Psalm 51


David broke God’s commands. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in battle in an attempt to cover up his actions.

But David could not hide from God.

David’s sin eventually broke him.

When confronted by Nathan, David came face to face with his sin.

David wrote Psalm 51 as a confession and cry for mercy. It is the prayer of the broken, a prayer of humility and repentance.

This prayer can become ours when we are broken by sin.

Have mercy on me.

Mercy is an act of compassion, a choice to pardon or withhold deserved punishment.

We need God’s mercy.

Mercy and compassion are integral to God’s character. When He revealed His name, the LORD (Yahweh), to Moses, God described Himself:

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…”  Exodus 34:6-7

The broken cry out to God for mercy and forgiveness when they sin because of who He is.

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions. (v. 1)

I have sinned against You.

While our sin affects other people terribly, our sin is ultimately against God – sin is a rebellion against God’s commands. The broken recognize their sin and God’s right to judge. The broken own the responsibility for their sin and confess it to God.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge. (v. 3-4)

Cleanse me.

The broken recognize that only God can remove the stain of sin.

Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin. (v. 2)

The broken also realize that sin is a matter of the heart. We don’t just need to clean up on the outside. We need God’s truth to change our hearts.

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts,
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. (v. 6-7)

Create in me a pure heart.

The broken know that only God can purify the heart.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (v. 10)

The verb create in this verse is only used with God as the subject (NIV Key Word Study Bible). He is the Creator, the only One who can create something from nothing. Only He can remove sin and create a pure heart.

Stay near me.

The broken realize that sin separates us from God. They long to be in God’s presence and to have His Spirit to guide them.

Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me. (v. 11)

Restore me.

The broken want to return to joy.

Restore me to the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me. (v. 12)

Here, the word restore “essentially denotes movement back to the point of departure” (NIV Key Word Study Bible). Only God can truly restore.

The broken want to go back to the joy of fellowship with God they experienced before their sin.  And the broken ask for a willing spirit to obey God and sustain that fellowship.

When the broken are restored, they can teach others how to turn to God.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you. (v. 13)

Save me.

The broken know that God alone can save.

Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.(v. 14-15)

The broken praise God and tell others of God’s salvation.

When you are broken by sin, crushed by how your sin separates you from God, bring your brokenness to God.  Confess your sin. Ask for mercy. Ask for God to cleanse you and create a pure heart within you. Let God restore you and save you.

This is the sacrifice that God desires.
Not going through the motions of outward ritual that God despised in Psalm 50, but coming to God in brokenness over our sin.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise. (v. 17)

Bring your brokenness to Him.

Father, I have sinned against You. I have chosen my own way instead of Yours. My heart is broken by my sin. Have mercy on me. Forgive me. Cleanse me and create in me a pure heart that longs to please You. Stay near me. Restore me. Take me back to the joy of Your salvation. I will praise You and tell others of Your great salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 51

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