Psalm 51

Psalm 51
A Confession of Sin and Blood-guiltiness
Psalm 51. This Psalm is an answer to Psalm 50:14; “sacrifice to God confession”. The confession is what we have in Psalm 51. This is the last of the penitential psalms, which contain the confession of sins (Psalms 25; 32; 38; 41; 51). There is a progression in the penitential Psalm in which the confession grows deeper, culminating here in Psalm 51, where the remnant has “a broken and a contrite heart”. The inscription indicates that this is a Psalm of David, and it was written by the king “when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba”. Such were the circumstances in David’s life (2 Sam. 11) that were used providentially by God as the backdrop for this important and instructive Psalm! Prophetically, this Psalm gives the expressions of the sorrowful remnant of the Jews who will mourn in repentance in connection with Israel’s sin of blood-guiltiness; i.e. crucifying their Messiah. This Psalm correlates with Zech. 12:10; “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn”.
To the chief Musician. A Psalm of David; when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bath-sheba.
1 Be gracious unto me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness; according to the abundance of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me fully from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is continually before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in thy sight; “that thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, be clear when thou judgest.” [quoted Romans 3:4]
5 Behold, in iniquity was I brought forth, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou wilt have truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom.
vv.1-6 Deep Confession. These verses give us a beautiful example of true confession. In vv.1-2, David cries out for God to show him grace, love, kindness, and mercy. This is the goodness of God leading him to repentance (Rom. 2:4). He asks God to blot out his transgressions, to wash away his iniquity, and cleanse his sin. In v.3 there is the unswerving acknowledgement of his transgression. It was not a light thing, not easy to dismiss; “my sin is continually before me”. David had sinned against Bathsheba, he had sinned against Uriah, he had sinned against his own family, and even against his own body. But most important, and in this sense the only offense that truly mattered, was that which was against God; “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in thy sight”. We must evaluate our sin, not in the light of what our fellow man thinks of it, but in the light of how God sees it. We must understand that we have sinned against Him! The last part of v.4 is quoted by the apostle Paul in Romans 3 in connection with those who would reply against God, and object that if the gospel is true (Gentiles can be saved), then God is unfaithful to His Old Testament promises to Israel. Rather than give a detailed response, Paul quoted v.4 to state the great point that we all must acknowledge when dealing with God; that God is correct (or true) and every man is wrong. David had to learn the hard way that God keeps His word. David’s sin only confirmed the truthfulness of God’s Word concerning His judgment of sin. The great point is this, that the repentant soul does not make excuses for himself, but justifies God and all that He does. In v.5 the confession goes even deeper, and David acknowledges his sinful condition from the moment of conception. Man is conceived in sin, born in sin, and so he is a sinner down to the very core. We must confess that our sin is not an isolated incident, but rather the fruit of a corrupt root. Finally, in v.6 he acknowledges God’s claims. God’s standard for man was to have “truth on the inward parts”. This speaks of consistency in the life, not only in what man can see, but also in the parts that are hidden. God wants us to be 100% transparent with Him, not living a double life.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear gladness and joy; 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 steadfast spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not the spirit of thy holiness from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and let a willing spirit sustain me.
13 I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall return unto thee.
vv.7-13 Desire for Restoration. The confession is followed by a desire for restoration. In v.7 David asks God to purge him. In the Old Testament, hyssop was used for applying blood to a person to be cleansed. David knows he cannot purge himself, but if God were to do it, David would truly be clean; actually “whiter than snow”. He longed to hear gladness and joy, to be at that place where the restored believer is. He desired to have his iniquities blotted out and a clean heart created within him. This is what happens when the work of repentance is deep; God can begin the work of restoration. David could not create in himself a clean heart; that was God’s work. But in v.11 he desired above all to remain in God’s presence. The spirit of holiness is a sense of God’s presence through the company of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit did not indwell believers in the Old Testament, but nevertheless the Spirit is the power by which God works at all times, and the channel of His communion with man. David lost the joy of his salvation, but God was able to restore it. Another evidence of this work of restoration would be the David himself would become a restorer of others (v.13)! We see this with Peter in Acts 3:14.
14 Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou hast no pleasure 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 the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou have sacrifices of righteousness, burnt-offering, and whole burnt-offering; then shall they offer up bullocks upon thine altar.
vv.14-19 The Claims of God Owned. David owned the claims of God over him. He acknowledged his blood-guiltiness in connection with the death of Uriah, and perhaps even in connection with all of the sadness that would result from the murder, as Nathan had warned him. This prophetic of the repentance of Israel for the guilt of crucifying their Messiah. David longed to give God what God really desired; the praise that the Lord was worthy of. In vv.16-17, David owns the claims of God on him. God did not want sacrifices from David, or David would have given them. The true sacrifices of God are “a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart”. Fundamentally, this is what God is looking for, and those who are truly repentant will acknowledge that. In vv.18-19 the results of restoration are expressed; God’s pleasure would turn again towards Zion, the walls of Jerusalem would be rebuilt. Clearly, this is prophetic of the confession, repentance, and restoration of the faithful remnant. Once that work is underway in their souls, then Christ will build again the walls of Jerusalem and set up His kingdom. In v.19, the sacrifices will be resumed. These are not sacrifices in hypocrisy and deceit, nor on a legal ground to obtain acceptance, but sacrifices of joy, thankfulness, and in commemoration of the one true sacrifice of Christ (Ezek. 43, 45). The praise rises higher here than anywhere else; “sacrifices… burnt-offering… whole burnt-offering… bullocks”. Repentance frees the spirit to worship!