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Summary: Psalm 51 was composed after David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-25). The psalmist is ill (v. 8), perhaps near death (v. 14), and longs to be healed. Yet far weightier than that physical longing is his passionate desire for forgiveness.

August 14, 2015

Tom Lowe

PSALM 51

Title: “Prayer for Pardon and Purity”

(A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.)

Theme: David’s great penitential psalm.

Psalm 51 (KJV)

1 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.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Introduction

Psalm 51 was composed after David was confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-25). The psalmist is ill (v. 8), perhaps near death (v. 14), and longs to be healed. Yet far weightier than that physical longing is his passionate desire for forgiveness because he views his physical condition as the result of the Lord’s punishment for his sin. David has avoided God for many months (considering that the baby he had fathered was already born). But when faced with the severity of his sin, his confession is shameless. Psalm 51is the fourth, and in many ways, the greatest of the seven penitential (penitent; repentant) psalms. It is one of the most familiar passages of the Old Testament.

This is the very sad story of David’s fall. But, though he fell, he was not totally disheartened, for God graciously sustained him and raised him up. The sin which he laments in this psalm, was the foolishness and wickedness he committed with his neighbor’s wife. Actually, he broke two of God’s commandments: His sin with Bathsheba broke the seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery;” and he broke the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” by causing the death of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. For a year after these disgraceful incidents, David did nothing, and he said nothing; but we have evidence from several of the psalms that his private sufferings were considerable, but David had not publicly acknowledged his sin. He simply sat on his throne in Jerusalem and ignored the whole thing. On the surface it looked as if David had gotten by with it. Then God sent Nathan to David, and he exposed David’s sin and his attempted cover up. There were three courses open to David; he could, (1) deny the charges, (2) have Nathan executed and continue with the cover up, or, (3) admit the charge. David followed the latter course; he confessed his sins. All the great men of God have confessed their sin before God.

This sin of David’s is recorded as a warning to all, that he who thinks he stands may take heed lest they fall. Although God may allow His people to fall into sin, and to lie in it for a great while, yet He will, by some means or other, regain them by their repentance, and bring them to Himself and to their right mind again.

Commentary

1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

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