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Deeper Commentary

Psa 51:1 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba- It is amazing how sudden David's proper repentance seems to have come. There is no reason to be unduly afraid of a sudden, emotional confession of sin, prompted by a certain circumstance, as David's was by Nathan's parable. Psalm 51 may well have been prayed but moments after Nathan finished his parable. And Psalm 32, describing the joy of David's repentance, would have followed soon after. The Psalms are several times presented in pairs which are related to each other; and Ps. 50 and 51 are certainly connected.

The language about God not wanting sacrifice is clearly related (Ps. 50:8 = Ps. 51:16,17). The Psalm is a threat of judgment upon God's people, but clearly it is relevant to David. There is a structural connection between the Psalms:


A 50:1–6 About sacrifice and Zion

B 50:7–15 Deliverance and sacrifice

C 50:16–21 The rebuke

D 50:22–23 The call to repent given judgment to come

E 51:1 The appearance of Nathan to condemn David

 D 51:1–2 An appeal to God's grace

C 51:3–9 Confession

B 51:10–17 About sacrifice and deliverance

 A 51:18–19 About sacrifice and Zion.


Have mercy on me, God, according to Your grace. According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions-
Mercies and truth are often references to the promises to Abraham- to bless his seed with forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:25,26). Like us, in crises we are thrown back upon the basics of our faith. The promises to Abraham which re the basis of the new covenant. It is noteworthy that Peter appeals to Israel to repent and be converted “that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19)- quoting the words of Ps. 51:1, where the sin of David with Bathsheba is ‘blotted out’ after his repentance and conversion. Each sinner who repents and is baptized and leads the life of ongoing conversion is therefore living out the pattern of David’s repentance. “Have mercy on me, O God…” is quoted by the publican in Lk. 18:13. He felt that David’s prayer and situation was to be his. And he is held up as the example for each of us. 


David’s experience of God’s grace stayed with him when he faced up to the results of his errors in the future, too. From experience, he can ask to fall into the Lord’s hand rather than man’s, because “his mercies are great” (2 Sam. 24:14)- using the same two Hebrew words he had used when Nathan came to him here in Ps. 51:1 AV: “Have mercy upon me… according unto the multitude [Heb. ‘greatness’] of thy tender mercies”. And so the experience of God’s gracious mercy over one sin fortifies us to believe in His grace when, sadly, we fall again; although, in passing, I think that in 2 Sam. 24, David himself didn’t really do so much wrong. Yet he perceived himself to have sinned, so the point is still established. 

We find the Psalms so often expressing David’s intense anger- even to the extent of contradicting his other more gracious statements about people, and also being at variance with his own beggings for mercy and grace at the time of his sin with Bathsheba. Consider “Hold them guilty, O God; Let them fall by their own counsels; Thrust them out in the multitude of their transgressions; For they have rebelled against thee” (Ps. 5:10). Yet David has to use these very words about himself in Ps. 51:1 when he pleads with God to be merciful to him.  David’s ‘imprecatory Psalms’, in which he asks for bloodcurdling judgments upon his enemies, are hard to justify in the light of Christ’s teachings. They appear to be a continuation of the moments of bitterness, anger and brutality which we saw in the above mentioned historical examples.

Psa 51:2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, cleanse me from my sin-
This in New Testament terms would equate with the desire to be washed and regenerated in baptism. "The washing of regeneration" (Tit. 3:5) may allude here. The Mosaic rituals required sinners or unclean persons to wash themselves, and to cleanse themselves of uncleanness through performing rituals; but David moves closer to the understanding of grace by realizing that he has to ask God to wash him. For there was no help for him in any of the Mosaic rituals, given the nature of his sins. This need for washing from sin is relevant to Judah in their later sinfulness (s.w. Jer. 4:14). Israel were to be encouraged by David's experience that they coild receive "plenteous" redemption (Ps. 130:7; s.w. "wash me thoroughly from my iniquity" in Ps. 51:2), and be "abundantly pardonned" (s.w. Is. 55:7).

Psa 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions-
This very phrase was used by David in insisting that he did not acknowledge any transgression in him whilst in exile from Saul (1 Sam. 24:11). What he said and felt then may have been relatively true, compared to the unspirituality of Saul and the false accusations against him. But perhaps there was an element of the overly self righteous in his words, and the sin with Bathsheba made him realize this. It is the same phrase which is as it were put in the mouth of the repentant exiles in Is. 59:12; they were intended to follow David's path of repentance.


My sin is constantly before me- David's confession of sin in Ps. 51:3,4 is packed with Job allusions; as if Job's physical trials brought about the same effect as David's full recognition of his sin. The extent of his sorrow is heavily stressed: "My sorrow is continually before me... my sin is ever before me" (Ps. 38:17; 51:3 AV). How much sorrow is there for our sins? Have the years mellowed our terror at sin? Things which once appalled us can so easily become sins of habit, the real sorrow we once experienced on committing them can be watered down to just a vague tickle of conscience. The significance of David's sin and repentance being held up as an example of our own should be a good antidote against such problems. The chilling thing is, despite all this awareness of his sin during the nine month period, when he was told the parable by Nathan- he just didn’t fully see it. Every part of the story had such relevant application, but David was blinded to it. He knew he had sinned, but this was only on a surface level. “Thou art the man” was still news to him. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments” (Ps. 119:176) was likely rewritten by David with his mind on his follies relating to Bathsheba. The point, is in the ‘lost’ state, he still remembered the commandments. He didn’t turn his back on God; and neither do we, in our semi-spiritual unspirituality. We can likewise be blinded to true, personal understanding of God’s message because of our refusal to truly repent. Corinth and the Hebrews could not understand the strong meat of the word because they were divided; their divisiveness hindered their understanding. Husbands and wives find their prayers hindered unless they are themselves united. 

I have noted on :1 and :5 that Ps. 51 is presented as David's response to the message of general judgment in Ps. 50. The connection here is to Ps. 50:8, where God says that He doesn't ask for sacrifices to be "constantly before Me" (s.w.). David realizes that. What God wants is for us to have constantly before us a realization of His grace and our position as sinners before Him. 

Psa 51:4 Against You, and You only, have I sinned-
Perhaps David uses the idea of "only" in the sense of "You above all", for he had sinned against Bathsheba, Uriah and other related parties. Or more negatively, we could wonder whether again he is limiting his recognition of sin, by reasoning that he had not sinned against Uriah since he was dead, nor against Bathsheba in that David [wrongly] counted her as equally culpable.

And done that which is evil in Your sight; that You may be proved right when You speak, and justified when You judge- He recognized that God works through our sinfulness- he is effectively saying 'I sinned so that You might be justified...'. These words are quoted in Rom. 3:4,5 in the context of Paul's exultation that "our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God"- in just the same way as David's did! Because God displays His righteousness every time He justifies a repentant sinner, He is in a sense making Himself yet more righteous. We must see things from God's perspective, from the standpoint of giving glory to God's righteous attributes. If we do this, then we can see through the ugliness of sin, and come to terms with our transgressions the more effectively. And Paul quotes David's sin with Bathsheba as our supreme example in this. We along with all the righteous ought to “shout for joy” that David really was forgiven (Ps. 32:11)- for there is such hope for us now. David is our example. And yet the intensity of David’s repentance must be ours. He hung his head as one in whose mouth there were no more arguments, hoping only in the Lord’s grace (Ps. 38:14 RVmg.). Notice too how Ps. 51:1 “Have mercy on me, O God…” is quoted by the publican in Lk. 18:13. He felt that David’s prayer and situation was to be his. And he is held up as the example for each of us. 

David was very conscious that his sin had been "in Your (God's) sight" (Ps. 51:4). The psalms of repentance have several examples of him talking like this. It may be to this Davidic theme that the parable of the prodigal son (i.e. each of us) refers: "I have sinned... in Your sight" (Lk. 15:18,21). It is significant that our Lord's supreme parable of repentance refers back to that of David. It has been observed that there are many connections between the Psalms related to the Bathsheba incident, and those which are especially prophetic of Christ's crucifixion. David's intense suffering on account of sin was therefore prophetic of our Lord's mental and physical suffering for the same reason. He there felt as a condemned sinner, whilst personally spotless, because of the depth of His identification with sinful man. It is truly breathtaking to discern how God works through our sins, to the extent that through the struggle for repentance which they engender, they can associate us with the sufferings of His sinless Son. 

In Rom. 3:4, Paul speaks of how God will “overcome when You are brought to judgment [Gk.]”. “Overcome” is the legal word for winning a case in court. It is our doubts as to the extent of God’s grace, that He abides faithful even throughout our unfaithfulness, which is effectively our bringing God to court, to judgment. Paul is here quoting Ps. 51:4, which were David’s words of reflection upon his sin unto death, and God’s forgiveness of him. He reflected that he had sinned so that God might be justified when He is brought to judgment by us. Again we are up against an amazing grace. God uses our sin, our doubt of His forgiveness, in order to declare Himself yet more righteous when He is put in the dock to answer against our false charges: ‘Is He really able to forgive me that? Will He really not hold this eternally against me? Will I really be saved, sinner that I am? Can God really accept me after what I have done, all I have failed to do as I should, all I have not been...?’. These are the kinds of questions with which we accuse God. Effectively the case against God’s grace is that He will not actually forgive, justify and save weak sinners. And He gloriously wins the case against us. And He even uses our sin, as He used David’s (who becomes a figure of us all), in order to prove this to us and to the world. And so, in a matchless logical tour de force, Paul triumphs in Rom. 3:5: “Our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God".

David confession that he had sinned against God uses the very language of faithful Joseph who refused ongoing sexual temptation with these words (Gen. 39:9). Could this not imply that Bathsheba wife of Uriah was seen by David as similar to Potiphar’s wife? Perhaps she was; or perhaps we are to see here another example of David seeking to mitigate his sin.  There is no hint in the psalms of David's regret for having sinned against an innocent Bathsheba. Her child had to die; the retribution did not just come upon David. The incident is referred to as "the matter of Uriah" (1 Kings 15:5); her name does not figure in those sinned against. "She came in unto him, and he lay with her" (2 Sam. 11:4) is an odd way of putting it; it reverses the usual Biblical reference to intercourse as a man coming in to the woman. The reason for this inversion seems to be to balance the blame. And there seems an evident similarity between the way the sin occurred within the city, and the way Dt. 22:24 says that in cases of adultery both parties were to be stoned if the sin occurred within a city and the woman didn’t cry out. Bathsheba doesn’t seem to have cried out- and so she bears equal blame, it would seem. This makes Bathsheba more of a sinner than a saint. This said, Nathan's parable describes David as killing the sweet lamb (Bathsheba); if she was partly guilty for the actual act, this may suggest a killing of her spirituality by David, at least temporarily. 

"Justified", that God is right and man is wrong, is the central point of the argument, and is the crux of repentance:

A :1 blot out

B :2a wash

C :2b cleanse

D :3 I know

E :4a I sinned

F :4b you are justified

E :5 I... a sinner

D :6 teach me

C :7a clean

B :7b wash

A :9 blot out.

Psa 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity. In sin my mother conceived me-
It could be that David was incorrect in this. His sin made him perhaps blame it upon his being conceived out of wedlock; which would explain the tension between him and his much older brothers. But our biological background is no excuse for sin. Or perhaps David was blaming his sin upon some false idea that human conception, birth and being is of itself sinful. But this isn't the true picture of human nature. For whatever we posit about human nature, we are saying about the Lord Jesus, who fully shared our nature and yet was holy, harmless and undefiled (Heb. 7:26). Clearly being human, having human nature, doesn't of itself alienate God from man. Nor are we inevitable sinners. So it seems to me that here David is here excusing his sin by wrongly blaming it upon such other factors. Again we get the sense so often that David's repentance was not as thorough going as it might have been.

But there is another, somewhat complicated, explanation of these strange words. I noted on :1 that Psalms 50 and 51 are related. By considering this in more detail, we see that this verse is the match to Ps. 50:20:

A 50:2, 5: "Out of ZION... a covenant with me by SACRIFICE"

 B 50:8 "your BURNT OFFERINGS are continually before Me"

C 50:9 "I will not accept a bull from your house"

D 50:15 "call on me... I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me"

 E 50:18–20 recitation of Decalogue

F 50:20 "You slander your own MOTHER’S child"

 G 50:22 call to repentance: you who forget GOD

 H 51:1 Nathan’s confrontation of David

Ga 51:1 prayer of repentance:

Fa 51:5 "a sinner when my MOTHER conceived me"

Ea 51:6 "teach me wisdom"

Da 51:14 "deliver me from bloodshed... and my tongue will sing aloud"

Ca 51:16 "You have no delight in sacrifice"

 Ba 51:16 "if I were to give a BURNT OFFERING"

Aa 51:18, 19 Do good to ZION... then You will delight in right SACRIFICE"

David had been accused of slandering his own mother's son- namely himself and perhaps his brother. Here in Ps. 51:5 he admits that what he has said; he has accused his mother of conceiving in sin, out of wedlock. Perhaps David's tensions with his brothers had led to him accusing one of them of being illegitimate.

Psalm 119 gives us the impression that David loved God's commandments, but lamented he had not followed them in his life- indeed he fears some kind of shame if his sins catch up with him. His fear of shame is often repeated (:6,22,31,39,46,51,80,116,141); this could refer to some public shame for an openly revealed sin. Or it could reference his sense of shame that "in sin did my mother conceive me" and his sense of shame that he was a poor man now in the opulence of court life. Possibly his illegitimate background had been hushed up, although it was known by "the one who taunts me... the arrogant mock me... utterly derided me" (:42,51); but when his sin with Bathsheba is revealed, he openly states for all the world to know that his mother conceived him "in sin". Yet despite this potential shame, David says he will cling to God's word of promise that he would be king. If his mother were a Moabite or non-Israelite, accounting for his red hair, he may have assumed that he as an illegitimate Gentile could never be king of Israel- if that were known about. We recall how Jephthah and Abimelech were the sons of prostitutes and how this militated against their leadership (Jud. 8:29-31; 11:1,2).  Jesse was asked to parade his sons before Samuel in order for a king to be chosen. None of them are chosen; but when asked if he has any other sons, Jesse answers rather awkwardly and obliquely that there is David who is minding the sheep. That sounds an excuse as the family did have a "keeper" of the sheep apart from David (1 Sam. 17:20). This would be appropriate if David were in fact illegitimate. He was therefore "a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children" (Ps. 69:8). "Stranger" is Hebrew muzar which is related to mamzer or bastard / illegitimate. All this rejection and lack of attention set David up for what was likely some form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Dt. 23:2-4 was clear that a Moabite could not enter the congregation of Israel until the 10th generation. And David was descended from Ruth the Moabitess (Ruth 4:13-17). And so his faith in God's word of promise, that he would really be king, is in tension with his fear that he would be shamed and never accepted as Israel's king- seeing he was illegitimate, and not fully Hebrew. In addition to this Dt. 23:2 likewise says that an illegitimate man couldn't enter for ten generations: “One of illegitimate birth shall not enter the assembly of Yahweh; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of Yahweh".

Psa 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts-
"Desire" is the word used by David at the end of his life of how God desired or delighted in him (2 Sam. 22:20). Perhaps this desire or delight was because of the "truth" in David's heart in recognizing his sins and accepting God's grace. God did not "desire" sacrifice as much as this truth (s.w. Ps. 40:6; 51:16).

Through his experience, David came to know what he calls 'truth in the inward parts': that the required sacrifice was a desperately broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17). Repentance is really about recognizing this truth within us; this, and not a set of theologically pure propositions, is the ultimate "truth". According to Paul's use of the Bathsheba incident, David's learning curve must be ours. There are other links which show that David's sin, desperation and restoration are typical of the experience of all God's true people (e.g. Ps. 51:7 = Is. 1:18).

His very innermost being would then be able to learn more deeply of God's real wisdom. There is a connection between David knowing God in his "hidden part", and Ps. 32:7: "Thou art my hiding place" , or 'hidden part'. This shows that David felt that after his repentance, God Himself would live in David's 'hidden part', that part of his mind and thinking which no one else knows. Through knowing God, God would come and live in that part which truly knew God. The tabernacling of God in our 'hidden part' also requires us to come to know Him, as David did. 

You teach me wisdom in the innermost place- Here again we see the activity of God's Spirit on the very innermost parts of the human psyche, the "heart".


Psa 51:7 Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow- It should be noted that David / Bathsheba language is used to describe Israel's spiritually fallen state (e.g. Ps. 38:7 = Is. 1:6; Ps. 51:7 = Is. 1:18; Ps. 65:2 = Is. 40:15). David recognized this in Ps. 51:17, where he likens his own state to that of Zion, which also needed to be revived by God's mercy. As David's sin is likened to the killing of a lamb (2 Sam. 12:4), so the Jews killed the Lord Jesus. The troubles which therefore came upon his kingdom have certain similarities with the events of AD67-70.   They were also repeated in the Nazi Holocaust, and will yet be. Israel are yet to fully repent after the pattern of David.


"Purge me... and I shall be clean... create in me a clean heart" (Ps. 51:7,10) shows that David understood the 'me' which needed cleansing as being his own mind. This was clearly a result of the great level of self-examination which brought forth his real repentance. "Against thee, thee only have I sinned" (Ps. 51:4) was a conclusion wrung out of so much reflection about what he had done; as is his recognition that his "sin" had involved many "transgressions" (Ps. 51:3). 

Hyssop was used in the rituals for cleansing leprosy, and it is possible that David was struck with something like this disease after his sin with Bathsheba. This would explain why all his family and friends kept distant from him at that time of illness.

Psa 51:8 Let me hear joy and gladness-
It is possible to intensely believe in the mercy of God, His ability to save, and yet not have the real faith- which is to believe that this mercy and salvation really can still apply to us personally. Thus he prays "Let me hear joy and gladness". His introspective world of sin and self-hate found joy a paradigm impossible to relate to; as with mercy and salvation, he knew spiritual joy existed, but seemed unable to make this apply to him personally.  

So that the bones which You have broken may rejoice- Here we see the contrast with the Lord Jesus, who identified with David's feelings after the sin with Bathsheba, but whose bones were not broken. 

Psa 51:9 Hide Your face from my sins-
Paul can speak in Rom. 7 as if he is two different people; “I myself serve the law of God”, but “my flesh” serves sin. Likewise David asked God not to hide His face from him, David personally, (Ps. 27:9; 69:17; 102:2; 143:7), but to hide His face from David’s sins (Ps. 51:9). And one wonders whether the way the records of the Lord’s temptations are written implies some similar recognition by the Spirit of the two ‘men’ within the Lord.

And blot out all of my iniquities- We note with concern that in a Psalm written apparently after this time concerning the time of Absalom's rebellion, David asks that the sins of his enemies not be blotted out (Ps. 109:14). Again we wonder as to whether David maintained an awareness of the enormity of God's grace to him. In the context of the exiles, they were comforted that God would likewise blot out their iniquities- if they repented as David did (s.w. Is. 43:25; 44:22).


Psa 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, renew a right spirit within me- Here we see clearly enough that God can work directly on the human heart or spirit, through the work of His Holy Spirit (:11,12). His Spirit works upon the human spirit. And the same word for "create" is used of the natural creation; here we have the doctrine of a new creation in the hearts of people, of the kind repeatedly offered to the exiles in later Isaiah- if they followed David's path of repentance.

David felt that his youth was renewed like the eagle's in his repeated experience of God's grace (Ps. 103:5), that his soul was restored (Ps. 23:5), and that a right spirit could be renewed by God within him (Ps. 51:10). This is the equivalent of the "newness of life" which is promised to us through acceptance of God's Spirit. As God doesn’t faint or weary, so somehow those who identify their lives with His will also keep on keeping on- even now (Is. 40:31 cp. 29).

David had earlier understood that for the humble and righteous, God can "prepare their heart" (Ps. 10:17). This is evidence enough that God works directly upon the human heart and psychology, which He does today through the work of His Spirit upon the human spirit. For it is men who must prepare their heart in prayer and relationship toward God (s.w. 2 Chron.  12:14; Job 11:13; Ps. 7:9). But God can also do this for the humble. Hence David later asks God to create in him a 'prepared' heart (s.w. Ps. 51:10). And God heard; for the same phrase is used of how God 'prepared' or (AV) "fixed" his heart (Ps. 57:7; 108:1; 112:7). In allusion to this, Solomon was to later reflect that God can direct or 'prepare' (s.w.) the heart of man, even if he is thinking to direct his steps elsewhwere (Prov.  16:9).

Psa 51:11 Don’t throw me out from Your presence, and don’t take Your spirit of holiness from me-
The implication seems to be that whilst we are in God's presence, in covenant relationship with Him, then His Holy Spirit is working in our lives and hearts (:10). This is the litmus test as to whether we are in fellowship with God- rather than acceptance of any particular set of theological propositions. The request for restoration of the Spirit in :12 could suggest that God had withdrawn His Holy Spirit from David in the time between the sin with Bathsheba and his repentance; but see on :12.

Psa 51:12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, uphold me with a willing spirit-
Ps. 51:11,12 speaks of God's "free spirit" [or 'willing spirit' ASV], paralleling it with God's Spirit, His "presence", the "joy of thy salvation". All those terms are parallel. God wills us to be spiritual, with His "willing spirit". The spirit of God is His presence, His salvation, joy, freedom. The Hebrew translated "free" really means 'generous'- the generosity of God's Spirit / mind / ways is shown in His forgiveness and saving of us. If God's spirit is His character, then, it is free, joyous, generous etc. Human beings can also have a "free heart" - the same Hebrew word appears translated like this in 2 Chron. 29:31 etc.- i.e. a spirit of generosity. When we have this, we are reflecting the "free spirit" / attitude of God. Whenever we are generous, His Spirit, with all its generosity, dwells in us and becomes our spirit. It is in this sense that I see a window into understanding the gift of God's spirit into the heart / mind / attitude of the believer. If God's spirit is free / generous, then so is ours to be; if His Spirit is joyous, just, true etc, then so is ours to be. In this sense we receive of His Spirit by reflecting His free and generous mind to others.

There is good reason to think that David did not spiritually crash completely, during the months in which he refused to fully acknowledge his sin. Although he no longer felt confident of having God's salvation, he still felt that God's Spirit / presence was with him. Hence he prayed in his confession: "Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me (i.e. he felt that he had these things even then). Restore unto me the joy of salvation...thy free spirit" (Ps.51:11,12). He was very conscious that God was so closely watching him: " Hide thy face from my sins...against thee (have I) done this evil in thy sight" (Ps.51:4,9). " Day and night thy hand was heavy upon me" (Ps.32:4), he later recognized as he reflected upon God's close scrutiny of his life during those unrepentant months.  


Psa 51:13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, sinners shall be converted to You-
Being so certain of having received God's mercy, and therefore knowing the joy of living in good conscience with God, led David to preach to those around him. And he was certain that if he were forgiven and restored, he would make converts on the basis of  this wonderful grace being publicized. Note too that Psalm 32 is a 'Maschil' psalm- 'for instruction', or teaching of others. If we have really experienced the mercy of God, we will preach to others from our personal experience. 'Preaching' will not be something which we will have to will ourselves to do, nor will it be just a compartment of our lives. Like David, our very existence, the very spirit of our lives, will be an open proclamation of what God's mercy has achieved in us. And indeed David turned men to God after he himself had turned back to Him in repentance about Bathsheba. And we will only be powerful preachers if we preach likewise.   

Morally disgraced in the eyes of all Israel and even the surrounding nations, not to mention his own family, it could be argued that David didn't have a leg to stand on when it came to telling other people how to live their lives. A lesser man than David would have resigned all connection with any kind of preaching. But throughout the Bathsheba psalms there is constant reference to David's desire to go and share the grace of God which he had experienced with others (Ps. 32 title; 51:13). He titles them ‘maschil’- for instruction / teaching. “Have mercy upon me, O Lord... that I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates” (Ps. 9:13,14).

When David wrote that “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (Ps. 51:13), he was paralleling his teaching with others’ conversion- in a way that suggests he was so confident that his preaching would certainly bring forth conversion. Yet distribution of leaflets, countless conversations... all these preaching activities are inevitably repetitious, and so few respond that we can lose our basic love for our fellow man, and lose the hopeful spirit which pervades throughout the self-revelation of our Heavenly Father.


Psa 51:14 Deliver me from blood guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation. My tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness-
Deliverance from sin was to be the prayer of the exiles (Ps. 79:9 s.w.); again, David's path of repentance and restoration is set up as the pattern for the exiles. Solomon often speaks of righteousness delivering the wise; he has missed the desperation of his father, who prayed for God to deliver him.

David's prayer of repentance and request to be saved from "blood guiltiness" (Ps. 51:14) is literally 'from blood'. He was a man of blood and was guilty of Uriah's innocent blood. David had asked for 'men of blood' to be slain (Ps. 55:23 s.w.), those who had taken the blood of the innocent (Ps. 94:21), and for 'men of blood' to be expelled from his presence (Ps. 139:19). And it is not at all clear whether all those Psalms were written before his sin with Bathsheba. God was trying to teach David that he was the type of person whom he condemned. And yet it is unclear if he learned that lesson. Solomon liberally condemns the man who sheds innocent blood (Prov. 6:17; 28:17), refusing to recognize that his much lauded father had done just this, and was only saved by grace and not by any obedience to wisdom. There is so little grace in the book of Solomon's Proverbs because Solomon had failed to perceive the grace shown to his father.

The desire to be saved from blood guiltiness could also be read as a desire to be saved from the consequences of the shedding of Uriah's blood. Ahithophel, Bathsheba's grandfather, turned against David because of it. Again we note that his desire to be saved from shame and the consequences of the sins appears greater and more frequently stated than his desire for forgiveness.


Psa 51:15 Lord, open my lips; my mouth shall declare Your praise-
During the illness David endured after the sin with Bathsheba, it seems he may have suffered a stroke which left him dumb. He wanted healing so that he could then praise God. "Declare" is used here for David's declaration of praise after his forgiveness concerning Bathsheba; the "truth" which David "declared" after his forgiveness (Ps. 30:9) was the ultimate truth, of God's forgiveness of him by grace; a 'declaring' of his sin (Ps. 38:18 s.w.) and God's forgiveness.

Psa 51:16 For You don’t delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it; You have no pleasure in burnt offering-
As noted on Ps. 20:13, success in war and answer to prayer was thought to depend upon the offering of sacrifice. After the sin with Bathsheba, David now matures in his understanding- that salvation and God's operation with His people is by grace and not because He desired sacrifice (Ps. 40:6; 51:16,17). This was spoken by David perhaps more concerning this sin of presumption for which there was no sacrifice prescribed, rather than about the actual sin of adultery. The sin of presumption, however, must not give us the impression that David was a hard, callous man. Everything we know about him points to him be a big hearted, warm softie. David's sin with Bathsheba was in that sense out of character. Yet such is the stranglehold of sin that even he was forced to act with such uncharacteristic callousness and indifference to both God and man in order to try to cover his sin.

Psa 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise-
See on :7. As noted on :1, this is David's response to the judgment threatened in Ps. 50:8. David was aware that God didn't really want sacrifice, or else he would so eagerly have offered it. Instead, David perceived that what God wanted in essence was a broken and contrite spirit. The Bathsheba incident was programmatic for David's understanding of God, and his prayers and psalms subsequently can be expected to have constant allusion back to it. We meet the same idea of God not ultimately wanting sacrifice in Ps. 40:6-9: "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire [but instead] mine ears hast thou opened [Heb. 'digged'- a reference to a servant being permanently committed as a slave to his master]: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come... to do thy will... thy law is within my heart". In Ps. 51:17, David had reasoned that instead of sacrifice, God wanted a heart that was broken and contrite. In Ps. 40 he reflects that instead of sacrifice, God wants a heart that has the law of God within it. This ultimately is the effect of God's law being in our heart- it creates a broken and contrite heart. But how? In the experience of most of us, the law does this through convicting us of our inability to keep the it. And so we see how guilt and grace work so seamlessly together. David's broken heart was a heart which knew he had sinned, sinned irreversibly, and condemned himself. But this, he perceived, was the result of God's law being within his heart. But the words of Ps. 40:6-9 are applied in the New Testament to the Lord's death upon the cross. What's the connection, and what's the lesson? In essence, through David's experience of sin, and the work of God's law upon his heart, he came through that sin to have the very mind of the Lord Jesus as He hung upon the cross, matchless and spotless in His perfection, as the Lamb for sinners slain. Again and again we see the lesson taught- that God works through human sin, in this case, in order to bring us to know the very mind of Christ in His finest hour of glory and spiritual conquest. We must not only let God's word work its way in us; but we need to recognize when dealing with other sinners that God likewise is working with them. He doesn't shrug and walk away from sin; He earnestly seeks to use our experience of it to bring us closer unto Himself.



Psa 51:18 Do well in Your good pleasure to Zion, build the walls of Jerusalem-
It seems apparent the Psalms were re-written over time, and hence have relevance to various historical settings.  Psalm 51 down to :17 is clearly relevant to David’s sin with Bathsheba. But then, in order to make the entire Psalm an acrostic, we find verses apparently ‘added’, referring to God building the walls of Jerusalem and acceptable sacrifice being offered again in the temple [which didn’t exist in David’s time]. David’s sin and restoration was evidently understood by some inspired scribe or prophet at the time of the exile to speak to Judah’s sin, punishment and restoration. Hence the apparent changes of some passages from “I” to “we”.

David saw his sufferings as being bound up with those of Israel; those who hated him hated Zion, those who blessed him blessed Zion, and God's salvation of Israel was being expressed through God's deliverance of him in the daily vicissitudes of life; as God had chosen Zion, so He had David His servant; David's joy was Zion's joy, and her exaltation would be David's  (Ps. 51:18; 69:35; 87:2; 106:5; 121:3,4; 125:1; 128:5; 146:10; 149:2). This is how we are to make sense of suffering- by understanding that it plays a role in the salvation of others, and is part of a wider nexus of Divine operation. We suffer so that we may be able to minister the comfort we receive to others (2 Cor. 1:4). Job likewise came to realize that his sufferings were not so much for his personal maturing, but for the teaching and salvation of the friends.

Psa 51:19 Then You will delight in the sacrifices of righteousness, in burnt offerings and in whole burnt offerings. Then they will offer bullocks on Your altar
- This surely alludes to the statement in the previous Psalm that God doesn't delight in burnt offerings as much as in trust in Him in the day of trouble (Ps. 50:8). See on :1. After his sin with Bathsheba, David perceived that God didn't require bulls and goats, but rather the sacrifice of  contrite heart (Ps. 51:16,17). But here he again envisages offering sacrifice. We could conclude that he means sacrifices now offered in the right spirit. Or we could see this as a slip back from grace towards the old way of works-based thinking.