Knowing Your Sin

For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (v. 3).

- Psalm 51

The greatest fall of one of the church’s most beloved saints brought forth one of the most cherished psalms in the Scriptures. David penned the penitential Psalm 51 following Nathan’s confrontation concerning David’s affair with Bathsheba. David’s prayer of repentance is captured in poignant refrains as he poured out his broken soul to God. David’s sorrow over his sin brings to life the lofty doctrines of original sin, total depravity, and reconciliation that grace this psalm.

David’s repentance stemmed from an awareness of sin’s magnitude. He first appealed to God’s mercy, love, and compassion for pardoning his iniquity. Then he confessed not only his particular sin with Bathsheba, but acknowledged all his sins. Too often our confession to God deals only with a particular sin instead of recognizing that all our sins are an affront to God. David didn’t rest with a simple confession of one or two sins but asked God to cleanse him of all his sins. Going further, David admitted that his entire nature was sinful. He realized that his wicked actions stemmed from a depraved heart—one he was born with. Here David touched on the great theme of original sin. Many people believe we are born innocent and are guilty only for the sins we actually commit, but David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). David acknowledged and took responsibility not only for the sins he had committed, but for his sinful nature as well.

Because David understood the depth of sin, he asked God to cleanse him and pardon him, making new even the inward parts of his soul. David would not have been satisfied with a simple brushing over of a particular sin, but he wanted his very nature changed that he might teach others of God’s grace and praise Him in the assembly. He also asked God to sustain him by His Spirit because David understood that he not only needed to rest on God’s mercy for reconciliation and pardon of sin but also preservation that he might not fall again. May this be the prayer of all God’s people as they confess their sinfulness before God and praise Him for His glorious grace in forgiveness and restoration.

Coram Deo

Read Luke 18:9–14. How is the confession of the tax collector like David’s? Have you ever confessed to God not only your sins but that you are a sinner by nature? Do you confess your sins daily? Ask God to give you greater insight into your sin that you might taste the joy of forgiveness as David did.

Passages for Further Study

Isaiah 55:1–8
Acts 3:11–26
2 Corinthians 7:2–15

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