Psalm 51 Lynne McCarthy 4/29/22
Observe: A man is racked with guilt and shame; memories of past sin haunt him. He craves mercy because of his terrible, multiple wrongs. No ordinary man (though it could be anybody); this is David, King David, chosen and loved by God. How could he sin, having such a special place in God’s heart?
He recounts first his appeal for mercy (1,2) then in agonies of conscience, recognizes he deserves God’s just judgment. But David longs for a new sense of God’s presence; humble repentance compels him to ask to hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have broken rejoice (8) – there’s no self-flagellation here, but His Presence will blot out (remove) the stain of sin that He cannot look upon.
Verses 10-12 are powerful and poignant. God has indeed made his heart new, but rather than removing His Spirit, as David feared, He answers his appeal for mercy. Remembering Uriah’s murder he prays, Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O Lord … and my tongue will sing aloud of Your salvation. (14). If God can forgive this evil, He can forgive all else, so David asks for a renewed disposition of heart: … open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise (15), and later, a broken and contrite heart (17), a sacrifice to honour God.
His people, united as broken penitents who follow His covenant and worship Him, foreshadow His Church, sharing in God’s life. (18, 19)
Interpret: Probably the best-known of David’s Penitential Psalms. He knows guilt and implores God, in penitence, for His mercy. His sin? He looked, but didn’t look away, look became desire, desire became a sequence of horrific actions: deception, murder, adultery. But this man after God’s own heart couldn’t remain in his guilt and shame; he runs to his God and repents, voicing his wrongdoing, asking for mercy, and receives it.
The Holy Spirit is rarely spoken of regarding the interior life in the Hebrew Bible – the only references are v. 11b here, and Ezek. 36:27.
Apply: As we recognize our sin, we come to God for His mercy and forgiveness. Our spirits are renewed and refreshed in knowing He has truly forgiven us – proven by Jesus and His cross. As He gave David grace, so He gives to us in our need.
But we must: 1. Recognize that we have sinned (specifics and humility needed here); 2. Take hold of that gift of humility, confessing our wrongs to the one we hurt, if possible (Mt. 5:23), then come to God to ask for His mercy; 3. Cleansed now, we make efforts to remove ourselves from agents or environments of sin. But if in our weakness, we do fail -- 4. Repeat the above, again and again, until we know that this sin has no dominion over us (Rom 6:14).
We thank God for conscience and ask Him to clear it so we don’t fall into self-condemnation, self-pity; nor do we ignore it, hoping the proddings go away. They won’t, until we come before God for His help in time of need.
Ask: Jesus, I’m so weak and fall away from You so often, with such ease, and I am ashamed. Would You cleanse the thoughts of my heart, to grow my desire to remain in You? Would You keep me close to Your heart?
Pray: Lord, Your property is always to have mercy. Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the blood of the Lamb and the breath of Your Spirit that I may come to You in humble praise and thanks for Your great mercy. Lead me away from temptation by Your mercy and grace. Let me always be thankful that You, God of all comfort, are Mercy itself.
Song: Psalm 51 Sons of Korah A Broken Spirit and Contrite Heart https://youtu.be/8RnDuwbz5UI
Basilica of the Holy Trinity A Prayer of Repentance https://youtu.be/5NQjfIOmGkk
Create in Me (Tom Kendzia)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.