Psalm 51 – Devotional

Be gracious to me, God,
according to your faithful love;
according to your abundant compassion,
blot out my rebellion.

Psalm 51:1

Confession is ridiculously risky. Confessing our sin can cost us our reputation, respect, and even some relationships. However, the only thing more costly than confessing sin is not confessing it.

Failing to confess our sin can cost us intimacy, communion, and fellowship with God. The Bible is remarkably clear that Christians shouldn’t be a concealing people but a confessing people (Prov. 28:13, Jam. 5:16, 1 John 1:9). In Psalm 51, David provides for us as believers the template for having a penitent posture towards God after we have wronged Him. He shows that Christians aren’t necessarily those who are marked by the absence of sin but the presence of repentance.

A question that the text begs is, what do we do when (not if) we sin? David understands that his hands are too dirty to wipe himself clean. He asks the Lord to wash and cleanse (51:2), purify (51:7), create a clean heart (51:10), and restore (51:12) him. He demonstrates that our readiness to confess our sins comes from the realization that God is the only one with the power to cleanse them. David believes in his bones that the multitude of his sins doesn’t stand a chance against the magnitude of God’s mercy. Do we believe that? I think David’s story gives us hope.

You might be wondering, how in the world does the Bible have the audacity to call David a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22)? He’s caught committing adultery with the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:4), and then out of grime and guilt has her husband killed (2 Sam. 11:14-16). And then the plot thickens.

An interesting detail in the text that is often overlooked in the narrative of David and his sin is the fact that David’s son dies as a direct result of his sin (2 Sam. 12:18). David is deeply grieved because he knows that Yahweh had promised him that he would have a son to sit on the throne forever. We’re forced to ask: did David’s sin eclipse God’s mercy as seen in God’s promise? Absolutely not! We see that God keeps His promise and gives David another son, Solomon (2 Sam. 12:25).

As we look forward to Jesus, on the cross we see that Christ takes the punishment for sin and at the same time fulfills the promise of the coming Savior. This son of David who will sit on the throne forever with his crown of thorns shows us how God’s promise and His punishment marry, how His holiness and hatred for sin dance together.

When we remember the Gospel, we are able to cry out, confess, and cling to our Savior. We can become those who, like David, hate and deeply grieve our sin—not because of what it does to us, but because of what it did to Jesus 2,000 years ago.

We should take sin as seriously as God did. Do you find it hard to confess your sin? Why or why not? Does your fear of confessing sin say something about your fear of man or fear of God? Our memory needs to be jogged as Christians to remember that we will stand face to face with a Savior who took every ounce of condemnation that we deserved. We can recall the character of God who proved His abundant compassion and faithful love, and who has definitively washed and cleansed us in holy blood.


Father, we are those who can be bold in sinning but shy in confessing. Help us remember that you are more gracious than we are grimy, more merciful than we are messy, and more compassionate than we are conniving. We love you and ask that you make us like your son who knew no sin but served and suffered for those who did. In Christ’s name. Amen.

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