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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 51

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-19

Psalms 51

A Psalm of Repentance

This is a testimony of David, a psalm of earnest repentance, when he had taken to himself Bathsheba to wife, when she was not his wife, maneuvered the death of her husband, that he might take her to wife, when she was begotten with his child, to cover his great sin. Nathan, God’s prophet, had rebuked him of his sin against God, Israel, and Uriah. His sense of guilt was deep, his regret genuine; He confessed to Nathan, "I have sinned," in this matter, 2 Samuel 12:13. He later wrote this psalm, as a temple prayer song, to be sung for the benefit of all Israel. Tho it was a private confession of David, of his sins against God, it was to become a public expression of his penitence before Israel, in which others too might join In repentance.

Scripture v. 1-19:

Verse 1 is a penitent cry for mercy, not justice. Divine justice could have justly slain him for his arrogant, self-willed, premedi­tated sins of adultery and murder. But he pled God’s mercy, loving­kindness, and pardon (the blotting out), to be held against him no more, of all his transgressions. By God’s mercy he had been saved, chosen, and anointed king of Israel, and kept from death on many occasions, Titus 3:5; La 3:22; Colossians 2:14. Sin exists in all men, even those with royal blood, in God’s anointed, even today; All must seek to avoid it, hastily repent, when overcome by it, Romans 3:23; 1 Kings 8:46; Isaiah 1:16-18; 1 John 1:8-9.

Verses 2, 3 call on God, "wash me, and cleanse me," thoroughly from personal iniquity and personal sin, Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:21-22; Revelation 1:5. Transgressions are acts or deliberate deeds of moral wrong against the law of the Lord; and other sins include neglect of worshipping and serving Him as a clean witness. Psalms 32:5. Man needs daily cleansing, which is provided for those who ask for it. 1 John 1:7-9; 1 John 2:2. He added that he acknowledged his transgressions and that his sin was ever, continually, before him, by the work of the Spirit on his conscience, John 16:8; Acts 24:25; Isaiah 59:2.

Verse 4 declares that David had a view of his sins as against the Holy God first, else he would not have broken His commandments in matters of covetousness, theft, adultery, and murder, as forbidden Exodus ch. 20. In sinning against ones fellow man the greater degree of sin is rebellion against God and His laws. For ones fellowman bears the image of God; Thus when one sins against any human being, he sins against God! Romans 3:3-4. See also Genesis 39:9; Leviticus 5:19; Leviticus 15:21.

Verse 5 asserts that David confessed that he was "shapen in iniquity," (Heb cholalti), "brought forth amidst labor pains," in a state, condition, of inherent disposition to practice deeds of iniquitous nature, as set forth, Job 14:4; John 3:6; Romans 5:12-14; Ephesians 2:3. This certifies that one has the germ of sin from conception and birth. Such is called original sin, total hereditary depravity, or birth-sin; Psalms 58:3; James 1:15. Man was created in the likeness of God, "after his image," in a state of holiness, and innocence, Genesis 8:21; But when Adam had sinned, it is declared, "Adam begat a son in his own likeness, after his image," Genesis 5:3. David did not accuse his mother of sin in begetting him; He confessed instead that his deeds of sin sprang from a sin nature, received from the time of conception in his mother’s womb, and from his birth in particular.

Verse 6 restates with affirmative repetition, that God desired righteousness and truth to emanate from the heart; While David acknowledged that his nature was tainted by impulses of sin, from birth. He adds that in the "hidden part," God would make him to know wisdom. For man to be right in life, he must be cleansed of the heart. Else his ways and deeds, no matter how pious, are deceitful and hypocritical, a way David had lived for about a year before praying and writing this prayer psalm, Joshua 24:14; 1 Kings 2:4; John 3:21; John 3:24.

Verse 7 appeals to the Lord to purge, purify, or "cleans him with hyssop" so that he might be clean and wash him that he "might be whiter than snow." This alludes to ceremonial cleansing, required by the law: 1) When one had touched a dead corpse, he could be purged by the sprinkling of water mixed with ashes of the red heifer offering. It was applied with a bunch of .hyssop, Numbers 19:18; Numbers 2) When a leper was cured he was cleansed (ceremonially) with blood and water sprinkled from hyssop, Leviticus 14:4-7. Such was a type of the true offering of our Lord’s blood for the sins of men, Hebrews 9:13-14; Hebrews 9:19; Hebrews 12:24. Thus God condescended in His Son to purge the sins of all who repent, confess, and trust in Him, Isaiah 66:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:21. See also Leviticus 14:4; Leviticus 14:6; Leviticus 14:49; 1 Kings 4:33 identifies hyssop as a little shrub that springs out of the wall.

Verse 8 adds "make or cause me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice." He was weakened in His body, as if His bones were crushed, by piercing, conscious, tormenting guilt of breaking God’s law. The joy of the Spirit had been lost; inward guilt, an accusing conscience hounded him, till he found no rest in his unforgiven sins, v. 11, 12. See also Psalms 6:2; Psalms 38:3; Matthew 5:4. They who mourn, in repentance, shall be comforted, 2 Corinthians 7:11.

Verses 9, 10 petition the Lord to hide His face, turn away from David’s sins, "and blot out all his iniquities." He desired the Lord to "wipe the slate clean," or give him a new leaf, an opportunity to start over again, tho scarred by his sins, v. 2. Verse 10 asks the Lord to create a clean heart (attitude), and renew a right spirit or disposition within him. And this the Lord will do for any who falls and is honest and earnest to confess and begin again; Even as the prodigal did, Luke 15:20-22; John 7:17; John 6:37; 1 John 1:9; Titus 2:14; Ephesians 2:10.

Verse 11 pleads for the Lord to cast him not away from His presence or fellowship, as Cain was driven from the face of God, Genesis 4:14; And as Israel was "cast from His presence," 2 Kings 13:23. But God’s spirit had not ceased striving with him, Genesis 6:3; As he prayed it might not be; For it departed from Saul, 1 Samuel 16:1; 1 Samuel 16:13-14; See also Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 6:4-6.

Verse 12 prays "restore to me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit," or buoy me up with thy dynamic spirit, Romans 8:15; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 4:6-7. He desired to walk in the liberty of the spirit, with a free heart, with no guilt or shame upon his soul, as a free servant indeed, Exodus 35:5; John 8:34-36.

Verse 13 pledges that with forgiven sins, a joyful soul, and the power of the spirit within him, he will "teach trangressors" the ways of the Lord; Tho David. became a "lemon" in sin, he turned it, by repentance, to help transgressors find their way back to God. Blessed are the fallen who rise, and then help others, as David did, and as Peter did, Galatians 6:1; Psalms 126:5-6.

Verses 14-16 are an outcry from a broken and contrite heart for deliverance from "bloodguiltiness" or Uriah’s murder; Followed by a pledge to His God, the God of his salvation, Jonah 2:9, to sing aloud of His righteousness. He begged the Lord. to "open His lips," and cause Him to show forth His praises.

He desired to help all he had misled, Romans 1:14-15. A noble desire, Psalms 107:2. He concluded that the Lord desired not mere sacrifices and burnt offerings, else he would have given them. It takes more than pious ceremonies and gifts to clear the soul of guilt, Isaiah 1:16-18; Psalms 40:6; Psalms 50:8; Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:27; Jeremiah 7:22; Jeremiah 23:27; Amos 5:21; 1 Samuel 15:21-22; Hebrews 9:9.

Verses 17-19 conclude that the true sacrifices God accepts are: 1) the broken heart over sin; and 2) contrite spirit, desiring to have the wrong forgiven. Such, God will not despise, or take lightly, John 6:37; 1 John 1:8-9. He further asks the Lord to do good in His pleasure toward Zion and build up the walls (security) of Jerusalem. Verse 19 certifies that only when the heart and life are right with God are forms, ceremonies, and rituals true symbols of spiritual worship and acceptable before God, Psalms 4:5; Malachi 3:3; John 4:24. This implies full surrender to the will of the Lord, as Isaiah did, Isaiah 6:8; and Paul did, Acts 9:6.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Psalms 51". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/psalms-51.html. 1985.
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