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David's Penitential Prayer.
To the chief musician, for public performance, as an open confession of David's sin before the whole congregation, showing that his repentance was of the right kind, a psalm of David, when Nathan, the prophet, came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11, 12. For about one year after his terrible sin of adultery David had hardened his heart against repentance, although he had no rest in his conscience during this time, Psalms 32:3-Numbers :. It was when Nathan had thundered the accusation at David, "Thou art the man!" that the latter's resistance was broken and he confessed his sin. He received the word of absolution at once, but was constrained, as he realized the greatness of his transgression more and more, to plead with the Lord for His full mercy, as well as for the strength which would enable him to devote his whole life to the expiation of his guilt before men.
David's Plea for Mercy
v. 1. Have mercy upon me, O God, a confession of utter unworthiness and a cry of faith clinging to God as the only Hope of salvation, according to Thy Loving-kindness, for He forgives sins only for His own sake, not for any merit in us; according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions, God's grace and mercy alone being able to cleanse the believer from the greatness of his wickedness, in this case adultery, murder, and a year of hard-hearted refusal to acknowledge the transgression.
v. 2. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, which is like filth polluting the heart and conscience, and cleanse me from my sin, the term referring to the declaration of the priest by which one who was Levitically unclean was declared pure. God declares the sinner justified through the Word of the Gospel, if the latter but confesses his sin in true repentance.
v. 3. For I acknowledge my transgressions, that is why he was approaching the Lord with such an urgent petition; and my sin is ever before me, it stood before his soul in all its horridness and heinousness. That is the curse attaching to sin, that man cannot forget it, that it rises up before him like a ghost that will not be laid, even though God has long forgiven and forgotten. Lest this condition drive a believer to the despair of Judas, he clings to the Lord, turning to Him again and again for mercy.
v. 4. Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight, for every transgression of the Law, whether it be directed against the First or against the Second Table, is an infraction of the will of God and an insult to His dignity and holiness; for we are responsible to God alone, also in our conduct toward our neighbor, our apology to the neighbor for a wrong committed being a fruit of our repentance over against God; that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest, for every sin that is revealed and punished will in the end serve to set forth the holiness and justice of God, to glorify Him in the perfection of His essence.
v. 5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me; for David, like all men, was sinful from the first moment of conception, flesh born of flesh, filled with all the corruption of mankind, all transgressions in thought, word, and deed being the result of the natural state of sinfulness, and the guilt of both laid upon every individual sinner. David thus made a full and unequivocal confession of the depth of his sin and of its full heinousness.
v. 6. Behold, Thou desirest truth in the inward parts, without the slightest deceit and hypocrisy to mar the value of his confession of sin; and in the hidden part Thou shalt make me to know wisdom, namely, the true wisdom, which has its beginning in the fear of the Lord. The longing for a pure and wise heart is a characteristic of true repentance, and the prayer for this blessing is found with all believers throughout their lives.
v. 7. Purge me with hyssop, a species of marjoram used in ceremonies of purification, Leviticus 14:4, and I shall be clean, declared justified in the eyes of God; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow, looked upon as innocent of any wrong-doing on account of the forgiveness of sins pronounced upon him, Isaiah 1:18.
v. 8. Make me to hear joy and gladness, that is David's confident prayer now that his sins are forgiven, that the bones which Thou hast broken may rejoice, his entire body feeling the relief following the removal of the guilty feeling which rested upon his conscience.
v. 9. Hide Thy face from my sins, turning it away, in order not to see it any longer and thus be incited to new anger and punishment, and blot out all mine iniquities, removing from His presence not only those on whose account he was suffering so severely, but those of his whole life, for a Christian must ask for forgiveness again and again, during his whole life, up to the hour of his death. But it must be the cry of faith clinging to God's promises of mercy.
New Obedience as a Fruit of Faith
v. 10. Create in me a clean heart, O God, the believer's heart having been created anew in conversion, and renew a right spirit within me, establishing his heart and soul so that he was sure of his salvation, and that his mind would be centered upon God's Word, upon the performance of His will.
v. 11. Cast me not away from Thy presence, for he had once felt the excruciating agony of being excluded from the mercy of God and feared a repetition of the experience, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me, so that he would slip back into the impenitent condition of that one terrible year, persist in his opposition to God's gracious influence, and thus be lost. Every believer prays to the Lord to be preserved against the hardening of his heart which leads to rejection of the Gospel-message and to final destruction.
v. 12. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, for that is the height of the believer's happiness, if the Lord turns to him in grace, and uphold me with Thy free spirit, rather, the spirit of willingness will uphold me, namely, in the renewal of his whole life, in working true sanctification in him.
v. 13. Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways, making known to them what God had done for him in delivering him from the misery of his sinful condition; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee, by reason of this open confession and instruction by the mouth of David, to which his gratitude for the mercy experienced would prompt him.
v. 14. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, not only that which was resting upon him on account of his murder of Uriah, but that of all severe transgressions, which are like enemies that try to oppress and enslave, O God, Thou God of my salvation, the mighty Lord of heaven being the only one who could help and deliver in such straits; and my tongue shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness, namely, that imputed to him by the grace of God in the Redeemer.
v. 15. O Lord, open Thou my lips, God Himself giving him the necessary skill and ability to express his thanks in the proper manner, and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise, in an open and joyful song of praise for the grace vouchsafed him.
v. 16. For Thou desirest not sacrifice, namely, as a mere external, mechanical act of worship, else would I give it; Thou delightest not in burnt offering, such as is brought in a mere outward compliance with the letter of the Law, much as God is otherwise pleased to have the true faith of the heart shown in outward acts of worship.
v. 17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, one that is crushed by the consciousness of one's sinfulness; a broken and a contrite heart, one from which all self-righteousness has been removed by the realization of guilt, as shown in the demands of the Law, O God, Thou wilt not despise, in such a one, rather, He takes pleasure, with that He is delighted. Such sacrifices of the heart are then revealed in the corresponding sacrifices of the lips, in praises to God for the wonderful mercy vouchsafed in the forgiveness of sins. In conclusion, David includes himself with the entire congregation of believers.
v. 18. Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion, showing His favor to the congregation of believers named after the Temple-mount; build Thou the walls of Jerusalem, namely, the spiritual walls of His Church, of the true people of God, the underlying thought being that the Lord would not permit the offense of David's transgression to take faith from the heart of any weak believer.
v. 19. Then shalt Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering, David being ready, in the consciousness of the righteousness imputed to him and in the eagerness to make known his change of heart, to bring sacrifices of every kind to expiate for his sins; then shall they offer bullocks upon Thine altar, as an act of thanksgiving for the mercy which he had received. A truly penitent person will offer to the Lord the sacrifices of his heart, of his lips, and of his hands, and the Lord will take pleasure in such offerings, if only the offense of heinous transgressions has first been removed.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Psalms 51". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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