David recognises that his injury of others is essentially a sin against God

TUESDAY, MARCH 13
Psalm 51:1-13

David recognises that his selfishness and independence is inherited from mankind’s fallenness; only God’s unfailing love could give him a new heart

1  Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 1  When sin damages fellowship with the Lord of the covenant, there is a pressing need for mercy and forgiveness. The sinner has no right to His blessings; there is, however, the promise to forgive which is used here like a precedent quoted in a court hearing. The appeal is on the basis of God’s stated “great compassion” and “unfailing love”.
2  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 2  “Wash away”  or more literally, “wash me thoroughly” is an expression used of foul garments needing repeated laundry treatment – which goes with the “blot out” image of sin’s persistent stain.
3  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 3  “My transgressions” — or rebellion (NLT).
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. 4  This is more than introspection and regret (v.3) for constructive murder, and adultery. The psalmist recognises that his real sin is against the Lord, as revealed by the prophet Nathan, 2 Samuel 12:13, Luke 15:18 – and by breaking specific covenant commandments, Exodus 20:13-14, 17 
5  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 5  This verse supports our understanding of original sin and mankind’s depravity. Adam’s sin was passed down from generation to generation and inherited at birth.
6  Yet You desired faithfulness even in the womb; You taught me wisdom in that secret place. 6  God is just, while humankind is tainted by corruption, such that acknowledging sin – which is what God wants from us – cannot happen without revelation, “wisdom from on high”. God’s desire is for His good design to be realised even in the secret place, or womb (the words are parallel).
7  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 7  A leper was cleansed by a bunch of hyssop (or marjoram), its hairy leaves being suitable for dipping in the sacrificial blood and applying or sprinkling the blood, seven times, Lev. 14:6. After that the pronouncement was made: “And he shall be clean”.
8  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. 8  For the psalmist, to talk of bones being crushed was an expression of deep, penetrating torment, e.g. Psalm 6:2, 22:14 etc

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.

10  David is saying that his heart has so turned to sin that he needs a new heart to be created.
11  Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.  11  David had seen how the Holy Spirit had left Saul. He recognises the enabling of the Spirit, and how he needs this more than ever.
12  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  12  He knows that God wants true repentance from the inside out. External observances won’t satisfy and cannot sustain right living.
13  Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, so that sinners will turn back to You.  13  At first sight, this is surprising – that David, caught up in such serious sin, should seek to teach others. However, the context is that, as king, David had spiritual responsibilities. He was prepared to teach the nation from his failings.
Application

David was an outstanding king of Israel, a military strategist, a musician and songwriter with a profound sense of God’s presence in worship and prophetic insight – and the perpetrator of some colossal mistakes, alluded to in this psalm.

Why is that helpful to us? Because we can make some pretty bad calls and find ourselves heading down the wrong path. But David knew God. He knew God was for him, and God’s love is unfailing, and His compassion of a different order, to anything we could imagine.

David teaches us not to make excuses, not to bother justifying ourselves, but to recognise that like all humankind we are flawed. We can come back to God’s mercy, but the path is one that gets us stooping down low. We need to pleased the cleansing of the Blood, and to ask the Holy Spirit to do a work of renewal in us – in this Psalm 1 reads as quite contemporary.

Why do we find contrition and humility so difficult? It’s the same reason that gets us into the mire in the first place. There are places in Scripture where the answer is more explicit, but these verses are rich in clues.

For reflection or as a discussion starter

How do you respond to the suggestion that, like King David, you were sinful at birth, or even before (v.5)?


Also published on Medium.

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