“Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. 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” (Psalm 51:14-17).
The burden of the guilt of sin is a heavy weight to bear. Psalm 51 vividly describes the pain King David felt as he experienced the guilt of his sin in both having committed adultery with Bathsheba and having had her husband Uriah murdered on the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:1-27). After being instructed by God, Nathan the prophet had come to David and confronted David about his sin (2 Samuel 12:1-14). In Psalm 51 we see David opening his heart to God as he cries out to God for help in dealing with the guilt of his own sin. As the opening verses above show, by David’s example, we get a glimpse of what it means to have a broken and contrite heart before God (Psalm 51:14-17).
First, David acknowledges to God his sin: “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight-- that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:4). He understood God, as his Creator, had every right to judge David for his sin. David feels the separation from God’s presence his sin had created and how it had taken away the joy out of his life: “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me by Your generous Spirit” (Psalm 51:11-12).
In addition, as he comes before God loaded with the guilt of his sin, David does not ask for God’s justice. He knows he is guilty. Instead, David begs God to show him mercy and to forgive his sin: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:1-3).
Moreover, regarding his sin, David realizes how powerless he is to remove the guilt of his own sin. He acknowledges his lifelong struggle with sin (Psalm 51:5). He acknowledges that God alone has the power to remove the burden of his sins: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:7-10).
Finally, David mentions that if God will forgive him of his sin, then David will share with others the good news of God’s forgiveness: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You” (Psalm 51:12-13).
As I consider the words of this psalm I am reminded of the difficulty I have in bearing the burden of my own sin. I rejoice that I serve a merciful God who alone has the power to remove the guilt of my own sin through the precious blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-19). Today, like David I will tell others of the good news of God’s forgiveness by sharing with them the gospel of Christ!
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).