Saintly -- Very good -- Sorta righteous -- waffling -- mischievous -- very bad -- wicked?
If we were permitted to determine our qualifications for salvation ourselves, most of us would decide that we really aren't all that bad. In fact, we're pretty good people and surely deserving of God's salvation.
"I'm no Mother Theresa, but I'm no Son of Sam, either," we'd say.
"Besides, nobody's perfect. We're only human," we might argue as a follow up.
The fact that we feel the need to argue our position should make us stop and think.
The song begins... "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." (This is the King James Version, so please be patient with the archaic English if you're not used to it.)
Notice that David is throwing himself on the mercy of the court. When it comes to sin we rarely have a leg to stand on. We knew it was wrong when the thought came to mind, we knew it was wrong when we carried out the desires of our heart, and we knew we were wrong when we slipped away muttering, "I did nothing wrong."
It's hard to win a debate with a guilty conscience.
But notice that David isn't arguing his case like a defense attorney. There is no explanation of "the circumstances I grew up with" or "she tempted me." Quite frankly, Bathsheba was minding her own business when David caught sight of her and started scheming.
No, David is throwing himself on the mercy of the court, asking God to base his holy judgment upon God's own lovingkindness and "the multitude of thy tender mercies." When you have no excuse, that's all you have going for you.
In verse 3 David said, "For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me." He not only plead guilty, he confessed that his conscience just was not going to let go of this one. His sin was on his mind and he couldn't escape it.
As one of our church's best Sunday School teachers once said, "You feel guilty because you are guilty!"
And while our own court of law might argue that his crime was against Bathsheba and her husband, David had to take the concept of sin all the way back to its root.
"Against thee [God], thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight."
It's important to know that all sin is a slam against God. What's more, there is nothing we do that escape His notice.
David acknowledged in verse 5 that sin was in his nature, but he did not use that as an excuse. Rather it was a sad admission of the sorry condition of mankind. We all have a tendency toward sin.
David humbly begged God for a restoration of the relationship they had, a relationship disrupted by David's ungodly actions. "Hide thy face from my sins," he said. "And blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a new heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
Not only is God the only person capable of removing our crimes from the record, but He's the only one who can deal with our shame and our guilty hearts.
Left to ourselves, we'd probably tell ourselves that our sins are small, and that we aren't so bad a human being. But God doesn't see our sins on a sliding scale.
We also need to throw ourselves on the mercy of the court, acknowledge our crimes and beg for a judgment in our favor. And we not only can, but we should.
Because the only thing that can save you when you're guilty, is a Judge with a heart of lovingkindness toward the fallen; and with a multitude of tender mercies toward the anguished and repentant sinner.
And that Judge is the Most High God.