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  • Chad Werkhoven

Psalm 51:1-2 - Not Good Cop/Bad Cop

You're forgiven through Christ, but it's the Father's love & compassion that makes it possible.

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Read Psalm 51

Listen to passage & devotional:


Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 126

Q. What does the fifth request mean?

A. “Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors” means,

Because of Christ’s blood,

do not hold against us,

poor sinners that we are,

any of the sins we do

or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined,

as evidence of your grace in us,

to forgive our neighbors



As David begins this famous prayer asking for repentance, he frames his request by acknowledging who God is. In other words, it's the very character and nature of God that makes forgiveness possible.

David appeals to God's "unfailing love," that ḥěʹ·sěḏ love rooted in His covenant with us that He's obligated Himself to. David knows he can come to his God in repentance because of God's "great compassion."

God's unchanging character is not only the reason that David can ask for forgiveness, but it is also the reason that David must ask for forgiveness. David uses three different words to describe his own actions: transgressions, iniquity and sin. All three of these words describe David's relationship to an aspect God's character as well: His justice. David admits his crime, his guilt and that he has missed God's legal expectations.

Notice also that David doesn't use the word forgiveness! Rather, he expands on what it is that we mean when we ask for forgiveness: that our guilt would be "blotted out," and that we would be "washed" and "cleansed."

Dig Deeper

It's important that David prays this prayer of confession to God the Father. This is a good reminder for us, because we're often quick to say that Jesus came as a baby on Christmas morning to live, die, and be raised to life in order to forgive people's sins.

It's certainly not wrong to say this, for the Bible often equates Jesus with forgiveness (Matt. 26:28, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:43, Acts 13:38, Eph. 1:7, Col. 1:13-14, 1 John 2:12, just to name a few). But a closer look at Psalm 51 and these other passages encourages us to tighten up our language. We're forgiven through Jesus, not by Jesus.

Jesus' atonement (payment) for our sin on the cross satisfied the righteous anger that God has for those who cross His good and perfect will, making forgiveness possible, as Paul writes in Ephesians 1:4, "just as in Christ, God forgave you."

This is an important distinction to keep in mind because otherwise it seems like God the Father is just a stubborn, angry old man, while God the Son is the good guy giving everyone a pass.

Let David's beautiful confession remind you that it was God the Father's unfailing love and great compassion that sent His Son to die so that you could have complete forgiveness of all of your sin.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who loves you with unfailing love and great compassion;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that God will have mercy on you, and that He will blot out your transgressions, wash away your iniquity, and cleanse you from your sin;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Revelation 13


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