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October 5: The Heart of Repentance (Psalm 51)

Psalm 51:1-19 (only verses 1-7 provided below)

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.



One does not have to read very far into Psalm 51 to figure out why it has been categorized as a "penitential psalm" by many scholars. In this well-known poem, David blesses the church by setting forth a model for approaching the Lord after having pursued the sinful desires of his heart . . . and giving in to temptation. As we consider this sobering yet hopeful psalm, may God give us a fresh awareness of the seriousness of sin, the graciousness of God, and may He free us to emulate the open, honest, and broken pleas that mark David's repentance.


Review and Apply

1. What markers in the text evidence the conviction that David felt because of his sin?
2. What was it that inspired confidence in David's request for forgiveness (verse 1)? Why should our confidence today be even greater?
3. How does David give evidence that he is not seeking to shift the blame for his sin?
4. In light of David's confession, can you think of a very recent time in which you took "full responsibility" for your sin?
5. What often keeps us from having this same experience of full repentance?
6. Can you relate to the "renewal" (of spirit) and "restoration" (of joy) and "praise" (of the Lord) that David describes upon receiving forgiveness? Give private thought to what that has looked like for you in recent months.