PSALM 51 - The Cure for a Sin-Broken Heart.
Outline of Psalm 51 -
  1. Prayer of Confession, for Remission of Sin. v.1-6
  2. Propitiation by the Blood. v.7a
  3. Purification of the new Creature. v.7b-10
  4. Presence of God's Spirit, to enable...
    • Joy and Power, v.11,12
    • Service, v.13
    • Worship, v.14-17
  5. Perfection of the Kingdom, v.18,19
1. To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David,
when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
David wrote this Psalm following his adultery with Bathsheba (2Sam 11:1-27), but not until Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sin (2Sam 12:1-13).
The fact that God forgave David's sordid sin so completely that He allowed him to continue in his role as king, should provide hope to the worst of unsaved sinners (cp. 1Tim 1:12-16).
     Yet, prior to this sin, David was not an ungodly man. Years earlier, God had identified David as a man after His own heart, and had anointed and appointed him as king of Israel, in place of Saul whose heart was not perfect toward God. David's fall into sin is a warning to every believer (1Cor 10:12). God's forgiveness of that sin provides instruction for every fallen child of God, to return to Him (Isa 55:7).
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness:
according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin [is] ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done [this] evil in thy sight:
that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest,
[and] be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:
and in the hidden [part] thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness... thy tender mercies...
The sinner has no basis for his appeal in himself.
His only hope rests entirely upon the character of God. Titus 3:3-6
David's plea includes specific requests, accompanied by detailed confession.
  • ...blot out my transgressions.
    David could not erase the record of his willful rebellion. But he yearned to have his guilt removed. For a time, he had hidden his crimes from others, but God had seen and kept account. David agreed with God that the record is true, while wishing that all traces of his sin could be expunged. cp. Acts 3:19; Col 2:14
  • ...wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity {HB='avon, perversity}...
  • ...cleanse me from my sin {HB=chatotoa'ah, habitual offence}.
    Wiping the record clean would not be enough.
    My very nature must be cleansed of all impurity.
David's confession digs beneath the surface to the root of sin...
  • I acknowledge my transgressions {HB=pesha, rebellion}. (cp. Psa 32:5)
    He was done hiding things from God...
    and he was continually aware of his sin {ie., its offence}.
    His own conscience would not let it go. But worse than that...
  • Against thee, thee only... have I done this evil {HB=ra', wickedness}, in thy sight...
    David's actions had caused great harm to Bathsheba and her husband. But his great crime was that by willfully violating God's standard of righteousness, he had brought dishonor upon the holy God. 2Sam 12:10,13,14
    Therefore, the LORD would be right to punish him severely. Whatever His sentence, David acknowledged that it would be just. Rom 3:4
  • I was shapen in iniquity... in sin did my mother conceive me...
    David confesses his innate corruption, for he was born with a sinful nature inherited from Adam. John 3:6; Rom 5:12 [NOTE: David's words should not be misunderstood. David received his fallen human nature through his parents. But David's mother was not involved in any sinful activity at the time of his conception. God has designed and blessed the sexual relationship of a man and woman in marriage. Mat 19:4-6; Heb 13:4]
         While God desires to see "truth in the inward parts"... and though He had placed within him "wisdom" to discern right from wrong, and even to delight in God's ways (eg., Psa 119:16)... David discovered that his sinful inner man could not live up to God's righteousness. Rom 7:22-24
7. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
The sinner's cleansing has two aspects, identified in this verse:
  1. Purge me...- The Purging of the guilt of sin, by the blood (v.7a) -
    The first biblical mention of hyssop is at the first Passover, in Ex 12:22,23. The branches of this small bush were used like a brush in application of the blood of the sacrificial lamb, to protect the homes of believers against God's judgment upon sin. All have sinned. All are worthy of death (Eze 18:4,20). However, the judgment 'passed over' the homes of believers, because the penalty fell upon the lamb. The judgment fell directly upon those who were not covered by the blood.
         The sacrificial system in the Tabernacle and the Temple, continually demonstrated the penalty for sin, the necessity of its payment, and God's provision of payment by a substitute, which allowed Him to forgive the sin of the sinner. Lev 17:11
         All of the OT sacrifices looked forward to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, by taking our sin upon Himself and dying in our place (Joh 1:29). His sacrifice is the basis upon which God can justly forgive the guilt of sinners who turn to Him, today, and also in prior ages. (See Rom 3:23-26; Heb 1:3; The words 'propitiation' and 'purging' both speak of the complete removal of the sinner's guilt.)
         In the present age of grace, the sinner is purged by Christ's blood when he believes (Mat 26:28; Heb 9:12; Heb 10:14). With guilt removed, the believer is declared righteous, and thus, becomes a 'saint' (a holy one) before God. Purged with hyssop {ie., by blood} he has been made clean {ie., pure}.
  2. Wash me...- The Washing of the defilement of sin, by the water of the Word (v.7b-10) -
    But the new-born saint lives in a fallen world, and in a fleshly body which retains the sinful nature inherited from Adam. Therefore, he is soon in need of cleansing from incidental sin, for his purity is no longer 'whiter than snow.'
         Jesus illustrated this in Joh 13:10, where 'he that is washed {ie., bathed}' corresponds to the purging of sin by the blood, and the need to 'wash feet' corresponds to the need for cleansing from contamination acquired along the way. Paul, also explains, in Eph 5:25-27, that Christ 'gave Himself' (once for all, in His death upon the cross) to redeem His bride (the church of true believers), and now, He continues to 'sanctify and cleanse [her] with the washing of water by the Word,' until she is truly without any blemish.
    Whereas the unredeemed sinner has never known the joy of fellowship with God, the 'saint' whose fellowship with God has been broken by the presence of sin, yearns for restoration of communion with Him. For this, David prays in the next verses...
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness;
[that] the bones [which] thou hast broken may rejoice.
{See Psa 38:3}
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. and gladness...- are lost when a believer is out of harmony with God.
But forgiveness and cleansing are available, when we confess our failure to Him (1Joh 1:7-9). Because Christ died for all our sins, God is able to 'blot out' every sin which we confess and forsake.
create in me a clean heart...-
The answer, to David's prayer for a new sinless heart, would await the coming of the Messiah to establish the New Covenant, as foretold by OT prophets (eg., Jer 31:31-34; 32:39; Eze 36:25-27; Mat 26:28).
     Since Christ's death and resurrection, NT believers are 'born again' as 'new creatures' with a new nature from God. 2Cor 5:17; Eph 2:10; 1Joh 3:9
     Through the power of God's Spirit within the new nature, the believer is transformed and set free from bondage to perversions of all kinds. eg., 1Cor 6:9-11; Heb 9:13,14; 10:21.22
     However, until the Lord takes us out of this world, God's children have a dual nature: the new nature from God which 'cannot sin,' and the old fleshly Adamic nature which 'cannot please God.' There is a conflict between the 'spiritual mind' and the 'carnal {fleshly} mind' (Rom 8:6-9). To be victorious in this conflict, we need to ask God to work within us, as David did...
renew a right {HB=kun, constant, faithful, steadfast} spirit within me.-
eg., Rom 12:2; Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:5-10
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit.
13 [Then] will I teach transgressors thy ways;
and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
cast me not away from thy presence...-
The holy God cannot tolerate sin in His Presence. Though He extends grace toward the repentant sinner, He also knows when to give up on the hardened heart (eg., 2Kin 24:20; Jer 7:15; 2Chr 30:7; Psa 81:11,12; Rom 1:24,26).
     A believing 'saint,' who stumbles into sin, and grieves over his failure, also grieves over his broken fellowship with the LORD, whom he had come to know as his strength and joy. The LORD knows the grieving heart (v.17; eg., Luk 22:31,32).
take not thy holy spirit from me.-
In OT times, the Holy Spirit came upon men to enable them for God's service. But when the Spirit enabled leader (or nation) rebelled against God, He removed His Spirit (eg., The Spirit enabled Saul: 1Sam 10:9-11; 11:6,7; The Spirit departed from Saul: 16:14). After God's Spirit departed from Saul, his troubled heart was calmed by David's harp music. Around that time, David himself had been anointed of the Spirit to be the King (1Sam 16:13). The Holy Spirit had moved David to write many Psalms (eg., Mat 22:43,44). Following his failure, David feared that his sin would cause the Spirit to depart from him, as from Saul. But God had promised that David's house would endure forever (2Sam 7:15-17).
     The NT believer should not pray "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me," because having been born again of God's Spirit, the child of God is permanently indwelt (Joh 14:16,17), and sealed by His Spirit (Eph 4:30). However, the believer who grieves the Holy Spirit will lose the joy and power that flows from fellowship with God.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation...
...and uphold {ie., sustain} me [with thy] free {ie., willing} spirit.
Note that the bracketed words ['with thy'] were inserted by the translators.
The last section of v.12 can be translated: "and sustain me with a willing spirit." [NASB]
David's request is that the Lord, in restoring him, would give him a heart that will voluntarily seek to know and do God's will. (cp. v.17, where 'spirit' and 'heart' refer to the human spirit; Rom 8:15, where the Holy Spirit moves the heart)
then will I teach transgressors {ie.; rebels} thy ways;
...and sinners shall be converted {ie., turned} unto thee...
The restored saint, having been purged of sin, and empowered by the Spirit, will be fit to serve the LORD in reaching others who are in bondage to sin. Acts 3:19; Jam 5:19,20
14. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation:
[and] my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give [it]:
thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit:
a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness {lit., 'bloods'}, O God... of my salvation...
David was guilty of murder, for he had arranged the death of Uriah, Bathsheba's husband (2Sam 11:15-17; 12:9). The murderer had confessed his sin, before the Judge who had watched him commit the crime (v.3,4). There could be no escape from this guilt, unless his God found a way to deliver him. tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
In fact, God found a way to rescue the sinner, by imputing His own righteousness to the guilty man (Psa 32:1,2). This righteousness was provided, in God's time, by Christ's sacrifice, for those who know they have no righteousness in themselves (Rom 10:3,4).
     Released from his burden, his heart burst forth in songs of praise (eg., Psa 86:12,13).
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me..."
     [excerpt from hymn, by John Newton]
For thou desirest not sacrifice...
God desires "truth in the inward parts" (v.6). He desires His people to obey Him from their hearts. If they had done so, there would have been no need for sacrifice (1Sam 15:22; Jer 7:22,23). God established the sacrificial system, because the people disobeyed and were in need of redemption.
     However, the innumerable OT sacrifices could not provide that salvation, but rather foreshadowed Christ's one sufficient sacrifice (Psa 40:6-8; Heb 10:1-10).
the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit...
...a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Christ came to redeem those whose hearts are broken by the weight of their sin against God. A self-righteous person will sense no need for the Savior. Isa 61:1-3; Luk 4:16-21; 18:9-14
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
with burnt offering and whole burnt offering:
then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion...
Having been forgiven of sin and restored by God to His fellowship and service, David's attention turns again to the needs of the nation.
     However, David's experience also provides instruction for the nation. Roughly 400 years after David, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down due to God's judgment upon the sin of the nation. He had rejected their sacrifices, because their hearts were not right with Him. He cast the chosen people out of His land into dispersion, as He had forewarned through the prophets.
     Like David, the nation needs to confess and repent of their rebellion and seek the LORD to purge their sin, and to give them new hearts to serve Him. According to God's prophetic word, the nation will turn to Him at the end of the age. Consider: Deu 30:1-14; Eze 36:16-38. This transformation will occur, when they recognize and receive the LORD's Salvation (Zech 12:10; 13:1; Rom 10:1-13; 11:25-27).
Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness...
When David's greater Son returns to reign in Jerusalem, the redeemed and restored nation will offer acceptable sacrifices, in the Millennial Temple, in remembrance of His one sufficient sacrifice (Mal 3:1-4). The Glory of that Temple and its worship is described, in detail, in the closing chapters of Ezekiel (eg., Eze 43:1-12,19-27).
     Until then, the redeemed of every nation, offer spiritual sacrifices, in thanksgiving for God's provision of so great Salvation. Rom 12:1; Heb 13:16; 1Pet 2:5

This Concludes the study in Psalm 51.
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