Peaceful garden path with stone wall and flowering shrubs, dappled with sunlight.

According to His Lovingkindness: Psalm 51:1

King David’s Prayer

Today we look at Psalm 51, the great “Sinner’s Prayer for Pardon” penned by King David after many grievous sins, (see Asbury Revival: Lent). Notice how even just this first verse has much to teach us.

The Psalm is beautiful, heartfelt, and has been much quoted by God’s people through the ages. We all of us, at different times in our lives, are convicted of our sins. We find comfort in repeating these words penned so long ago.

“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness;

According to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions.”

Psalm 51:1

Here David displays from the start the terms upon which his forgiveness rests. He, the king, can offer no righteousness in himself, worthy of his pardon. He cannot be forgiven based upon his former zeal for God, his heart after God’s own heart, his victories in battle (including the Goliath triumph) nor even the anointing that God had placed upon his life.

No. David comes to God and tells it like it is.

I cannot come to you for my forgiveness, for this cleansing, based upon anything but Your love, alone.

In this one verse David displays his utter reliance upon the attributes of God that matter in this moment:

  • You are great in Your compassion.
  • You are a gracious God.
  • You full of lovingkindness.

According to these, Your attributes of grace, will you forgive? David asks.

And just so. On no other terms can we come to God for the cleansing we need. In no other way can we be made right with God.

New Testament Agrees

A major theme in the New Testament teaches these very attributes of God which David clung to. Paul writes to the Ephesians,

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you have been saved)…”

Ephesians 2:4-5

Notice the similarities of these passages. In both Psalms and Ephesians, the authors point to both God’s grace, and His willingness to blot out transgressions.


Grace. Whatever is it, anyway? Is it the prayer we offer at mealtimes, “Who would like to say ‘Grace’?” Is it a lovely girl’s name? A lovely trait in a hostess… “She deftly served the meal with poise and grace”?

Here is a definition from “Bible Study Tools” found online:

“Grace is the most important concept taught in the Bible. Scripture is filled with verses about God’s grace, and even though it is not something we deserve, God is kind to us and wants the best for our lives.

Simply put – grace is the unmerited, unearned love and favor of God.”

Harper’s Bible Dictionary expounds on the theme:

“The grace of God is therefore that quality of God’s nature which is the source of men’s undeserved blessings, in particular those blessings which have to do with their salvation from sin.”

And Christ, obeying the Father’s plan for our rescue, is the tangible, flesh and blood conduit of God’s grace. Harper’s continues:

“Christ is God’s assurance to the rebellious that He seeks only their good, and will give of Himself to the utmost to persuade them to receive it.”

This attribute of God’s is His, alone. We were not born to such selflessness. Yet there is hope. We can share this trait with God, when we decide to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. That’s the beautiful work of sanctification—for a later post.

For now, let’s take a look at the second word that both David and Paul discuss in the passages above.


David prays that God will “blot out” his “transgressions”. Blot em out, God. Blow em up. Make em disappear—blotted out forever. Isn’t this heart-cry of all sinners? Take my sin away!

Paul reminds us that before our forgiveness and new life in Christ we were “dead in our transgressions”. There’s that word again.

What does that even mean?

Well the words “transgression” is a kind of sinning. There are different kinds of sins, different levels of turning our backs on God and His directives. Transgression is just one.

Transgression: To purposefully, willfully, (while knowing what is right) choose to do wrong, anyway. It’s sin on purpose. Like telling a lie, running a red light, going back on your word. Like stealing.

Samson transgressed when he, a Nazarite, touched the dead carcass of the lion. He kept on transgressing, with larger and more disastrous sinning, until his transgressions became his undoing.

David knew what he was doing when he bid Bathsheba come to his quarters. He knew this was another man’s wife. He knew it was improper and against God’s will, and law.

Yet, he wanted what he wanted, so he took. Stole. Transgressed.

Paul reminds us that before Christ, we were spiritually dead, in our transgressions. How does that work? Read with me this explanation:

The word translated as dead in this passage is the Greek word NEKROS. It literally means “dead person, corpse, inorganic, dead, and dead as distinct from living.” God’s point is that until we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are spiritually dead. We cannot understand spiritual truth. We become spiritually alive after we believe the truth about Jesus and willingly yield ourselves to Him.

In Ephesians, when Paul writes, “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions,” he is reminding us of our hope. When God enters into our situation, we are suddenly waking up, fully alive to the things of God.

Look! says Paul. “This is the gospel! The good news! By His grace, and His grace alone, we are alive! We are free from our transgressions! They’ve been blotted out!

[For a more thorough discussion of this topic, click over to The authors go into depth, complete with Scripture verses which accompany the explanatory remarks.]

In This is Love

Transgression and Grace. One committed by us. The other delivered by God.

David got it right. He knew where to run. Run headlong into the gracious embrace of the forgiving God, according to the greatness of His lovingkindness. Trust that good Heart. It’s the only way.

It’s such good news. It’s the best news, ever. Our past sins, our present daily sins, our future sins, are not dealt with according to how much we deserve the pardon.

Imagine with me a scene; our prosecuting attorney stands in the courtroom of God and sneers.

Just look at how unworthy this “son” or “daughter” is! They have done badly. Sinned, even on purpose, even knowing what their forgiveness cost you! Isn’t it disgusting? They supposedly “love and follow you” and then just blatantly decide to follow their own way instead! Punish them! According to their sins, blot them out from your book! Blot them out of your kingdom! Blot them…

And so he goes on and on, hating us like he does. Tempting us. Then, when we fall, accusing us. Take a look at a future day when the accuser of the brethren is finally dealt with.

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down—he who accuses them day and night before our God.”

Revelation 12:10

Thanks be to God, the accuser does not have the last word. Just maybe the loudest. Shut out his voice, brother and sister in Christ. Defeat his lies with the truth. Because not according to your merit is your sin forgiven.

For our Lord Christ, Who ever lives to intercede for us, (Hebrews 7:25) speaks the truth in the great courtroom of heaven.

“What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, freely give us all things?

Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus, who died, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God—and He is interceding for us.”

Romans 8: 31-34

His compassion outdoes my transgression. Because He did it all. He calls us. Hears our contrition. Forgives us. Saves us. Restores us. Fills us. What more can God say?

And what can we say, to our souls?

According to the greatness of His compassion, He has blotted out my transgression. According to His lovingkindess, He has been gracious to me.

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10