“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.” -Ps. 51.1
The man who comes to the truest consciousness of his own depravity will be the one to cry out from the deepest place for a total cleansing from God. David the King and psalmist of Judah, after a massive moral collapse, was faced with the word of the prophet Nathan, and the depth of conviction was such that it resulted in a cry for mercy that brought down a speedy answer from heaven. Isn’t the grit of David remarkable? Isn’t it noteworthy how he responds and returns so wholeheartedly?
We tend to fall into one of two traps when our faults are pointed out. On the one hand, we are overcome with embarrassment and shame, and go through extended cycles of remorse and condemnation, wondering how sorry we must feel before the Lord will actually extend mercy to us. On the other hand, we stick our chests out in denial or defense, accusing the bringer of the word of some fault of his own in hopes of shirking our own responsibility before God.
David had a remarkable gift. He had a positive audacity, a repentant grit, and I’m convinced that it had to do with his own deep-seated consciousness that as a man, he could produce nothing without heavenly aid.
Spurgeon writes of David in this event:
My revolts, my excesses, are all recorded against me; but, Lord erase the lines. Draw thy pen through the register. Obliterate the record, though now it seems engraven in the rock for ever; many strokes of thy mercy may be needed, to cut out the deep inscription, but then thou hast a multitude of mercies, and therefore, I beseech thee, erase my sins.
…. The hypocrite is content if his garments be washed; but the true suppliant cries, “wash me.” The careless soul is content with a nominal cleansing, but the truly-awakened conscience desires a real and practical washing, and that of a most complete and efficient kind. “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity.”
(Charles Spurgeon, A Treasury of David; on Ch. 51, p. 450; Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1881)
David was deceived and in grave error in the committing of particular sins, and there was a haze over his heart. The prophet came and seared the veil with a burning sword, declaring “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12)
David heard the convicting word about his sins, but he heard something further and deeper than that. We could say that in his inner-ear he heard the prophet declare, “You are man.” In other words, not only are you the one who has committed offenses against God, but you are dust, your life is a vapor, and unless you cry out from that place, you may have your reputation restored among men, but you will not know the joy of My salvation.
Rather than tucking tail and running in light of this revelation, he faced the One he had sinned against. “Against You and You only have I sinned…” Rather than looking for prosperity in his political career or hoping for a restored reputation, he cried out for a cleansing of the deepest kind.
The guilt is intolerable; it must not only be softened and diminished but must be eliminated completely: blotted out, washed away, made to disappear from the sight of God. The petitioner knows “that the removal of this intolerable thing cannot be his own work but only God’s: a divine blotting out, cleansing, and washing away…” (K. Barth, CD 4/1, 579)
(PSALMS 1-59: A Continental Commentary, Hans Joachim-Kraus; Fortress Press, p. 502)
David was not content with a surface brushing. He cried out for a new heart, his spirit had been broken, and he knew that from that place of true contrition, God would not despise Him.
David experienced the Gospel before the apostles ever declared it. David experienced the cross before it had been preached. His was not a desire to have embarrassment removed or his name held high, it was a gut-cry for redemption, and he knew that he would be met with mercy in that cry, for the God to whom he turned is the One who desires ultimate restoration.
One of my friends once said, “If you haven’t cried out about being a man, you’ve yet to cry out.”
May we come into this Davidic grit, this grace to turn quickly to the God of mercy, to lean entirely into His heart, and to be transformed and made true “in the innermost parts.”