Scripture Focus: Psalm 51.1-3
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.
From John: Rewriting this post from 2019, I wonder if Davids of today would listen to Nathans confronting them with their sin? Sadly, I think we have often learned that they don’t. Confessions rarely come without confrontations. We must see our sins before us, before we can put them behind us in repentance.
Reflection: Our Sins Ever Before Us
By John Tillman
Psalm 51 echoes through the New and Old Testaments. Its phrasing, words, and sentiments are often repeated.
In Luke, Jesus puts its words in the mouth of the Tax Collector in his parable about prayer: “have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Jesus alludes to it again in the Prodigal Son’s rehearsed speech of repentance.
The Pharisees adapt its language in John, when condemning the man born blind.
Paul quotes it in the third chapter of Romans and repeats its themes in Romans seven.
Many see this Psalm as a beautiful picture of how we can come to God for forgiveness no matter what we have done, and it is a beautiful picture. But before David could write this song of confession, he had to be confronted with the truth. Before we sing the beautiful song of Psalm 51 we must hear the ugly parable of Nathan. The ugly truth is the reflection of our sins.
Like David, we must be forced to see our sin for what it is.
David was already a lustful man—taking a large number of wives and concubines. He was already a bloody man of war and vengeance, so much so that God would not let David build the Temple. These sins eventually led him to a breaking point.
He became an adulterer—purposely seeking out and sleeping with another man’s wife.
He became a liar—seeking to hide his crime and dodge his responsibility for the child.
He became a murderer—murdering Uriah, a friend who was more honorable than David himself.
He became a coward—farming out the murder to someone else.
Before we pray or listen to Psalm 51, we need first to pray that there will be a Nathan in our lives to reveal to us the sins that we are failing to see. The reason David’s sin is “always before him” is because Nathan was there to reveal it.
In our prayers today, may we echo this Psalm as Jesus and Paul did, but first, may we seek revelation from the Holy Spirit of the sins we do not see in ourselves. We can’t confess what we refuse to see.
Racism. Idolatry. Pride. Greed. Lust. Reveal them to us, Lord.
Have mercy on us, Oh God. According to your unfailing love!
Music: “Psalm 51” — Charlie Peacock, Westcoast Diaries Volume Two
Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. — 2 Corinthians 4.6
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle
Read more about You Are The Man — Embracing Prophetic Responsibility
When Christians speak truth to power, we are empowered with the same Holy Spirit that spoke to Nathan. Whether to a monarch, a magistrate, or a magnate, we represent the message of the Gospel.
Read more about Confession Destroys Denial
We confess we have been deaf to cries of the needy, cries for help, and cries of injustice…Never let us rely on earthly kings to carry out the tasks of the heavenly kingdom.