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How Can We Handle Unconfessed Sin? Psalm 51

Updated on June 19, 2013

The Antarctic winds attacked the forty foot craft with gusts reaching 40, 50--even 60 knots. The boat would pitch and rock in the towering swells and slide sideways down the breaking waves. What was intended to be delight was dangerous. What was supposed to bring pleasure brought peril. Overconfidence and a desire to experience the thrill of a savage sea put four men on the top of their overturned partially capsized boat for 180 days. They drank rainwater, ate raw fish and suffered form exposure as they drifted across the Atlantic Ocean until the saw the sandy shore half a globe away from the Jersey Shore they departed.

In Psalm 51 David is confronted by Nathan, God's prophet. The sin that David thought would bring pleasure, was bringing pain. He had been drifting from God for almost 9 months. His sin had blinded him-- caused him to forget the God who had empowered, sustained and lifted him. Yet when confronted with the reality of his sin, David swims toward the shore of restoration. Like David, we must deal with sin issues in our life. How do we do this? Notice what David did in Psalm 51.

"When we have fallen into sin we need to respond to the sure tender mercies of God that extend to us like the beams of a lighthouse to a lost ship."

1 Have mercy on me, O God,

according to your steadfast love;

according to your abundant mercy

blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,

and cleanse me from my sin!

I. Appeal to God’s Mercy (vv. 1-2).

David committed adultery. The king after "God's own heart" lied and covered his sin with murder and deceit. God in His mercy did not give David what He deserved. The law demanded death for such transgression. David did not see himself as one needy of God's mercy-- until Nathan exposed him. As long as one thinks he is ok-- better than the other guy, we fail to understand mercy. Take a good look at yourself. Remember all of your sin. All the lies, deceit, hatred, gossips, slanders, disputers, rebellion, theft, immoralities, as well as the countless omitted deeds God prescribes dooms all. We are all dark stains on the pure white marble of God’s holiness. And we all need to cry for mercy at the foot of the cross.

But my good deeds? I… give, to the poor, I am kind, put up with junk, loyal to my friends, devoted wife, a caring mother.Yet these do not excuse any in the least.

"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (Isaiah 64:6, ESV)

Our only appeal is God’s mercy. Have Mercy upon me O God.

A. Appeal to the Roots of God’s mercy. (v. 1).

Steadfast love. v. 1a

Lovingkindness, sometimes called the sure mercies or faithfulloving kindnesses (the Hebrew word is plural khesed) is a compassionate, kind, loving bestowal (favor) of God towards David. It is more than just grace because of the lack of consequential punishment on David himself. God, Himself, will pay for David's sin. It is a sure mercy, a faithful mercy, a done deal type of mercy based on a promise.

What promises did God make to David? Psalm 89:1-4 tells us exactly what this sure mercies/loving-kindnesses towards David were:

"I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.” You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah" (Psalm 89:1-4, ESV)

The Davidic Covenant promised David that his seed would be ruler over Israel in an everlasting kingdom (2 Sam. 7:8,16; Ps. 89:27–29). Paul connected the resurrection of Christ with this promise in Acts 13:34. If Christ had not fully satisfied the Father by His atoning death, He would not have risen. If He had not risen from the dead, He could not eventually sit on David’s earthly throne. But He did rise and will fulfill the kingly role (v. 4). Cf. Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23,24; 37:24,25” That was great news for David!

Our very salvation is part of this package promise.

The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

Perhaps you don’t see how God can forgive. Humans have trouble forgiving. How can God possibly be so merciful and kind when man has been so evil?

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? Numbers 23:19

Compassion. v. 1b

This word has the idea of care, concern, of pity—compassion. It is a need sensitive, receptive, concern.

Remember how the prodigal's father dealt with his wayward son?

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. Luke 15:20

No place do we see the compassion of God clearer than in the life of Christ, who was moved with compassion when he saw the multitudes. Who stopped and turned to heal blind men, who took the children up in his arms, who looked at a rich young ruler and loved him in spite of the fact that young man turned and walked away from the Lordship of Christ! God loves you my friend and he stoops in compassionate mercy.

The self reliant think:

I don’t need this. I don’t need anyone to pity me.

My friend, are you aware of what you need? If man’s greatest need was money—God would have sent a finical adviser, if our need was education God would have sent an educator, if it was world peace he would have sent a politician, but our greatest need was a compassionate savor—who being moved with compassion would exercise just mercy and would take our sins upon Himself that we might be made righteousness.

B. Appeal with Requests (vv. 1c-2).

Blot out my rebellion. v. 1c

I used to think that this term blot means that we covered up something. In fact it really means the opposite. It means remove. Take away. David is asking that the legal record of his rebellion be removed from God’s record keeping system.

In the old days when people wrote with ink that did not dry quickly—they would blot it with a blotter. I never really understood the process. The blotting removed the wet ink from the paper. Its not like white out—it doesn’t cover it over—it removes it. David wanted this thing out of his life once and for all.

How about you? Do you want God grace to remove the old rebellion in your heart? Or do you secretly admire the rebellion that you harbor? Are you passive with your rebellion? Do you hide it, cover it, but smirk about it when its all over? Do you brag about what you used to do or how you cover your tracks even now? Or do you wish it never ever happened.

Wash me from evil. v. 2a

The word here for wash is the word that was used to describe the way clothes were cleaned. Scrubbing, rinsing, over and over to remove stubborn stains. David is praying to God asking God to clean the sin out of his life!

I was at a wedding where a red rose stained the bride's dress. She earnestly wanted the stain removed.

Washing can be painful. Yes, but a clean life is able to be used by God.

Cleanse me. v. 2b

This is surface washing—removing filth that accumulates on the outside. It is interesting, David deals with his sin from God’s view first, his heart’s view second, and now from the view of others. Don't be deluded, a repentant heart cares what others think-- but in this order.

Cars in the spring and fall collect pollen. In the same way we are tarnished by sin. This is about us representing Christ to the world. When others see us what do they see?

You may believe that your sin is not as bad as David’s, Yet how much evil does it take to soil one’s soul? In dim light it all looks good. But in the light of God’s holiness it stands out glaringly.

3For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4Against 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.

5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

and in sin did my mother conceive me.

II. We must acknowledge our sin (vv. 3-5).

A. We are responsible for our sin. v.3

Will Rogers said that there were two great passings in history: there was the passing of the buffalo off of the Great Plains in America and there was the passing of the buck! It has been like this since the fall in Eden. A man may blame his mother because he is angry. Another may blame his spouse for his infidelity.We blame education, social status, society, finances, bosses, the police,-- anything except the mirror.

We need to stop blaming the devil, others, and even God for our sin. We need to stop sugar coating, excusing, and being soft about our sin. This can be very hard at times-- because we deal with other fallen beings. Yet our sin is our fault. Your sin is your fault.

B. We sin against God. v.4

Remember how Joseph view his similar temptation?

...How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? Genesis 39:9

Our sin is against God. All sin is against God.

The unsubmissive heart towards a husband, that rebellious muttering towards your authority, that lustful thought--- all are against God. Your sin is against Him and His holiness.Sure it affects others, but its against God. Every sin attempts to victimize God's sovereign holiness.

C. We are sinful from conception. v.5

This is not the act or process of conception. Rather it is saying that we are sinful from the beginning of our life. The pie was baked in the oven, I was made in sin—I am affected by it, tainted. By birth, nature and choice—we are sinners. That means that the terrible twos is sin nature with mobility.

"The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies." Psalm 58:3

The playing field is level at the foot of the cross. We are all sinners. David's sin, this type of sin--any sin, is not above any of us.

When the four men saw the shore break in front of them, they jumped off their sinking ship and swam hard for the shore. It was difficult. They were weak. They were suffering. Yet they swam to rescue.

Today, beloved, we must deal with our sin. God's gracious Word has reminded us of where we fall. His mercy has provided forgiveness through the person of Christ. The call goes out today to:

I. Appeal to God’s Mercy (vv. 1-2).

A. Appeal to the Roots (v. 1).

  • Steadfast Love (v. 1a).
  • Abundant Mercy (v. 1b).

B. Appeal with Requests (vv. 1c-2).

  • Blot Out My Transgression (v. 1c).
  • Wash Me From My Iniquity (v. 2a).
  • Cleanse Me From My Sin (v. 2b).

II. Acknowledge Your Sin (vv. 3-6).

A. Our Sin Is Revealed to Us (v. 3a).

B. Our sin Is Against God (v. 4a).

C. Our Sin Is Evil (v. 4b).

D. Our Sin Is From Conception (v. 5).

E. Our Sin Is An Inner Issue (v. 6).

About The Author

Harold Markham is the host of the ER Podcast. He studied to be a pastor and holds degrees in Bible, pulpit speech as well as a Masters in Biblical studies. Click here for more articles by Harold Markham.


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    • HD Markham profile imageAUTHOR

      Harold Markham 

      5 years ago from Notheast, Wisconsin

      Hey! I am glad you found the site and benefited from the article. Grace and peace to you!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This is just what I was looking for. Thank you for writing this powerful article and explaining how to deal with our sins.


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