1Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions
2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against 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.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.—Psalm 51
Who among us does not know the need to go to Psalm 51 and make it ours? David prayed this psalm after committing adultery with Bathsheba, but his words and heart of repentance are universally relevant to all who feel the weight of their sin. Note the pervasive metaphor used throughout the psalm: David feels dirty. He needs God to make him clean. “Wash me” (Ps. 51:2, 7), he begs. “Cleanse me” (Ps. 51:3). “Purge me” (Ps. 51:7). “Blot out all my iniquities” (Ps. 51:9). But this is a dirtiness that cannot be washed off in a shower. It is inside us.
Do you feel dirty? The good news of the gospel is that you can be rinsed clean. David pleads for God to have mercy on him (Ps. 51:1). Is this an empty, hopeless plea? By no means. Look at the next words: “according to your steadfast love” (Ps. 51:1). David is asking for God to be who he is. He is asking God to act in a way that is consistent with himself. David knows he is a God of “abundant mercy” (Ps. 51:1), so he asks for mercy accordingly. Is this who you know God to be?
Is this who you know yourself to be? Do you know yourself to be dirty? A sinner? All that God asks of you is to bring the sacrifice of a “broken and contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17). He gave his own Son as the final sacrifice so that your brokenness could be the only prerequisite to receiving God’s abundant mercy. Amid your dirtiness, you are free to breathe again. He is the God of abundant mercy. He proved it in Jesus. This is who he is. In Christ, you are rinsed clean—invincibly, permanently, irreversibly.
This article is adapted from In the Lord I Take Refuge: 150 Daily Devotions through the Psalms by Dane C. Ortlund.
From the psalms we see that God works in and through our emotions to draw us closer to him and to mature us spiritually.
The ultimate purpose of the book of Psalms is to model for God’s people how and why to praise the LORD.
If you fail to understand poetic structures and literary devices, you will understand and preach the Psalms improperly.
God’s people have always been a singing people. There must be a robust expression of our testimony to his grace, something not just seen in our lives but heard from our voices.