“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalms 51:1, 7, 9-11 NLT
David hasn’t done well. In fact, he has plumbed the depths of depravity beyond even godless people’s experiences. He has coveted another man’s wife, then committed adultery with her, and finally joined the ranks of murderers by arranging for her husband to be killed on the battlefield. And his self-deception was so complete that it took a brave prophet, Nathan, to point out his sins to him. But Psalm 51 is a record of his way back into God’s presence. Surely David’s sins were too great to be forgiven, we might think. Surely what he has done cannot just be atoned for by writing a Psalm. Surely he has to be banished from God’s presence forever. But this is where God’s unlimited grace comes into the picture. God will never turn His back on a truly repentant sinner.
But we might think that it is unfair of God to forgive someone as sinful as David. After all, my sins are nowhere near as bad as David’s. I’ve never done any of the things David had. The problem is that none of us can live a perfect sinless life that matches up to God’s standard of righteousness. It doesn’t matter how grave the sin is – stealing a pencil from an employer or committing adultery are both sins and both will stop us entering God’s presence. Because of our sinful natures we cannot get into God’s presence through our own efforts. There is only one way into God’s presence and that is through Jesus. Look at the Scriptures. Jesus said in John 14:6, “‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’”. In Acts 4:12 the Apostle Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”” It is only by the repentance of our sins and our belief that Jesus died for us at Calvary, that will enable us to become righteous enough to enter God’s presence.
Back in my Sunday School days we used to sing a song that went like this;
There’s a way back to God
from the dark paths of sin;
there’s a door that is open
and you may go in;
at Calvary’s cross is where you begin,
when you come as a sinner
Through God’s grace there is forgiveness. Once we have truly confessed our sins, and taken on board Jesus’ righteousness, He doesn’t see our sins any more. They are, in the words of the Psalm, blotted out. They have been erased from His record book. What a wonderful God He is!
But there is then the issue of our memories. Perhaps you are like me and sometimes remember a particular sin, from way back in the past, or perhaps not so long ago. We have confessed it, repented of it and God has forgiven us of it. He has no more record of it, but it is still in our memories. So we try and confess it again, just in case we have forgotten something. But God looks up the sin in His record book and doesn’t find it so He asks us the question, “What sin are you talking about?” It has been covered by His grace and blotted out of His records. Our memories retain it though and this is perhaps what David was referring to when he referred to the stain of his guilt. Sins leave stains in our minds. These can become a constant reminder of God’s grace, so freely and generously given. But also something the enemy will use to torment us, it we let him. If God has forgiven us, why would we not forgive ourselves? Perhaps our lack of faith comes to the fore?
The thing that David feared most, though, was that there was no way back into God’s presence. Verses 9-11 of today’s Psalm express the anguish going on within him. David appealed to God in three ways; to not keeping looking at his sins, to not banish him from His presence and to not take away the Holy Spirit. David didn’t have access to the Son of God, Jesus, as we do today. But he knew his God and knew that His grace and mercy would never reject him.
I wonder if David’s biggest fear, though, was that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come near him again. What a terrible thought? But, rationally, can I ask us all a question today. Would we know if the Holy Spirit had left us? That’s a question to ponder throughout the day.