Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 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. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. 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. In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
As a Catholic, I go to Confession (not enough, but I do go). One of my trips to Confession, the priest gave me this scripture to reflect on for my penance. Penance is a way of reflecting on my sins in order to make me a better person. It is not to given to cause stress or worry about my sins, or as punishment for my sins. It is given (in the form of scripture, prayer or action) so that I understand why I sinned and I can hopefully turn away from sin in the future. Anyway, now that we have our Catholic lesson for the day, I was given the entire Psalm 51 to reflect on. Before I continue on, even if you are not Catholic, I believe that confessing your sins is very important. When we sin we turn our backs on God; in order to turn toward God, we must confess our sins (whether to a priest, a pastor or directly to God). So please do not miss out on this great experience of confession. There are many sites that help you examine your minds for sin. I will add a few of them at the end of this reflection.
The beginning of this Psalm (which was written by David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba), immediately asks God to “blot out” David’s sins. I love this because David gets right to the point. He knows he has done wrong. He knows he has made an awful choice (one that ended in the death of Bathsheba’s husband and ultimately the death of his firstborn son). He doesn’t give excuses. He just offers his sin for God to see. When my daughter, Katie, recently gave her first confession I explained to her that God already knows you sinned; now you just need to say it aloud. We are not divulging a secret to God. He’s got our number. It is amazing though how hard it is to say aloud. I get nervous before every confession, so I repeat my own message in my head, “God knows what I have done. I just need to say it aloud so that I hear it clearly.” Yes, I need to hear my sin more than anyone.
David goes on to say that he is ready for God to judge him. He knows that God is justified in judging this horrible sin. David realizes that he is God’s servant (not the powerful king that led to his temptation). He acknowledges that he needs to be taught wisdom. I can agree with this one. When I confess my sins, I recognize that I have given in to evil. I know that I need God’s help to dig me out of this hole (that I dug for myself). Confessing your sins lowers you to servanthood. Which is funny, because committing the sin was done out of power (or atleast what we thought was power). Let me give you an example. When I confess, usually there is something in there about gossip. Why do I gossip? I gossip to make others lower than me. I don’t do it with that intention, but when I think deeply about why I am gossiping, it is to make me look better, while making the other person look bad. So I sin out of power, but when I confess I realize that I am nothing but a servant of God. When I sin, I try to exert my power (power that I never had to begin with). All I really want in life and all that really matters in life is that I serve God. Thoughts of power will only leave me wanting more; I will never be satisfied with powerful thoughts. Serving God will keep me satisfied.
As the Psalm continues on, David asks God for forgiveness, to remove his guilt, and to help him sing God’s praise once again. That is the ticket to confession. In the end, God will offer us forgiveness, a guilt free life, and will show us how to become closer to Him even through our sin. What an awesome gift that is! This is not a free ticket to continue sinning in life. This is a chance to make something good out of something bad. God will open your eyes to the sin you have committed and show you the path back to Him. You have two choices, you can keep going your way or you can go God’s way. I know the way I am going. How about you?