Bible Study Series: Life of David
Psalm 51 - David's Recovery
by F Gordon
2 Samuel 12.13-14 So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die."
When David was confronted with his sin he confessed it straight away. There were no excuses and he didn’t try to justify his actions or blame others. He realised his sin against the Lord and confessed it. The Lord then put away his sin. There was no probation, he didn’t have to earn back God’s forgiveness. When a man in all sincerity confesses his sin it makes it possible for God to put it away. That’s the grace of God. Sin is forgiven however, David had to live with the consequences of sin. First the child born to Bathsheba was going to die and second there would be trouble within his own household.
How does a man who loves God get back on his feet after such a tragic fall? What would we do if we were guilty of adultery and murder? We would suffer guilt and shame, and worry about people’s opinions. How can we get back up and continue our walk with God instead of crawling into a hole never to be seen again? Thankfully David wrote Psalm 51 after he confessed his sin. It is a ladder out of the pit which brings him, and us too, back into fellowship with God.
Before we look at Psalm 51, here are a few scriptures to consider.
Psalm 37.23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.
Psalm 103.12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Proverbs 24.16 For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity , and
Micah 7.19 He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.
Step One - Sin confessed and judged
Psalm 51 In verses 1-6 of this psalm we see step one in the process of reconciliation for David and for us too. It is sin confessed and judged honestly before God.
Psalm 51.1-2 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
In this psalm David appeals for mercy not justice. Mercy is what we need. If God dealt with us by justice none of us could stand. But mercy appeals to God’s character of grace that gives us what we don’t deserve.
“Blot out my transgressions”. Transgression is to step over God’s boundaries. The word means to revolt or rebel against God’s laws. David sinned and this sin was a debt that he asked to be erased and not recorded. “Don’t record this Lord blot out and erase my transgression”. When mankind comes before God at the great white throne judgement, the books are opened and all our lives are recorded and laid bare. We are all judged according to our works. David asks that his transgressions be erased. His iniquity, perversity, evil, fault, and mischief. He asks that God wash him and cleanse him from all sin.
Psalm 51:3- 4 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight-- That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
There is a full acknowledgment of his sin, he’s not trying to cover it up or make excuses as many do now. “It was only a slight slip up, if they hadn’t done this to me, I would not have done that back to them.”
“Against you only have I sinned”. What about the sin done to Bathsheba, what about Uriah, and what about involving Joab in the murder? David recognises that sin is first of all toward God, it is a missing of the mark of His laws, His character and His will. When the prodigal son returned home he said to his father, “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight”. He was not blaming God, his father or the people he was with. Sin must be owned as the prodigal son and David did. It is against God first and foremost.
Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
Now David gets to the heart of the problem. We sin because of who we are first. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve all mankind is born and inherits a fallen sin dominated nature that loves to sin. In Genesis 4.7 God spoke to Cain saying “…sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." David recognises that his problem lies deeper than the actions we do, he was born in iniquity.
Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
God desires truth in the inward parts. This truth is a real understanding of how sin has permeated and wrecked our whole being. He desires that we be truthful about our condition and begin to recognise where its fruit comes from. For this reason we need God to open our eyes and we need the word of God.
Hebrews 4.12-13 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Step Two - The desire to be cleansed.
Psalm 51.7-9 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.
Hyssop was a plant that was used for the sprinkling of blood. It was first used in Exodus 12.22 at Passover to sprinkle the blood of a lamb over the doorposts to keep them safe from the judgement to come. This is figurative of Christ’s blood applied to the doors of our heart. We need Christ’s blood as a covering over our lives. Hyssop was also used in the purification of priests, lepers, and the unclean by applying blood to them. David is asking to be purged by the blood to be made clean. It is the blood of Christ that deals with sin. Christ had to die in our place and His blood was the acceptable sacrifice forever before God.
There is a dual aspect of cleansing. By the blood and washing to be whiter than snow. When Christ Jesus was crucified and the soldier put his spear in His side, out flowed blood and water. Jesus said to Peter “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me”.
1 John 1.7-9 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that 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.
What if our conscience is accusing us?
Hebrews 9.11-14 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Christ’s blood was far greater than the blood of goats and calves. He obtained eternal redemption and this blood can cleanse our conscience from dead works - all sin, all attempts to be right with God apart from Christ. His blood cleanses us so that we can come boldly to God and serve Him, being in Christ.
Hebrews 10.19-22 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
We have the blood of Christ and the application of pure water, typified by the Holy Spirit’s work of cleansing, to wash us so that we are clean.
What about guilt from past sin?
David prayed in Psalm 51.14 “deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed”. David carried with him the guilt of murdering Uriah. We can also carry guilt and shame for past actions and many are burdened down from guilt and shame, especially sexual sin, that hinders the believer from being completely free.
We first need to understand that God has forgiven us, and once confessed, put our sin away. We can then move forward, not allowing shame to dominate us for past actions. If we are always feeling guilty for past sins our eyes will only be on ourselves and never resting on the finished work of Christ.
John Newton was a slave trader who treated people like livestock. This brought much guilt and shame to him yet he wrote the hymn Amazing Grace.
We need to stop listening to Satan's accusations, he is the accuser of the brethren. His accusations are all true, we don’t measure up, we fail and we fall. But we rest on the blood of Christ over our lives and we have an advocate in Christ Jesus who stands before God on our behalf. So next time you hear those condemning words say to satan; “go tell my Father”. God knows and has cast our sins into the depths of the sea so we don’t need to keep fishing them back up.
Isaiah 43.18-19 Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness And rivers in the desert.
Psalm 51.10-11 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.
The believer in Christ will never have to pray this prayer. In the old testament the Holy Spirit would rest upon them and empower them and He might come and go like He did with Saul. For the new testament believer Jesus said He would abide with you forever. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit guaranteeing our redemption. We can grieve and quench but He abides forever.
Psalm 51.12-13 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.
It is only after receiving forgiveness and being cleansed that we are able to teach and show others that God is great and that His grace and forgiveness can pick us out of the muck and restore us to life with joy.
Step Three - The result, a broken and a contrite heart
Psalm 51.16-17 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart-- These, O God, You will not despise.
David could have sacrificed animals till the sun went down but he realised God did not want that. It was the state of man’s heart that concerned Him. God uses sin and failure to crush our individual self centred pride filled heart. The Hebrew word for broken is saba; it means to crush, smash, wreck, and cripple. The Hebrew word for contrite is daka, which means to crush down, collapse, crouch down or lower yourself. This is what God is looking for - someone who is not self-sufficient, but reliant on God. A heart that has been crushed and needs to be revived by God’s life.
Isaiah 57.15 For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
God’s desire for mankind is to revive us, to give us life to get out of the pit, and raise us to share in His glory. Psalm 51 was a ladder for David to get up and keep following God after such a terrible sin and it is also a ladder for us saints.