Psalm 51:1–13comment (0)
October 8, 2009
By Douglas Wilson
Related Scripture: Psalm 51:1–13
Explore the Bible
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
WHEN I HAVE SINNED
Imagine committing grievous sins against God and hiding them from the public only to come face to face with an old preacher man who confronts you and tells you to repent. Would you consider writing a song about your experience, how it affected your walk with God and how your greatest desire now is to be right with Him? Keep in mind that the lyrics are going to be available in the major languages of the world 3,000 years from now. This is Psalm 51.
Second Samuel records King David’s lust and adultery with Bathsheba. The text tells of David’s conspiracy to cover his crime by bringing her husband, Uriah, home from war for a conjugal visit with his wife, recently and secretly impregnated by David. Uriah fails to perform his husbandly duty with Bathsheba. In response, David sends him back to the battlefield and ensures that he dies in battle. David then takes the grieving widow into his home and a few months later, she bears a son. The king gets away with adultery and murder or so it seems. Enter Nathan the prophet, God’s mouthpiece to the king. He tells David an animal story as an object lesson, not uncommon in cultures around the world even today. Nathan addresses the sin without immediately confronting the king. At the conclusion, David faces the truth and admits his guilt. His young son dies and he later composes two songs of repentance — Psalm 32 and Psalm 51.
Forgive Me (1–5)
Jeremiah wrote about a people who had forgotten how to blush, a nation who knew no shame. Other nations are in the same sad state as Judah was then. Personal accountability means little in a society where individuals look to get away with everything and be responsible for nothing. One lone prophet had the audacity to challenge his guilty king to repent over the abuse of his power and his personal rebellion against God.
In the movie “Braveheart,” Scotsman William Wallace is mandated to swear allegiance to King Edward of England, which he refuses to do. Wallace states that he has never sworn allegiance to Longshanks. The inquisitor’s response is “It matters not; he is your king.”
Psalm 51 reminds us that sin is a personal affront to God, whether we acknowledge Him or not. Regardless of who else participates in our sin, we are each individually guilty of rejecting God’s rule. Our only recourse for rebellion against the Lord Jesus is to return to Him and plead for His grace, faithful love and compassion. Only God can relieve us of the burden of our sin by forgiving us.
Cleanse Me (6–9)
“Blot out my rebellion,” “wash away my guilt” and “cleanse me from my sin.” These three requests in verses 1 and 2 are the prayer of a penitent sinner in need of God’s grace. In verses 6–9, these pleas are reiterated: “Purify me,” “wash me,” “turn Your face away from my sin” and “blot out all my guilt.” Like the ceremonial cleansing of the priests with hyssop before entering the Holy Place, believers gain access to God as He cleanses them.
What does God desire from us? He wants integrity, honesty and truth. The truth is that none of us lives up to God’s righteous standard. And only He can change us. Only God can cleanse the sin with which we are so deeply stained. Only He can atone for and abolish our guilt before Him.
Renew Me (10–13)
Spiritual renewal comes as a believer repents of sin and receives God’s cleansing. God is actively involved by cleansing our hearts, refreshing our spirits, inviting us into fellowship, restoring our joy, giving us a willing spirit to walk in His ways. The end result is that our spiritual fellowship is renewed and our desire for others to know Jesus is intensified. Regarding renewal: David acknowledged the former joy of God’s salvation. He requested restoration of that experience. Even in the Old Testament, salvation was from the Lord. Neither righteous acts nor strict adherence to the Law provided salvation for Israel. Salvation resulted from personal repentance of sin and personal trust in God’s faithfulness to send the Promised One.