Tuesday, May 17, 2022

2022.05.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 51:1–8

Read Psalm 51:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom is the Psalm addressed (superscript)? Who wrote it? On what occasion? What does it first ask (Psalm 51:1a)? According to what (verse 1b)? What is his second request (verse 1d)? According to what (verse 1c)? What is his third (Psalm 51:2a)? Fourth (verse 2b)? What does he see is a circumstantial condition for this (Psalm 51:3)? Against Whom was his sin (Psalm 51:4a)? Whose sight determines what is evil and judges what David did (verse 4b)? What would God have been just and blameless to do (verse 4c–d)? When did David’s sin begin (Psalm 51:5)? What sort of truth does God desire (Psalm 51:6a)? Who gives it (verse 6b)? What does David need to have done before he can have inner truth (Psalm 51:7)? What effect will this have (Psalm 51:8)? 

So often in Scripture, David is a sign (a type) that God has given us to point us forward to Jesus (the Antitype). This might cause us to wonder why the Lord would let him fall into such great sin. Among other things, it’s a strong warning to us and a lesson to the growing Christ (cf. Luke 2:52) about how badly we needed His perfect righteousness and full atonement. But it’s also a lesson for us in how to interact with God when we have sinned greatly. 

The more we grow, the more we realize the magnitude of every single sin. But even those who have made some progress in grace are susceptible to committing the most scandalous and heinous of sin. What can we do, when we see the magnitude of our sin? This Psalm brings home to us what it is like to address our great sin by way of God’s greater grace.

The Pervasiveness of Our Sin: Forgiveness Comes from God Alone
It seems obvious that forgiveness comes from God alone. Only God has the authority to forgive sin. But this is more than that. The origin and cause  of forgiveness is in God alone. What can David plead? What reasoning can he give God for forgiving him? The reasons aren’t in David. They’re in God. God’s covenanted/steadfast love (“lovingkindness,” Psalm 51:1b). God’s “multitude” of “tender mercies” (verse 1c). What’s in David aren’t reasons for him to be forgiven—only reasons that he needs forgiveness: “transgressions” (verse 1d), “iniquity” (Psalm 51:2a), and “sin” (verse 2b). We’re tempted to come with some good thing from us (how sincere we are this time, how sorry we are, how much better we’re doing or will do, etc.). But these all need their own atoning. We must come on the basis of what’s good in God, not what we want to think is good in us.

This connects back to Psalm 50. God isn’t rightly worshiped by receiving what He needs (He needs nothing!). He is rightly worshiped by giving us what we need. And we need nothing more than forgiveness! It glorifies His character to forgive us, and we can come armed with His character. When He commands a saint to pursue sanctification, He says, “be what you are!” And when we ask Him to forgive us according to His love and mercy, we are in a sense praying, “Be what You are!”

The Nature and Reality of Our Sin: Sin Is against God Alone
In Psalm 51:3a “acknowledge” translates a word that is often relational. Taken with verse 3b, the sense seems to be not that David is admitting sin so much that David is reporting how intimately acquainted he is with it. It’s not an aberration that appears every once in a while. It’s a constant companion, ingrained in his experience, something “besetting” and “indwelling” that is left over from his nature in the first Adam. “Always before me” uses a preposition that means “opposite” or “toward” or “corresponding to.” It’s the experience of the apostle in Romans 7:13–24.

Do you know what/Who else is always with you? God. The Creator and Sustainer of all things. The One Who has bound Himself to His people by covenant. Has David sinned against others? His sins against Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, the army, and the entire nation have been great. But not by comparison to how constantly and intensely his sin is against God (Psalm 51:4). When you know you’ve wronged someone, and they say something about it, you acknowledge their justness in doing so. How much more, when God says something to us about our sin (verse 4c–d)!

And this isn’t just with reference to the last day. Every time Scripture convicts us, or providence confronts us (even through the mouth of another), our hearts ought to admit before God His own justness accusing us (even, sometimes, when others are falsely accusing us).

The Origin of Our Sin: Our Original Nature
Rather than arguing “it’s not my fault that God made me this way,” David’s reasoning in Psalm 51:5 is “this must be my fault, because sinful is what I was from the start, and how I have conducted myself ever since.” How desperately we need to recover “this is how I am” as admission of guilt rather than some sort of vindicating excuse! God’s righteousness demands righteousness from the heart (Psalm 51:6a), and when God grows someone in righteousness, He initiates that work in the heart (verse 6b).

The Solution to Our Sin: God’s Cleansing
“Hyssop” in Psalm 51:7 is not announcing some herbal remedy for sin, but reminding us of the branch dipped in the blood of the lamb (cf. Exodus 12:22, Hebrews 11:28). Despite attempted commentary to the contrary, it’s not the most physically effective way of applying cleaning fluid. 

But God’s atonement is perfectly effective for removing guilt (Psalm 51:7)! The removal of all sin, the removal of all guilt, turns what we had made an occasion of greatest grief into what God has made an occasion of greatest joy and gladness and rejoicing!

What do you contribute to your forgiveness? Why is your sin so bad? Where does it come from? How does it end up being a bringer of the greatest gladness?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we bless Your Name for Your glorious steadfast love and mercy! Glorify Your grace by bringing us near through the sprinkled blood of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. We are always before You, and our sin is always before us, so we look to You not only to take away our guilt but to produce in us Your righteousness. You would have been right to condemn us, but instead You have cleansed us in Christ. So, make us to come before You with that joy and gladness and rejoicing that is in Him alone, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”


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