David’s Prayer for Pardon

Text: Psalm 51

David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). But he also committed one of the most notorious sins recorded in the Bible (2 Samuel 11). Psalm 51 is David’s prayer for pardon following that sin. When we sin today, we must return to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. This psalm contains lessons for us about doing this.

We Need God’s Grace to Be Cleansed of Sin (v. 1-2)

  • The psalm begins with a call for God’s grace (v. 1) – possible because of God’s character (lovingkindness & compassion); necessary because of our sin (v. 2)
  • God’s grace is still necessary today (Romans 3:23; 6:23) – pardon for the non-Christian (Acts 2:38); pardon for the Christian (Acts 8:22)
  • This need for God’s grace is a repeated refrain in this psalm (v. 7-9, 11-12, 14)

We Must Be Aware of Our Sins (v. 3, 17)

  • Two things are necessary for us to have this awareness – knowledge of the law of God since sin is a violation of His law (1 John 3:4); willingness to honestly evaluate one’s own life (2 Corinthians 13:5)
  • Awareness of sin must not be rooted in arrogance (Romans 3:8; 6:1-2)
  • Awareness of sin should cause us to be humble (v. 17; Luke 18:13-14)

When We Sin, We Sin Against God (v. 4)

  • This does not mean that when  we sin, God is the only one sinned against
  • David sinned against Uriah (2 Samuel 11:3-4, 14-17), Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-5), and his men (2 Samuel 11:1) – we may sin against others as well (Luke 17:4)
  • Remember: first and foremost, our sins are against God – this means that even if one forgives us, or is unaware of our sin, we must still seek God’s forgiveness

We Are Surrounded by Sin (v. 5)

  • Some have wrongly concluded that this verse teaches the doctrine of original sin – David was not a sinner from conception; instead, he was born into a world filled with sin
  • Sin is common – but that doesn’t mean we should practice it, nor does it mean we should ignore it when we sin
  • We must live up to God’s standard, not the world’s standard (1 Peter 1:14-16)

Our Hearts Must Be Right Before God (v. 6, 10)

  • God does not just want our outward actions to be right – our hearts must be right (Matthew 23:27-28)
  • We must be “obedient from the heart” (Romans 6:17)

We Must Help Others Avoid Sin (v. 13)

  • When we repent and receive forgiveness of sins from God, that is an obvious benefit to us
  • However, we can also take advantage of opportunities to help others escape/avoid sin (Luke 22:31-32)
  • Temptation is common (1 Corinthians 10:13) – we may be of help to those who are being tempted as we were


  • When we sin, we should not become arrogant or apathetic about it – we need forgiveness
  • But we also do not need to despair – God is willing to forgive
  • But we must come to Him humbly and penitently seeking forgiveness

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