Psalm 51 is a great example of the tension between repentance and praise. David had failed in dramatic fashion by committing both adultery and murder. When he finally repented, he wrote this psalm. True repentance involves at least five ingredients shown in this Psalm.
(1) An acute consciousness of and sorrow over specific sins.
Psalms 51:3, 17 NIV For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
(2) An understanding that all sin is first and foremost against God.
Psalms 51:4 NIV Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
(3) An understanding of and sorrow over our general sinfulness.
Psalms 51:5 NIV Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
(4) A strong faith in and desire for God’s love and mercy as our only hope.
Psalms 51:1 NIV Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
(5) A strong and urgent desire to be cleansed and transformed by God.
Psalms 51:1-2, 7-12, 14 NIV Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
David didn’t deserve forgiveness, but he knew he could count on God’s mercy. This joy-filled anticipation caused him to break forth in praise.
Psalms 51:13-15 NIV Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
David failed, but God never fails, and David wanted to proclaim His grace and mercy to all who would listen.