Psalms 51

July 1, 2018

Psalm 51

READ: Psalm 51

PRAY: That God may open His Word to us by the power of His Spirit. That we may grow in our knowledge and love of Jesus. That we may share this joy in all our lives and to those around us.

I have a confession to make. When I was younger, when reading my Bible, I often skipped past the Psalms, because for the most part I thought they were kind of boring. I wanted to read the stories: the history, the gospels, the strange illustrations of the end times. However, as I have grown older, I have realized that a big portion of life is not just the war around us, but the war within. That is the spiritual, emotional, and convicting battle against the very thing that leads us away from God: our own hearts.

Psalm 51 is an incredible example of a song that exposes the heart of a man who had just done the unspeakable and, having been shown his own sinfulness, has to come face-to-face with his need for God. You see, this psalm is King David’s response to God, who through the prophet Nathan, had just demonstrated the fullness of David’s hypocrisy. The story of this song is incredible. David had just slept with one of his soldier’s wives, gotten her pregnant, and had him secretly killed to cover it all up. For a man whom the Bible describes as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), this seems unfathomable. How could God honor, bless, or forgive such a man? The action is all around this story, but the war within was even greater, and laid out on the page before us in this psalm.

It is important to read the whole of this psalm, because it is one of the more gut-wrenching and gritty passages in the Bible, especially when you realize that these are not just flowery words of contrition, but the desperation cries of a man who had no righteousness to stand on and knew it. 

Too often we focus solely on the love of God, His grace, and the good things He does for us. Too little do we take the time to truly look at our own broken hearts, face the Living God and confess, for real. If we are honest, we all know our own sin, but don’t like facing it, especially publically. David wrote this psalm, the song of his undoing, and gave it to the choirmaster to be sung publically. 

One of the things that I have grown to love in our services at City Church is the public confessional prayer we say aloud together before taking the Lord’s Supper. This is not just ritual, it is part of the remembrance of the act of communion. Following the passage on the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul gives an incredible stern warning about coming to the Lord’s Table without a contrite and clean heart as David describes. Paul says in verses 28-32:

Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

The beauty of this moment of confession – of real contrition – lies in the things about God that David cries out for. God does not despise brokenness; instead, He shows mercy. He does not lay out condemnation, but blots and cleans our hearts, and most of all gives us the joy of His salvation. There is no greater treasure. Amen.


1.     What do you need to confess? How can we daily seek the joy of God’s salvation by first seeking a contrite heart?

2.     Is there any sin in your life that you have been hiding or trying to keep in the dark? What’s holding you back from bringing it into the light? Who do you need to confess it to? 


DIVING DEEPER:  There are many great modern songs based on Psalm 51.  Two of my favorites are “Create in me Clean Heart” by Keith Green. Keith’s story is amazing and his biography “No Compromise” is one of my favorite books. A second song is Sojourn Music’s “Only Your Blood” which is based on Isaac Watts’ version of Psalm 51. What other songs of confession are you familiar with? How can singing these renew our focus to God?





Psalm 51

1 Be gracious to me, God, according to your faithful love; according to your abundant compassion, blot out my rebellion.

2 Completely wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you—you alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight. So you are right when you pass sentence; you are blameless when you judge.

5 Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire integrity in the inner self, and you teach me wisdom deep within.

7 Purify 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 Turn your face away from my sins and blot out all my guilt.

10 God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not banish me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach the rebellious your ways, and sinners will return to you.

14 Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God— God of my salvation— and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; you are not pleased with a burnt offering.

17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God.

18 In your good pleasure, cause Zion to prosper; build the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then you will delight in righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.