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by Justin Holcomb
Psalm 51: Understand the Depth of Your Sin
David is aware his real sin was more serious than the capital crimes of 2 Samuel 11. The root of his wicked deeds was a casual dethroning of God in his heart. None of us have walked clear of this. David alludes to this when he confesses, "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" (Psalm 51:4).
David refuses to pass off his offenses by making them out to be someone else’s fault – or even the fault of the system. The repetition of the word my and me four times each in Psalm 51:1–3 pushes the point home. He probably could have found multiple ways to excuse himself from some angles. It’s a hard job being King – I am entitled to some rest and some privileges; Bathsheba was looking for some companionship; Uriah would have been killed in battle at some point; it wasn’t me who killed him anyway – it was the Ammonites.
Put your sin in the proper perspective
This line had evidently been enough to keep David from repentance until Nathan came along. We can keep our dull consciences quiet for long periods, excusing our actions in various ways. A common one is: I had no choice. Perhaps even more common is: if you knew what they did to me.
If we hold out long enough, we can even train our consciences to see it the way most convenient for us.
David is now looking from the ultimate angle: God’s. Until we do that, we can kid ourselves all we like, but we are never going to deal with the real problem of our sin.
We need to see it from God’s vantage point, and God says: TREASON.
It is God whom we have offended. And it is God who will judge righteously.
Forget the bud, nip the root
Either we come to terms with this or we are not truly repenting. We may be self-pitying, regretful, even remorseful, yet we must reach the point of accepting God’s verdict without any qualification: Lord, you are right, I am wrong, it’s no one else’s fault and you are the one I have ultimately hurt. Go to the root of your sin, or it will grow back.
It is your choice
It’s a big deal to recognize you did have a choice. Those times when we are forced between options are always revealing. To say you have no choice but to sin is to betray that a path other than purity (career, reputation, wealth, ease) is ultimately a higher priority. We do have a choice – and we always choose what we want. It’s what we want that says the most about us.
Hope in God’s character
David has no confidence in past good deeds, nor does he make lavish promises about how much better he will behave from now on. He has a far more mature perspective. Jesus said, "blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3). Anyone coming to God with a list of reasons why he ought to forgive them still has no idea of the scale of their debt, and their own utter lack of power. The only hope is God.
We do have a choice—and we always choose what we want. It’s what we want that says the most about us.
David appeals to God’s covenant mercy (steadfast love) – which speaks of his dependable nature. God’s promise to treat his people with undeserved favor and grace which, for David, went back to his promises to Moses.
God has compassion for repentent sinners
David also refers to God’s "abundant mercy," though some translations will say "compassion." Here, the intensity of God’s love is in mind. This is a more emotive word. It speaks of a gut feeling of pity in God for his repentant people. Time and again in Scripture it is shown; and time and again it is displayed by God’s work in our lives.
Because this is the nature of our God, we can have hope – true hope.