Psalm 51 is a psalm of repentance and one from which we can learn and even use to model our own confessions. When we feel the pain of conviction—a crushing weight that feels like broken bones—we can run to our Father and cry out to him in repentance.
I broke my arm two years ago. It was the first broken bone of my life. I thought it would be fun to expose my kids to the joys of roller skating at the local roller rink. I wanted to share the fun of skating to sounds of the latest pop music, eating roller rink fare, and participating in the Hokey Pokey. After all, that’s what I did most Saturdays growing up. The only problem was that I hadn’t skated since I was a teen, and falling down as an adult brings greater consequences than it did when I was a child.
I knew right away something was wrong. The pain was intense. I clutched my arm close to my abdomen. I had to drive home using one arm. After enduring an emergency doctor’s visit, I learned that I had broken my elbow. Needless to say, I haven’t been skating since.
Our emotions reveal the turbulence broiling in our hearts.
The excruciating pain in my arm was my body telling me something was wrong. Our emotions function in a similar way for us. They also tell us something is wrong. Whether we are angry at an injustice, fearful of the unknown future, or grieving a loss, our emotions reveal the turbulence broiling in our hearts.
One of the ways our emotions tell us something is wrong is in the case of our sin. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we feel the weight of it. It makes us grieve and feel sorrow. We feel anger toward ourselves for what we’ve done. We feel a nagging disquiet in our souls that won’t let go. We feel broken and realize anew the utter depths of our sinfulness.
David felt the pain of his sins against Uriah and Bathsheba.
That’s how David felt in Psalm 51. He wrote this psalm after the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah (2 Samuel 12). It is a lament, where he poured out his heart to the Lord, asking forgiveness for what he had done. In this psalm, David described the conviction he felt over his sin like that of crushed bones: “Let the bones you have crushed rejoice” (Ps.51:8). His joy was gone—all he felt was pain and sorrow over his sin.
Such conviction led him to repentance. Paul refers to this sorrow as godly sorrow:
For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Cor. 7:8-10)
Ultimately our sin is against a holy and righteous God.