Confession is a difficult practice. It is difficult to admit our short fallings and mistakes, that we have done wrong, and that we need God’s help. And yet God calls us to regular confession in the Lord’s Prayer: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Perhaps the most powerful example of sin, confession and forgiveness in the Bible concerns King David. 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25 records the incident of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, his planned deception, and his subsequent killing of Uriah. We are told clearly that the thing David had done displeased the LORD (2 Samuel 11:27). Following the prophet Nathan’s parable to David showing the king the extent of his sin, David recognised what he had done, and confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 2:13). Nathan confirmed God’s mercy to David following his confession: “The Lord has taken away your sin” (2 Samuel 2:13).
King David wrote Psalm 51 as a poem of confession to God in response to his conviction about his sin. This Psalm is the most famous Psalm of confession in the Bible, and provides a useful model prayer of confession to use. Like us, King David found confession difficult. This week, let’s reflect David’s prayer of confession as we use this simple structure around Psalm 51 each day. The Psalm consists of roughly two halves, which for the purpose of this prayer, have been broken up by a verse of assurance from the New Testament.
Read Psalm 51:1-9 – Confession of Sins
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 you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will 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.
David here draws on images of cleaning by God – blot out, wash away, cleanse.
Perhaps surprisingly, in 51:4, David claims to have sinned against God alone, seemingly ignoring Uriah and Bathsheba and their families. However, it is true that while our wrongdoing affects many people, it is God alone whose holy laws we have broken. In that sense, it is against God alone that we have sinned. But at the same time, it also provides a powerful reminder to us that we often do wrong many other people in our sin.
Pause, Pray to God
Confess your sins to God, be as specific as you can
Ask God for cleansing for your sins, as David did
Ask God to forgive you for wrongs against others
Make a note to seek forgiveness from others also
Read 1 John 1:9 – Assurance of forgiveness because of Jesus
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Pause, Pray to God
Thank God for his mercy to you
Read Psalm 51:10-19 – A Commitment to Change
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,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Saviour,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
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 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
David begins this second section with a focus on renewal – create, renew, restore (10-12).
David then seeks to respond to God through leading others to God, and praising and declaring God’s name (13-15)
Finally, David reminds himself of the proper place of sacrifices and offerings; that they are a mark of thanksgiving, not a way to earn forgiveness. David reminds himself that repentance and humility is the sacrifice God primarily seeks.
Pause, Pray to God
Ask God to renew and change you by His Spirit to live for you each day
Commit yourself to serving and praising God in thanksgiving