“Have mercy upon me, O God” was the cry of David in Psalm 51. This Psalm is the perfect paradigm of prayers for the forgiveness of sins. David wrote this Psalm after his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) and after he was confronted by the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12), to make things right with that sin, with those involved with the sin and with his relationship with God. “So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.'” And thus the words of Psalm 51 were penned by David, leaving you and me a wonderful example of what we should do with our sin that so easily separates us from our God. Within Psalm 51, David walks us through a 7 step pathway that restores our relationship with God once we have sinned.
Step 1 – Acknowledgement – This step begins with that cry, “Have mercy upon me, O God!” And you know what, that first step is very often the hardest one to take. It’s hard for us human beings to admit the fact that we are sinners and that we often do things that displease our God. Yet, Romans 3:23 makes that pretty clear when it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us need to recognize the truth that we are sinners. And then we need to acknowledge our sin (make it known to God). Now, some would say that God already knows our sin, and that would be true. But there is forgiveness and healing in the acknowledgement of sin from our lips to the listening ears of our God. David boldly and bravely said, “For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against You, and You only, have I sinned and done this evil in Your sight.” I, personally, have learned that once I acknowledge my sin before my God, then a huge weight is taken away from me. I don’t have to carry that sin around with me anymore. I can be free from sin! And that’s a good thing!
Step 2 – Forgiveness – David knew that only God could do something good with his sin. No one else could, but God could take away that sin from David’s life. Thus David asked God to, “Blot out my transgressions,” “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,” “Cleanse me from my sin,” “Purge me with hyssop,” “Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” David knew that only God could forgive him from the sin that was weighing him down. In fact, David was confident that God could totally rid him of the sin in his life. And so, he asked God to do just that. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
Step 3 – Cleansing – David desired, more than anything, that his sin be washed away from him for good. I’ve been in that place before, have you? Listen to what David asks of God. “Hide Your face from my sin, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a stedfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” I don’t know about you, but when I read those words, I just want to say. “I want that too, God!” What relief there is from having our sins gone, having a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a right relationship with our God!
Step 4 – Restoration – Once that sin is gone, do you know what comes back to you? Your joy and His power! David said it best, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous spirit.” Once that sin is gone, the joy comes back to your life. You can once again rejoice in God’s great forgiveness and you can know that He will remember that sin (or sins) that you have done, have just confessed to, and have just been forgiven from, He will remember them NO MORE! Yippee!! Such joy! Not only that – but you will also see His power as He upholds you by His generous spirit! Restoration happens my friend whenever we cry out, “Have mercy on me O God!” And when we have been restored to a renewed and right relationship with God, we will begin to experience His joy and power once again as well.
Step 5 – Service – Whenever we have sin in our life, and we choose to carry it around with us rather than to confess it, then that affects our service for God. We are then trying to do whatever we do to serve Him, in our own strength, and not in His. That, my friend, is never a good thing. Step 5 in our pathway to forgiveness reminds us that when we confess that sin, make things right with God again, then we are restored to fruitful service for Him. David says, “Then I will teach trangressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” Try to do that in your own strength, under the shroud of sin, and yes, you will fail. But with God’s forgiveness, with His joy and power restored within us, well then, we will be able to do mighty things for Him.
Step 6 – Worship – Once forgiven, even our worship will change. Have you ever tried to sing worship songs, or attentively listen to a good sermon, when you know that you have sin in your heart. It’s pretty hard to do! I know; I’ve tried it before. David says, “My tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. My mouth shall show forth Your praise.” With a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a life of true joy – – oh my friend, there is NO stopping that worship!! It will flow from you to God effortlessly! Your God will hear your worship and be glad in it.
Step 7 – Fellowship – There is nothing greater than a right relationship with God. You will walk together and He will guide your steps on the journey. You will talk together and He will teach you the things He wants you to know. You will fellowship together and He will show you just how sweet your times together can be. You will desire nothing greater. But what does God desire from you on this journey of life together? David answered that question for us, when he said, “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart. These, O God, You will not despise.”
O God, You put within each one of us a desire to know You as our Creator. You gave to us a heart’s longing for a good relationship with you. And while, each of us may be at different places in that relationship with You, we know that YOU desire a relationship with us as well. O God, today, may we begin, or, if need be, may we renew that relationship with the heartfelt cry, “Have mercy upon me, O God!”