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THE superscription informs us both as to the author of the psalm, and the occasion of its composition. “To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.” The contents of the psalm accord with the superscription on both points. For the history of the painful circumstances, see 2 Samuel 11:0 and 2 Samuel 12:1-14.
That the psalm is addressed “To the Chief Musician” shows that it was not merely a private confession of the poet’s guilt to God, but a public expression of his penitence. Hengstenberg, quoting the Marburg Bible, says: “ ‘David wrote this psalm not for himself alone to be used as a prayer, but for those also who had charge of the temple music, that he might again edify, by his repentance, the people of God, whom he had offended by his sin; and till then he had no rest in his bosom, as he confesses in Psalms 32:2.’ This publicity in the confession of the sin was quite as great a work of God’s grace in David, as the depth of his knowledge in regard to it. Nature must have struggled hard against it. But the design of the publicity he gives us in Psalms 51:13. He would, through his repentance, lead others to the same.”
THE PENITENT’S PSALM
“This psalm,” says Robertson, “written three thousand years ago, might have been written yesterday: it describes the vicissitudes of spiritual life in an Englishman as truly as of a Jew. ‘Not of an age, but for all time.’ ” We have here—
I. The Penitent’s Confession. Confession is not a single act. It comprehends, at least, three things: (α.) A right estimate of sin. The true penitent regards sin not as mere misdirection, or the result of imperfect development, but as the guilty violation of a holy law. (β.) A right feeling in relation to sin. The sincere penitent loathes sin, and “grieves for having grieved his God.” (γ.) Right conduct in relation to sin. He endeavours to forsake sin, and to follow after holiness. The Psalmist in his confession—
1. Recognises the evil of sin. He regards it
(1). As an unrighteous thing. “Mine iniquity.” Sin is a reversal of true moral relations and order.
(2.) As a breach of moral law. “My transgressions.” By his sins he had violated the holy laws of the supreme and gracious Sovereign.
(3.) As a defiling thing. He felt himself utterly polluted by his sins, and asks again and again for cleansing. Thus David recognises the essential evil of sin, and its injurious influence upon human life and character. He does not attempt to palliate its wickedness; but exhibits unmistakably its blackness, and deformity, and blasting power.
2. Recognises the sin as his own. “My transgressions … mine iniquity … my sin.” We are prone to try to shift the responsibility of our sins from ourselves to others. We blame the circumstances in which we were placed, or the temptations by which we were assailed, or the tendencies which we have inherited, or the training which we have received. But of this we find nothing in this penitential psalm. David feels that the sin and guilt of his crimes were his, and his only. “I acknowledge my transgression,” &c. “I have sinned,” &c. His sins appeared so aggravated to him, that he could only express his feeling in this respect by saying that he was born in sin. As Robertson says, “He lays on himself the blame of a tainted nature, instead of that of a single fault: not a murder only, but of a murderous nature. ‘Conceived in sin.’ From his first moments up till then, he saw sin—sin—sin: nothing but sin.” Sin and guilt cannot be transferred from one to another. If I do evil, the guilt is my own. “Every man shall bear his own burden.” The Divinely-awakened conscience ever feels this—confesses this—says, “I acknowledge my transgressions.”
3. Regards sin as hostile to God. “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned,” &c. The Most High has no complicity with evil. Sin is ever to Him the “abominable thing which He hates.” He brings good out of evil, overrules evil for the accomplishment of His glorious purposes. Yet He is not the author of evil, but its sworn and uncompromising antagonist. His laws in both the material and spiritual realms are against it; His administration is against it; His great redemption is against it; His essential nature is utterly opposed to it. True penitence feels this, and says, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned.” David had sinned grievously against human society; but it was the fact that his offences were wrongs against his God that chiefly impressed and distressed him. All sins against man are sins against God also. You cannot harm your fellow-man without wronging God. “Every blow struck against humanity is a blow struck against God.” A fact this pregnant with solemn suggestions. Thus the confession of this royal penitent expresses the judgments and emotions of the penitent heart to day.
II. The penitent’s prayer. The Psalmist prays for,—
1. Forgiveness of his sins. “Have mercy upon me, O God,” &c. (Psalms 51:1). “Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.” Confession and forgiveness are inseparably connected (Psalms 32:5; Luke 17:3-4; 1 John 1:9). Confession is not the efficient cause of forgiveness, but it is its indispensable condition. It is “a necessary basis of forgiveness.” The figures here used to denote forgiveness give clearness and prominence to the idea of its completeness. “Blot out my transgressions, … blot out all mine iniquities:” as the account of a debt is wiped away or cancelled by the creditor, or as a cloud is dispelled by the beams of the sun. “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins.” “Hide Thy face from my sins;” do not regard them; “cast all my sins behind Thy back;” remember them against me no more for ever.
2. Cleansing and renewal of his spirit. “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” “Mark the thoroughness of this desire. Not only must sin be blotted out, but the sinner himself must be washed and cleansed. There must not be merely a change of state, but a change of nature. Not only must the debt be forgiven, but all disposition to contract further debt must be eradicated. All true and lasting change must be made in the nature. The heart is the seat of all wrong. Hence no prayer will avail that does not come from the heart, and express the deepest and holiest aspirations of the soul. Such was David’s prayer.”—Parker.
3. Restoration of the joy of salvation. “Make me to hear joy and gladness. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” Here are three ideas
(1.) The experience of the salvation of God is joyous. The joy of assured forgiveness, of the Divine favour, of exalted hopes, &c.
(2.) By indulgence in sin man forfeits this joy. David did so.
(3.) By sincere penitence and prayer those who have lost this joy may regain it.
4. Preservation from sin and ruin. “Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy holy Spirit from me. Uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” David’s great fear was that God might abandon him, might leave him to himself. To the penitent soul exile from God would be the deepest misery. And feeling his weakness and proneness to fall into sin, the Psalmist entreats God to uphold and keep him. Such are the main points in this penitent’s prayer. We shall do well to heed one feature of it to which Robertson gives clear and forcible expression. This prayer “is not the trembling of a craven spirit in anticipation of torture, but the agonies of a noble one in the horror of being evil.… Do you fancy that men like David, shuddering in sight of evil, dreaded a material hell? I venture to say, into true penitence the idea of punishment never enters. If it did, it would be almost a relief: but, oh! those moments in which a selfish act has appeared more hideous than any pain which the fancy of a Dante could devise! when the idea of the strife of self-will in battle with the loving will of God prolonged for ever, has painted itself to the imagination as the real Infinite Hell! when self-concentration and the extinction of love in the soul has been felt as the real damnation of the Devil-nature!”
III. The penitent’s resolution. David resolves that, when the joy of salvation is restored to him—
1. He will seek the conversion of sinners. “Then will I teach transgressors Thy ways.” The forgiven penitent will seek to lead others to the source whence he has derived his blessing, that they also may partake of it. The ways of God which David would teach transgressors are
(1) The way which He would have sinners pursue,—the way of penitence. And
(2) The way which He pursues towards sinners,—the way of rich and free forgiving mercy. Now the converted man is fitted to teach transgressors these ways. He knows them; for he has trodden the one and experienced the other. He alone is fitted to teach these ways. It is essential that he who would teach others the way of salvation knows that way experimentally himself. He is also impelled to teach transgressors these ways. Gratitude urges him to do so, forbids him to be silent. He must tell others of the blessings he has received, and urge them to seek them for themselves. “We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” “Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me,” &c.
2. He will worship God. “My tongue shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness.… My mouth shall show forth Thy praise. For Thou desirest not sacrifice,” &c. (See “The Hom. Com.” on Psalms 40:6-8; Psalms 50:7-15.)
(1.) The one great sacrifice for sin has been offered and accepted, and is gloriously perfect (Hebrews 10:1-18).
(2.) Our sacrifice of praise, our thank-offerings of gifts to the cause of God, are worthless in His sight unless they proceed from feelings of sincere devotion and gratitude.
(3.) When the heart is moved by penitence, and gratitude, and reverence, it will offer itself in praise to God, and in service in His cause. When the heart is truly sacrificed to God, all other possessions will be freely offered to Him. On this point, the testimony of Psalms 51:19 is conclusive. David would not content himself with offering the sacrifices prescribed by the ceremonial law, but would offer himself to God in humblest penitence and heartiest praise. This self-sacrifice is the very soul of all acceptable sacrifices. David anticipates, as a result of his restoration, that—
3. The whole Church would praise God (Psalms 51:18-19). He feared lest, by reason of his sins, the Divine judgments should fall upon the city and kingdom, or the Divine favour be withdrawn from them. No man stands alone. The sin of one man may lead to the injury or even to the ruin of many others. David, therefore, implores the manifestation of the Divine favour in granting them security and prosperity. And he promises that then acceptable sacrifices—the costliest sacrifices offered by sincere worshippers—shall be presented unto Him.
NOTE—The exposition of this psalm might be suitably divided into three discourses,—one, on The Confession; another, on The Petitions; and the third, on The Resolutions of the Penitent.
AN INDISPENSABLE PRAYER FOR EVERY ONE
(Psalms 51:2. “Cleanse me from my sin.”)
I. The need you have to offer this prayer.
1. You cannot cleanse yourselves from sin. The guilt of your sin you cannot blot out. The pollution of your sin you are equally unable to take away.
2. You cannot live happily without you are cleansed from sin. Surely, as the shadow follows the substance, sorrow follows sin, and joy holiness.
3. You cannot die peacefully unless you are cleansed from sin. “The sting of death is sin.”
4. You cannot be acquitted at the Divine tribunal except you are cleansed from sin. “We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ,” &c.
5. You cannot be admitted into heaven without you are cleansed from your sin. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth,” &c.
6. You cannot escape hell unless you are cleansed from your sin. There is no world between heaven and hell. “The wicked shall be turned into hell,” &c.
II. The requisites you must possess to present this prayer successfully.
1. You must be alive to your sin. Men must be convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, before they will be anxious to be saved. Where guilt is not felt, pardon will not be desired.
2. You must see that your sin has been committed against God. Every evil deed perpetrated is done against the Almighty. This David felt.
3. You must take the blame of your sin to yourselves. The common practice is to attribute it to the tempter. Adam laid it on his wife, and Eve cast it on the serpent. Like them we seek to exculpate ourselves. But there must be the impression that we are utterly inexcusable, &c.
4. You must be desirous to part with your sin. Unwilling as men are to forsake their vicious course, they would fain be quit of its dire consequences. But he who will have his sin must have its evils. The cause must be removed before its effects can.
5. You must be sorry for your sin. There is a fitness between contrition and pardon; but there is none between impenitence and remission. The penitent are in a proper state to be forgiven; the impenitent are not.
6. You must have faith in the cleansing efficacy of Christ’s blood. Requisite as are the foregoing to your being in a proper condition to ask or to have the blessings spoken of, they cannot, if relied on, secure it, as there is not the slightest merit in them. The only merit on the ground of which we can be redeemed from all iniquity is in Christ, and in Him alone. For Him to be your redemption you must have faith in His blood.
In conclusion, have you prevailingly urged this petition?—JOHN SMITH. Abridged from “The Congregational Pulpit.”
THE CHIEF EVIL OF SIN
Psalms 51:4. “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight.”
Since the crimes of the Psalmist were of that class which are most directly against society, and since he appears at the time to have regarded them in that very relation, what is the import of the phrase, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned”? The following is the only possible solution. Notwithstanding the deep sense of his crime, as viewed in its social relation, he had such an overwhelming sense of its enormity as committed against God, that it threw into comparative obscurity the injury to man. This language, therefore, dictated by the Divine Spirit, must afford ample authority for the following doctrine:—
The evil of sin consists chiefly in its being committed against God.
This doctrine does not, in the least degree, invalidate the obligations of mortals to each other; or diminish the guilt of crimes viewed merely in their social relation. The man who considers the chief evil of sin to consist in a violation of Divine obligations, has as strong a view of social obligations, as he who overlooks all duty to God, and makes human injury the only criterion of guilt. That sin is an evil, so far as it infringes on the rights and happiness of fellow-mortals, is admitted by all. But the Word of God compels us to believe, that the same transgressions are an immensely greater evil considered as offences against God. Should any one ask, “Why is it a thousand-fold worse for me to murder my neighbour than if God had not forbidden it?” I answer,—
1. Because God is your Maker. We who are parents claim the right to command our children; and, when they disobey, we place the main point of their offending in simple disobedience. And what is the aggravation of violating a parent’s authority, compared with that of rebellion against the Eternal Father of our spirits?
2. God sustains us. From the dawn of our existence to this hour, He has been mindful of us, with more than a parent’s tender care. Amid countless dangers, He has cast His shield about us.
3. He has encompassed us with countless blessings. For us the rivers flow, the oceans roll, the clouds distil, and the seasons keep their appointed times. His sun is made to light us by day—His moon and stars by night. To shield us from cold, He has provided raiment—from heat, a shade—from storms, a shelter.
4. He has prepared a heaven for our eternal home. It is the abode of His own infinite blessedness, the palace of His glory, and the home of holy angels.
5. When we had forfeited this bright heaven, and plunged ourselves in guilt and woe, God gave His own dear Son to redeem us. To achieve this work, it was needful that the Saviour take upon Himself the form of a servant, be made under the law, pass a life of suffering and scorn, and, finally, be crucified by wicked hands. Yet to all this He submitted, not by constraint, but willingly——nay, joyfully.
6. God has given us a revelation comprising the knowledge and motives requisite for the attainment of this great salvation. And how is this sacred volume filled with entreaties to sinful man to flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on the hope set before him!
7. He bears long with us, as a race of guilty beings, and as individuals. Each spared sinner is a perfect demonstration of the infinite goodness of God. And the aged impenitent is as great a monument of the Divine forbearance as he is of guilt. Reflect, then, that against this same God you have committed every sin that has polluted your life. Under this conviction, if your conscience be not dead, you cannot but exclaim with the Psalmist, “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned,” &c.
From the foregoing we may draw the following inferences:—
1. The punishment denounced against the wicked is manifestly just.
2. There is not so great a difference as men often imagine between different kinds of sin. I would not deny that “some sins in themselves are more heinous in the sight of God than others.” Nor would I at all intimate an equality of guilt among transgressors possessing different degrees of light, or actuated by different degrees of malignity.… But we have seen that the chief evil of sin consists in its violation of Divine obligation. Let no one, then, speak of small sins—little offences—and assign as his reason that he injures no one but himself,—that he does not infringe on the rights of his fellow-men. It is idle and delusive and impious to indulge in thus comparing and extenuating our crimes of rebellion against the infinite Sovereign. Each sin, thus viewed, is of magnitude sufficient to sink a world.
3. The most upright man is a great sinner. Suppose him perfectly honest—exculpate him from falsehood—and say that he never injured the character or feelings of any mortal. A human tribunal would then acquit him. But has he kept all God’s commandments? &c.
4. We are taught by this doctrine our need of Christ’s atonement. And the glorious work is accomplished, and a ready pardon offered, &c.
5. We see the nature of true conviction. It consists in seeing and feeling the evil of sin as committed against God. Fear of punishment is often mistaken for conviction; but it is really not even a necessary part of it. Real conviction does not cease at conversion, but increases with our growth in grace and knowledge of God. David, Isaiah, and Paul appeared to feel it with increasing emotion, and to loathe and abhor themselves, and repent in dust and ashes.—Ralph Emerson, A.M. Abridged from “The Preacher’s Treasury.”
A sermon useful when it goes with a man to his closet, as well as affects him for the present. Nathan’s to David. Hyssop—alluding to the cleansing the leper (Leviticus 14:1-7). Or to the waters of separation (Numbers 19:0) Observe:—
I. When God leads us to reflect on our sins, we feel ourselves awfully polluted. David in the text. (Job 42:1-6; Psalms 38:4; Isaiah 6:1-5; Isaiah 64:6; Ezekiel 20:43; Luke 15:17-19; Luke 18:13; Acts 2:36-37; Titus 3:3.) O my soul! O my hearers! reflect
II. The blood of Jesus Christ is even more than a remedy for the foulest iniquities. “Whiter than snow” (Romans 5:20-21). How?
1. As it makes the penitent more acceptable to God, and more secure in His favour than Adam in Paradise. (Luke 15:7; Luke 15:22; Luke 15:32; Romans 8:1, &c.; Ephesians 1:6; Ephesians 5:27; Colossians 3:3-4.)
2. As it excites them to obey God in resisting temptation more than Adam. (Genesis 3:11-13, compared with Ephesians 6:11-17; Revelation 12:10-11.)
3. As God will be more glorified in recovering a fallen sinner, than in making man upright. As Redeemer than as Creator. As the God of grace in the Gospel than as Law-Giver. (Isaiah 44:22-23; Luke 2:10-14; 2 Corinthians 3:7-11; 1 Peter 1:11-12.)
4. As the happiness of the penitent will be ultimately greater than that of Adam in Paradise. (Revelation 7:9, &c.)
III. This remedy becomes effectual by an application to our own case. See text. As food—physic—clothing, &c. Noah’s ark. The brazen serpent. The cities of refuge.
IV. The application of this remedy to ourselves is to be sought in prayer. See text. (Psalms 106:4-5; Psalms 130:1-6; Luke 18:13.)
V. Though God has pardoned the penitent he can scarcely believe it, and will be applying for pardon again and again. Thus David in this psalm, though Nathan had told him of God’s forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:13).
1. Alarm to sinners impenitent and unpardoned in their sins.
2. Caution to the self-righteous.
3. Bless God for the cleansing blood of Jesus, and use it to God’s glory,—to your own salvation.—F———r.
DAVID’S PRAYER AND VOW
There is an essential difference between the prayers offered up under the influence of habit merely, and those which are induced by a deep sense of guilt, dependence, and want. When David uttered the words before us, he felt that he needed the grace and mercy of his Maker,—consequently his requests were simple, important, and earnest. Perhaps there is no one here that has fallen into sin such as that which the Psalmist had committed—still, there Is no one but may offer up his prayer with the greatest propriety.
I. Let us glance at the petitions. “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” The Psalmist felt that his heart was Defiled—that it was not in his power to cleanse it—he therefore prayed that God would perform the work renew a right spirit within me.” These words refer to the temper of the mind. The Psalmist knew that his was wrong; and, consequently prayed that God would renew a right spirit within him. “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” “Cast me not away from Thy presence.” In the presence of God is “fulness of joy:” therefore, to be cast away from His presence is to be deprived of happiness. “Take not Thy holy spirit from me.” The Spirit of God “helpeth our infirmities:” therefore, to be deprived of the Spirit is to be deprived of help. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter: therefore, to be deprived of the Spirit is to be deprived of comfort. “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation.” The knowledge of salvation produces joy,—this joy the Psalmist had experienced,—it was not his portion when he uttered these words,—he therefore desired its restoration. “Uphold me with Thy free spirit.” Having experienced the sad consequences of falling into sin, the Psalmist here prays that when restored he might be upheld, and prevented from falling again.
II. Notice the predicated results of a gracious answer; or the connection between piety and usefulness. “Then will I teach transgressors Thy way; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.” He that enjoys the blessings of salvation, can speak on religious subjects with more feeling, and, consequently, with more effect than others. This may remind Christians, and especially Christian ministers, that eminent piety is exceedingly desirable, not only on their own account, but also that they may be qualified for extensive usefulness.—“The Young Minister’s Companion.”
THE JOYS OF SALVATION
“The joy of Thy salvation.”
It is God’s salvation. It is no dreamy following of the upward instincts and aspirations of the nature; no trying to be just, pure, and good, and then, if we fail, and become selfish, sensual, and devilish, forgetting the failure and trying again, always trying, always hoping, with a vague belief that though sin always gets the better of us, there is some good thing in us which, after all, cannot be lost. Neither is it a vague reliance on God’s goodness and mercy, a feeling that He is a Father, and cannot, therefore, doom His children to despair and death. These dreams and hopes are the salvations which men provide for themselves: but they are not, nor are they like, God’s salvation.
God’s salvation rests upon the knowledge of God’s Himself, as He has revealed Himself—His name—His word—His promises—His work; whereby, not by our own dreams or hopes, but by His declaration, “We have strong consolation,” &c. It is one thing to feel that He is a Father, and must be full of love to His children; it is another thing to hear Him say, “I am a Father; I love as no human father can love, &c. (John 3:16-17). It is one thing to trust vaguely to God’s goodness for pardon; it is another thing to hear Him say, “Come now, and let us reason together,” &c.; and to follow His guiding finger till we behold “the Lamb of God,” &c. It is one thing to have our hopes and instincts looking on towards immortality, &c.; it is another thing to see “life and immortality brought to light by the Gospel,” to stand by the unsealed tomb of Lazarus and hear such awful words as these, “I am the resurrection, and the life:” &c. (John 11:25-44; John 14:1-5; John 20:17).
The man who has received these truths from God, these gifts of God, and knows why and “whom he has believed,” is the man in whom the joys of God’s salvation abound. He has God’s salvation; his ground is the everlasting rock, the Word of God. What are its joys?
I. The joy of a sufficient and final answer to the self-upbraidings of a guilty soul. The sense of guilt, the dread of doom, must be disposed of, before there can be any freedom, any upright, manly activity, any pure and lasting joy. The man who wakes up to comprehend the breadth and the depth of God’s law, stands self-condemned. All refuges of lies have vanished, the naked realities appear, and his sin clouds over utterly the heaven of God’s love. The sense of guilt torments him. “O miserable man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” This question of the purging of guilt is the fundamental question of all the religions of heathendom—of all simple, untutored souls (Micah 6:6-8). To this questioning there is but one joyful answer: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” &c. (Romans 7:25; Romans 8:1-4; Romans 8:33-39). The burden falls off; the darkness is chased by dawn.
II. The joy of a portion which satisfies the heart’s largest conceptions and desires. “My soul panteth for God, for the living God.” There is that in man which the knowledge of the living God only can satisfy, which, having God, has all things in Him. We know what it is to love the creature—to feel that the love and communion of some fond, fair idol would make the bliss of earth, the bliss of eternity. He has the joys of God’s salvation who has done with idols—who loves only that which has eternal beauty and fairness in the creature, and finds that he has the very substance of all that may be loved in the Lord. The commerce between the believing soul and Christ is the ravishing sweetness of the present—the hope of unclouded vision, of unbounded communion, is the glorious treasure of the future.
III. The joy of an answer to all the difficulties and perplexities which beset the spirit and the intellect in their progress. I do not say that the believer, in full communion with Christ and with the joys of His salvation, is freed from the mental and the moral cares which beset the path of a soul’s progress. That joy—the joy of knowing that doubt, darkness, and the anguish of mental and moral conflict, are done with for ever—we shall realise when we can take up the song, “For I am now ready to be offered,” &c. (2 Timothy 4:6-8). We must win our creed by mental conflict, we must win our crown by moral conflict; hut the joy of God’s salvation is tasted by those who feel that the great central truths, at any rate, are sure. “I know whom I have believed.” I have found the centre; to explore the circumference may be matter of danger, difficulty, suffering, but hope lights the way, the sorrow can never darken into despair. One thing is clear to me, let what will be dark, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” … There is hope of his knowing all things that is good to know, who has already the mind of Christ.
IV. The joy of having the key to all the mysterious ways of Providence in the world. God writes the record of His Providential government in ciphers. We know the cipher; it is a blank to others. To those who know God it is plain and clear. To the soul well grounded in the conviction, “He doeth all things well,” there is no mystery. This or that thing may be difficult to understand; but to him who believes, the mystery, at any rate, is dissipated—the full understanding will come in time. How deadly is the difficulty to those who have not found the key in the love of God in Christ, let these passages show: Job 23:1-9; Job 11:5-10; Isaiah 38:9-19. But “we know that all things work together for good,” &c. And we believe that God forsaketh not the world in all its agonies and perils, for which the Lord Jesus died. We can even take these sorrows, and make them into joys (Romans 5:3; 1 Peter 1:7).
V. The joy of victory over death. It is an awful thing to look upon the face of the dead. Where is the spirit which a moment since? &c. The most dread moment of our experience is before us—every one of us. We may have mastered many agonies; we have yet to wrestle with the agony of death. Then the dearest must leave you; alone you must then face your destiny. As the dear forms of earth grow dim, a grander, more beautiful, more glorious form will come shining through the gloom (Psalms 23:4; 1 Corinthians 15:55-58). “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.”
VI. The joy of living union with God with Christ, with all living and blessed beings, eternally. What is that world? What its speech, its habit, the forms of its life? We know not. The veil hangs over all these (1 John 3:2-3). “We know;” for He is there—the God-man glorified; and the Godman glorified, through trial, suffering, and death, is the key to the life of eternity. This “we know,” for we see Jesus. We can wait to know more till we see Him unveiled in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:9.).
These are the joys of His salvation, and now they are freely offered to you by the Gospel—“Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” Take in your hand NOW the riches that add no sorrow, the joy that leaves no aftertaste of pain; and let “the joy of the Lord be your strength”—strength for duty, strength for making known to others the joys of salvation God has given you as your portion.—J. Baldwin Brown, B.A. Abridged from “Aids to the Development of the Divine Life.”
I. To whom David goes when conviction of sin is brought home to his conscience by the Holy Spirit through the ministry of Nathan.
1. Man shuns and avoids his accuser. It was God who had accused David of his sin. Yet to God he goes with confession of guilt and prayer for forgiveness. When God convinces of sin, turn not away from Him, but, &c.
2. Man shuns and avoids his judge. It was God who had condemned David to suffer in his own family for unholy inroad made on sacred family ties of another. Yet to God he goes. When God lays His hand upon us, let us not turn away from Him who corrects (Hebrews 12:10).
II. The spirit and frame of mind in which he approaches God.
1. As regards himself—with self-abasement. “Deliver me from blood-guiltiness.” Is he not too hard upon himself? Had he actually slain Uriah? He had slain him by sword of children of Ammon (2 Samuel 12:9). True penitent feels he cannot be too hard upon himself. Confesses sin in all its heinousness.
2. As regards God—with hope in His mercy. “Deliver me … O od, Thou God of my salvation.” Were not God the “God of my salvation,” access with favour would be for ever denied. But He is “the God of whom cometh salvation.” And the God of my salvation when I approach Him through Jesus Christ.
III. The prayer of David. “Deliver me,” &c. All of us must make this prayer our own. The blood-guiltiness of David was on account of murder of Uriah. Blood-guiltiness may be ours in one or other of three ways?
1. If condition not by grace changed, miserable in blood-guiltiness, because crucified Son of God.
2. If any of us stand condemned before God at last, miserable in blood-guiltiness, because condemned suicides. Salvation offered will have been despised. The Spirit resisted—Christ rejected.
3. At the last day shall have to answer for others (Genesis 4:9; Proverbs 24:11-12).
Is there not need that we say, with David, “Deliver me,” &c.?
In last clause of text, pious resolve for the future. Delivered from blood-guiltiness, cannot we take up language of Psalmist and say, “And my mouth shall sing,” &c.? Not our own, but His. The answer of peace comes to us in way of righteousness. Our theme of praise and thanksgiving on earth. And in heaven (Revelation 5:12). What shall I render unto the Lord? (Romans 12:1).—R. C. Billing, B.A. Abridged from “The Homiletic Quarterly.”
THE PROSPERITY OF ZION SOUGHT
“Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion.” Consider—
I. The importance of the object sought. David prays for the prosperity of Zion.
1. The Church is exposed to many dangers, and needs to be protected by an almighty arm. David probably feared that by his own sin he had brought danger upon Zion; that God might justly manifest His displeasure by giving her into the hand of her enemies, or by withdrawing His favour from her. The Church of Christ needs preservation
(1) from sectarian or denominational strife;
(2) from disunion and discord in individual churches;
(3) from formality;
(4) from prevalent errors. Hence the importance of the prayer.
2. The Church is imperfect, and its prosperity consists in its improvement. “Do good in Thy,” &c. “Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants,” &c. (Psalms 90:16-17). The prosperity of the Church is promoted—
(1) When there is an increasing adherence to those truths on which primitive Christianity was established.
(2) When under the influence of these truths, the citizens of Zion are persevering in holiness. “The path of the just is as the shining light,” &c.
II. The grounds of encouragement we have in seeking this object. We might refer to some particulars suggested by the words, “Thy good pleasure:” e.g., (α) that God is the Founder of His Church; (β) He established it at the greatest expense. Christ died to redeem it. (γ) In doing good to His Church He is glorifying His Son, who is “Head over all things to the Church;” (δ) The purposes and promises of God to the Church. But—
1. To pray for Zion is a duty enjoined by Divine authority. “Pray,” said Christ, “hallowed be Thy name,” &c. The security, improvement, and success of the Church depend upon prayer.
2. God is the hearer of prayer.
III. The manner in which we should reek this object. We may lose blessings through not seeking them aright. “Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss.”
1. We should ourselves be identified with the Church. 2. We should feel a deep interest in its welfare.
3. We should be constant in prayer for its prosperity; should seek it in our closets, in our families, &c.
4. We should unite in prayer for this object.
5. We should present our prayers in faith.
6. We should be importunate and fervent in prayer for this object. Conclude by endeavouring to enforce this duty upon Christians.—Abridged from an unpublished MS.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 51". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
Eve of Ascension