Have you ever met a person who as soon as they realize they have messed up or fallen into some sin, will immediately come clean about the whole thing? I’ll bet you haven’t met many like that and that most of us aren’t like that ourselves. I suspect the reason many of us so admire the apostle Paul is his readiness to come clean with his whole life is that we know it is admirable and wish we were more like that. He made no excuses for his being a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious to the cause of Christ. He told how he had been a murderer by sanctioning the murder of Stephen, the first Christian to be martyred. He declared his sin fully as a means of shouting the news of God’s overwhelming grace that if God’s grace was so powerful it could save one who was chief of sinners then it can take care of any other person who has sinned.
In the Book of Psalms chapter 51 we have a tremendous example of one coming clean about his sin. David had been guilty of some horrible sins. He committed adultery with the wife of one of his own soldiers with the full knowledge that she was married to this soldier. When she announced that she was pregnant David first of all went into defensive mode to try to hide his sin and failure. After his efforts to get Uriah the husband to go home and have sex with his wife so that his sin could be hidden, he actually sent the note by Uriah to Joab the leader of the army of David telling him to put Uriah in the heat of the battle and withdraw from him so that he would be killed in the battle. Think of what had to be going through David’s mind when he did this. He had to trust that Uriah was so trustworthy that he wouldn’t open the note to see what he was carrying. When Uriah was killed David comforted Joab by saying to him not to worry about it since one never knew in battle who would be killed and who would live. David immediately brought Bathsheba into his own house and they were married. It was about a year from then until God sent Nathan the prophet to David to confront him about his sin. He used a story of a poor man who had one sheep that he loved dearly, even allowing it to eat with him at his table. A rich man lived near him and he had many sheep. But when a guest came to visit him, instead of sending servants out to his herd and getting a sheep to kill to feed his guest he sent them to take the one sheep of the poor man and slaughter it for his guest. David reacted with rage. He declared that the rich man who did that would surely be put to death. Imagine the shock when Nathan looked David in the eyes and said, “You are the man, David.” God gave you everything that belonged to Saul including his wives and mistresses. God had given David other wives of his choice but he wasn’t satisfied with all that God had given him and was willing to give him more, but David had stolen the wife of another man who was loyal to him as a soldier.
David was broken hearted. “I have sinned” was his cry. Nathan told him that his sin was forgiven but the sword would never depart from his house, the child would die and he would be shamed when one would have sex with David’s wives in front of all Israel. Psalms 51 is David’s response. “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. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 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. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.” Notice there were no excuses, no blaming Bathsheba or his parents or his other wives for his sin. He claimed it without minimizing it at all.
Then he pleads with God for cleansing. “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.” David knows what he has been missing in his relationship with God. This period of time when he was trying to hide his sin had been a time of spiritual drought. He longed to have a close personal relationship with God again. Notice he asked for cleansing, for a pure heart, to be washed and whiter than show. He longed for the joy of salvation again. Notice the plea for God not to take His Holy Spirit from him. This evidences that God doesn’t quickly take his spirit from us when we fail Him. But when we are in sin God’s Spirit isn’t comforting us but afflicting us to bring us back to God.
Notice what David promised God if he was cleansed, forgiven and restored to his place with God. “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. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Two things stand out in this segment. If God forgives, he would teach transgressors about the Lord. When cleansed he would sing praise unto God. In some ways this segment seems like a bargaining with God. We are uneasy with any attempt to bargain with God where a person says, “God if you will heal me then I will give my life serving You.” But David wasn’t asking for some physical healing but for spiritual healing that he knew God was anxious to give. God isn’t one who wants to with hold forgiveness or a clean heart. He longs to show grace and make one whole again. It isn’t wrong to commit to God that we will serve Him when our slate is clean before Him. Notice the final verse in this segment. God doesn’t delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. David declares the sacrifice he will offer to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart that God will not despise.
Think of the fact that people are always offering God something they think he will be impressed with, but what God values in a sinner is a broken and contrite heart. You can’t fake a broken heart with God. It must be real to the bone.