The next four days of penitential psalms are perfectly timed because if you are reading according to the Bible Book Club schedule (and it is OK if you are NOT), it is the Jewish month of Elul. It is a time of repentance in preparation for the "High Holy Days" or "Days of Awe" between Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul is a time of introspection and stocktaking -- a time to review one's deeds and spiritual progress over the past year and prepare for the upcoming one. How appropriate that we would be here during this time of year. Even though we do not follow the Jewish calendar, September is usually like a new year as everyone changes from the lazy days of summer to a regular routine of work and/or school. Let it be a time of repentance, examination, and stocktaking for you as well!
Psalm 51 is directly attributed to David's sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12). David called on our merciful, compassionate, and forgiving God when he was exposed by Nathan. David acknowledged that ultimately sin offended God more than anyone else (51:4).
Hyssop branches (51:7) were mentioned for cleansing. You might remember in our reading earlier this year that these branches were used to put blood over the door frames in the Passover ceremony (Exodus 12:22). When this was done, the angel of death "passed over" the house, the wrath of God was averted, and the first born were spared.
David asked God to not take the Holy Spirit away (51:11). The Holy Spirit came upon David when Samuel anointed him (1 Samuel 16:13). The Holy Spirit had left Saul when he sinned (1 Samuel 16:1, 14; 1 Samuel 7:15), and David did not want that to happen to him too. Today, the Spirit does not come and go like He did in the Old Testament times. Once we believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to abide with us forever (John 14:15-18). Remember this when you use this psalm as a model for confession. Even though we cannot lose the Holy Spirit, we can grieve (Ephesians 4:30-32) and quench Him (1 Thess. 5:19) by deliberately sinning and not regularly confessing and repenting of sin and yielding to the Holy Spirit in our lives (51:12).
After David had asked for cleansing (51:1-7) and restoration (51:8-12), he asked for God to use him in teaching sinners the good and right way (51:13-19). He wanted to turn it all around for God's glory!
Even though God forgave David sin, there were consequences to his sin that we will learn about in 2 Samuel 12:13-14.
1 Kings 15:5 says that David did what pleased the Lord, except with "Uriah the Hittite." What a blot on his life! But David knew the only way to remove that blot was through confession and repentance. Psalm 51 is a model of confession for us all.
Daily examination and confession of sin is a good way to start and end your day. I also like to ask the Holy Spirit to fill and control me. Here is another excerpt from the "Morning Affirmations" in Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship:
Holy Spirit, search my heart and reveal to me any unconfessed sin you find in me:
Search me, O God, and know my heart;Test me and know my anxious thoughts.See if there is any offensive way in me,And lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
*Now spend some time praying through Psalm 51*
Lord, I thank you for the forgiveness you promised when you said:
“Come now, let us reason together:Though your sins are like scarlet,They shall be as white as snow;Though they are red as crimson,They shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Filling of the Spirit
Holy Spirit, control me and fill me today:
I was once darkness, but now I am light in You, O Lord. May I walk as a child of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), learning what is pleasing to You. (Ephesians 5:8)
As I walk in You, O Spirit, I will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to You, and You, Holy Spirit desire what is contrary to the flesh; for you oppose each other, so that I may not do the things that I wish. But if I am led by You, I am not under the law. (Galatians 5:16)
Since I live in You, Spirit, may I also walk in You. (Galatians 5:25)