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Psalm 51:1-4

Verses 1-4

The exposure of that great darkness which is in my heart moves me to a dreaded state of melancholy. In solemn brokenness, I acknowledge my absolute ineptitude before God’s holiness apart from imputed righteousness given to me upon my initial granted repentance. If not for Christ’s purchase, if not for God’s redemptive Covenant made with Him, I would be a silenced reprobate, justly cast into the depths of hell with wicked sinners. Such a sobering truth ought press me more toward true Christian piety, striving and thirsting after that perfect holiness of God. Noting my sickness over my rebellion against God’s law, I nevertheless believe His promise to keep me grounded in Him, though ever mindful of my deceitful heart. Brokenness and contrition are my heart’s present leading attributes. Let us look at the 51st Psalm, for at least the 151st thousandth time.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

An appeal to God’s mercy David starts out with. Here we catch a glimpse of David remembering the God Who covenants with man with a gracious covenant. He provided a covering to Adam and Eve, deliverance to Noah and his family, a great promise to Abraham and all his offspring. So God, in His great perfection, has acted exceptionally merciful toward man. Thus, David appeals to His steadfast love, i.e. lovingkindness. So, God, do I humbly appeal to your great mercies shown to those Who love you, yet fail you! I plea for mercy on the basis of your promises made to man.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,and cleanse me from my sin!

David immediately acknowledges the reality of his sin, and his great need for cleansing from it. God, I affirm my wretchedness and cast it away from me; it is why I have appealed to this Psalm. Please cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

David had, in other Psalms, made mention of his bones wasting away while he was in his sin. The marks of a true believer are not that he does not sin, even sin heinously, but that he will be ever so miserable while in a state of unrepentance from that sin. Like a dark cloud hanging heavily over a tree, blocking much needed sunlight for sustenance, so is sin in the life of a believer. It hangs heavily over him, consuming his every thought, giving him neither rest, nor peace till he repents. David truly knew his transgressions, and they were certainly “ever” before him. Father, I know my sins, and I hate them”¦but not enough, obviously. God, help me to be undone. 

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Had David sinned only against God? Had he not sinned against Uriah by committing adultery with his wife and taking his very life?!!? Had he not sinned against Bathsheba by causing her to commit adultery? Had David, the King, not sinned against the people of Israel with lies and deception? Of course he had done all these things. But that is not the point David is raising here. David is making the greatest distinction between God and man: namely, that God is holy. Sin against man and sing against God is vastly different. Man is not holy. Man sins against man, and all, in God’s eyes, are on equal footing apart from divine grace. By saying “Against you, you only have I sinned”¦” Davis was confessing the absolutely heinous nature of rebelling against God’s law, not because of the pain it causes in their own and others’ lives, but because IT IS GOD’S LAW. This is also why David ended this particular section with “that you may be justified in your words.” His point: God is holy, lofty, set apart, without sin. David acknowledged his unholy disregard for God’s standard. I confess my rebellion toward your perfect law and, in light of your holiness, realize the great offense that it is. Have mercy upon me, Lord. I rest in Your promises.

[Reformers, Puritans, and a Geek]