Psalms 51

Psalm 51

Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51   Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
  according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
  For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
  Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
  so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
  Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
  Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
  Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
  Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
  Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.
  Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
  Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
  O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
  For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
  Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
    build up the walls of Jerusalem;
  then will you delight in right sacrifices,
    in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
    then bulls will be offered on your altar.


Psalm 51 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Psalm 51 is a beloved writing of hope for all Believers for centuries.  James Boice notes, “It was recited in full by Sir Thomas More and Lady Jane Grey when they were on the scaffold in the bloody days of Henry VIII and Queen Mary. William Carey, the great pioneer missionary to India, asked that it might be the text of his funeral sermon.”  As G. Campbell Morgan notes, “This great song, pulsating the agony of a sin-stricken soul, helps us to understand the stupendous wonder of the everlasting mercy of our God.”

Psalm 51 is David’s agonizing plea for forgiveness after he committed adultery with Bathsheba, murdered her husband to cover his tracks then covered his sin as he went on.  He was determined to not repent for the sin of his life.  It would only be after the prophet Nathan confronted him that the shaking of his life brought the wreckage to follow.  All the self-justification, all the living in sin and thinking it was okay after being exposed was David completely broken before God and came with tremendous honesty before Him.  The difficult confrontation and story are found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12.

David experienced mercy in action.  Because David confessed, God extended the most amazing mercy.  David repented of his ways and experienced the most amazing freedom from the guilt because God, who holds a multitude of mercies saw his heart and reached him where he was.  I love Charles Spurgeon’s words here:  “Men are greatly terrified at the multitude of their sins, but here is a comfort, our God has a multitude mercies.  If our sins be in a number as the hairs of our head, God’s mercies are as the stars of heaven.”

And here is where David pleas become relevant.  He had already asked forgiveness but he knew he needed more:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12

He knew he needed a new heart, a clean heart.  What is so beautiful here is this promise was fulfilled through our Jesus under the New Covenant:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26

This is only something God can do.  This is only something our Jesus can do.  He sought a steadfast spirit.  He was tired of the up and down living.  He needed stability in his own life.  He needed to resist the enemy of his heart.  Jesus our Mighty Warrior restores and fights for us when we seek Him.

He also realized something else through his sin.  He needed restoration of the joy of his salvation.  A renewal of the joy that once had been there before his sin.

There are times we grow stagnant in our faith. This is due to many different circumstances which sin can be a cause of.  It is the reality of our lives as we’re simply “Going through the motions.”  It’s empty as we know.  When sin grows within our hearts, not only do we grow complacent we have driven a wedge between us and God.

God’s greatest desire for us is restoration.  Restoration of our relationship with Him but also a restoration of our purpose and calling.  This is the only way our lives are complete.

The question for each of us is what resonates from this Psalm for us today?

Psalm 51 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

It is known as “The Sinner’s Guide” and contains some of the most quoted verses in all of Psalms. It’s not surpising that this Psalm features some of the most beautifully articulated phrases of repentance within the entire Bible. One characteristic that is not found here is David’s condemnation of the enemy and his plea for help. The entire focus is on the sin of David and his repentant heart.

David wronged many with his actions, but the most significant was God. David knew this. The words here are addressed to God alone. This doesn’t mean it isn’t important to ask those we hurt to forgive us. It simply shows us that it is a priority that we repent and ask God for forgiveness. Sometimes it is easy to gloss over our relationship with God.

For instance, think about the last time you got into an argument with your spouse? Did you stop and think about the damage done within your relationship with God? Yes, it’s true that your spouse was the primary person affected by your sin, however, it is God who holds us accountable to His commandments in the first place.

There is no doubt David felt guilty about murder, adultery, and lying. It is my opinion that many times the guilt of any sin doesn’t necessarily diminish after we have apologized and asked for forgiveness from other people involved. Why? Because the actions are already done. We can’t take them back. Though we’ve made things right with the other individuals, the consequences remain. This is why David is so emotional in Psalm 51. He knows that the only one who can bring mercy and peace to his soul is his Father in Heaven. He wants to do everything he can to make things right again.

So, the application is fairly simple. We cannot just say we are sorry to others when we intentionally sin against them. We have a Father who grieves over our choices and longs to restore us. Furthermore, if we are really sorry (and really want to grow), then falling down in repentance to Jesus should be the very first thing we do. The encouragement we can take away is that David was human and struggled just like we do. But, he had his priorities straight. He owned up to his sin issues and was honest and genuine in his cries to the Lord.

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