This is one of the most impactful sections of scripture that I have ever read through in my whole life. It honestly changed my life about 4 years ago on a Friday night when my discipler and I read through it. I had been struggling with guilt and shame for various sins that I felt in bondage to. I felt unworthy to be God’s servant because of a pornography addiction and I had no idea how to move on from this sense of guilt and shame. I honestly felt like I didn’t deserve to be with God until I could get it fixed. That’s when my discipler lead me to this passage.
To give context, this passage was probably written by David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. The prophet Nathan had just been used by God to convict David for what he had done was wrong. This passage is probably his response to 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, and 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. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Verses 1-6
I have to hit stop really quick because as I read those first six verses my thoughts were “ yeah that’s the kind of stuff that I keep saying to God and it isn’t getting me anywhere". I keep telling God how sinful I am and how I keep screwing up, but thankfully David doesn’t stop at admitting he’s sinful. The majority of this passage is David proclaiming all the ways God is going to restore him through their relationship. I’ll let the passage speak for itself first.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar. Verses 7-19
The verse that really drove it home for me was number 17. It really lays out the simple truth that God doesn’t need us to be this super-Christian in order to have a relationship with him. This verse states that all he asks for is our broken selves. It’s important to acknowledge that we are broken at first sure, but David only spends six verses acknowledging that to God. The rest is David acknowledging all the goodness that God can replace that brokenness with and how God only requests that we give our broken selves to him.
When I read this passage the first time, I finally realized that I can’t fix my brokenness to be with God, instead I have to surrender my brokenness for him to fix while I am with him. My addiction didn’t go away immediately but for the first time, it was hope and love that drove me forward in my walk with God. Not guilt or shame. It was through hope and love that I was slowly released from the addiction over a two year process with God. Not guilt or shame.
My prayer is that anybody who reads this passage would experience a similar freedom or reminder to what I experienced in understanding that guilt and shame get you nowhere in the struggles that you individually face. Instead it is Christ’s love and compassion that frees us from them. If you give your broken self to God in true humility and surrender, he will lead you to victory. With him we can be more than conquerors as it says in Romans. I pray that confidence in our relationship with Christ sinks in to anyone who reads Psalm 51.
Author | Dutch Williams