Psalms 51-57 Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me

From Psalms 51-57

19 Psalms Fragment

Today’s Psalm is well known and has been put to song. The Psalm is David’s and he in it he asks for forgiveness. I will spell out the reasons why as we step through the Psalm.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

At one time in David’s life he should have been with his army fighting the LORD’s battles. But he remained in Jerusalem (2 Sam 11.1). One late afternoon David saw a beautiful woman bathing. He found out her name was Bathsheba. She was the wife of one of David’s mighty men Uriah. He sent his messengers to bring her to him. When she came he laid with her. Bathsheba became pregnant and she told David (2 Sam 11.2-5).

In the Psalm David asks for forgiveness;

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast loveaccording to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! (Ps 51.1-2)

David seeking to cover up what they had done sent for Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. He pretended to be interested in the battle asking Uriah a few questions. When David had finished with him he sent Uriah to his home. His hope was that Uriah would go home and sleep lay with his wife. If he did that Uriah would assume her unborn child was his. Uriah however was loyal to his fellow brothers in arms and he refused to make himself unclean by laying with his wife. He slept in the place reserved for the kings servants. When David found out his cunning plan was foiled he tried again, but failed (2 Sam 11.6-13).

In the Psalm David acknowledges his sins;

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.

6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Ps 51.3-6)

When David finds out he has again failed to get Uriah to lay with his wife he writes a letter to Joab the general of his armies. In the letter he commands Joab to put Uriah in the front lines where the battle is fiercest. At an opportune time, David wants Joab to withdraw his troops exposing Uriah to the enemy. He gives the sealed letter to Uriah and asks him to give it to Joab. He gave loyal Uriah the letter that commanded his death (2 Sam 11.7-16). Uriah was killed. One of David’s men returned and gave Joab’s report on the battle. David found out of Uriah’s death. Both he and Joab tried to cover it up. But the thing David has done displeased the LORD (2 Sam 11.17-27).

In the Psalm David asks to be cleansed;

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 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. (Ps 51.7-12)

In the Psalm David calls out to the LORD for forgiveness. He knows the LORD does forgive, even horrible sins like his own.

There is no sin God will not forgive for those who come to him in faith and repentance.

God has mercy. God cleans. God blots away sins. God forgives my sin. God forgives your sin. David recognises the LORD has every right to cast him away, so he asks him not to. He wants to be restored. To know and feel he is one of the saved. To be upheld with an obedient spirit. When the LORD does this;

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

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. (Ps 51.13-17)

David promises to tell others of the LORD’s forgiveness. This is a common trait of David’s we have seen. When David asks for deliverance from the LORD and receives it, he tells others about it. When David asks for forgiveness and restoration from the LORD and receives it. He tells others about it.

David is always telling others about what the LORD has done for him.

He is a natural evangelist, commending the LORD to others.

Verses 16 and 17 are quite interesting considering normally people would offer a sacrifice to atone for their sin and receive forgiveness.

David realises sin offerings are not important. Rather what is important is a broken spirit and a broken heart.

Genuine sorrow over sin. The LORD looks for honesty, humility, vulnerability and shame in a person he forgives. We need to remember the LORD does forgive and is willing to when we approach him like this.

18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem;

19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar. (Ps 51.18-19)

David doesn’t only encourage others to do the same when they have sinned. David calls on the LORD to work in his people. He asks the LORD to ‘do good to Zion’ as he is pleased. The remainder of the verses suggests it is ultimately the LORD working in people, his grace, that changes people. Causes them to repent as David has and makes them obey. Once all these are settled then he will rejoice in offerings, because he is not looking at the offering itself, but the cleansed heart of the offerer.

Story of Jesus

In the first epistle the apostle John wrote he reminded his hearers that they have all sinned. But because of the blood of Jesus they have been cleansed. Now we live in response to the mercy and grace God has given us by sending Jesus to die for us on the cross.

5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 Jn 1:5-10)

Living in response to the mercy and grace God has given us is part of what John means by walking in the light. We recognise we have sinned in the past, but now we walk in the light. We may still sin, but John talks about this also.

2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 Jn 2:1-2)

God deals with his wrath over our sin through Christ’s death. What this means is that like David, we can approach God and ask him to forgive us and to cleanse us. Let us also be like David in telling others what the LORD has done for us.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.