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Psalms Lesson 10 - 51:1-17

SSL 10 - Psalm 51:1-17

Prayers & Announcements

LAST WEEK: We studied Psalm 146, a song of praise written by an unknown author. This psalm and the four which follow it, each begins with the exhortation "Praise the LORD," which translates to Hallelujah in Hebrew. In the song, the psalmist declared three fundamental points of application that, if we practice them, will result in God's blessing:
1. To receive God's blessing, we must praise Him-always! Since the psalmist exhorts us to keep praising God, what does it mean in practical terms? Well, like the psalmist, we must preach to ourselves to continually give praise and thanks to God as long as we have the breath to do it. Reminders-things we should be thankful for (things we often take for granted)-surround us every minute we're alive. Praising God through the day can take just a few seconds to stop and say, "thank you, Lord," for any of the countless things He gives to us every day
2. To receive God's Blessing, we trust in Him, not people. You might ask: What's the connection between praising God and trusting in people? Well, it's a matter of perspective: Putting all your trust in any human, no matter what they do for you, is a mistake because they are mortal (i.e., a son of man) and their continued ability to help you may be short-lived due to poor health or death (i.e., no salvation)
3. To receive God's blessing, we must put all of our trust and hope in Him. Let's list the reasons the psalmist gives us to believe this: (1) because God created everything; (2) because God is faithful and never breaks His promises; (3) Because God will bring justice-right all wrongs-in His timing; (4) Because we were "blind" until God opened out eyes to spiritual truth; (5) Because God can save people who are "bowed-Down" with sin and guilt and can't help themselves; (6) Because God loves and cares for the righteous who are persecuted for their faith; and (7) God loves and cares for the poor, the afflicted, the outcasts, the widows, and orphans who need help.

THIS WEEK: We cover Psalm 51, a penitential Psalm which is one of only a few tied directly to a recorded historical event. The Superscription to the Psalm states: To the choirmaster, a Psalm of David, when Nathan the Prophet went to him, after he had gone to Bathsheba. The story of 2 Sam. 11 is well-known: David saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, while she was bathing, had her brought to him, had sex with her, and she became pregnant. To cover his adultery, David arranged to have Uriah killed. After being confronted by Nathan, David broke and confessed. This psalm follows.

ASK: Have you ever blown it spiritually-did something you knew was wrong but did it anyway? As we will discover in this great Psalm, God not only offers us mercy we don't deserve but also allows us to achieve full restoration of fellowship with Him.

Read Ps. 51:1-5 - Plea for Mercy and Confession of Sin

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 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.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

v. 1a: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love" - With true brokenness, David begins the psalm with his only hope, the mercy and love of God. It had taken the bold confrontation of Nathan the Prophet to bring him to the reality of his depraved condition and confess without excuse, "I have sinned against the LORD" (2 Sam. 12:13). When he added, "according to Your steadfast love," David pleaded for God's hesed, a Hebrew expression for God's loyal love and covenant mercy toward His people.

v. 1b: "according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions" - David felt the record of his many sins condemned him and he wanted the full account of them to be erased. The "blotting out" may refer to David own conscience, or God's accounting of sin, or perhaps both.

v. 2: "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity...cleanse me from my sin" - The word of God though Nathan worked like a mirror to show David how dirty and stained with sin he was. He had lived in this condition for some time (maybe a year), but now the depth of his depravity had driven him to beg to be cleansed. The expression "Wash me thoroughly" is significant since it means washing by beating and kneading rather then simple rinsing (i.e., the heavy cycle). The use of the word "iniquity" implies sin that was twisted or perverted-real bad.

v. 3: "I know my sin is ever before me" - David knew it was not only one, but multiple transgressions (wrongdoing/disobedience). He fully acknowledges this, without excuse, blame-shifting, or rationalization. David also admits his sin was "ever before" him, that in the time between committing these sins and confession, he had not escaped the awareness of sin, though he did his best to ignore it and deny it.

v. 4a: "Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight' - In the objective sense, this was not true: David had also sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah, their families, his family, and, indeed, his entire kingdom. Yet all of that faded into the background as he considered the magnitude of his sin against God, who is the ultimate judge for all sin. Adding "evil in your sight," David acknowledged that God was there and looking on when he did these terrible things.

v. 4b: "You may be justified in Your word...blameless in Your judgment" - Here, standing before God, David, in effect, pleads "guilty as charged and deserving of His justice." David recognizes that God's judgment is "blameless" because His commands were good and just even when David broke those commands.

v. 5: "brought forth in sin did my mother conceive me" - This verse doesn't imply that David was born out of a sinful relationship; it meant that he was sinful when his mother conceived him and that there had never been a time when he had not been a sinner. And, indeed, every single one of us, as "the sons or daughters of Adam" (Gen. 3:17-19), have the same sin nature in us and are just as guilty before God. David's purpose in making this statement was to expose the depth of his sin and admit that it went beyond the specific sinful actions for which he was begging God's mercy. It stands as an excellent statement, for Jews and Christians alike, of the concept of original sin.

Read Ps. 51:6-13 - Plea for Cleansing and Restoration

6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[a] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

v. 6: "delight in truth in the inward being (inward parts KJV)... teach me wisdom in the secret heart" - While the sin nature was deep-rooted in David (and in us, too), God intended to reach into his depths. God wanted a transformation in him all the way to his "inward parts," to the hidden parts that would give him true spiritual integrity-inner strength. ASK: Some of us appear strong on the outside, but how strong are you on the inside? Only you and God know that. When you are spiritually strong on the inside, in the "secret heart" no one see or knows, you are allowing your life, all parts of it, to be guided by God's wisdom.

v. 7: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean...whiter than snow" - In Hebrew "purge' literally means "de-sin" me, like decontaminate me. Hyssop was a plant with a fibrous stem that Levitical priests used to apply the blood of the Passover lamb or sprinkle purifying water. David did not believe that he could cleanse himself, so, in effect, he is asking God to be his priest by taking the hyssop (i.e., a spiritual scrub brush) and declaring him cleansed of all sin. David knew that God's cleansing was effective-would make him "whiter than snow." Spurgeon said, "God could make him as if he had never sinned at all. Such is the power of the cleansing work of God upon the heart that He can restore innocence to if we had never been stained with transgression at all."

v. 8: "Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice" - We see here, that under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, David felt a brokenness so severe that he experienced inward pain as if the very bones of his body were broken. But out of confidence in God's cleansing and healing powers, David could pray it would lead to "joy and gladness."

v. 9: "Hide your face from my sins...blot out all my iniquities" - David was well aware and deeply grieved by the disaster he had made of his life and knew God saw it all. The Hebrew word for "blot out," maha, means to erase or abolish. So David pleaded with God, not just for forgiveness, but for the complete removal (erasure) of his sin (e.g., a "frame-off" restoration).

v. 10: "Create in me a clean heart...renew a right spirit within me" - The word used here for "create," bara, is the same as that used in Gen. 1 for the creation. Thus, David isn't just asking God to clean the heart he has, but to create a new heart, a clean one, in him. Notice that he was asking for a miracle, something only God could do. He also asked for a "right spirit" that would enable him to resist the devil and keep his heart clean.

v. 11a: "Cast me not away from your presence" - Here David may be alluding to Gen. 4:16, where after the murder of Abel, "Cain went out from the LORD's presence." Sin had robbed David of the intimacy he had once enjoyed with God. For him, the whole point of cleansing and restoration was a renewed relationship with God--to experience God's presence in every aspect his life.

v. 11b: "take not your Holy Spirit from me" - Here again, David may be alluding to the example of Saul in 1 Sam. 16:14, when the Spirit of the LORD "departed" from him. According to 1 Sam. 16:13, from the day Samuel anointed David, the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him. In the OT, the Holy Spirit was rarely seen as cleansing the inner life; however, in David's case, he had received the in gift of the Holy Spirit early on to empower him for his future kingship.

v. 12: "Restore to me the joy of your salvation...uphold me with a willing spirit" - The short-term pleasure of David's sin only resulted in upheaval and pain in his life. After months of alienation, he wanted once again to experience the joy which comes from salvation (which, in OT, means those whom the LORD rescues). Since David lacked confidence in his human ability to uphold himself, he asked God to uphold him with "a willing spirit."

v. 13: "teach transgressors your ways...sinners will return to you" - In the dark days before his confession, it's doubtful that David was capable of teaching others about the LORD, but now he asks God for the privilege of leading others to repent and know the Living God, Yahweh. And the many psalms he later wrote are certainly testimony to this result; indeed, his psalms still reach out to us today, don't they?

Read Ps. 51:14-17 - Deliverance Through Brokenness

14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

v. 14: "Deliver me from tongue will sing aloud of Your righteousness" - David brings his sin of Uriah's murder before God. Though he makes no specific reference to his sin of adultery in the psalm, he felt moved to talk about this great sin. Though none of us (that I know of) have committed a sin of this magnitude, we can take heart: if God can forgive David this evil, He can certainly forgive all else. And David knew that if God cleansed him of him terrible bloodguilt, he would be able to again "sing aloud of God's righteousness."

v. 15: "open my mouth will declare Your praise" - This verse indicates that David's sense of guilt over his sin has long kept his lips closed-Inhibited him spiritually-but with God's forgiveness and cleansing, praise and thanksgiving would flow from his mouth freely and in abundance.

v. 16: "You will not delight in sacrifice...not be pleased with a burnt offering" - To summarize this point simply, there was no legal sacrifice under Mosaic law specified for the sins of adultery and murder. Had there been, David would have willingly offered them.

v. 17: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart" - The "sacrifices of "God' may be defined as those of which God desires and approves. In the Hebrew, a "broken spirit" translates to a mind crushed by guilt and "a broken and contrite heart" translates to broken and crushed as when bones are broken. Taken together, these two expressions exemplify David's humility and true repentance for having grieved God. As we know from Scripture, God did deliver him-his sacrifice was approved.


Central Truth of Ps. 51: No matter how detestable the sin, all who come to God in a spirit of brokenness and humility can appeal to Him for forgiveness. This psalm stands as a model prayer that has been used by saints of all ages to turn the course of their lives back to the Lord. Countless people have been comforted and encouraged to know that if David could be forgiven, they can too. The appeal to God's compassion, mercy and grace can lead not only to forgiveness, but also to restoration of a Spirit-filled life of fellowship and service.

1. Unconfessed sin in a believer's life results in guilt and broken fellowship with God. When we sin, God will convict us. However, if we avoid dealing with the sin that confront us, God will take stronger measures to move us - As with David, He might send someone like Nathan to act as a catalyst.

2. In order to be cleansed from sin, we must go to God. We cannot cleanse ourselves nor can others cleanse us. Only God alone can cleanse every fiber of a life stained by sin. He alone can reach into the infinitesimal inner places where the stain of sin inhabits us and thoroughly blot it out.

3. God never designed us to be receptacles for the garbage of sin. When we allow unconfessed sin to remain in our lives, we endanger ourselves. Go back and read vv. 3-5 to see how David describes it. When we bury unconfessed sin inside us it becomes like an acid or an infection that eats away at us spiritually, mentally, and physically. It robs us of peace, joy, strength, and security. God did not design us to bottle this corruption up; we must let it out by confessing our sin, even the deeply imbedded secret sins.

4. God's infinite powers of cleansing and healing will lead to joy and gladness. The whole point of cleansing and restoration is to gain a renewed relationship with God, and once regained, it will be cause for great joy and gladness, as David exclaimed in v.15, "O LORD, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise."

5. Those who have experienced God's grace of forgiveness cannot keep silent. In this psalm, David vowed to proclaim the message that there is mercy and forgiveness with the Lord. Because his heart overflowed with gratitude and praise for God's cleansing and healing, he promised to announce this message to all who needed to hear it. Like David, we too should have a burden to proclaim the forgiveness of God, especially to those we know who are in a pit of misery and guilt over unconfessed sin.