Psalm 51
For the director of music. A psalm of David. 
When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1      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 that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
5      Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6      Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost 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.
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, and sinners will turn back to you.
14     Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15     O Lord, open my lips, 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     The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18     In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19     Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.


Call me quirky (I can hear the collective: “quirky!”) but can you imagine your brothers 
and sisters in faith singing a song you wrote about your own sin?  This is what this Psalm 
was—even the inscription tells us exactly which sin it was in King David’s life!  It was one 
of the saddest moments in David’s life (from our perspective): he has an affair with 
Bathsheba, gets her pregnant, attempts to cover it up by tricking her husband into 
sleeping with her (he was off at war under King David’s command), then finally ends up 
having her husband killed.
Here’s the neat thing about this Psalm (actually, there are many neat things with this 
Psalm): it reflects accurately how David handled the confrontation of Nathan.  When he 
was confronted, the Lord crushed him.  In this Psalm we see more of that guilt.  David said 
(verse 3), “I know my transgression…my sin is always before me.”  He knew what he 
had done.  Moreover, he knew the Lord knew what he had done.  “Against you, you only, 
have I sinned,” David wrote (verse 4).  He didn’t do what we do most of the time: blame 
someone else.  Instead, King David asked the Lord to “wash away my…sin” (verse 2). 
“Cleanse me…wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (verse 7).  Only the Lord could 
remove the stain of his sin.  Only the Lord could wash him.  Is this how you pray when you 
are confronted with sin?  Is this how I pray when I am confronted with sin?  Do we ask the 
Lord, with a broken spirit, to “create in me a pure heart…and renew a steadfast spirit 
within me” (verse 10)?
David reminds us of a relatively common idea in the Old Testament: God doesn’t want our 
lip service.  He wants our hearts.  David writes (verses 16-17), “You do not delight in 
sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices 
of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”   
The Lord wants us to obey Him.  Jesus said it just as clearly (John 14:15), “If you love me, 
you will obey what I command.”
David’s act of disobedience—his sin—was “dis-loving” to the God Who created Him.  Our 
sin—our not doing what the Lord commands—is “dis-loving” to the Lord Who redeems us.   
Give Him your heart, even when you sin.  That’s what He wants.  As I’ve heard a friend 
say, “He’s the only one who can do anything useful with it anyway.”  Well said.   And we 
should be thankful for this song about David’s sin.  It teaches us a lot about the man after 
God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and what we should do when we sin.