Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities. Psalm 51:1-9 ESV
Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.’” . . . David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” II Samuel 12:7-9, 13 ESV
King David had sinned terribly against God. He had taken away another man’s wife, and had arranged to have her husband killed so he could have her to himself. For about a year David had lived with this sin, and not been sorry or looked to God for forgiveness or help. Then the prophet Nathan came to David and talked to him about his sin. He told him a story that made David understand how wrong it was to do what he had done. David finally faced the fact that he had sinned against God and deserved to die. He confessed his sin to God and to Nathan, and Nathan gave David the good news that God had forgiven his sin. It was at this point in David’s life that he wrote Psalm 51.
David understood that he didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness or help, but he begged God to have mercy on him. Mercy means to give someone help and kindness when it is in the other person’s power to hurt or punish that person. David knew he deserved God’s punishment and that his only hope was that God would have mercy and forgive him. David used the picture of blotting out his sin, which means to cover a mark on a paper so it can’t be seen. We sometimes use liquid paper to blot out a mistake. David also used the picture of washing. If you get a stain on your clothes, you hope it will be washed out in the laundry. He also asked God to hide his face, as if God were covering his eyes so he couldn’t see what David had done. These are all pictures of God’s forgiveness.
When we’ve done something wrong and feel bad about it, we also hope that God will have mercy on us and forgive us. We wish we had never done it. It’s like a mistake on a paper or a stain on our clothes. We want it to be covered up or washed out. We feel ashamed that God sees what we did, and we want him cover his eyes and not look at it anymore. We have the same good news that Nathan gave David. God has mercy on us, and he forgives our sins. He sent Jesus to take our sins on himself and to pay for them at the cross. Because of what Jesus did for us, we can always be sure of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for forgiving all our sins for Jesus’ sake. Amen.