According to the superscript, the occasion of this psalm was when the prophet Nathan came to rebuke David for his sinful affair with Bathsheba and the premeditated murder of her husband and David’s loyal soldier and friend, Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 12:1-14). It is a psalm of prayer from one who has committed grievous sin, and who makes no excuse for it. As a prayer, the psalm is a great model for us, because it shows us the correct attitude one must have toward his own sins, and in asking God for His forgiveness.
God does not take sin lightly, but He does forgive us for our sins when we come to Him with a truly repentant and contrite heart. It is with a properly broken spirit that David says “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” David knows that no sacrifice or burnt offering would appease God in this case, and that God has no interest in it; and he says that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (verse 17).
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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