Dave spoke from Psalm 51 this morning, the psalm written by David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and connived in the death of her husband, Uriah. Unlike people (who tend to want to emphasise the good parts about themselves without mentioning anything bad!), God’s word is honest in showing us people as they really were. Nonetheless, despite all our shortcomings, God is able to use us if we have a heart set on Him (see Acts 13:22).

The background to the psalm is David’s realisation, through the word of God in the mouth of Nathan the prophet, of his sin. He has managed to ‘get away’ with his sin for months, but now he prays with heartfelt sincerity ‘Be merciful to me, a sinner.’ He realises that he needs God’s forgiveness and that he can do nothing to earn this. The cleansing and washing he requires to renew and restore his relationship with God cannot be earned by his own efforts. Sin makes us unfit to be in God’s presence. Nonetheless, even after Nathan proclaims God’s forgiveness to him, David finds it hard to forgive himself (a common problem to many of us) and he has to live with the consequences of his sin (the child conceived in adultery dies.)

David reaches the place where he acknowledges God’s sovereignty and understands that God is not so much interested in the outward trappings of sacrifice as with a broken and contrite heart. He wants us to be humble and willing to serve.

The psalm teaches us:
(1) the importance of a close and current relationship with God
Clearly, things have gone awry in David’s walk with God. The problem for all of us is that deterioration in our daily walk with God generally comes so slowly that it is imperceptible to us. It’s a ‘slow fade’, as Casting Crowns sing:

“It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade.” (‘Slow Fade’, Casting Crowns)

(2) the importance of self-image

If we forget who we are in God, we get a distorted picture of ourselves. David had been made king by God’s grace and needed God’s grace for his daily living. We owe everything we have and are to God. Once we lose sight of that, we are in a dangerous place.

(3) that nothing we do can earn God’s forgiveness.
God is the one who will ‘blot out my transgressions’. The reason Christ came was to redeem those under the law (Gal 4:4). Christ lived on earth, experienced temptation, knew what it is like to walk in human flesh, yet did not sin. He is the one who will make everything beautiful in its time.

When we receive and understand God’s forgiveness, our mouths are filled with praise; we want to tell others of God’s ways and we become lights to Him rather than relying on or needing self-importance. We are who we are, after all, only because of who God is.

‘Create in Me a Clean Heart’, Keith Green