What David Said: Make Me Clean!

“Have mercy on me, O 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 my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” (Psalm 51:1-3)

As far as we know, David wrote these words after he had verbally confessed his sin against God. The prophet Nathan — a man God used to speak His words on earth — gave David an immediate response: “The LORD has taken away your sin.”

whatdavid_350But David still felt guilty and dirty and stained with all of his ugly choices. Even after hearing God’s announced punishments (the death of the baby and violence/conflict/betrayl for and from his other kids), David can’t get past the burden of his sin. It’s hard to blame him.

Most of us can relate to the memory of a sin that is always before us. Maybe you have begged God to clean you up over and over already knowing in your head that He has promised to forgive you. Let’s remind ourselves again of God’s great mercy and His unfailing love for us in Christ Jesus.

Think: Why do you think it is sometimes difficult to let go of the burden of sin even after we have done our best to make it right with God and with those we have wronged? Is it a bad thing that the guilty feelings linger? Is there a difference between godly sorrow and worthless regret?

Pray: Thank God again that Jesus paid for all of your sin when He died on the cross. Thank Him for His mercy. Ask Him to help you not to forget His grace and also to remember that you are forgiven in Jesus.

Do: Read and think about 2 Corinthians 7:10.

What David Said: Paper Confessions

“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.

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” (Psalm 51:4-6)

On some cop shows, perps are dragged into a holding cell and grilled by the detectives until they’re ready to spill. (Maybe I’ve watched too many cop shows.) The goal is often to get the bad guy to write out a confession to the crime on paper.

whatdavid_350That’s not a bad idea for you and me, either. David did that here. First, he confessed to his sin verbally with Nathan. Later, he wrote out his confession. Especially when we struggle to believe that we are truly forgiven and loved by God, writing down our prayer of confession to Him can help us have something to hold on to as evidence of the conversation we’ve had with Him.

Notice what David included: 1) He admits that he sinned against God. 2) He throws himself on the mercy of God’s court, understanding He deserves any judgement God chooses. (We know Jesus has already paid our punishment, but we will often suffer the real-world consequences of our wrong choices.) 3) David admits he’s a criminal from the womb; this isn’t a one-time offense. 4) He says he knows he can change only with God’s help by honestly learning in his heart the wisdom God teaches.

Think: Have you ever confessed your sin to God as David did here? Do you see any value in writing out prayers to God, especially prayers of confession?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be honest with Him and with yourself in your heart and to learn the wisdom He teaches in your inmost place.

Do: If you want to, try writing out a prayer to God. If you have unconfessed sin to deal with, follow David’s pattern of written confession. Otherwise, just write what you would normally talk to Him about.

What David Said: Bigger Than Your Sin

“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.” (Psalm 51:7-9)

When you’ve done your worst. When you’ve been caught red-handed. When everyone seems to know just by looking at you how ugly your soul can be. When you’re drowning in the consequences of your own foolish, selfish choices.

whatdavid_350In that moment, you might feel beyond fixing. Some people vow in that moment to abandon God forever. He could not love them again. He could not forgive that. They are broken. Ruined. Too far gone to ever come back.

David, though, realized that was a lie. His God was bigger than his sin. Your God is bigger than your sin, even if your sin is huge. David believed and so he asked: “Clean me. Make it possible for me to be happy again. Take all my ugly sins and delete them completely from your hard drive.” God can do that.

Think: Have you ever felt it wasn’t even worth the effort to get right with God because your sin was so major? Do you see how that treats God as if He is smaller than your capacity to do wrong?

Pray: Ask God to help you to believe that His forgiveness and grace is greater than your sin. As one forgiven by the blood of Jesus, ask God to help you to hear joy and gladness today.

Do: Make a quick list of the sins that God cannot or will not forgive because they’re just too evil.

What David Said: Will You Change Me?

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

David has already admitted in this confession that he has been sinful from birth. He’s not a guy who is “almost good” and just needs a little nudge to get him over the hill. These terrible sins are not the exception, after all. They have only revealed who he really is.

whatdavid_350That’s what brings David to the words in today’s passage. If he’s going to be any different tomorrow — if he’s going to really change — God is the one who will have to change him.

God will have to make his heart pure and his spirit strong. God will have to keep David close and keep the Holy Spirit with him. And God will have to change David’s attitude about doing right from feeling like a chore to feeling like a real celebration—transforming his obedience from grudging, forced choices into a natural and sustainable lifestyle of joyfully walking with God.

Here’s the good news: God has promised to do all of that for those of us who have trusted in Jesus. You can ask Him, too. It’s what He wants to give to you.

Think: Do the things David asks for in this passage describe your life? If not, what are you missing and why do you think you’re missing it?

Pray: Pray these verses with David to the extent that they apply to you.

Do: Write it down: On a scale from 1 to 10, how much joy have you felt in your life, lately? Look up Romans 15:13 and use that verse to ask God for more joy and hope and peace as you trust in Him.

What David Said: Open My Lips

“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:13-15)

Does God need us to serve Him or to praise Him? No. Of course not. He’s God. So why does David seem to be promising God that he will serve and praise the Lord once he’s forgiven?

whatdavid_350Because David understood his life meant nothing if it wasn’t used in service of God. He knew that he, David, needed to point others to God and worship his Creator. That was his purpose. And he knew that his sinful choices had kept him from doing that.

So he prays: Restore me, so I can show other sinners like me that they need to turn around. Restore me, so I can sing about you again. I can’t praise you if we are separated, God, open my lips and let my praise flow again. Forgive me, so I can start giving myself away to you again.

Think: Do you ever think of the ability to praise and worship God as His gift to you? Do you notice when you’re dabbling in sin that you’re less effective at telling God how great He is?

Pray: Ask God to give you an appetite for praising Him and pointing others to Him. If that doesn’t come naturally to you, ask Him to open your lips so you can declare His praise.

Do: Read Romans 11:33 – 12:2 and think about the point of a life NOT given away to God.

What David Said: God Likes Broken Hearts

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)

David’s sin broke God’s heart. You can hear it in God’s words to David through Nathan in 2 Samuel 12. He said, in essence, “Why did you do this? I gave you so much. I would have given you more. Why did you do this to me?” God was betrayed.

whatdavid_350David understood that he couldn’t buy his way out of his sin to be reconnected with God at a heart level. Yes, he could mechanically work the steps required by the Law, and David followed the Law. But he knew what God wanted most was for him to be as broken over his sin as God was.

God responds to our brokenness. We can be caught in sin without really feeling bad about it. We can be sorry for the consequences while our hearts remain as hard as rocks. God wants to crush those rocks to make us as devastated by our sin as He is. He will not turn away from our genuine sorrow and repentance.

Think: Do you sometimes feel like your heart is hard about your sin even while you’re confessing it to God? Is it hard for you to believe God’s heart is broken over your sinful choices? If so, why do you think that is?

Pray: Ask God to make you sad about your sin. Ask Him to help you to feel sick about it. Ask Him to help your heart to break over the sinful choices you make.

Do: Really. Seriously. Pray that.

What David Said: One More Thing . . .

“In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.” (Psalm 51:18-19)

Have you ever noticed that when you’re saying sorry for something — especially for something really ugly — that it’s not the best time to ask for a favor? It just feels wrong to say, “I’m really sorry. That was so wrong. Now can I borrow $20?”

whatdavid_350So David’s request at the end of this psalm feels really bold. Almost inappropriate. But it shows us how strongly David believed in God’s mercy, forgiveness, and desire to help Israel.

David had made his confession. He’d admitted his wrong. He had received God’s punishment. He’d asked to be made clean. Now he was ready to move forward and ask for God’s blessing on His people. Walking with God again means asking God again to make you strong enough to worship Him more.

Think: Do you ever hesitate to ask God for help because you know you don’t deserve it, because you feel guilty about your sin? Does God ever want you to pull away from Him in those moments?

Pray: Follow David’s lead here: Ask God to help you to be stronger in your ability to trust Him so you can worship Him most effectively.

Do: Make a quick list of reasons to stop asking God for help in your life. (Hint: It should be a really short list.)