Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Psalm 51:5-6)
As we’ve gone through in Psalm 51, this prayer of penance of King David, we’ve seen a few themes develop. We’ve noted the events that brought about the Psalm: the adultery with Bathsheba and the arranging of her husband’s death; David’s entire honesty before God, and his refusal to try and excuse his actions; and his understanding that ultimately all sin is a defiance of God.
As we get to these verses, we also discover that David understands his sin as a symptom of human nature. He was “brought forth in iniquity”. He was conceived “in sin”. This is what theologians call Original Sin. It is the understanding that the human race itself is flawed.
Now, you might think, this is a gloomy view. What about the majesty of great art, sublime music and scientific achievement? Well, David is not suggesting that we are all as bad as we can be, but rather that we have an inbuilt tendency to rebel against God. Our heart might tell us one thing - what David refers to as the “truth in the inward being” - but our actions often lead in an opposite direction. Uneasy consciences are usually an indication of heart and action heading off in different directions.
There is also a great comfort in this. We are not alone in struggling with God, and that is simply what it is to be human. God does not expect perfection, but rather an acknowledgement of our shortcomings. In the end it is a great relief to be honest about who we are.