I grew up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My family’s relatives lived in a state less humid than Rio, and part of the wonder of our childhood was the number of showers our relatives took when they visited—five per day to be exact. We did not have air-conditioning, and we used one fan only at night as everyone settled down to sleep. Now I know their motivation was not only cleanliness but also refreshment. Today’s psalm reminds me that just like showering, asking God for forgiveness is something I need to practice often—several times a day if needed.
The superscription ties this psalm to David as he reflects on Nathan’s visit. The visit assured David that God saw his sin and that God required truth from David. Notice how David acknowledges his sinful state; he writes in detail about his need for a deep cleansing from God. His sense of brokenness comes through each line. David recognizes that—Uriah and Bathsheba notwithstanding—his transgression is against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned.” Only God can restore him to right relationship.
We also hear David’s desire for restoration. He asks God to create in him a clean heart. Psalm 51 is a good model to follow as we seek forgiveness. We move beyond the simple “I am sorry” to the root of our problem: our need for a clean heart and a right spirit that only God can give. As we ask God to forgive our sins, we can remember that God’s love is steadfast, God’s mercy abundant. Joy and gladness come in God’s ability to make all things new.
God, you desire truth in the inward being, so I come to you in transparency and humility asking for forgiveness. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Amen.
David thinks he has gotten away with adultery and murder, but God sends Nathan to tell David a story. The story angers David, but Nathan reveals that the story is really about David’s own sin. Indeed, it can be tempting to condemn others’ sin, while we justify our own sin. Psalm 51 is David’s appeal to God for forgiveness and restoration. If we want to please God in our own lives, what does this look like? Ephesians tells us that the signs of a redeemed life include humility, love, patience, and building up one another (the opposite of what David displayed). In John, Jesus has crowds following him because they want a free meal. The lasting nourishment they truly need, Jesus teaches, comes through believing that God has sent him.
• Read 2 Samuel 11:26–12:13a. The Lord has put away your sins. How has God’s forgiveness changed your life?
• Read Psalm 51:1-12. When have you felt “unclean” before God? How did God restore you?
• Read Ephesians 4:1-16. Who has been essential in your walk with Christ?
• Read John 6:24-35. God’s presence in our lives is as important as food. How do you feed your soul?
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