Psalm 51

Today we’re going to take a look at how to deal with guilt.  We’re going to study how we deal with a guilty conscience.

Ever come home to find your dog sitting like this?  What’s the first thing you say?  Uh-oh – what did you do!  Did you make a mess somewhere?  That dog is feeling guilty.

And with a dog – it’s not a big deal.  You clean it up and move on – but what happens when you are the one who feels like that dog?  When you have done something that makes you feel terrible inside?  It’s far more serious.  Far more destructive.  What do you do when you feel like this image – just walking around beating yourself up for something you did that makes you feel guilty?

Well, that’s what we are going to talk about today.  And the good news is that it is not God’s desire for you to feel like this – It is for freedom that Jesus has come – to set the prisoner free.  And so this morning we are going to look at one of the greatest hero’s in the bible’s worst moment in his life.  And we’re going to learn how we can move out of the crushing guilt of our sin and into freedom and forgiveness.  As Galatians 5:1 tells us – it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. (Image of chain breaking free)

The biblical hero we are learning about today is David.  And he was the greatest King of Israel about 1000 bc.  He was a poet – in fact he wrote about half of the psalms that we are studying in this series.  And yet – there is a chapter in David’s life that is so heinous that it makes you wonder why God would ever call him, as God does, a man after God’s own heart.

One thing about the Bible, by the way.  It is brutally honest about the failings of people it heralds as champions of the faith.  No one is spared from having the honest details of their life displayed for all to see.  Moses – kills a person and buries their body in the sand to cover up his crime.  Peter – miserably and painfully fails Jesus when Jesus needed him the most.  And today we read about David.  When the Bible tells us that all are sinners and fall short of the glory of God – it means all are sinners.   

And so if David can be such a sinner then so can you.  But here’s the deal.  David found a way to deal with his guilt.  And so can you.

And this morning I want us to see how David deals with his devastating guilt – in hopes that you and I will be able – like David – to come out the other side whole, and not crushed.  Accepted, not rejected.  Loved, not forsaken.  Forgiven, not burdened.  So let’s dive in…

We will read Psalm 51.

Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.

What is this guilt that David is carrying that haunts him day and night?  Well, the story is found in 2 Samuel 11, 12

One night, David was standing on top of his palace over looking his kingdom.  He looks down and sees a woman on top of her house, taking a bath.  And David is filled with lust for this woman.

David sends for the woman and he brings her into the palace and he has an affair with Bathsheba.  Bathsheba’s husband is away, he is actually a leader in David’s army.  One of David’s mighty men.  One of the most loyal soldiers in the Army.  They stuck by David through thick and thin.  They were 37 of the most elite, most loyal soldiers in his army – And David repays his loyalty by violating his wife.

In time, David receives a note from Bathsheba informing David that she was pregnant.  Big problem, since her husband was away in the army.  So David sends for her husband and brings him back to the palace on some false pretext or another, assuming that Uriah will go and lie with his wife, and then later when she has a baby Uriah will think it’s his.

But Uriah, being a very loyal soldier, refuses to be with his wife.  His men are out fighting and they don’t have the privilege, so he will not indulge himself.  He sleeps on his porch – the next night David tries to get him drunk – but he it too loyal to his men in the fields, and he refuses to be with his wife.

What will you do now David?  David gives Uriah a message to deliver to Joab, the commander of the army – and Uriah dutifully carries this sealed message – orders that turns out to be his own death sentence.  Joab is instructed to put Uriah in a position in a battle that will cost him his life.    And in fact, he does.  Joab sends a report – the battle went okay – though unfortunately Uriah was killed in battle.  David responds- don’t blame yourself Joab – these things happen in war.

And David swoops in, and he takes this brave soldiers wife into his home and marries her.  Instead of disgrace, David thought of a way to turn himself into a hero.  Look at our King.  He took Uriah’s wife in and raised Uriah’s son as his own.  What a selfless king.  What a hero.

And he would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for that pesky prophet Nathan who shows up one night and preaches one of the most powerful sermons ever recorded…  2 Samuel 12

So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2 The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle.

3 The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter.

4 One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”

5 David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! 6 He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!

Busted, David suddenly comes to terms with who he is and what he has done.  And he is crushed with guilt.  He is, as he tells us in verse 3 – haunted day and night by his sin.

But David does not resign himself to a lifetime of beating himself up about his failures.  So let’s see what David does in this psalm that leads him out of the crushing guilt to freedom and forgiveness.

Here’s what we will see.

1.  David confesses his sin. (V.4-6)

2.  David asks something from God. (v.7-15)

3.  God asks something from David (V. 16-17)

First – David comes clean.  He confesses his sins before the Lord and repents.  Ever wonder what repentance sounds like?  It sounds like this prayer….

4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;

    I have done what is evil in your sight.

You will be proved right in what you say,

    and your judgment against me is just.

5 For I was born a sinner—

    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.

6 But you desire honesty from the womb,

    teaching me wisdom even there.

What do we notice about the manner in which David confesses?  First – I appreciate that David owns his sin.  He doesn’t try to rationalize it away.

It’s amazing how sin has a way of distorting our reality.  I have actually had conversations with adults – who were actively involved in an affair with another persons spouse.  And when I spoke with this individual – the individual said to me, “I love my kids – and I know that what I am doing is making me happy.  And I know that when I am happy my kids are happy. So I’m having this affair with this other person’s spouse because – I love my kids so much.

Or – I am sleeping with my boyfriend because, well, he doesn’t know the Lord and I want him to come to faith in Jesus, and I just want my boyfriend to know how much I care about him and that Christians aren’t prudes , so really I’m sleeping with my boyfriend because I love Jesus and want him to love Jesus too.

David doesn’t try to rationalize away his sin.  Nor does he try to shift blame – like Adam and Eve – Adam – after eating the forbidden fruit – This woman you gave me told me to eat it!  Eve – that serpent you put in the garden – he deceived me!

No blame shifting.   David doesn’t blame his circumstances- well it’s tough being king – lots of pressure…  Well if you knew my parents – you’d understand.  No – he owns it.

David does not say “I have some regrets”, or “I’m sorry if what I did offends you.” No – he says – have mercy on me – I am guilty – and your judgment against me is right.

And here’s the deal – you will not get anywhere in your faith journey with the God of the Bible until you come to the same place.  Until you own your sin and recognize that we are guilty and that we deserve his righteous judgment.

It is the starting line of faith in Jesus is a recognition that the Bible is right when it says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  If we never acknowledge the serious trouble we are in then the good news of Jesus will never really be that good.

You might be thinking – what’s the big deal?  Who cares about my sin?  Well, that brings us to the other part of David’s confession that he gets right.

He says something that might have made you do a double take.  He says in verse 4 – against you and you only have I sinned.  And you might have said – well, what about sinning against Bathsheba, and what about Uriah – the guy you killed and what about Joab that you forced into conspiracy to commit murder, what do you mean that ‘against you only have I sinned.”

Well, this is a case of hyperbole – kind of like when Jesus said, You must hate your mother – of course not – but he is saying, compared to your love for me it ought to look like you hate you momma.

Here David is recognizing that every sin is primarily, first and foremost, a sin against God.

In what way?  The first commandment says, I am the Lord your God  “You must not have any other god but me.  All of the other commandments are really violations of this first commandment.

For instance – thou shalt not lie.  Number 9.  Why do you lie?  Are you lying to someone because lying will make you money?  Then money is the god that is more important than the Lord, right?  Are you lying to someone because you want them to think highly of you?  Then popularity, or others people’s opinion is your God.

Before the first murder, back in the first book of Genesis – God has a conversation with Cain who is seething with anger toward his brother Abel – and God asks Cain an important question.  Why are you angry?  Trace the roots back to the heart of the issue.

When we trace our sins to the root – we find that primarily – our sins are a violation of the first commandment – we have put something or someone in the place of God.

See – this is what David does right.  He acknowledges his guilt and his sin and sees that his rebellion was more than a one time lapse of judgment.  In other words – he wasn’t acting out of character- that evil resided with him – and when he took what he saw – and when he used his power to violate another person and to kill another person – ultimately David himself took God’s place.

Now – I can imagine at this point you might be thinking – Phil – I thought you said this was about moving out from under the crushing weight of guilt.  But doesn’t this mean I’m even more guilty than I have imagined?  Doesn’t this part of the story doesn’t it add guilt on my shoulders?

Yes – it does.  God in his mercy has only let us see a fraction of our sins.  Most of us are unaware of how deeply sinful we are.  If we saw it all at once we’d implode.

But – this is why the good news is so good.   Because as guilty as we are – the remedy for our sins is stronger.  More glorious.  More wonderful than we can imagine.

See – this is very important.  Many people just live life, carrying this crushing weight of guilt on their shoulders. They feel terrible.  But God doesn’t call us to feel terrible about our sin – he calls us to bring our sins to him.

In the first century there was an early church leader named the apostle Paul, who write letters to churches and addressed issues.  In Greece there was a church that met in Corinth that had a ton if issues.  We have and can read two of Paul’s letters – we call the 1 Corinthians and the second letter we all 2 Corinthians.

Well apparently there was a letter that Paul wrote between these two that we have that didn’t survive.  And the reason we know it is because in Paul’s second letter that we do have he mentioned that he wrote them what he called a “severe letter” that was painful for them to read.

I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while.

I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. 

10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

Now notice – Paul says there are two kinds of sorrow over your guilt.  A Godly sorrow and a worldly sorrow.

There is a kind of sorrow for sins that doesn’t lead to life.  That picture of a person walking around beating themselves up over their guilt?  It’s important we understand that it’s the kind of worldly sorrow that results in spiritual death.  It’s not the kind of sorrow that leads to life.

You can be mad at yourself and hate yourself and deride yourself in the mirror – how could you be so stupid!  How could I have done this!  But if your sorrow doesn’t go beyond that, then you are only tasting worldly sorrow.  It’s not naturally going to drive you to God

In fact beating yourself up will often drive you from God’s presence.  Like Adam and Eve we want to hide from God because of our shame.   

If we are going to move from crushing guilt to freedom and forgiveness, it requires that we repent of our sin – not just feel bad for them.

Repentance is required.  Sorrow for the sin itself.  And then we have to take our guilt to the One who can do something about removing our guilt from us.

We take our sins to the God of the Bible who, while we were yet sinners, died for us.

Now – what does David ask?

  7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;

    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Oh, give me back my joy again;

    you have broken me—

    now let me rejoice.

9 Don’t keep looking at my sins.

    Remove the stain of my guilt.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.

    Renew a loyal spirit within me.

11 Do not banish me from your presence,

    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,

    and make me willing to obey you.

13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,

    and they will return to you.

14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;

    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.

15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,

    that my mouth may praise you.

It’s interesting what David doesn’t ask for.  He doesn’t ask for a second chance.  Just one more chance Lord I will never let you down again!

That’s the prayer of someone who thinks they are a good person who just messed up – they haven’t come to terms with the reality that unless God intervenes in our very soul – a second chance, and a third chance and a fourth, will all end in failure as well.

But David knows – I was born sinful.  David realizes that the things he has done really isn’t something out of character. He does not want God to make over his heart- he isn’t looking for a little touch up in his heart – he asks God to create in him a new kind of heart.

Now David had no idea what it would cost God to be able to give David a new heart.  Then and now – you don’t get a new heart without someone literally dying in order to give it to you.

When David prayed that God would blot out his sins.  He had no idea the price that had to be paid to answer his prayer.

But we do.  We understand – that it would take nothing less than Jesus on the cross.

And how then shall we respond?  Did you notice – David’s request of the Lord – create in me a clean heart.  And did you notice God’s request of David?  What does God ask of David?

The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

God’s not looking for a person who has thoroughly beaten themselves up for their sins.  He is looking for a humble heart.  Not a guilty spirit, but a humbled one.  A heart that brings our guilt to the Lord.  A heart that recognizes our need for repentance and forgiveness.

And part of a humble heart?  Is the belief and recognition that not only were my sins so serious that the only remedy was the death of Jesus – but a heart that is also humble enough to believe that the death of Jesus was enough to take away my guilt and shame.

As we turn our attention to communion this morning, we ask – why are we participating in communion?  What is this and why does Jesus ask us to regularly do this?

The answer is that he wants us to regularly reflect on these two beautiful truths.  Our sins were so serious -the only way we could be rescued from our sins was by dying for us.

And – at the same time – his death was enough to take away my guilt and shame.  We are God’s beloved sons and his cherished daughters, through faith in Jesus.

For our prayer time this morning can we spend a moment reflecting on the


Is there any guilt you’ve been carrying that you need to bring before the Lord.  Do you believe that the death of Jesus was enough to cleanse you from that guilt?  Tell Thank him.

Sometimes – even though we acknowledge that Jesus paid for our guilt, we still feel guilty.  Bring that before the Lord and ask him to heal you from the lingering effects of guilt.

23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.”