Read Psalm 51
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
As we have learned through the previous fifty chapters, some psalms are heavy. Some are joyful. Some are a mix of both. Psalm 51 is weighty and is a model of confession for us to follow. Several key lessons stick out in this powerful psalm from King David after his infidelity with Bathsheba.
The first thing we learn is that we’re not alone. Every one of us can relate to David in Psalm 51. While we may not have been a king, slept with someone who wasn’t our spouse, or arranged for the murder of a close friend, we all know what it’s like to sin and do evil in the sight of God (v. 4). Whether you struggle with lust, anger, people-pleasing, gossip, alcohol, or any other hurt, habit, and struggle, we need our iniquity blotted out (v. 9). We all hold in common a need to be cleansed by our merciful and compassionate God (v. 7).
Our second takeaway is that we can’t fight sin on our own. When we sin, we often seek to make things right by getting rid of the bad and adding the good. We white-knuckle it and commit to stopping the wrong and starting the right. David reminds us in this psalm that God is the one who creates in us a pure heart and renews a steadfast spirit within us. On our own we can do nothing (John 15:5). With our pure heart and spirit, we can sing of his righteousness and declare his praise (v. 14-15).
Our final lesson is to not keep it to ourselves. David challenges the reader to teach others about the goodness of God and His redemptive ways. King David commits to teaching transgressors the ways of God so that sinners will turn back to Him (v. 13). In the same way, when we struggle, we confess to others, bring them in to carry the burden with us (Galatians 6:2), and encourage them to share their own struggles. We mutually disciple one another within the body of Christ.
We all can find great comfort in Psalm 51. The very same God who welcomed King David welcomes you and me today. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In a way we can’t fully understand, Jesus longs for us to come to Him, confess our sins to Him, and find our rest in Him. You are not alone, don’t fight your sin on your own, and help encourage others.
- Where do you feel alone right now? Is there a sin struggle you’re keeping to yourself because of isolation?
- How can you invite God into your struggle so you’re not battling on your own?
- Who can you encourage today with this psalm? Who do you need to help turn back to God by teaching them the ways of God (v.13)?
God, thank you for David’s example. Even though he is a “man after your own heart,” I know he’s not perfect. Thank you for his honest response and thank you for preserving this psalm for me to learn from and be encouraged by today. I pray you would have mercy on me and thank you that you will cleanse me from my sin, not because of anything I’ve done, but because of Jesus. Please give me a broken and contrite heart, and thank you that you do not despise me, but love me.
2 thoughts on “Psalm 51”
The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. Isaiah 53:6 says “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” In Psalms we see David constantly turning his face to God; he knows his nature is sinful and without God’s help he is incapable of keeping God’s laws. Genesis 2:7 says “Sin crouches at your door, it’s desire is for you, but you must master it.” I feel we’ve lost the gravity of our sin and how deeply it grieves the heart of God. Only God can create a clean heart and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I’m noticing David’s honesty when confronted with his sin; he doesn’t rationalize or get angry, but bares his shattered heart before God confident of his mercy and steadfast love. V11 grabs my attention; I don’t want to live one moment away from His presence. We can learn much from what David has modeled in this Psalm. God never despises a broken, humbled heart, it’s the very sacrifice most pleasing to him. (V17)
I love seeing David’s journey of pleading, confession, repentance, and praise throughout this psalm. When God cleanses is of our sins, our natural response is to go from brokenness to rejoicing (v. 8), for joy to be restored (v. 12), singing of His righteousness (v. 14), and declaring His praises (v. 15).
Even in the depths of feeling guilt over what he had done, as he fixes his eyes on God, he sees that his sin is no match for God’s mercy. This leads him to rejoice and praise.
Lord, keep my sin ever before me, that I may deeply know and understand your grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Give me an even greater vision of who you are that eclipses even the worst of what we’ve done. Thank you, Jesus!