[Read] 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. (Psalm 51)
[Meditate] David's adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah is from 2 Samuel 11-12.
This is a psalm where David expresses great regret and repentance.
"The psalmist confesses his sinfulness to God and begs for forgiveness and a transformation of his inner character." -From NETBible.org
Bob Utley notices the different expressions David uses in this psalm to express his desire for forgiveness: blot out (1, 9), wash (2, 7), cleanse (2), purify (7), hide your face (9), and deliver (14).
"We learn from the Psalms how to think about discouragement and guilt, and we learn from the Psalms how to feel in times of discouragement and in times of horrible regret. The Psalms show us how to be discouraged well and how to regret well." -John Piper, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise: Part 3," from DesiringGod.org
"In other psalms, the awareness of sin appears to be prompted by circumstances, but in Psalm 51 it is prompted by the inner conscience instructed by God. It is also unrivaled among the psalms for its interest in inner transformation, rather than a transformation of circumstances (e.g., enemies, sickness)." -Craig Broyles, "New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms," 226.
1 "Special appeal is made to the divine attributes of love (hesed) and compassion." -Craig Broyles, "New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms," 227.
2 "It is fitting that Christians ask God to do this (1 John 1:7–9). Christ has purchased our forgiveness. He has paid the full price for it. That does not replace our asking. It is the basis for our asking. It is the reason we are confident that the answer will be yes. So first David looks helplessly to the mercy of God. And second he prays that, in this mercy, God would forgive him and make him clean." -John Piper, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise: Part 3," from DesiringGod.org
3 "He says that he can’t get the sin out of his mind. It is blazoned on his conscience." -John Piper, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise: Part 3," from DesiringGod.org
4 This verse is quoted by Paul in Romans 3:4.
"Nathan had said David despised God and scorned his word. So David says in verse 4: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” This doesn’t mean Bathsheba and Uriah and the baby weren’t hurt. It means that what makes sin to be sin is that it is against God. Hurting man is bad. It is horribly bad. But that’s not the horror of sin. Sin is an attack on God—a belittling of God." -John Piper, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise: Part 3," from DesiringGod.org
"In Joshua 7:19-21 after Achan is commanded 'give glory to the Lord' and 'tell... what you have done,' he confesses, 'I have sinned against the Lord'- even though his action resulted in Israel's defeat and the death of thirty-six men (v 4-5)." -Craig Broyles, "New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms," 228.
"God is justified. God is blameless. If God casts David into hell, God will be innocent. This is radical God-centered repentance. This is the way saved people think and feel. God would be just to damn me. And that I am still breathing is sheer mercy. And that I am forgiven is sheer blood-bought mercy." -John Piper, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise: Part 3," from DesiringGod.org
7 Bob Utley ("Psalm 51," from Bible.org) says hyssop is a "small desert plant... used in a bunch to sprinkle liquids for ritualistic ceremonies." It was used to put the blood of the Passover lamp on the doorpost of the Israelites' homes (Exodus 12:21-22), in the ceremony for cleansing the lepers (Leviticus 14:4, 6), and also Num. 19:6, 18, Heb. 9:19, Ex. 24:6-8.
"The sequence of the petitions also matches the promises of a new covenant in Ezekiel 36:25-27." -Craig Broyles, "New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms," 229.
8 "The psalmist compares his sinful condition to that of a person who has been physically battered and crushed. Within this metaphorical framework, his “bones” are the seat of his emotional strength." -from NETBible.org
10 "The heart is viewed here as the seat of the psalmist’s motives and moral character." -from NETBible.org
11 "The designation of Holy Spirit elsewhere occurs only in [the Old Testament] Isaiah 63:10-11..." -Craig Broyles, "New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms," 227.
"In Old Testament times God gave His Holy Spirit selectively (to empower only some believers) and temporarily (primarily to empower them for special acts of service). Since the Day of Pentecost all believers enjoy the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church Age (John 14:17; Rom. 8:9). Consequently the possibility of God withdrawing His Spirit from David was a real one for him, but it is not for us." -Thomas Constable, "Study Notes on Psalms: 2013 Edition," 115.
12 "The psalmist asks that God make him the kind of person who willingly obeys the divine commandments. The imperfect verbal form is used here to express the psalmist’s wish or request." -from NETBible.org
"Why isn’t he crying out for sexual restraint? Why isn’t he praying for men to hold him accountable? Why isn’t he praying for protected eyes and sex-free thoughts? The reason is that he knows that sexual sin is a symptom, not the disease. People give way to sexual sin because they don’t have the fullness of joy and gladness in Christ. Their spirits are not steadfast and firm and established. They waver. They are enticed, and they give way because God does not have the place in our feelings and thoughts that he should. David knew this about himself. It’s true about us too. David is showing us, by the way he prays, what the real need is for those who sin sexually. Not a word in this psalm about sex. Instead: “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing, firm, established spirit.” This is profound wisdom for us." -John Piper, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise: Part 3," from DesiringGod.org
13 "The cohortative expresses the psalmist’s resolve. This may be a vow or promise. If forgiven, the psalmist will “repay” the Lord by declaring God’s mercy and motivating other sinners to repent." -from NETBible.org
"He asks that the upshot of all this will be a life of effective evangelism. Verse 13: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” David is not content to be forgiven. He is not content to be clean. He is not content to be elect. He is not content to have a right spirit. He is not content to be joyful in God by himself. He will not be content until his broken life serves the healing of others. “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” " -John Piper, "A Broken and Contrite Heart God Will Not Despise: Part 3," from DesiringGod.org
18-19 "...the final two verses of the psalm hardly fit this situation, for they assume the walls of Jerusalem have been destroyed and that the sacrificial system has been temporarily suspended. These verses are probably an addition to the psalm made during the period of exile following the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. The exiles could relate to David’s experience, for they, like him, and had been forced to confront their sin. They appropriated David’s ancient prayer and applied it to their own circumstances." -From NETBible.org
19 "But the shift from Yahweh's not delighting in sacrifice (v. 16) to his delighting in them may be due to more than the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Two qualifiers are added: the sacrifices will be righteous (cf. 4:5) and the burnt offerings will be whole, implying they will be accompanied by a repentant shift in the worshipers' attitudes." -Craig Broyles, "New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms," 230.
[Pray] God, give me a heart of repentance like David. Would I take sin seriously like David does. Grow me in love and affection for you, that I might worship you a little more like what you deserve. In Jesus name, Amen.