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. Psalm 51:10-12
Grace is getting what you don't deserve; justice is getting exactly what you deserve, and mercy is not getting what you really deserve. David knew that, and that's why, following his affair with Bathsheba, he pled for God's mercy. "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions."
Those are the opening words of David's prayer found in Psalm 51, the most emotion-laden and yet tender plea for forgiveness for the sin of infidelity in all literature--both secular and biblical.
David begins assuming full responsibility for what happened. When confronted by Nathan, David immediately confessed, "I have sinned!" One commentator put it: "There is no evasion of responsibility to her on the grounds of chance circumstance or an instinctive urge; no blaming of ignorance, necessity or evil agency; no attempt to make Bathsheba share the guilt of adultery and murder."
"Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin," he cries out. Millions today, striving to come back following an adulterous relationship with someone, lack what David felt: genuine repentance and sorrow for wrongdoing. That's much different from feeling bad that you got caught, or being embarrassed by the gossip that has gone the rounds.
The verbs that David used speak of the depth of emotional feeling in his heart. They include, "blot out, wash, cleanse, create, renew, restore, save"—all powerful words which speak of forgiveness and cleansing.
There are eight separate petitions in David's prayer. He begins by praying, "Purge me with hyssop; and I shall be clean." Hyssop was a brush-like plant, used to sprinkle blood on the doorframes during Passover, a practice that began in Egypt. Then he says, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." There were two words in Hebrew which could have been used. One means a simple washing such as you would apply to a dirty dish or pan. The other was the word used in reference to a soiled garment which you take down to the river and beat it on the rocks until the stain comes out entirely. It was this word that David used. Isaiah later wrote, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18).
Knowing that there was no singing or joy in the home injured by an affair, David asks, "Make me to hear joy and gladness." He continues, "Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities." There's an interesting thing here. David called it what it is--not a moral failure, not a poor choice, not a mistake--but sin, using the terminology which God uses, the only one for which there is forgiveness. Be done with the psychological babble that refuses to recognize adultery as nothing less than sin, first against God, as David recognized it, then against our wives, our husbands, our children and ourselves as well.
"Create in me a clean heart…and renew a right spirit," he asks, realizing that the issues of life, including temptation and how we deal with it, stem from the heart.
Then David asked that God would not cast him away from his presence, or take away His Holy Spirit, but restore again the joy of his salvation. And did God answer David's prayer? Yes, He did! David wrote, "But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared." (Psalm 130:4).
If you find yourself in an adulterous relationship and want healing and help, don't bother with a counselor who will tell you, "Just get on with your life," but go to Psalm 51. There you will find God's therapy and His program for healing.
Resource reading: Psalm 51:1-19