Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love. Psalm 51:1
The article in the local newspaper was short but heartwarming. After attending a faith-based program on building stronger family ties, a group of prison inmates were given a rare treat of an open visit with their families. Some hadn’t seen their children in years. Instead of talking through a glass panel, they could touch and hold their loved ones. The tears flowed freely as families grew closer and wounds began to heal.
For most readers, it was just a story. But for these families, holding one another was a life-changing event—and for some, the process of forgiveness and reconciliation was begun.
God’s forgiveness of our sin and offer of reconciliation, made possible through His Son, is more than a mere fact of the Christian faith. The article’s news of reconciliation reminds us that Jesus’s sacrifice is great news not just for the world, but for you and me.
In times when we’re overwhelmed by guilt for something we’ve done, however, it’s news we can cling to desperately. That’s when the fact of God’s unending mercy becomes personal news: because of Jesus’s dying on our behalf, we can come to the Father washed clean, “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). In such times, when we know we don’t deserve His mercy, we can hold on to the only thing we can depend on: God’s unfailing love and compassion (v. 1).
Father, I’m sorry if I’ve taken Your mercy and love for granted. Thank You for this wonderful gift and privilege that I don’t deserve yet You’ve promised unconditionally.
Psalm 51 is one of the seven penitential psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143), so called because the writer in repentant sorrow confesses his sins and turns to the Lord for forgiveness. The subheading to this psalm reads: “A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.” David’s sin and confrontation is recorded in 2 Samuel 11–12. Many scholars believe David penned both Psalms 32 and 51 after repenting from his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. Psalm 32 describes David’s spiritual dryness during the year when he refused to confess his sins (vv. 3–4), and the delight and sense of release after he acknowledged them (vv. 1–2, 5–11). In Psalm 51, after Nathan confronts him, David confesses his sins and pours his heart out to God and asks for forgiveness. Psalm 51 has become the model prayer for forgiveness of sin.