out to God:
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.
David has finally given up on his denial, his pride, his self-righteousness and recognizes his utter dependence on God and his hopelessness unless this Holy God shows mercy on him – a sinner! He owns his rebellion and calls “a spade a spade” and uses a number of terms to describe his terrible failure – my transgressions, my iniquity, my sin. He knows that his only hope is to call upon God for mercy based, not on anything good in himself, but on the truth of God’s unfailing love, his great compassion.
Later in Israel’s history, when due to the sins of God’s people, judgement had come upon them, Jeremiah, wrote a lament and poured out his heart to God. He, like David, knew that their only hope was God and so he wrote:
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering…and my
soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness…
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him. (Lamentations 3:19-25)
And so, David, aware of God’s goodness and holiness, confesses and acknowledges his sin to God, seeking forgiveness and cleansing from the corruption of his rebellion:
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 you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret 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.
Blaiklock continues: “David knew that he had no claims on God…Only in the exercise of God’s ‘steadfast love’…could he find relief. Casting himself on God’s grace, God’s unmerited love, he asks that his sins be wiped out…David feels soiled in person, contaminated to the depths, in a fashion that needs washing…cleansing…His sin is an obsession…standing like a presence before his eyes…It ‘confronts him continually’…How true is the experience, too many thousands know…He had forgotten the God he once had known so well. He had betrayed his Lord. He had committed crimes against a woman, her gallant husband…his…family, the nation which trusted him, the Levites who sang his songs…it was sin, evil done under [God’s] watching eye…the result was vindication of the words of God – ‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ [Numbers 32:23]…” (# 37)
Thank God, for his grace and love and goodness, even to David and each one of us, who, when we recognize our dire situation and call out to Him for mercy and forgiveness. Is that your need today?
Thank God for Jesus who is able to transform our lives and for the truth of 1 John 1:7-9
7 …if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Amen.