Psalm 51 is a psalm of David’s repentance towards God.  This repentance was because of how he had taken Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba) for himself and had Uriah killed.  The Lord had sent Nathan to speak to David, and this seems to be the time when David came under strong conviction for his evil deeds. 

Let’s read about that visit.  It is given to us in 2 Samuel 12:1-7, “And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul.”  This parable that Nathan presented to David was given to cause David to be convicted for what he had done.  Sadly enough, David did not even see himself in the story that Nathan told him, so Nathan had to plainly say, “Thou art the man.”  He went on to say in verse 9, “Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.” 

Now, let’s read some of David’s confession to the Lord.  Psalm 51:1-3, “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.”  David constantly thought about his sin.  He could not get it off his mind.  He does not try to justify himself before God, he simply asks for God’s mercy.  He asked the Lord to take this sin from him and to wash and cleanse him from his sin.  This reflects the truth that we have in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  David longed for that forgiveness and cleansing.  True confession is what gives that.

I encourage you to read this entire chapter so that you can see what a repentant heart truly looks like.  Here, David pours out his heart to the Lord with deep conviction without making any excuses for his sin.

Now let’s read in Psalm 51:12, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”  David’s sin had taken him away from enjoying the salvation he had.  He was out of fellowship with the Lord and had lost the joy of the Lord’s salvation.  He did not lose his salvation, but the had lost the joy of the Lord’s salvation.  David’s appeal shows that he had formerly known the happiness of being a friend of God, and of having a hope of salvation. That joy had been taken from him by his sin. He had lost his peace of mind. His soul was gloomy and dismal. Sin always produces this effect.

Yet, in his confession, David asks for the restoration of that joy.  He longed to be happy in the Lord once more.  We learn in 1 Peter 1:8 that when we have our eyes fixed on the Lord and follow Him, we are able to, “…rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”  David knew where to turn to gain that joy.  He turned to the Lord in true confession.

David also asked the Lord to “uphold me with thy free spirit.”  In his confession, David realized his own weakness and tendency to sin.  He asks the Lord to sustain and strengthen him so that he would not return to a life of sin.

How about you, dear Christian reader?  Are you in need of confession?  Have you sinned against the Lord, yet you have not confessed your sins to Him?  If so, do you feel you have lost the joy of salvation?  All this can be remedied if you honestly and humbly confess your sins to the Lord.  He will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  (436.4)