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Pardon and Purity

51 For the Pure and Shining One
A prayer of confession when the prophet Nathan exposed King David’s adultery
with Bathsheba[a]

David’s Confession

1–2 God, give me mercy from your fountain of forgiveness!
I know your abundant love is enough to wash away my guilt.
Because your compassion is so great,
take away this shameful guilt of sin.
Forgive the full extent of my rebellious ways,
and erase this deep stain on my conscience.[b]
3–4 For I’m so ashamed.
I feel such pain and anguish within me.
I can’t get away from the sting of my sin against you, Lord!
Everything I did, I did right in front of you, for you saw it all.
Against you, and you above all, have I sinned.
Everything you say to me is infallibly true
and your judgment conquers me.
Lord, I have been a sinner from birth,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
I know that you delight to set your truth deep in my spirit.[c]
So come into the hidden places of my heart
and teach me wisdom.

David’s Cleansing

Purify my conscience! Make this leper clean again![d]
Wash me in your love until I am pure in heart.[e]
Satisfy me in your sweetness, and my song of joy will return.
The places within me you have crushed
will rejoice in your healing touch.[f]
Hide my sins from your face;[g]
erase all my guilt by your saving grace.
10 Create a new, clean heart within me.[h]
Fill me with pure thoughts and holy desires, ready to please you.[i]
11 May you never reject me!
May you never take from me your sacred Spirit!

David’s Consecration

12 Let my passion for life be restored,
tasting joy[j] in every breakthrough you bring to me.
Hold me close to you with a willing spirit
that obeys whatever you say.
13 Then I can show to other guilty ones
how loving and merciful you are.
They will find their way back home to you,
knowing that you will forgive them.
14 O God, my saving God,
deliver me fully from every sin,
even the sin that brought bloodguilt.[k]
Then my heart will once again be thrilled to sing
the passionate songs of joy and deliverance!
15 Lord God, unlock my heart, unlock my lips,
and I will overcome with my joyous praise!
16 For the source of your pleasure is not in my performance
or the sacrifices I might offer to you.
17 The fountain of your pleasure is found
in the sacrifice of my shattered heart before you.
You will not despise my tenderness
as I humbly bow down at your feet.
18 Because you favor Zion, do what is good for her.
Be the protecting wall around Jerusalem.
19 And when we are fully restored,
you will rejoice and take delight
in every offering of our lives
as we bring our sacrifices of righteousness before you in love![l]


  1. Psalm 51:1 This psalm is based on the incident that is recorded in 2 Sam. 12–13. This is a psalm of confession that has been sung for ages. Imagine composing a song about your failure and making it public for all time. David was not so much concerned about what the people thought but what God thought. He wanted to be clean before God.
  2. Psalm 51:1 Or “Wash me.” David uses the Hebrew word kabas, which is used for washing clothes, not bathing. David is asking for his royal robes to be cleansed from the stains of his actions and publicly restored.
  3. Psalm 51:6 The Hebrew word bat-ţūhôt, although difficult to translate, can mean “something that is covered over, hidden, or concealed.” You could paraphrase this as “You desire light in my darkness” or “You want truth to expose my secrets.”
  4. Psalm 51:7 The Hebrew text contains the word hyssop. This was a bushy plant used for sprinkling blood on a healed leper to ceremonially cleanse him for the worship of God. See Lev. 14:3-7 and Num. 19.
  5. Psalm 51:7 Or “Wash me with the snow from above so I can be whitened.”
  6. Psalm 51:8 In this beautiful verse, the “broken places” are literally “broken bones.” Our bones speak allegorically of our inner being, our emotional strength.
  7. Psalm 51:9 David was not just ashamed of what others would think but that he had been seen by God. True remorse has no thought about reputation but righteousness.
  8. Psalm 51:10 The word used for “create” takes us back to Gen. 1, and it means to create from nothing. David knew he had no goodness without God placing it within him. David wanted a new creation heart, not just the old one changed.
  9. Psalm 51:10 Or “renew a reliable spirit in my inner being.”
  10. Psalm 51:12 The Hebrew word for “joy” comes from two Hebrew roots: one means “bright” and the other means “lily [whiteness].” David wanted to taste a joy that was bright, pure, and as beautiful as a lily.
  11. Psalm 51:14 Or simply “blood.” David could be asking God to spare his life from death (lit. “blood”; that is, deliverance from death because of his sin).
  12. Psalm 51:19 Or “Then they will offer up bulls on your altar.”