Psalm 51 – A Model of Confession5 min read


Sin runs rampant in our flesh day by day, and temptations are all too common. Sadly, we succumb to these temptations, we sin, and we put a barrier between us and God – not in salvation, but in fellowship. The only way we can be restored is by confessing that sin and repenting of it. In Psalm 51 we see David’s cry unto God after his sin of adultery and murder; truly he had a great reason to confess. So then, we can apply the principles in this text to our own prayers when we have sinned.

Verse 1: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.”

Perhaps two main things to remember when we sin are (1) the seriousness of our sin and (2) the willingness of God to restore us and lead us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Sometimes we make the mistake of failing to emphasize at least one of the two; nevertheless, we have the mercy of God abundantly available – and thankfully so! It is difficult when burdened by the guilt over our sin to remember the grace of God, and yet we can come in remorse for our sin while understanding that there are a multitude of mercies awaiting us – not only mercies, but tender mercies. Oh the grace of our Saviour that He would grant mercy over and over again to failing servants! And yet He does. While this is no excuse to continue in sin (it is actually the opposite), it certainly is a comfort to our troubled hearts. His mercies await as He desires even more than we to restore fellowship.

Verse 2: “Wash me thoroughly… cleanse me from my sin.”

Confession is not simply about doing it to get sin off our backs: it is a channel through which we can manifest our repentance. You see, confession literally means “to say the same” as God, and we cannot do this from the heart if our intention is not to forsake the sin and move on to greater righteousness. Therefore, just as David pleaded with the Most High God to wash him thoroughly, so must our desire be towards holiness and to have sin rid dealt with.  And never must we settle for a mediocre cleansing! Rather we are to desire a thorough washing – sanctification by His Truth, by His power, and by prayer. Where are we after we confess our sins? Back into it? If so, something is wrong.

Verse 3: “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.”

Notice what David did not say. He did not say “Sorry, Lord, I made a mistake, but I know I’m beautiful in Your eyes.” He did not say “Oh well, nobody’s perfect.” No, he was willing to call his actions what they were: transgression, an overstepping of God’s righteous boundaries, and sin, falling short of God’s law. The truth is, we can never understand the depths of the sinfulness of our sin. We cannot look at it from a totally holy perspective; and therefore, our understanding of it is skewed. When it comes to confession, let us never underestimate the sorrow God feels when His own child falls, and let us even ask Him to show us the sinfulness of sin so that we are more sensible when faced with it again.

Verse 4: “… that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest…”

In spite of his sin, David was still concerned with exalting God’s righteousness, and it was that attitude which made way for restoration in his life. When you sin, are you still concerned with God’s exaltation? Are you willing to glorify Him with whatever little things you have to give Him? You see, sin with the believer is never meant to conquer him, but rather restoration is always in view. With this in mind, consider these verses of our psalm which exemplify this:

  • (6) “Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part Thou shalt make be to know wisdom.” From the consequences of sin comes wisdom, and God will use that to help others when we have been restored.
  • (9) “Hide Thy face from my sins.” Thankfully, we do not have to live with guilt our whole lives. After sin has been confessed and lamented over, we can begin to live life for God again, because He says “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”
  • (10) “Renew a right spirit within me.” God wants our attitudes to be refocused on Him; He wants us to develop further sensitivity toward sin.
  • (12) “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” One cannot truly worship when burdened by unconfessed sin. Yet when we are willing to forsake our pride and admit our wrong, we can look to the blood once again in awe as we appreciate that even the sin we had just committed was laid on Christ at Calvary. Tremendous truth!
  • (13) “Sinners shall be converted unto thee.” God also expects to restore us to gospel work and to the preaching of sin, judgment, and salvation.
  • (14) “My tongue shall sing….” God further wants to restore us to praise.

In conclusion, examine your heart. What sin have you been harboring in it that has kept you from both proper communion and proper service? Understand that before you can bring an offering to God, whatever that may be, God expects a sincerely broken and contrite heart from you (17-19). When that is done, look again to the blood, for though it has once for all cleansed you from sin, it continues to sanctify you in cleansing your heart from defilement. Whether a visible sin, an invisible sin, a lengthy sin, or a short sin, God’s desire for your is restoration by confession. He is waiting to use you. O that your cry might then be “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving-kindness!”

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