Reading the Word
Psalm 51:1–4 (ESV)
1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 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.
Understanding and Applying the Word
This is one of the most well-known of the psalms. The words are amazing enough on their own, but knowing the background makes this psalm even more amazing. David has had an affair with Bathsheba and, in an attempt to cover it up, he has commanded that her husband, Uriah, be placed in the thick of battle so that he will be killed. David’s scheme to cover up his wrongs fails, however, as Nathan the prophet confronts David over his sin.
This psalm is the result of David’s guilt and repentance over what he has done. In these opening verses, he pleads with God for mercy as he admits his wrongdoing. He bases his plea not on anything he has done to deserve God’s forgiveness, but solely on the steadfast love of God. What a wonderful example of the grace of God towards all of us. Scripture tells us that we are all sinners and fall short, but God is gracious and forgives those who repent and turn to him. Whatever your background, know that God stands ready to show his grace and mercy to you when you acknowledge your sin and your need for forgiveness.
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