1 Have mercy on me, God, according to your faithful love!
Wipe away my wrongdoings according to your great compassion!
2 Wash me completely clean of my guilt;
purify me from my sin!
3 Because I know my wrongdoings,
my sin is always right in front of me.
4 I’ve sinned against you—you alone.
I’ve committed evil in your sight.
That’s why you are justified when you render your verdict,
completely correct when you issue your judgment.
5 Yes, I was born in guilt, in sin,
from the moment my mother conceived me.
6 And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places;
you teach me wisdom in the most secret space.
7 Purify me with hyssop and I will be clean;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and celebration again;
let the bones you crushed rejoice once more.
9 Hide your face from my sins;
wipe away all my guilty deeds!
This psalm was written after the prophet Nathan rebuked King David for his adultery. Surely King David must have known he was wrong before the prophet came challenging him by a metaphor; but perhaps it took this challenge, in the light of day, for the king to show his regret and to ask for God’s forgiveness. The scene is recounted in 2 Samuel 12. Through this psalm, David puts his sins out there by acknowledging to God, “I’ve committed evil in your sight.” He surely knew how to express remorse and to be brutally honest about his bad behavior. David also knew how to complain and offer his deep regret and to then ask for forgiveness. He knew not to sugarcoat the truth in talking to his Creator.
David doesn’t speak in metaphors or avoid the truth. I wonder how many of us are so bold in our speech to our Creator. Do we always try to speak so freely in front of God? Or do we sugarcoat and talk our way around the truth – to ourselves, and therefore to our God?
My experience says that humans are good at complaining, except when the one we really want to complain to is right in front of us. Yet, if God is everywhere, why do we think that somehow our sins, as well as our complaints, aren’t already known to the One who knows all of creation?
“And yes, you want truth in the most hidden places; you teach me wisdom in the most secret spaces,” is what Psalm 51:6 announces. As David knew, the truth takes us to a different level in our relationship with God. Perhaps we think that somehow our harsh words dishonor God. Yet without such honesty, perhaps we may never really grow into ourselves and our relationship with God. I think that David might say that it is through such honesty, that the joy and celebration that he speaks of returns. Perhaps it is only through such an intimate, un-sugar-coated relationship, that we truly begin to know our God. God seeks our honest speech. Hold the sugar.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Since God knows every excuse, complaint, cry, or lament, why not be like David in confronting the truth of our lives in front of our God? Surely God has literally heard every possible lament.
With such brutal honesty, what new insight might be gained? How might this change your relationship with God?
Prayer: Holy One, I know my heart doesn’t always match my words in prayer to you. Strip away my fear and hold me close in my cries to you. Oh Lord, you know my truest path. Mold me and make me in your divine image. Amen.