Monday, September 29, 2008

Psalm 51 - What God Wants

LINK: Psalm 51


Sometimes the realization of our sin surges over us and we lie exhausted and drained on the battered shore of our own self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction. What do we do then?

The titles of the psalms are part of the original Hebrew and so each is a part of the psalm it introduces. This title states that Psalm 51 was written by David after Nathan the prophet had visited him to confront him about his sin with Bathsheba. So that is the occasion of the writing of this psalm. But I think that David is dealing with more here than his physical act of adultery with Bathsheba, though that alone is an act that deserved punishment. Sin is conceived in the heart. So David comes to God for mercy and forgiveness for a heart that has been untruthful and rebellious.


I have read this psalm many times as I’ve meditated on it. It is healing to the spirit. How often do I fret and stew in my sin, refusing to admit it, reluctant to come to the only One who can deal with it?

Sin is not a popular word these days. We rationalize reasons for wrongdoing; we excuse sin as something that is a result of dysfunction. We call sins “mistakes.”

But you know, at its core, sin isn’t about me and how it hurts me (which it does). It’s not even primarily about how I hurt others (which I do). Sin is about rebellion toward God. That’s why David said, “Against you and you only have I sinned.” There is a freedom in recognizing the reality of sin in my life and confessing it to the only One who can forgive and cleanse and make new. If we don’t recognize our sinful heart then we can’t truly find forgiveness. Calling sin a “mistake,” making excuses for sin, rationalizing and refusing to admit sin – all of the coping mechanisms we use for dealing with guilt and wrongdoing – cannot give us forgiveness and freedom. There is a relief in recognizing my sin, because when I recognize it then I can turn to the One who can deal with it.

That’s what David does in this psalm. I see a progression here:

David admits his sin and recognizes that he deserves judgment from God for it (1-6). He’s not trying to make excuses or rationalize. He recognizes that the core of his sin is found in his heart, which has been untruthful. Isn’t that what making excuses and rationalizations are?

David asks for forgiveness and cleansing from a God He knows is merciful and loving (7). There is no indication of doubt that God will hear and answer. David knows His God. He knows that the Lord is full of tender mercy and lovingkindness. We certainly should know that this side of the cross. God came in the flesh to die for us. What more evidence do we need of His mercy and love?

David asks for restoration – for a clean heart – for renewal of a steadfast spirit (8-12). (I love that word steadfast – a faithful heart that stays steadily bound to God.) David asks for God to restore joy and and a willing spirit– which return after the sin is cleansed!

Look at the results of forgiveness – of restored relationship with God : service to others(13), worship of God (14-17) that flows from a heart broken open and relying on Him, and fellowship (18-19). Who doesn’t long for those?


Read this psalm several times. Meditate on it. Let its words soak into your spirit.

If you tend to take sin lightly think about this:

Ye who think of sin but lightly, Nor suppose the evil great.
Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed, See who bears the awful load.
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.

We have God who forgives. We have a God who sacrificed Himself for us. We can have freedom from the guilt of sin. That is huge!

If you are convicted of unconfessed sin, then do what David did. Admit it and recognize that you deserve judgment; ask God to forgive and cleanse; turn from the sin and ask for restoration of joy and steadfastness. God will forgive and cleanse and restore. Believe Him.


Yesterday in church we sang a couple of songs that dovetailed with this psalm. I’m going to quote one for our prayer today.

Out of the deep I call,
To Thee, O Lord, to Thee
Before Thy throne of grace I fall;
Be merciful to me. Be merciful to me.

Out of the deep I cry;
The woeful deep of sin,
Of evil done in days gone by,
Of evil now within, of evil now within.

Out of the deep of fear,
And dread of coming shame:
All night till morning watch is near;
I plead the precious name; I plead the precious name.

Lord, there is mercy now,
As ever was, with Thee.
Before Thy throne of grace I bow;
Be merciful to me; be merciful to me.
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