The title of the psalm makes it clear that this psalm was written at the time when Nathan visited David ‘after he had gone in to Bathsheba’. David has sinned by sleeping with another man’s wife and murdering her husband by proxy. He is in desperate need of forgiveness and restoration. This is probably the most classic of all the penitential psalms. In it we are given a clear view of the route we need to go down, after sinning, if we are going to have our relationship with God restored.
The Process of Restoration
1. God is highly merciful and has a vast supply of loving kindness. It is because of his great mercy that we can be forgiven – so it all starts with God against whom we have sinned, verses 1 & 4;
2. We must acknowledge our sin if we are to be forgiven and sin must become a real burden to us, verse 3;
3. An awareness of God’s role as saviour, verses 10, 12, 14, of his power, verse 11, and of what is pleasing to God is essential, verses 16 & 19;
4. There should also be a desire to live differently, verses 6, 10, 12, 14, and to help others learn from our mistakes, verse 13.
The Principles of Righteousness
David, like us, was born with what we often call a sinful nature. He teaches us in verse five that he was ‘shapen in iniquity’ and that ‘in sin did my mother conceive me’. This does not mean that his conception was the result of an immoral relationship (i.e. sin) but that his mother was a sinner (as was his father) and that as a result he was morally infected with sin. God is essentially righteous, verses 4 & 14, and man before conversion is essentially sinful. Because of His righteousness, God desires that we would know truth that is more than skin deep and that we would realise that He is the only source of that wisdom.
For people to know God, His truth and wisdom they need to be cleansed. In verse seven we learn that God does the cleansing and the washing. When God is involved there is always a 100% success rate unlike our poor attempts to clean up our lives. Aren’t we glad that the work of cleansing is the Lord’s and not ours? It is as a result of the work of Christ that we can be clean.
The By-Products of Restoration
When a soul is forgiven and restored there are number side effects that they experience. There will be joy and delight, verses 8 & 12, a right attitude, verse 10, an awareness of God’s presence, verse 11, singing and praising, verses 14 & 15 and an increased knowledge of the character of God, verses 16-19. Let us pray that we will learn many of these lessons.