1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Psalm 51:1-4 ESV
- The Psalm is attributed to David when he repented of his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Why should it be included in the Bible for everyone to read and pray? If I have not committed adultery, what does it have to do with me?
- Secular thinkers believe that people can know what is right by determining what makes them happy. If adultery with Bathsheba made David happy, why does he now call it sin?
- Secularists reject the concept that God establishes what is right. They reject God’s existence, and they declare that no power has sovereignty over humans. Why does the psalmist disagree? Why do you disagree?
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
- Secularists say that it is child abuse to tell a child he is sinful. Why does the psalmist say that he was born in iniquity?
- One of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” Exodus 20:16 ESV. How does the psalmist express God’s expectation?
- Where does the psalmist get the idea that hyssop is an instrument for purging sin away? What does it have to do with your daily life? How would you explain the necessity of cleansing sin from your life to a secular thinker?
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Psalm 51:8-9 ESV
- The psalmist is suffering because of his sins. Why? What does he think is necessary in order for him to recover his joy and peace in life? How has God prepared healing for the wounds of sin described by the psalmist?
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
- This verse is central to a popular praise song. Why do people identify with the words of this song?
- Why does the psalmist compare the experience of forgiveness and cleansing from sin with a heart transplant? From where would a new spirit come?
- Can you pray this psalm with integrity and internalize its petitions for yourself? Consider memorizing this verse and praying it when you know you have failed God.
By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.
Image: Torah Scroll
License: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License