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Pardon and Purity

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

51 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 you have crushed within me
    will rejoice in your healing touch.[f]
Hide my sins from your face;[g]
    erase all my guilt by your saving grace.
10 Keep creating in me a clean heart.[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 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 bow down humbly 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. 51 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 about what God thought. He wanted to be clean before God.
  2. 51:1–2 Or “wash me.” David used the Hebrew word kabas, which was used for washing clothes, not for bathing. David was asking for his royal robes to be cleansed from the stains of his actions and publicly restored.
  3. 51:6 The Hebrew word bat-ţuchâh, although difficult to translate, can mean “something that is covered over, hidden, or concealed.” This could be paraphrased as “you desire light in my darkness” or “you want truth to expose my secrets.”
  4. 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; Num. 19.
  5. 51:7 Or “Wash me with the snow from above so I can be whitened.”
  6. 51:8 In this beautiful verse, the broken places (“places you have crushed”) are literally “broken bones.” Our bones speak allegorically of our inner being, our emotional strength.
  7. 51:9 David was ashamed not just of what others would think but also that he had been seen by God. A truly remorseful person has no thought for reputation but only for righteousness.
  8. 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. 51:10 Or “Renew a reliable spirit in my inner being.”
  10. 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. 51:14 Or simply “blood.” David could have been asking God to spare his life from death (that is, deliverance from death because of his sin).
  12. 51:19 Or “then they will offer up bulls on your altar.”

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