a curious thing. The story of Moses and the exodus made for a classic movie on
a grand scale. It’s still shown on television regularly. But the story of
David and Bathsheba, best done by Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward in the 1951
production of that name, seems to be a minor footnote. It’s purchased now and
then over the Internet, dutifully listed in their filmographies – but causes no
excitement. Spectacle sells. You’d think that sex would sell too – except the
story isn’t about sex. It’s about repentance and restoration.
find the story told in Second Samuel chapters eleven and twelve. Briefly,
David has an affair with Bathsheba – who’s married to one Uriah the Hittite.
She gets pregnant. David tries to cover it up, killing Uriah in the process.
Nathan, the prophet, exposes David. The baby dies, but then God forgives and
restores David. Their next child is Solomon.
the process David composes Psalm 51. Perhaps excepting Psalm 23 – perhaps – it
is the most powerful Psalm in the Bible.
Psalms 51:1-2 NIV For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the
prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions. (2) Wash away all
and cleanse me from my sin.
good thing about David’s sin with Bathsheba; he’s in no position to bargain.
So on what basis does he approach the Holy God to ask for forgiveness and
appeals to the character of God: his unfailing love. God is love; David
knows it – and knows that his situation requires nothing less.
appeals to God’s “great compassion.” The good news is that God understands
David; which is also the bad news, of course. Fortunately for David, he
interesting to see what David does not use as a basis for his appeal:
does not appeal on the basis of his own merit. David, after all, is said
to be a man after God’s own heart. He could have said something like,
“Nobody’s perfect, but I’m better than most.” He didn’t.
could have appealed on the basis of his position. The king is an
important fellow, after all.
could have appealed on the basis of his past performance. Look at all
he’s done for God; surely God could cut him some slack, right?
Psalms 51:3-4 NIV For I know
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.
of us are really proficient at lying to ourselves. Perhaps the reason David’s
heart is so near to God is that he doesn’t lie to himself – he “knows his
transgressions.” It’s an important point. You can tell when you get there
because you realize that your sin is against God alone. How so? Often enough
we sin against others – but we have the consolation that they have done
something against us. Their hands are dirty too.
it’s exactly that which tells us that our sins are against God. In any sin his
hands are clean. But his children are the ones sinned against – and if you
hurt my children you anger me, right? So it is that our sins are against God.
alone has the right to accuse us – because his hands are clean. A similar
principle is found in criminal law; the state accuses the criminal, not the
victim. In crime we judge against the standard of the law. If one Mafioso
shoots another, we don’t pick between them, we convict the murderer. So it is
goes to hell
is a significant side point here. Have you ever asked how a loving God could
send anyone to hell? The answer is relatively simple. All of us have a choice
to make. We sin – that’s a fact. The choice is what to do about it. Some
choose mercy; others choose pride. Hell only takes volunteers.
Psalms 51:5-6 NIV 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
considered the “proof text” of original sin, this passage points out the
problem common to all mankind:
it or not, we are all sinners – by our very nature.
however, wants us to be full of truth and wisdom.
is inherently a conflict. The first step in resolving any conflict is to
acknowledge that it exists. So let’s face it.
cleanses; man rejoices
Psalms 51:7-9 NIV 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.
study of the word “hyssop” in the Bible quickly reveals that it is closely
associated with two things: ceremonial cleansing – and the Crucifixion. It’s
associated with cleansing blood. David saw it in the law of Moses; we see it
in Christ. His blood is the method of our cleansing.
the reaction! David doesn’t mope about, wallowing in his own self-pity. He
rejoices. This is not long-faced religion, but joyous. Man should rejoice at
you see, is the one who pays for it. He’s the one who has to blot out or hide
from the sin. It’s always like that; it’s the reconciler who pays for the
reconciliation. It’s expensive, too.
Psalms 51:10-12 NIV 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.
is the core of reconciliation: the new, pure heart. May I point out the
- Create - only
God can create; Satan can only twist what God creates. Only man is the
creating creature, in the image of God. Only God and man can forgive.
Forgiving creates anew the heart after God.
- Renew –
it’s not something different; it’s the same spirit that was there before
the sin. God doesn’t want you to somehow be different – but to be in his
- Restore the joy – What a surprise; God does not want you to be in the
dumps about it. He wants you to know the joy of salvation. There is
nothing “halfway” about this.
Psalms 51:13 NIV Then I will
teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
restored, we are saved to serve.
can’t serve without being restored – it just won’t work. You don’t
have the capability.
if you are restored, you must serve – you can’t help it.
you ever noticed that it’s the great sinners who make the great saints? Now
you know why.
Psalms 51:14-15 NIV 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.
is necessary if you are to have a right relationship with God. It is the
fundamental recognition of who God is. It says that you know He is worthy
to be praised, and therefore you do. Without it, you are talking to an
is praise for the God who saves me. It’s personal. I’m happy he
saves us; I’m glad he saves you. But it’s essential that he saves me. Do
you see it?
for what? He restores us to righteousness by his righteousness; therefore
his righteousness is what we praise.
Psalms 51:16-17 NIV 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
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.
is a fact of human nature: we’d just as soon buy off God with something we
sacrifice. It’s like a traffic ticket in our minds – pay the ticket, the
speeding is somehow forgiven. But it’s not – and if you don’t think so, check
with your insurance company. It’s paid – but not forgiven.
doesn’t this work? Because sin corrupts all of you – and all of you must be
the sacrifice for it. Partial measures won’t work – it takes “all.” We saw
this at the Cross.
if “all of me” must be sacrificed, then where is pride? Isn’t it denied, by
the very act of asking for forgiveness? To ask forgiveness is to say you can’t
pay the price yourself – and that is humility.
Psalms 51:18-19 NIV 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.
of reconciliation is faith that God will reconcile. How does David express
this? By saying that things will be restored; things will be good; God will
bless the nation again. And once things are restored, God will again
accept the sacrifices commanded.
you see it? As long as you refuse to humble yourself and ask forgiveness, your
works mean nothing, for you are not right with God. But once you do, and he
grants you forgiveness, then your works will be rewarded in accordance with his
lesson is rather much an outline. Letters on paper cannot express what the
heart must go through. I suggest you try it out; you won’t need this lesson
once you do.