A Song of Joyful Repentance: Psalm 51

Psalm 51


To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

Never miss a story

Sign up to receive our weekly email with our original articles.

3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.


A Song of Astonishing Repentance

The Gospel allows us deep and genuine confession of our sins: this psalm is a song with truly astonishing lyrics. When his terrible sin was pointed out to him, David, Israel’s most prestigious king repented—not in exasperation, but in humility. He even had the courage to write his confession as a poem Israel could sing for generations to come. Such a thing had never happened with any other king in ancient times.

“Sin bring shame, and shame keeps people from looking their sins in the face. But David was able to face his sin honestly. Why? Because of the gospel.

King David’s knowledge of sin was thorough. David uses three words here to describe his sin: “transgression,” “sinfulness”, and “sin.” The original word for “sinfulness” meant something like “iniquity,” showing that our sin fills our lives with all kinds of chaos and distortion. The original meaning of “sin” is “to miss the mark,” meaning that the sinner has failed to live according to God’s will. The word “transgression” means “willful rebellion,” referring to a person who deliberately resists God and is his enemy. When King David confessed his sin, he did not just confess what had been revealed, which was only the tip of the iceberg of his sinfulness. Instead, he confessed the entire iceberg of his sinful nature. David even said he was sinful while in his mother’s womb. How could David have realized that? He confessed that God’s judgment was righteous, and made no excuses for his sin (such as blaming his hormones or blaming Bathsheba for an indiscreet shower). David confessed that his actions were an offense against God. Sin is not just hurting other people or damaging one’s moral image; sin is hostility to God.

Honestly Facing Sin’s Shame

Sin bring shame, and shame keeps people from looking their sins in the face. But David was able to face his sin honestly. Why? Because of the gospel. Because of God’s love. David turned to God’s love, mercy, and compassion. From where did such incredible faith come? From the covenant God made with David, when God himself promised not to withdraw his mercy. Because of this covenant of grace, David had the courage to face his sin, and the freedom to face the brokenness in his life.

The gospel allows us to experience complete and radical grace. Not only did David face his sin with uncompromising honesty, but he also looked forward to experiencing God’s radical renewal. In verses 6-12, David pleads for God to do more than forgive and morally renew him. David pleads for God to completely cleanse him and make him into a new creation.

David realized he did not have the power to deal with his sins and, in verses 1-2, he sought God’s forgiveness. Not only did he ask God to forget his sins, but he asked God to renew him within. Both forgiveness and renewal can only come from God. In verse 10, David asked God to give him a clean heart and a righteous spirit, for he knew fellowship with God is not about external behavior or morality, but a clean heart and a right spirit. David deeply cared that God would not allow him to leave his presence. David’s repentance was very different from the repentance of Saul – David did not fear losing his throne: he feared losing God.

David’s recognition of his own total depravity also meant he needed utter grace. Only the gospel can accomplish this. In Christ’s death and resurrection, we have finally become a new creation. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Repentance Ends In Joy

Finally, the gospel allows us to have the most joyful worship. In the last part of this psalm, David’s emotions changed. He began to desire to praise God and to sing about God. True repentance begins with sorrow, but ends with joy and praise. Sorrow for sin and joy for salvation are intertwined with each other as the defining characteristic of Christian life. The appropriate response to salvation from sin is joyful worship. In traditional Chinese culture, repentance ends with moral correction. But for the people of God, repentance ends with rejoicing and praise.

“True repentance begins with sorrow, but ends with joy and praise. Sorrow for sin and joy for salvation are intertwined with each other as the defining characteristic of Christian life.

Indeed, only the God revealed in Scripture is worthy of praise. In the gospel, it is not we who give God anything, but God who gives us his Son. In the Son, our sins are completely forgiven and we have new life, so we can today offer to God our most joyful worship.

Let us pray:

● For our brothers and sisters in the Chinese church to repent with gospel- awareness rather than moralism.

● For our lives to be honest and humble in the face of the iniquity and evil brought about by sin in our lives.

● That we might truly trust in God’s love and mercy.
● That we may experience the renewal of God in Christ, and that we may truly overcome sin because Christ is the resurrected new creation.

● That we may rejoice and be glad in our salvation.

An Xi (a pseudonym) lives in Beijing, and he and his wife have two daughters. He began serving the church full-time in 2006, and started to independently establish his church in Beijing in 2015.



Dear Lord,

How we thank you, for you are a God of love and mercy. Lord, we need you so much. Without your forgiveness, we could not pass live even one more second. Without your mercy, we would have been crushed by sin. Lord, thank you that you came in Christ to save us, that you put our sins on your beloved Son, and that you anointed and covered us with his blood. Lord, now that we no longer feel guilty in your presence, we are joyful and glad. Thank you that you are our Deliverer, and the Renewer who dwells in us daily. Dear Lord, thank you that, by your grace, we now offer ourselves and everything we have to you without reservation. May you be pleased with us. Amen!


We are using the Psalms to guide our prayers for China

In 2022, our prayer movement is turning to the scriptural prayers found in the Psalms as we pray for the Chinese church. When you join our prayer movement, you will receive weekly prayer emails and a monthly newsletter so that you too can pray for our brothers and sisters in China.


Share This Story

Further Reading

Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
Read More
Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
Read More
Nanjing: A Relational Gospel
Read More


With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.


  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church



About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.


Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.


Stories from Qingdao

About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.


Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.


Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.


Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.


Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.


Stories from Guangzhou

About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.


Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.


Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 


Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.


Stories from Beijing

About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.


Stories from Shanghai


A short message about partnering with us.