Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
I was conceived after my parents were married. Psalm 51.5 makes it sound as if everyone is conceived sinfully, whether their parents are married or not. What does this verse mean?
This is a great question, especially since we know God ordained marriage between one man and one woman as the means to bring children into the world. Anything God creates, ordains, and blesses cannot be sinful.
Have you ever observed two babies interacting? They are too young to verbally make their needs known, but they can be very quick to snatch a toy or cookie away from their playmate. Watching babies for any length of time reveals an innate sense of selfishness. As a result, babies must be taught to share as they grow.
All humans share certain characteristics. Human nature is the common term for these characteristics. As a result, we want to feel loved and valued. All of us need food and shelter. We want to raise our children with our values and in a safe environment. Each of us looks for a way to engage in something productive and meaningful. In other words, we want our lives to have purpose. Love is central to our identity and the outcome of our lives. Many other things could be added to this list that define human nature.
Human nature is what distinguishes humans from animals. We are born with human nature as a part of our DNA. In the same way, I believe we are all born with a sin nature. It, too, is part of our DNA. For better or worse, it is part of what makes us distinctly human. And we see evidence of this nature long before babies have the ability to verbally communicate.
I believe the point that David was making was not that the act of conception that created each of us was sinful, but that our mothers and fathers passed on the sin nature in the same way they passed on human nature. We cannot help but be sinful because it is part of our nature.
David wrote Psalm 51 after Nathan confronted him about his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12.1-25). David was aware of his humanness as well as his propensity toward sin. He understood sin had been a part of his nature from the very moment he was conceived. As David presented himself to God, he held nothing back in this psalm. Today we might say David presented himself, warts and all, to God. Because of his experiences, David had great faith in God. More than once he had received God’s mercy and grace.
Fortunately for us, God did not leave us to wallow in our sinfulness. In His mercy, He allowed His Son, Jesus, to take on the penalty for our sin. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we are immediately forgiven of all our sins, past and future, and we begin the process of exchanging our sin nature for a redeemed nature.