By David Faust
It must have felt like the worst day of his life. And he already had faced a lot of rough days.
There was the day when he watched sheep in the field while his brothers auditioned before Samuel to learn God’s choice for king.
There was the day when, armed with a sling and a handful of stones, he faced an oversized opponent whose threats made Israel’s army cower in fear.
There were the days when he faced insults and abuse at the hands of a jealous king who rewarded his faithful service by treating him like a target for spear practice.
And there were days spent on the run—hiding in caves, eluding his pursuers, feigning insanity to get out of a tough spot—harsh days when he knew the gnaw of a fugitive’s hunger and felt the confusion of a great soul called by God whose life at the moment made little sense.
He experienced many hard days, but none rougher than the day when the prophet Nathan confronted him with his wrongdoing. On that day David the brave warrior, psalm writer, worship leader, and lover of God saw himself as David the sinner. Nathan told him a hard truth, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7), and David’s hard heart began to melt in repentance.
A Broken Heart
A note at the beginning of Psalm 51 says David wrote this chapter “When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” What can we learn from Psalm 51 about confessing our own sin?
Recognize wrong for what it is. Denial does no good. David faced some ugly facts: he had committed adultery, tried to cover it up, and engaged in conspiracy that led to the death of Bathsheba’s husband. Out of a broken heart he honestly admitted, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (v. 3).
Recognize God for who he is. We fool ourselves and insult the Lord by pretending sin is no big deal. Humbly David prayed, “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” (v. 4).
Seek forgiveness from the Lord. Psalm 51 models the language of true confession: “Have mercy on me, O God. . . . Blot out my transgressions. . . . Cleanse me from my sin. . . . Create in me a pure heart. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (vv. 1, 2, 10, 12).
A Contrite Heart
Psalm 51 is David’s story, but it’s ours as well. Once we accept sin’s reality we’re ready to receive sin’s remedy—a remedy found ultimately in Jesus.
David prayed, “A broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (v. 17). True remorse leads from the grime of guilt to the cleansing power of the cross. It leads us to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38) and confess our sins, trusting the blood of Christ to purify us from all unrighteousness (see 1 John 1:7).
What seems to be the worst day of our lives can actually be the best day. When faced with the enormity of our sin, it can also be the day we realize God’s grace is great enough to wipe the slate clean.
1. Do you regularly include times of confession in your personal prayers? What sin do you need to confess to God today?
2. How will God’s grace shape the decisions you make this week?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of the Lookout.
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of THE LOOKOUT.
Numbers 5, 6
Numbers 7, 8