Psalms 51

For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1 [a]Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
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.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
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.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
18 May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

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Psalms 51 Commentary

Chapter 51

The psalmist prays for mercy, humbly confessing and lamenting his sins. (1-6) He pleads for pardon, that he may promote the glory of God and the conversion of sinners. (7-15) God is pleased with a contrite heart, A prayer for the prosperity of Zion. (16-19)

Verses 1-6 David, being convinced of his sin, poured out his soul to God in prayer for mercy and grace. Whither should backsliding children return, but to the Lord their God, who alone can heal them? he drew up, by Divine teaching, an account of the workings of his heart toward God. Those that truly repent of their sins, will not be ashamed to own their repentance. Also, he instructs others what to do, and what to say. David had not only done much, but suffered much in the cause of God; yet he flees to God's infinite mercy, and depends upon that alone for pardon and peace. He begs the pardon of sin. The blood of Christ, sprinkled upon the conscience, blots out the transgression, and, having reconciled us to God, reconciles us to ourselves. The believer longs to have the whole debt of his sins blotted out, and every stain cleansed; he would be thoroughly washed from all his sins; but the hypocrite always has some secret reserve, and would have some favorite lust spared. David had such a deep sense of his sin, that he was continually thinking of it, with sorrow and shame. His sin was committed against God, whose truth we deny by wilful sin; with him we deal deceitfully. And the truly penitent will ever trace back the streams of actual sin to the fountain of original depravity. He confesses his original corruption. This is that foolishness which is bound in the heart of a child, that proneness to evil, and that backwardness to good, which is the burden of the regenerate, and the ruin of the unregenerate. He is encouraged, in his repentance, to hope that God would graciously accept him. Thou desirest truth in the inward part; to this God looks, in a returning sinner. Where there is truth, God will give wisdom. Those who sincerely endeavour to do their duty shall be taught their duty; but they will expect good only from Divine grace overcoming their corrupt nature.

Verses 7-15 Purge me with hyssop, with the blood of Christ applied to my soul by a lively faith, as the water of purification was sprinkled with a bunch of hyssop. The blood of Christ is called the blood of sprinkling, ( Hebrews 12:24 ) . If this blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin, cleanse us from our sin, then we shall be clean indeed, ( Hebrews 10:2 ) . He asks not to be comforted, till he is first cleansed; if sin, the bitter root of sorrow, be taken away, he can pray in faith, Let me have a well-grounded peace, of thy creating, so that the bones broken by convictions may rejoice, may be comforted. Hide thy face from my sins; blot out all mine iniquities out of thy book; blot them out, as a cloud is blotted out and dispelled by the beams of the sun. And the believer desires renewal to holiness as much as the joy of salvation. David now saw, more than ever, what an unclean heart he had, and sadly laments it; but he sees it is not in his own power to amend it, and therefore begs God would create in him a clean heart. When the sinner feels this change is necessary, and reads the promise of God to that purpose, he begins to ask it. He knew he had by his sin grieved the Holy Spirit, and provoked him to withdraw. This he dreads more than anything. He prays that Divine comforts may be restored to him. When we give ourselves cause to doubt our interest in salvation, how can we expect the joy of it? This had made him weak; he prays, I am ready to fall, either into sin or into despair, therefore uphold me with thy Spirit. Thy Spirit is a free Spirit, a free Agent himself, working freely. And the more cheerful we are in our duty, the more constant we shall be to it. What is this but the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free, which is contrasted with the yoke of bondage? ( Galatians 5:1 ) . It is the Spirit of adoption spoken to the heart. Those to whom God is the God of salvation, he will deliver from guilt; for the salvation he is the God of, is salvation from sin. We may therefore plead with him, Lord, thou art the God of my salvation, therefore deliver me from the dominion of sin. And when the lips are opened, what should they speak but the praises of God for his forgiving mercy?

Verses 16-19 Those who are thoroughly convinced of their misery and danger by sin, would spare no cost to obtain the remission of it. But as they cannot make satisfaction for sin, so God cannot take any satisfaction in them, otherwise than as expressing love and duty to him. The good work wrought in every true penitent, is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. It is a heart that is tender, and pliable to God's word. Oh that there were such a heart in every one of us! God is graciously pleased to accept this; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not. He will not overlook it, he will not refuse or reject it; though it makes God no satisfaction for the wrong done to him by sin. Those who have been in spiritual troubles, know how to pity and pray for others afflicted in like manner. David was afraid lest his sin should bring judgements upon the city and kingdom. No personal fears or troubles of conscience can make the soul, which has received grace, careless about the interests of the church of God. And let this be the continued joy of all the redeemed, that they have redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace.

Cross References 46

  • 1. S 2 Samuel 24:14; S Psalms 9:13
  • 2. S Psalms 25:7; S Psalms 119:88
  • 3. S Nehemiah 9:27; Psalms 86:15; Isaiah 63:7
  • 4. S 2 Samuel 12:13; S 2 Chronicles 6:21; S Nehemiah 4:5; Acts 3:19
  • 5. S Psalms 39:8; Isaiah 43:25; Colossians 2:14
  • 6. S Ruth 3:3; Jeremiah 2:22; Jeremiah 13:27; Acts 22:16; 1 John 1:9
  • 7. Proverbs 20:30; Isaiah 4:4; Ezekiel 36:25; Zechariah 13:1; Matthew 23:25-26; Hebrews 9:14
  • 8. Isaiah 59:12
  • 9. S 1 Samuel 15:24
  • 10. S Genesis 20:6; Luke 15:21
  • 11. Romans 3:4*
  • 12. S Leviticus 5:2; Job 14:4
  • 13. S Job 5:7
  • 14. Psalms 119:66; Psalms 143:10; Proverbs 2:6
  • 15. S Job 9:4; S Job 34:32; Psalms 15:2
  • 16. Isaiah 4:4; Ezekiel 36:25; Zechariah 13:1
  • 17. S Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4; S Numbers 19:6; Hebrews 9:19
  • 18. Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22
  • 19. Isaiah 35:10; Jeremiah 33:11; Joel 1:16
  • 20. S Exodus 12:46
  • 21. Jeremiah 16:17; Zechariah 4:10
  • 22. S 2 Samuel 12:13
  • 23. S Psalms 24:4; Psalms 78:37; Matthew 5:8; Acts 15:9
  • 24. Ezekiel 18:31; Ezekiel 36:26
  • 25. Psalms 27:9; Psalms 71:9; Psalms 138:8
  • 26. S Genesis 4:14; S Exodus 33:15
  • 27. Psalms 106:33; Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30
  • 28. S Job 33:26; Psalms 13:5
  • 29. Psalms 110:3
  • 30. S Psalms 18:35
  • 31. S Exodus 33:13; Acts 9:21-22
  • 32. S Psalms 1:1
  • 33. S Job 33:27; Psalms 22:27
  • 34. S Psalms 39:8
  • 35. S 2 Samuel 12:9
  • 36. Psalms 25:5; Psalms 68:20; Psalms 88:1
  • 37. S Psalms 5:8; Psalms 35:28; Psalms 71:15
  • 38. Exodus 4:15; Psalms 9:14
  • 39. S 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalms 40:6
  • 40. Proverbs 15:8; Haggai 2:14
  • 41. Matthew 11:29; Psalms 34:18
  • 42. Psalms 102:16; Psalms 147:2; Isaiah 14:32; Isaiah 51:3; Zechariah 1:16-17
  • 43. Psalms 69:35; Isaiah 44:26
  • 44. Deuteronomy 33:19; Psalms 4:5
  • 45. Psalms 66:13; Psalms 96:8; Jeremiah 17:26
  • 46. Psalms 66:15

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. In Hebrew texts 51:1-19 is numbered 51:3-21.
  • [b]. Or "The sacrifices of God are"

Chapter Summary

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. The occasion of this psalm was the sin of David with Bathsheba, signified by "going in to her"; an euphemism for "lying with her"; which sin was a very aggravated one, she being another man's wife, and the wife of a servant and soldier of his, who was at the same time exposing his life for his king and country's good; and David besides had many wives, and was also king of Israel, and should have set a better example to his subjects; and it was followed with other sins, as the murder of Uriah, and the death of several others; with scandal to religion, and with security and impenitence in him for a long time, until Nathan the prophet was sent to him of God, to awaken him to a sense of his sin; which he immediately acknowledged, and showed true repentance for it: upon which, either while Nathan was present, or after he was gone, he penned this psalm; that it might remain on record, as a testification of his repentance, and for the instruction of such as should fall into sin, how to behave, where to apply, and for their comfort. The history of all this may be seen in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the second book of Samuel.

Psalms 51 Commentaries

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