“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”(Psalm 51:1-2 ESV)
When the prophet Nathan confronted King David about his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah, the king acknowledged his sins and repented. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the king and psalmist composed this psalm. Stained by the filth of his sins, the king pleads for mercy, longing to be washed clean. He comes before the heavenly throne with confidence because of God’s abundant mercy and steadfast love.
The season of Lent is drawing near. We may soon receive the mark of ashes as a sign of repentance. Like the psalmist, we will be confronted by our sins, but not by one prophet. The Holy Spirit, at work in the Word of God, will call us to repentance. We will see our sins reflected clearly in the bright, holy mirror of God’s Law. The first place we see that terrible but accurate reflection is the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3 ESV).
A repentant reading of the Ten Commandments reveals the extent of our sins. We use God’s Name in vain, dishonor parents, harm the reputations of others, and covet what is not ours to have. Yet every sin leads back to that first command: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” With every sin, we choose another god, the god of self, as we place our desires before the will of God. The psalmist knew and confessed this truth. He sinned against Bathsheba and Uriah, yet he confesses to God, “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4a ESV).
Before God gave His Commandments on Mount Sinai, He reminded His people of all that He had done for them: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2 ESV). Through the blood of sacrificial lambs painted on the doorposts and lintels of their homes, God saved His people from death and led them out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land. On Ash Wednesday and every day, we bring our sins to the foot of the cross, where the Lamb of God shed His blood to save us. This is the God to whom we confess our sins. He is the God who saves us from death and leads us out of slavery to sin into eternal life.
The psalmist was sure of God’s abundant mercy and steadfast love, and we are sure of that, too. In the blood of Jesus, our transgressions are blotted out. We are cleansed of sin. While we may or may not be marked with ashes on this Ash Wednesday, we are forgiven and marked with the sign of the cross.
We Pray: Forgive my sins, Lord, according to Your abundant mercy and steadfast love. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on February 12, 2024
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights
1. Do you seek God’s mercy and forgiveness when you’ve done wrong? Do you know you can?
2. David was a legendary king and a typical sinner. How did he approach God after he sinned?
3. How does Jesus lift us up when we’ve buried ourselves in wrongdoing?