Psalm 51:1-12

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by: FCC Staff

05/13/2022

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1“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” 

The explanatory note heading this psalm reveals not only its author but its context as well, “TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA.” This heading is not only revealing a very personal soul-searching repentant prayer of David which he prayed after being confronted in his sin by the prophet Nathan. But these heartfelt words of David are given over as a song to the Choirmaster to be read and sung as a psalm for all the world to see. This, after he had failed miserably in not just one commandment, but at least three of the big ten. Having first coveted, which led to committing adultery with Bathsheba, then after his initial attempts at hiding his sin failed, led to having her husband murdered. This was his miserable failure as an anointed man of God. At a time when any one of us would rather just hide our face and hope nobody notices, David, the King says “Hey, Choirmaster, put my heart out on display for all God’s people to see and hear!” Why? Well he tells us in Psalm 51:13, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”

At this point, David has yet to feel the full weight of his sins’ consequences. Ultimately, of course, he marries Bathsheba and she becomes the mother of King Solomon. But before this, the child produced from that adulterous affair God takes in death, much to the deep despair of David.

Though forgiven, sin still has its consequences. At the time of this repentant psalm, he is confronted with the guilt of his sin by the prophet Nathan. Here, David may have actually thought he had gotten away with his sin publicly. God wasn’t letting his anointed off the hook that easily. He needed to face his sin or inwardly it would have eaten him alive. Who knows where that unrepentant sin would have taken his spiritual life. We see throughout the pages of scripture the results of unrepentant sin with kings of Israel and Judah, along with others. It doesn’t end well. 

David, hearing the word of the Lord spoken by the man of God took it to heart. The sincerity of David’s words and the openness in which he confesses his sin, fearful in the loss of joy and the condition of his spirit within him, could tell his spirit wasn’t right with God. David recognized, even as we’re taught today, that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) And again, “But, if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1b-2) 

David put his heart out on display as a man of God, even as King of Israel, wanting all to know that absolutely no one is above humbly falling before our heavenly Father, repentantly confessing our sins and trusting in His promise to forgive us, cleanse our hearts, renew our spirits, and restore our joy and right relationship with Him.

Prayer for today: Oh Father, we pray as with David, O God, have mercy on us according to Your steadfast love. According to Your abundant mercy, blot out our transgressions. Let no shadow of sin take up permanent residence in our hearts, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from the evil that so easily entangles us. May we covet nothing but the joy that comes from the Spirit of Jesus Christ within us, in whose name we pray, Amen!

1“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” 

The explanatory note heading this psalm reveals not only its author but its context as well, “TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN NATHAN THE PROPHET WENT TO HIM, AFTER HE HAD GONE IN TO BATHSHEBA.” This heading is not only revealing a very personal soul-searching repentant prayer of David which he prayed after being confronted in his sin by the prophet Nathan. But these heartfelt words of David are given over as a song to the Choirmaster to be read and sung as a psalm for all the world to see. This, after he had failed miserably in not just one commandment, but at least three of the big ten. Having first coveted, which led to committing adultery with Bathsheba, then after his initial attempts at hiding his sin failed, led to having her husband murdered. This was his miserable failure as an anointed man of God. At a time when any one of us would rather just hide our face and hope nobody notices, David, the King says “Hey, Choirmaster, put my heart out on display for all God’s people to see and hear!” Why? Well he tells us in Psalm 51:13, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”

At this point, David has yet to feel the full weight of his sins’ consequences. Ultimately, of course, he marries Bathsheba and she becomes the mother of King Solomon. But before this, the child produced from that adulterous affair God takes in death, much to the deep despair of David.

Though forgiven, sin still has its consequences. At the time of this repentant psalm, he is confronted with the guilt of his sin by the prophet Nathan. Here, David may have actually thought he had gotten away with his sin publicly. God wasn’t letting his anointed off the hook that easily. He needed to face his sin or inwardly it would have eaten him alive. Who knows where that unrepentant sin would have taken his spiritual life. We see throughout the pages of scripture the results of unrepentant sin with kings of Israel and Judah, along with others. It doesn’t end well. 

David, hearing the word of the Lord spoken by the man of God took it to heart. The sincerity of David’s words and the openness in which he confesses his sin, fearful in the loss of joy and the condition of his spirit within him, could tell his spirit wasn’t right with God. David recognized, even as we’re taught today, that “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) And again, “But, if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1b-2) 

David put his heart out on display as a man of God, even as King of Israel, wanting all to know that absolutely no one is above humbly falling before our heavenly Father, repentantly confessing our sins and trusting in His promise to forgive us, cleanse our hearts, renew our spirits, and restore our joy and right relationship with Him.

Prayer for today: Oh Father, we pray as with David, O God, have mercy on us according to Your steadfast love. According to Your abundant mercy, blot out our transgressions. Let no shadow of sin take up permanent residence in our hearts, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from the evil that so easily entangles us. May we covet nothing but the joy that comes from the Spirit of Jesus Christ within us, in whose name we pray, Amen!

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