1 For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
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 that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall 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, and sinners will turn back to you. 14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, 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 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise
18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
How to say ‘Sorry’ to God
(Verses 1-2) Psalm 51 is guilty King David’s prayer of confession to God for his sins of adultery, dishonesty, murder by proxy, inevitable killing of soldiers involved, pride, hypocrisy, and slowness to confess his sins. Read 2 Samuel 11:1 to 12:14 for the background. Nathan is God’s prophet who confronted David after a long time.
David asks for God’s mercy, knowing God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘great compassion.’ He asks for his sins to be blotted out, and for washing and cleansing from his sin. A sincere sorry prayer to God starts like this.
(Verses 3-4) David no longer hides his sins. He knows them, feels them, and knows they offend God. God is right to judge him.
(Verses 5-6) He admits he is a sinner at heart, since conception, and that God wants him to be true and wise in his heart.
(Verses 7-9) He wants real cleansing – whiter than snow– not just the ceremonial cleansing applied by a shrub called hyssop. He longs for his former joy and gladness. He feels crushed – that is the Holy Spirit at work. He asks God to now look away from his sinfulness and blot out all his iniquity.
(Verse 10) Again he returns to pray for a clean (or ‘pure’) heart and a renewal within him of a ‘steadfast spirit’ from God.
(Verse 11) He asks God to stay with Him, and for His Holy Spirit not to be removed.
(Verses 12-17) He asks for the joy of God’s salvation and a ‘willing spirit’. Then he will teach sinners God’s ways. Some will turn back and be saved. He wants saving from shedding innocent blood. Then he will praise God for His righteousness. He seeks open lips to praise God with a ‘broken and contrite heart’, not just making sacrifices.
(Verses 18-19) King David can then seek the good of Zion in worshipping God. If you earnestly confess your sins to God like this, God will cleanse you. That is why Jesus died for you and rose again.