Psalms 51

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“Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:4 NKJV).

September 7, 2017

David wrote this psalm in repentance after committing adultery with Bathsheba. Although he surely recognized he had sinned against her and her husband, and against his own conscience, he felt more grieved that he had sinned against God, saying, “Against You, You only, have I sinned.” This is the mark of true repentance. Not that we admit that we have broken the law, but that we recognize the magnitude of having sinned against the Lawgiver. David was grieved that he had sinned against God. He further recognized that God was just and blameless when it came to David’s sin. He did not blame God, nor anyone else. As the apostle Paul wrote concerning this, “Let God be true, and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). David took full responsibility. He recognized that God would be blameless in whatever justice He dispensed upon him. He recognized God’s righteousness, but he also knew God’s mercy. So, he cried out that God would “have mercy” upon him, not according to his sin, but according to God’s own “lovingkindness.” It was this same “love” (John 3:16) that moved God to answer David’s prayer, not only for him, but for all who would call out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38).

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 ESV)

September 7, 2016

After David repented of his sin of adultery, he prayed that God would “create” in him a “clean” and pure heart. The Hebrew word for “create” is the same as is found in Genesis 1:1 (בָּרָא, bera), “In the beginning God ‘created’ the heavens and the earth.” David wasn’t asking God to clean up his heart. He was asking God to give him a new and pure heart, one that would have a “right” and steadfast “spirit.” He longed to have a heart that would please God. This is a prayer and a spiritual longing that has been answered in Christ. Those who come to Jesus are made a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins” (Psalm 51:1 NLT)

September 7, 2014

David prayed for God’s mercy and forgiveness after being confronted with his sin with Bathsheba. He did not ask for God’s mercy based on himself, but according to God’s “unfailing love” and “great compassion.” David knew what his sin deserved, yet he cried out for God to forgive according to His nature, not his own. He did not bargain with God, promising some great sacrifice. He begged God’s forgiveness, willingly confessing his sin and repentance. David’s prayer is a template for those of us who would confess our sins and seek forgiveness from God. For God has already demonstrated His own love for us in this, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)

March 8, 2013

This was David’s prayer after committing adultery with Bathsheba. He wanted God’s forgiveness to extend to his experience, so that he felt clean again. It’s one thing to believe that God has forgiven, but another to experience that forgiveness. “Wash me” is an intimate and humble invitation. It admits one’s filthy condition and also one’s inability to get clean without help. Perhaps we fail to completely experience forgiveness because we’ve yet to admit both the depth of our sin and our total inadequacy at getting clean. Let us pray as David, “Wash me, Lord!”