Psalm 51:1-10 (NRSV)
Verse 1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Verse 2Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
Verse 3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Verse 4Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.
Verse 5Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.
Verse 6You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Verse 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Verse 8Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice.
Verse 9Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Verse 10Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
This psalm is commonly understood as David’s confession of the wrong he committed against Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Samuel 11). I love the story about the courageous prophet Nathan telling King David a parable about his own sin. When we are peeled apart from our self-preservation and deception, we can see justice more clearly. David is horrified and quickly passes judgment against the transgressor. I imagine every jaw in the throne room dropped when Nathan declared, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:1-7).
How embarrassing! David could have recoiled from this interaction with a defensive or violent response. But he didn't. For all of his faults, David found the self-awareness and humility to receive the conviction, to hear the cost of his behavior, and to return to God with sincere apology and the desire to be made new. How can we encourage repentance and vulnerability as biblical and faithful responsibilities in our leaders and in ourselves today?
Merciful God, make us brave in baring to you what we hide from the world. Teach us to trust your holy forgiveness and life promised in Jesus the Christ. Amen.