For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. 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. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. 18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
We are reading David’s private prayer and lament over the sin he has committed. King David had an affair with his neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, and covered it up by arranging for her husband to be killed in battle. David probably thought that nobody would find out. But the Lord knew what had happened, and sent the prophet Nathan to confront his sin.
This psalm is David’s response. It gives us beautiful insight into the relationship he has with God.
When confronted with his sin, David doesn’t deny it or defend himself. He admits his sin and confesses it. Most of all, David realised that his sin had damaged their relationship.
It’s what happens next that is surprising.
Usually if you’re the one who’s damaged the relationship, you’re the one who tries to apologise and make it up to the other person. You do what you can to make it right again.
But David doesn’t. He realises that can’t.
So he asks his Heavenly Father to.
How can he ask such a thing? Because David knows what God is really like: Great in mercy. Great in unfailing love and full of compassion towards him.
David also knows what God can do: bring His truth deep into his heart and make him clean again.
I think David exemplifies what it means to have a contrite heart: he is humble and fully reliant on God to make him right and to restore their relationship.
Father God, there is no one like You. I thank you that You are concerned about how I really am. I thank you that You are the one who does what I cannot do: You make me clean again, You restore me and You keep our relationship going.
Written by Gab Martin