God responds to a repentant heart out of his character.
Being merciful, he blots out our transgressions instead of visiting us with his wrath (Ps. 51:2).
Being gracious in his love, he washes us of our dirtiness when he didn’t have to, becoming dirty himself.
Being compassionate toward his creation, he desired to see us walking how he designed us rather than continuing to stumble around on the path of our choosing.
David knew this. And to show how God responds to a repentant heart, David penned Ps. 52 after the prophet Nathan confronted him concerning his adulterous and murderous affair with the wife of his captain of the guard (2 Sam. 11-12).
We all know her name. She’s famous. Bathsheba.
And we all know how one act, one failure, could crush a king.
David acknowledged his need of Divine help to battle his sin (51:3-4). David knew first-hand sin was much more than simply wrong words and actions, but who he was as a person. He was a sinner because he had sinned, but he was also a sinner because it was in his very nature to do so.
In Ps. 51, God’s character as holy and loving stands against David’s character as sinful and selfish.
Where God is merciful, man is filled with revenge.
Where God is gracious, man is petty.
Where God is compassionate, man is self-centered and hard.
In this psalm, it is to God’s character as merciful, gracious, and compassionate to which David appeals when he repents of his sin. He asks God to respond his confession in three ways, and it is in those very same ways that God continues to respond to us today:
1. God forgives us (Ps. 51:7-9)
- God purges us (51:7)
- God washes us (51: 7)
- God makes us hear joy and gladness (51:8)
- God brings restoration (51:8)
- God doesn’t look upon our sins (51:9)
- God removes our sin (51:9)
2. God restores us (Ps. 51:10-11)
- God gives us a clean heart (51:10)
- God renews our spirit (51:10)
- God chooses to keep himself near us (51:11)
- God keeps his Spirit within us (51:11)
3. God enables us to worship him (Ps. 51:12-17)
- God gifts us with joy (51:12)
- God preserves us with his Spirit (51:12)
- God positions us to lead others to worship the God who forgives (51:13)
- God saves us from backbreaking guilt so we might focus on praising him (51:14)
- God enables us to praise his character (51:14-15)
Repentance is an act of worship.
“For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.” (Ps. 51:16-17)
It was by no accident that Jesus told the woman at the well that worship occurs in spirit and truth (John 4). In Ps. 51, we see God’s Spirit playing a vital role is prepping us for worship. For his people who were trapped in the externals of tradition and ceremony, God desired more – a better reflection of his character.
Ultimately, God keeps his promises to his people (to give them a place to dwell with him) (Ps. 51:18-19). He restores our relationship with him. And when God responds to our sin, he does more than forgive our mess-ups or wipe our slates clean. God responds to our sin by restoring our ability to worship him.
Dear Lord, I cannot fully grasp my sin. I know I need help. My mistakes and poor choices seem irreparable. But you are bigger than my sins. You see beyond what I say, think, feel, and do. You see the person you created me to be – a worshiper clothed in righteousness. Please help me worship you. Forgive me of my rebellion & selfishness. Clean me and restore me. In your Son’s holy name, Amen.
This year, I’m walking through the Psalms for my daily quiet time. Check out the full listing of my devotionals so far! And be sure to subscribe to get all the info on the upcoming launch of my eBook, Daughters of the King: Finding Your Place in the Biblical Story.