Book #2: 42-72
Asaph was an accomplished musician in the court of King David. He was appointed to be the director of music in the Temple (cf. 1 Chronicles 15:19; 16:5). His descendants were also official musicians (cf. Ezra 2:41). He wrote Psalms 50, 73-83.
Psalm 50:1-6-Asaph says that God has spoken and that He is about to pass judgment on Israel. He speaks of the consuming nature of God’s holy judgment (:3-4). Then, he says God is calling His people, Israel, to stand before Him (:5-6).
Psalm 50:7-15-God accuses Israel of making sacrifices…but that in doing so, they thought that God would have to honor them...as if He was now indebted to them and they were in control. He does not “reprove” (disapprove, :8) them for bring their sacrifices…but, for bring them with an alternative agenda, a wrong motive…to control Him. God says that He already owns everything (:10-13) and they have it backwards. Sacrifices are not a means of controlling God by giving Him something that He has to have, but of worshipping God by giving Him something that He has allowed His people to use as a reminder that it came from Him. God then tells them what to do about it (:14-15).
Psalm 50:16-23-God asks who do they think they are…on one hand proclaiming His “statutes” and “covenant”…and then turning right around and despising discipline, ignoring sinful behavior, and speaking evil against other people. God accuses them of giving lip service to His law...and continuing to deliberately sin (:16-20). He then says that they are incorrect when they think that because He has not judged them that He must agree with them. He will now hold them accountable (:21-22). God says that despite their religious behavior…they “forgot God”. He then tells them to give careful consideration to what they have heard and He tells them what they must do to correct things. They must have the right heart and attitude when they offer their sacrifices…”thanksgiving which honors Me”. And, they must live in a manner in keeping with that attitude. To this person God will extend His “salvation” (:22-23).
This is a Psalm of penitence (repentance, remorse and regret over sin) written by David after Nathan the prophet confronted him about his sin with Bathsheba (cf. 2 Samuel 11-12).
Psalm 51:1-4-David pleads with God to forgive him of his sin…not based on his worthiness…but on God’s “lovingkindness” (His love on which the covenant is based) and “compassion”.
- What his plea is for this mercy: "have mercy upon me, O God! not according to the dignity of my birth, as descended from the prince of the tribe of Judah, not according to my public services as Israel's champion, or my public honours as Israel's king;' his plea is not, Lord, remember David and all his afflictions, how he vowed to build a place for the ark (Ps. 132:1, 2); a true penitent will make no mention of any such thing; but "Have mercy upon me for mercy's sake. I have nothing to plead with thee but,'
(1.) "The freeness of thy mercy, according to thy lovingkindness, thy clemency, the goodness of thy nature, which inclines thee to pity the miserable.'
(2.) "The fulness of thy mercy. There are in thee not only lovingkindness and tender mercies, but abundance of them, a multitude of tender mercies for the forgiveness of many sinners, of many sins, to multiply pardons as we multiply transgressions.'
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 51,
David confesses his sin and says that he was constantly aware of it (the guilt weighed heavily on his conscience). Knowing the extent of his sin, he knows the extent of the forgiveness he must have. So David pours out his heart in repentance to God. If you read these verses out loud…you can almost hear the depth and intensity of the remorse and sorrow in his voice.
- David, being convinced of his sin, poured out his soul to God in prayer for mercy and grace. Whither should backsliding children return, but to the Lord their God, from whom they have backslidden, and who alone can heal their backslidings?
- He drew up, by divine inspiration, the workings of his heart towards God, upon this occasion, into a psalm, that it might be often repeated, and long after reviewed; and this he committed to the chief musician, to be sung in the public service of the church.
(1.) As a profession of his own repentance, which he would have to be generally taken notice of, his sin having been notorious, that the plaster might be as wide as the wound. Those that truly repent of their sins will not be ashamed to own their repentance; but, having lost the honour of innocents, they will rather covet the honour of penitents.
(2.) As a pattern to others, both to bring them to repentance by his example and to instruct them in their repentance what to do an what to say. Being converted himself, he thus strengthens his brethren (Lu. 22:32), and for this cause he obtained mercy, 1 Tim. 1:16.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 51,
David uses a variety of phrases to confess the degree of his sin and to express his desire for forgiveness to extend into all of his life…
- "Be gracious (to show favor, pity, mercy) to me” (:1)
- “blot out (to completely wipe out, obliterate) my transgression (this word means rebellion-a strong word for intentional sin)” (:1)
- “Wash me thoroughly (a word that meant to intensely clean an article by trampling on it with your feet) from my iniquity (a strong word for sin that suggests perverse, depraved action)” (:2)
- “cleanse me (to be clean and pure, both morally and ceremonially) from my sin (this word is often used to speak of ceremonially uncleanness which would prohibit someone from participating in worship)” (:2)
- “I know (to be aware of something and to openly acknowledge it) my transgression (same word as in verse 1)” (:3)
- “my sin (same word as in verse 2) is ever before (to be directly in front of, it cannot be ignored or escaped) me” (:3)
- “I have sinned (same word as in verse 2)” (:4)
- “done what is evil (vicious, wicked, displeasing)” (:4)
- “I was brought forth in iniquity (same word as in verse 2)” (:5)
- “in sin (same word as in verse 2) my mother conceived me” (:5)…meaning that from the day he was born he has been this way…an admission that not only has he sinned (as an external act), but that in his very nature he is a sinner. From the moment of his conception sin has had an influence on him (:5).
- What is the particular mercy that he begs-the pardon of sin. Blot out my transgressions, as a debt is blotted or crossed out of the book, when either the debtor has paid it or the creditor has remitted it. "Wipe out my transgressions, that they may not appear to demand judgment against me, nor stare me in the face to my confusion and terror.' The blood of Christ, sprinkled upon the conscience, to purify and pacify that, blots out the transgression, and, having reconciled us to God, reconciles up to ourselves, v. 2. "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity; wash my soul from the guilt and stain of my sin by thy mercy and grace, for it is only from a ceremonial pollution that the water of separation will avail to cleanse me. Multiple to wash me; the stain is deep, for I have lain long soaking in the guilt, so that it will not easily be got out. O wash me much, wash me thoroughly. Cleanse me from my sin.' Sin defiles us, renders us odious in the sight of the holy God, and uneasy to ourselves; it unfits us for communion with God in grace or glory. When God pardons sin he cleanses us from it, so that we become acceptable to him, easy to ourselves, and have liberty of access to him. Nathan had assured David, upon his first profession of repentance, that his win was pardoned. The Lord has taken away thy sin; thou shalt not die, 2 Sa. 12:13. Yet he prays, Wash me, cleanse, blot out my transgressions; for God will be sought unto even for that which he has promised; and those whose sins are pardoned must pray that the pardon may be more and more cleared up to them. God had forgiven him, but he could not forgive himself; and therefore he is thus importunate for pardon, as one that thought himself unworthy of it and knew how to value it.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 51,
David acknowledges that his sin was an act of rebellion against God and that God is just in judging him (:4).
Psalm 51:6-David says that God desires for a man to be truthful in his very inner being, his heart.
Psalm 51:7-12-David makes repeated requests of the Lord that speak of God taking away the consequences and guilt of his sin…and then restoring the blessings of his relationship with God. Notice that in each verse David makes a statement and then repeats the same thought in a different manner.
- Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
- wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
- He prays that God would cleanse him from his sins and the defilement he had contracted by them (v. 7): "Purge me with hyssop; that is, pardon my sins, and let me know that they are pardoned, that I may be restored to those privileges which by sin I have forfeited and lost.' The expression here alludes to a ceremonial distinction, that of cleansing the leper, or those that were unclean by the touch of a body by sprinkling water, or blood, or both upon them with a bunch of hyssop, by which they were, at length, discharged from the restraints they were laid under by their pollution. "Lord, let me be as well assured of my restoration to thy favour, and to the privilege of communion with thee, as they were thereby assured of their re-admission to their former privileges.' But it is founded upon gospel-grace: Purge me with hyssop, that is, with the blood of Christ applied to my soul by a lively faith, as water of purification was sprinkled with a bunch of hyssop. It is the blood of Christ (which is therefore called the blood of sprinkling, Heb. 12:24), that purges the conscience from dead works, from that guilt of sin and dread of God which shut us out of communion with him, as the touch of a dead body, under the law, shut a man out from the courts of God's house. If this blood of Christ, which cleanses from all sin, cleanse us from our sin, then we shall be clean indeed, Heb. 10:2. If we be washed in this fountain opened, we shall be whiter than snow, not only acquitted but accepted; so those are that are justified. Isa. 1:18, Though your sins have been as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.
- Make me to hear joy and gladness
- let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice
- He prays that, his sins being pardoned, he might have the comfort of that pardon. He asks not to be comforted till first he is cleansed; but if sin, the bitter root of sorrow, be taken away, he can pray in faith, "Make me to hear joy and gladness (v. 8), that is, let me have a well-grounded peace, of thy creating, thy speaking, so that the bones which thou hast broken by convictions and threatenings may rejoice, may not only be set again, and eased from the pain, but may be sensibly comforted, and, as the prophet speaks, may flourish as a herb.' Note,
(1.) The pain of a heart truly broken for sin may well be compared to that of a broken bone; and it is the same Spirit who as a Spirit of bondage smites and wounds and as a Spirit of adoption heals and binds up.
(2.) The comfort and joy that arise from a sealed pardon to a penitent sinner are as refreshing as perfect ease from the most exquisite pain.
(3.) It is God's work, not only to speak this joy and gladness, but to make us hear it and take the comfort of it. He earnestly desires that God would lift up the light of his countenance upon him, and so put gladness into his heart, that he would not only be reconciled to him, but, which is a further act of grace, let him know that he was so.
- Hide Thy face from my sins
- and blot out all of my iniquities
- He prays for a complete and effectual pardon. This is that which he is most earnest for as the foundation of his comfort (v. 9): "Hide thy face from my sins, that is, be not provoked by them to deal with me as I deserve; they are ever before me, let them be cast behind thy back. Blot out all my iniquities out of the book of thy account; blot them out, as a cloud is blotted out and dispelled by the beams of the sun,' Isa. 44:22.
- Create in me a clean heart, O God
- and renew a steadfast spirit within me
- He prays for sanctifying grace; and this every true penitent is as earnest for as for pardon and peace, v. 10. He does not pray, "Lord, preserve me my reputation,' as Saul, I have sinned, yet honour me before this people. No; his great concern is to get his corrupt nature changed: the sin he had been guilty of was,
(1.) An evidence of its impurity, and therefore he prays, Create in me a clean heart, O God! He now saw, more than ever, what an unclean heart he had, and sadly laments it, but sees it is not in his own power to amend it, and therefore begs of God (whose prerogative it is to create) that he would create in him a clean heart. He only that made the heart can new-make it; and to his power nothing is impossible. He created the world by the word of his power as the God of nature, and it is by the word of his power as the God of grace that we are clean (Jn. 15:3), that we are sanctified, Jn. 17:17.
(2.) It was the cause of its disorder, and undid much of the good work that had been wrought in him; and therefore he prays, "Lord, renew a right spirit within me; repair the decays of spiritual strength which this sin has been the cause of, and set me to rights again.' Renew a constant spirit within me, so some. He had, in this matter, discovered much inconstancy and inconsistency with himself, and therefore he prays, "Lord, fix me for the time to come, that I may never in like manner depart from thee.'
- Do not cast me away from Thy presence
- and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me
- He prays for the continuance of God's good-will towards him and the progress of his good work in him, v. 11.
(1.) That he might never be shut out from God's favour: "Cast me not away from thy presence, as one whom thou abhorrest and canst not endure to look upon.' He prays that he might not be thrown out of God's protection, but that wherever he went, he might have the divine presence with him, might be under the guidance of his wisdom and in the custody of his power, and that he might not be forbidden communion with God: "Let me not be banished thy courts, but always have liberty of access to thee by prayer.' He does not deprecate the temporal judgments which God by Nathan had threatened to bring upon him. "God's will be done; but, Lord, rebuke me no in thy wrath. If the sword come into my house never to depart from it, yet let me have a God to go to in my distresses, and all shall be well.'
(2.) That he might never be deprived of God's grace: Take not thy Holy Spirit from me. He knew he had by his sin grieved the Spirit and provoked him to with draw, and that because he also was flesh God might justly have said that his Spirit should no more strive with him nor work upon him, Gen. 6:3. This he dreads more than any thing. We are undone if God take his Holy Spirit from us. Saul was a sad instance of this. How exceedingly sinful, how exceedingly miserable, was he, when the Spirit of the Lord had departed from him! David knew it, and therefore begs thus earnestly: "Lord, whatever thou take from me, my children, my crown, my life, yet take not thy Holy Spirit from me' (see 2 Sa. 7:15), "but continue thy Holy Spirit with me, to perfect the work of my repentance, to prevent my relapse into sin, and to enable me to discharge my duty both as a prince and as a psalmist.'
- Restore me to the joy of Thy salvation
- and sustain me with a willing spirit
- He prays for the restoration of divine comforts and the perpetual communications of divine grace, v. 12. David finds two ill effects of his sin:-
(1.) It had made him sad, and therefore he prays, Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation. A child of God knows no true nor solid joy but the joy of God's salvation, joy in God his Saviour and in the hope of eternal life. By wilful sin we forfeit this joy and deprive ourselves of it; our evidences cannot but be clouded and our hopes shaken. When we give ourselves so much cause to doubt of our interest in the salvation, how can we expect the joy of it? But, when we truly repent, we may pray and hope that God will restore to us those joys. Those that sow in penitential tears shall reap in the joys of God's salvation when the times of refreshing shall come.
(2.) It had made him weak, and therefore he prays, "Uphold me with the free Spirit: I am ready to fall, either into sin or into despair; Lord, sustain me; my own spirit' (though the spirit of a man will go far towards the sustaining of his infirmity) "is not sufficient; if I be left to myself, I shall certainly sink; therefore uphold me with thy Spirit, let him counterwork the evil spirit that would cast me down from my excellency. Thy Spirit is a free spirit, a free gent himself, working freely' (and that makes those free whom he works upon, for where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty)-"thy ingenuous princely Spirit.' He was conscious to himself of having acted, in the matter of Uriah, very disingenuously and unlike a prince; his behaviour was base and paltry: "Lord,' says he, "let thy Spirit inspire my soul with noble and generous principles, that I may always act as becomes me.' A free spirit will be a firm and fixed spirit, and will uphold us. The more cheerful we are in our duty the more constant we shall be to it.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 51 (verses 7-12),
Psalm 51:13-17-David says that when God has forgiven him of his sins he will tell others of His greatness so that they too will turn to Him (:13). And when he has been delivered from the consequences of his sin (:14), he will sing of His righteousness and give Him praise because God is not just concerned with our actions, but with our heart (:15-17).
Psalm 51:18-19-David appeals to God to do good for Jerusalem...so that it will result in the proper sacrifices being made to Him for the proper reason.
This Psalm shows the difference between the behavior of an evil man and the behavior of a righteous man. It is based on the incident in which Doeg betrayed David by telling Saul where David was hiding (cf. 1 Samuel 21:1-22:19).
Psalm 52:1-4-David describes an evil man. He is constantly evil despite the fact that God’s love for him never stops (:1). Notice the evil qualities of this man: he deceives people with his words (:2); he loves evil more than good and falsehood more than what is right (:3); and he carefully crafts his statements so that while he says one thing, he means another (:4).
Psalm 52:5-7-But the day will come when this man will be judged and people will mock him for having trusted in his riches and not in God.
Psalm 52:8-9-David says that he is not that way...but that he depends on God. He is like a tree that is totally dependent on the gardener to take care of it.
Prayer: Lord, so many times I don’t take sin seriously enough. I try to ignore it…as if it is not as bad and will go away, if I do so. Help me to have a heart of repentance like David. I pray that You will never allow me to be comfortable with sin. Holy Spirit, I pray that You will convict me and show me when and where I am wrong.