The Confession - Psalm 51:1-17

When I was about 10 years old I spent a Friday night with a cousin who lived in town. My family lived in the country. On Saturday morning we were typical boys looking for something to do. My cousin was three years older than me, although we were close to the same size. He suggested we go over to the black school in town. He said we could get in and get us a coke out of the machine there. Although I knew it was wrong, I went along because I thought he’s older and knows that we will not get into any trouble. Well we got caught by a janitor and he just made us leave. I was petrified that he would tell our parents or the cops and we’d be in big trouble. Nothing happened the rest of that day or on Sunday. On Sunday night the guilt became so heavy I had to tell my mother what we had done. She said we were wrong, of course, but that I shouldn’t ever do that again and she didn’t think I should worry about it anymore. (We didn’t get a coke either!)

The point here is: I had to confess before I received any release from my guilt. (I never spent the night with that cousin again.)


Guilt, like unconfessed sin, eats away at our very soul until we are completely consumed!


Psalm 51 is unlike any psalm we’ve studied so far in this unit. It is one of eight psalms of penitence, meaning it is an expression of repentance and a plea for God’s cleansing from sin.  This psalm is attributed to David, after Nathan confronted him with his greatest moral failure—adultery and murder!


(Relate the account of David’s act of adultery with Bathsheba and how David was responsible for Uriah’s death, and his confrontation with the prophet, Nathan, approximately 9 months after David’s sin.)

Guilty As Charged!

1.      Who was hurt by David’s sin? (God allowed the consequences of David’s sin to be carried out to the fullest.)

Read Psalm 51:1-5

2.      Why do you think David was so quick to confess and ask for God’s forgiveness after Nathan confronted him? (I personally believe David was eaten up with guilt. Every time he saw Bathsheba he was reminded of his rebellion against God.)

3.      Do we ever convince ourselves that we are above God’s Law, that it doesn’t apply in this circumstance and God will overlook it this time?

4.      What attributes of God does David appeal to in verse one? (Grace, faithful love and abundant compassion.)

5.      What different words are used in these five verses to refer to the wrong David had committed? (Rebellion and sin.)

6.      Is there a difference between “rebellion” and “sin”? If so, what? (Rebellion is a conscious decision to go against an established standard after considering the issue.)

7.      What words did David use in asking God to rid him of his guilt? (Blot out, wash away, and cleanse.)

8.      What does David’s use of these three different terms say about his desire for God’s forgiveness?

9.      Against whom had David sinned? (Bathsheba, Uriah, their family and of course God.)

10.  Why did David say he had sinned only against God? (Ultimately all sin is first and foremost against God, and He is the one we must answer to!)

11.  What does verse 5 indicate about how heavy David’s guilt was on his heart? (It was almost as if every act he had ever committed was sinful rebellion against God.)

12.  What are some ways people sugarcoat or rationalize sin to deal with their guilt?

13.  Why is it easier to point out the sin in others than deal with our own sin?

To justify our sin we compare ourselves with others and began to feel pretty good about ourselves. But God’s Word is the standard, not other people’s actions. Sin is what God says it is!

The “man after God’s own heart” had become miserable with guilt and longed for the fellowship with God to be restored. Psalm 32:3 “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.” NLT.

Listen for the desperation in David’s pleas in these verses!

Plea For Cleansing! Read Psalm 51:6-13


1.      What confession in verse 6 did David admit about God’s requirements of him? (Integrity in his heart.)

2.      What things did David ask of God in these verses? (There is request after request to expunge this indelible stain of sin from him. It is almost as if David had something on his hands and had washed them numerous times and could not get them clean! But that is only David’s guilty feelings. When God cleanses us through the blood of Jesus, we are clean.)

David asked for both forgiveness and a changed life. That is what repentance means—going in the opposite direction, a new life!

3.      What does a right relationship with God look like?

4.      What role does forgiveness play in cultivating our relationship with God?

The word “Create” in verse 10 is the same word used in Genesis 1 to describe God’s original act of creation, and it is used in the Old Testament exclusively to refer to God’s act of creation. No one else can give us a clean heart when we sin—only God can!

5.      How would you describe a forgiven heart? (The joy has returned!)

6.      What actions are required for a person to have a pure heart?

7.      What is the role of the Holy Spirit in revealing sin in our lives? (See John 16:8 and 1 Cor. 6:11. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin. When we confess our sin Jesus’ blood washes the sin away and fellowship with God the Father is renewed.)

Verse 13 begins to show how God redeems our brokenness. David knew he would help other sinners return to God when he was restored. The next section of verses builds on this idea.


Deliverance Through Brokenness! Read Psalm 51:14-17


1.      What do you think David was thinking about in his plea in verse 14?

2.      What does David say pleases the Lord? (“A broken spirit and a broken and humbled heart.”)

3.      What are some things people do to try to appease God for their sin rather than confess it clearly? (Offerings, service, etc.)

The death of Jesus on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice for all sin—past, present and future. Nevertheless, God still seeks evidence of our sorrow and brokenness over sin, and until we repent and accept His cleansing for our sin, our relationship with God and our usefulness to Him will be hindered.

4.      How are remorse and repentance related?

5.      How are they different? (Remorse is simply feeling sorry for what you have done. Repentance is the heart felt desire to make a fundamental change in your heart to do what is right in God’s eyes from now forward.)

6.      Can you have one without the other?


Summarize and Challenge!


The only way to get rid of a foul odor is to get rid of what causes the odor. The only way to guard against stains is to eliminate those things that cause stains in the first place. Similarly, there are some sins we can avoid simply by removing the temptation to commit them.

Guilt is a good response to wrong doing or failing to do what’s right.

What is the difference between healthy guilt (from God) and false guilt (twisted by Satan)? (Sometimes, after we have confessed and repented of a sin, Satan keeps reminding us of what we did and tries to tell us that we really weren’t forgiven—that’s false guilt.

God’s Spirit convicts us of sin, produces fruit of the Spirit in us and creates a new heart in believers after we have confessed our sin and repented. Don’t let Satan tell you different!


Develop a habit of hearing God so accurately that you act upon guilt right away. Stop what’s wrong. Start what’s right.

Staying in God’s Word daily is the “how to” in this area of our lives!


Reread the entire psalm in closing!