Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love,
According to your abundant mercy,
Blot out my transgressions.
How do we start the road back to relational repair with God and others when we have sinned? Whether our sin was a sin of the heart or our sins have us trapped in a web of pain, the first step to wholeness is toward God.
King David models for us the way back to a restored relationship with God, which will lead us to restored relationships with those against whom we have sinned. Psalm 51 is prayed by David after Nathan the prophet confronted him about his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, and his murderous plot to take out Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was successful. In Psalm 51 we see David repenting from the heart and seeking forgiveness from God for all the wickedness and injustice that he unleashed with his actions. This psalm is a great example for us of entrusting ourselves to the steadfast love of God, and seeking forgiveness from God, when we have sinned. Over the next few weeks, I would like to dedicate the gospel reminder to focusing on how to repent from the heart, when we have sinned.
David doesn’t begin his request for forgiveness with asking God for mercy, on the basis of his own kingship, or because he has been faithful most of his life, or because he defeated Goliath,or some other reason in himself. Instead, David realizes that before God, and because of his sin, there is no basis in himself that he could ask for God to forgive him. Instead, one of the most liberating and terrifying things to do, David does. He appeals for mercy from God, on the basis of God’s steadfast love and abundant mercy alone.
This is liberating, because God is rich and generous with mercy. God delights to forgive. But it is also terrifying,because we are trusting in God’s mercy, not in our own sense of achievement. David experienced what we now call coming to an end of ourselves. David realized that he can’t deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift, sourced in God’s mercy and grace.
When we realize we can’t and we don’t deserve God’s forgiveness, when we recognize that God delights to give forgiveness—we can let go of our pride, and we humbly receive forgiveness from God. This type of forgiveness, this quality of grace, leads us to be transformed.