This Psalm of Penitence is the most famous because it deals with king David's repentance after his great sins of murder and adultery were committed against Urijah the Hittite and his wife Bathsheeba. This whole episode it thoroughly discussed in Samuel and the Kings and in brief in the title notes of the Psalm.
"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgression." The remainder of the Psalm pivots on this initial request, and, without the mercy of God there would be no forgiveness or elimination of sin, yes, without the Blood of Jesus, God through His grace could not shed forth His great love for man and in mercy forgive and'‘blot out" their sin.
But, praise His holy name, Jesus did in fact shed His Blood, and make atonement for the sin of mankind, paying the penalty that a holy and just God required. Therefore, He could be just and the justifier of the sinful person who believes in Jesus! (Romans 3:26)
And, David, knowing the God of eternal mercy, could cry out in repentance and ask Him to cleanse him from sin and bestow the blessings of His presence as the result. These two actions dominate the Psalm. On eight occasions David asks for God to deal with his sin, and on eight other occasions he asks for the power of God’s presence so that he could be able to, once again, accomplish God's will in his life.
The first of these requests is found in (v.1) 'Blot out my transgressions'. David knew that his God had the power or remove the effects of his rebellion and that was the purpose of this pointed request. Secondly he asked God to "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity". Cleansing from perversion is the emphasis here with David understanding the type of sinful thinking that brought him into this situation.
The third appeal "Cleanse me from my sin" focuses on the need for being purified from the effects of the offense. Dealing with the offense and its effects is his concern and he knows that God is able "to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power which worketh in us".
In (v.3-6) David makes a thorough confession indicating against Who the sin was committed, the source of the sin nature, and God's desire for truth within him, knowing this is the antidote for all believers for overcoming sin. This short phrase 'Thou desirest truth in the inward parts' is filled with meaning encompassing the Bible doctrine of memory and meditation of Scripture which are the means to victory over indwelling sin.
After these four verses on confession, he immediately returns to his series of requests dealing with cleansing from sin. The fourth request "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean" (v.7a) indicates the application of sacrificial animal blood with the plant, hyssop, used in cleansing leprosy, a type of sin, during the cleansing ritual performed in Leviticus 14.
Then, he asks God to "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow".(v.7b) The deep stain of sin upon his heart must have driven him to use this descriptive word picture knowing that God alone could remove this horrible imperfection from his soul.
"Hide Thy face from my sins" (v.9a) demonstrates his understanding of God's holiness for He can not be in the presence of sin, therefore, David's request concerns his desire for God's reaction to keep Him from seeing these acts of unfaithfulness.
He repeats the words 'Blot out' but now attaches them to 'mine iniquities' (v.9b) which deals with the perversion of attitude toward the commission of sin. This progression in the offense shows how the mind is corrupted and perverted laying the groundwork for the actual act or acts of sin to be committed.
The final plea David makes has to do with the murder of Uriah the Hittite recorded in II Samuel 11:15 and confronted by Nathan the prophet in II Samuel 12:9. "Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God." (v.14a) David knows he needs God to deal with this horrible sin of murder, which in fact is the greater of the two sins committed in this affair.
However, God is able to forgive the most heinous of sins as shown by David's great repentance and return to God's favor in the following days of his life. These eight thorough heart- rending pleas of David provide us with guidance when we approach the throne of grace, regardless of the depth of our sin.
But the good news this Psalm brings are the eight requests David makes of God for renewed service which occurs on the other side of forgiveness. The first of these focused and positive pleas is found in (v.8) "Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice."
David recognizes his cripples condition not unlike the crippling that must occur when the shepherd breaks the leg of a wayward sheep in order to keep them in the fold so that they will not lose their life to a predator when they stray from the protection of the shepherd.
This is the reference here as David a veteran shepherd experiences the crippling stroke of a loving God in the same manner as he the wayward saint must now come under the healing protection of the Master. David knows that this is the only avenue to renewed joy and gladness that comes in the wake of repentance.
Then, he appeals to God to "Create in me a clean heart O God" (v.10a) knowing that the next step to service for his God depends on purity of heart. The Lord Jesus Christ said: "Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3).
David understood the cleansing power of the Word of God and its ability to bring victory over sin. "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word...Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee." (Psalm 119:9,11)
The third request: "Renew a right spirit within me" (v.10b) shows the need for God's supernatural working within David's spirit. There must be a renewal of righteousness from within spoken of Ephesians 4:23,24 "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
This renewal emphasizes a renovation from within performed by the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit through the indwelling Word of God producing miracle working power of faith which is the operating power of God, His action in our lives is energized by our faith!
"Cast me not away from Thy presence" (v.11a) reveals David's awareness of his need to be in the presence of God. But, he is totally dependent upon the LORD to make it happen, here again, the operator is faith which is dependent on the Word of God, for "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17)
The next request David makes "Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me" (v.11b) shows David's recognition of the power of the fullness and presence of the Holy Spirit in order for him to serve the LORD. According to I Samuel6:13 "The Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward" which was after Samuel anointed him.
Therefore, David experience the blessing of the presence of the Holy Spirit much like the New Testament believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit upon being saved. Therefore, he requested for the continued presence of the Holy Spirit's here in Psalm 51:11 which he enjoyed from the day he was anointed, but lost when he sinned against God.
Next, he asked God to "Restore unto me the joy of my salvation" (v.12a) which he also lost due to his sin. The absence of the Holy Spirit means the absence love, joy, peace, longsuffering...and David's loss of joy and his dependence on the LORD to supply it shows the working of the Spirit in his heart.
Another loss when sin enters the life of the believer is the freedom and liberty we have through the Spirit: "Uphold me with Thy free Spirit" (v.12b) indicates David was lacking this same gift of the Holy Spirit which provides the ability to communicate freely with others concerning the Gospel.
(v.13) verifies this fact as "teaching transgressors...sinners shall be converted" are the direct result of receiving freedom and liberty from the Holy Spirit. David is eager to continue his ministry to those who are without the LORD.
And finally, the eighth positive request shows his complete dependence on the Lord even in worship: "O Lord, open Thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth Thy prais"’ (v.15). David fully realizes that true worship must be accomplished in Spirit and in Truth and therefore he asks the Lord to supply the Spirit that he might praise God with the power of the Holy Spirit and accomplish true worship for His God!
The remaining four verses of this priceless Psalm describe God's desire for worship: "For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise." (v.16,17)
These spiritual sacrifices mirror the heart condition of David at this very point in time. He was fully repentant, his heart and spirit were broken over his sin, he was fully contrite in his spirit and therefore was offering the spiritual sacrifices which are the very sacrifices God always desires.
In (v.18,19) David brings this Psalm of Penitence to a conclusion twice appealing to God on behalf of Jerusalem"‘Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then thou shalt be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar" and referring to the long instituted rituals of animal sacrifice which served to cover sin in the Old Testament and not eliminate it as the Blood of The Lord Jesus Christ accomplished in the New Testament. It is significant that David realized the spiritual sacrifices of heart repentance for dealing with his sin and is a foreshadowing of the good things to come in Christ!
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