Psalms 51: Bible Reading, Commentary, and Study

by Crystal McDowell · Print Print · Email Email

Psalms 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Have you ever failed God? Of course, we all have at one point in time or another. The writer of Psalm 51, King David, knew the blessed peace and fellowship with God. He was honored to be someone known as a man after God’s own heart. David willfully and coldheartedly pursued his own selfish desires in spite of what he knew about God.

Before we judge David too harshly—haven’t we all at some point turned away from what we knew was right in order to fill our own selfish desires? Perhaps we haven’t committed adultery leading to murder, but James wrote “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (4:17).

What do you do after you’ve sinned against God?

 The writer of Psalm 51, King David, knew the blessed peace and fellowship with God. He was honored to be someone known as a man after God’s own heart.

The writer of Psalm 51, King David, knew the blessed peace and fellowship with God. He was honored to be someone known as a man after God’s own heart.

Step #1) Pray for mercy (vs. 1-2)

We cry out for mercy because we deserve God’s judgment and punishment for our willful sins. Begging for mercy leaves no room for excuses and we bring nothing to God that matter except our brokenness. In seeking out God’s forgiveness, we cling to His love demonstrated by sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins. It’s by His grace, and not our works of righteousness, that opens the door for receiving mercy.

Related reading: 7 Prayers for Forgiveness and Repentance

Step #2) Acknowledge your sin against God (vs. 3-6)

It is pride and stubbornness that keeps many of us from acknowledging that our sins are directed against God. We may resist the truth that every sin is an act against the righteousness of God. Admitting our sins sets us free from the bondage of becoming repeating offenders in the faith. Confessing to God and to one another (mature believers) gives us the reminder that we don’t want to go down the road of sinfulness again.

Step #3) Accept God’s cleansing (vs. 7-9)

Once we asked for mercy and confessed our sins, we are ready to receive the cleansing from God through the blood of Jesus Christ. Accepting the bathing of forgiveness allows us to throw off the chains of guilt, regret, and shame. We don’t pretend that we haven’t sinned, but rather we are free to be used by God in greater dimensions because we aren’t bogged down spiritually. There’s a boldness coupled with humility in the rescued believer’s heart and actions.

Step #4) Be restored and renewed by God’s Spirit (vs. 10-14)

Many believers struggle with the concept of God’s forgiveness because they expect isolation and distance from the Holy Spirit as punishment for their sins. Yet only the opposite is true! As the father of the prodigal son was found waiting with open arms (Luke 15:11-32); so it is with our heavenly Father—He waiting to restore and renew us through the Holy Spirit. What a magnificent gift from God granted only to His children!

Step #5) Teach others so they don’t make your same mistake (vs. 15-19)

The last step may be the most difficult because we’ve only dealt with our sin and God. Yet there is for every believer an opportunity to keep others from making our same mistakes. David paid a great penalty for his sin—the death of his son. We can only vaguely imagine what guilty pain he endured while his son struggled to stay alive. Believers can choose to hide in the shadows and watch others fall into the same pit of sinfulness and regret; or they can choose to teach others so they can experience the overcoming power of God over sin.

“It is finished!”

Jesus’ last words on the cross signified the end of death and the power of sin over all those who put their trust in Him. Are you finished with your sin? Are you tired of guilt and regret? There’s so much greater maturity and life in Christ if you would only take the steps towards healing and deliverance.

Remember your Father is waiting for you…expectantly, lovingly, and mercifully. Do it today!

Related ReadingPsalm 23: A Bible Study

Resource – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

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