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  • Chad Werkhoven

Psalm 51:7-9 - Cathartic Confession

Confession of sin seems scary, but it always leads to relief and joy.

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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



Generally, confession isn't something most people look forward to. It's hard to admit guilt even to other people, much less than to our God and Father! So it's not surprising that most people do all they can to keep themselves distracted from their guilt rather than subject themselves to the anticipated pain of confession.

But as we read David's inspired words today, it certainly doesn't appear that his confession of one of the most heinous sins committed in the Bible is a painful process! Quite the opposite!

Confession is a cathartic - that is, purifying - process. David asks our Father to cleanse him so that he will be clean, and to wash him and make him whiter than snow. He writes of the relief from the bone crushing weight of the guilt that had been pressing down on him. Imagine the transformation necessary for crushed bones to rejoice! (Side note: notice there in v8 that God was the one using David's guilt to crush his bones! In this way, God graciously used pain to bring David to salvation.)

Ultimately, confession of sin doesn't just polish up our transgressions so they don't seem so bad, rather it completely removes them. That's what David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, asks for here: for God to blot out all of his iniquity.

Dig Deeper

It seems to make sense: big sins require big confessions. David's sin was much more than a tryst with a beautiful woman; it drove him into a conspiracy that led to betrayal, treason, and murder, which ultimately caused his entire country's downfall.

But then we behold the overwhelming beauty of his confession here in Psalm 51, and our perception of David drastically improves. Just like in a cheesy romantic movie, the wayward protagonist eloquently apologizes to the woman he loves, and just like that, all is better.

But that's not what's going on here at all. God didn't accept David's confession because somehow its beauty was sufficient to overcome the sin being confessed. God accepted David's confession because of His unfailing love and compassion, which we read about a couple of days ago.

Here's a few things to keep in mind about confession:

  • Since poetic beauty doesn't improve a confession's efficacy, you don't need to worry about making them eloquent. You just need to demonstrate sincerity and admit your guilt.

  • Notice David never mentions any of the particulars of his sin in his confession. Confession is less about giving God a list of what you've done wrong, and more about demonstrating sorrow and repentance.

  • While there generally should be some correlation between the magnitude of a particular sin and the process you utilize to confess it, remember that all sins, big and small, must be confessed (even the sins you're unaware of).

The best way to do this well is to follow Jesus' simple command: Continually repent and pray often that God will forgive your debts as you trust in Christ's atoning blood.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father; who crushes our bones when we hide our guilt, but then causes them to rejoice when we confess our sin;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Confess your sins and pray that God will forgive your debts as you trust in Christ alone.



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Revelation 15


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