Confession of sin restores fellowship with God
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 you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Psalm 51:1-4 NIV
Psalm 51 is the most detailed and famous passage, as David cries to God in heart-broken repentance. This is one of the seven ‘penitential’ psalms (see also 6, 32, 40, 102, 130, 143). It is David’s prayer of repentance after Nathan the prophet had confronted him with his sins (2 Samuel 12). David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had covered it up by having her husband killed and taking her as his wife. David responded to Nathan’s message by saying, ‘I have sinned’ (2 Samuel 12:13). The text provides us a picture of David getting right with God again through amazing mercy. The fact that David uses four words to describe his sin shows that he is not trying to evade the issue or trivialize it. ‘Transgressions’ refer to rebellion or deliberately crossing over a boundary. ‘Iniquity’ suggests a disobedience or twistedness. ‘Sin’ is falling short of God’s standard or missing the target God has set. ‘Evil’ (v. 4) simply refers to the ugly, repulsive nature of sin against God. Here David comes to grips with the issue that makes sin such a serious matter. Sin is directed against God. It is nothing less than saying we wish God were not God and that His laws would disappear. It is true that David also sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, and even the whole nation of Israel, but it is God who defines proper behavior towards others. Any sin against others is ultimately, then, a sin against the God who set these boundaries. Though our sin affects our relationship with others, our sin is first against God himself. His prayer of confession is an appeal to God to deal with him in gracious loving-kindness. When we have a sense of the greatness of God’s compassion it provides us the encouragement to plead for God’s renewal. David’s prayer spells out that unless his sin is blotted out by God, he will always experience the wall of separation between him and the Lord. “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Psalm 66:18). God knows our sin fully, and so it comes to Him in its true, awful ugliness. God is purest of all, and sin strikes at His loving heart. God has the best plan for human life, and so a misstep from the path He sees as right reaches Him more sharply than any other. God is judge of all, and so sin voiced and acknowledged before Him is what He calls His children to do.