April 16, 2014
Psalm 51:1, 2
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Our introduction in the last blog described King David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah to cover up the affair. David spent a spiritually dry year because of his unconfessed sin, until Nathan – the king’s trusted prophet and advisor – confronted him with the whole nasty business. Although David’s response seemed an inadequate confession – “I have sinned against the LORD.” (II Samuel 12:13) – Nathan still pronounced, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” But behind that ‘inadequate confession’ lies Psalm 51 – one of the greatest expressions of sincere confession ever recorded! Here is the psalmist’s introductory heading and the first two verses – Psalm 51:1 and 2:
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to
him, after he had gone into Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, ac-
cording to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender
mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
We will get back to the introductory heading in a few moments. Let’s concentrate on verses 1 and 2. David pleaded with the Lord, “Have mercy upon me, O God…blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” But on what basis was his plea made?
Too many people are depending – or should I say, hoping – that their sins will be either outweighed or forgiven on the basis of their good works! In Meteora, Greece, I visited the Varlaam Monastery, built on a sandstone rock pillar rising 1224 feet from the ground level! Centuries ago there were 24 monasteries atop the many sandstone monoliths of Meteora. Now there are six remaining. One fresco in the Varlaam Monastery depicts the last great judgment. With angels on one side of a heavenly scale and demons on the other, souls being judged await the outcome of their good works weighed against their evil deeds.
That’s not how it works! Paul plainly wrote in Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit….” And there are more scriptures that say much the same thing! (see Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8 and 9; II Timothy 1:9). As a matter of fact, Isaiah 64:6 directly points up the problem: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags….” We are shot through with sin – even our so-called good deeds! Before God, if our righteousnesses – the very best we can do – are like filthy rags, what do our sins look like to Him!
David knew that the basis of being washed and cleansed of his grievous sins was only by God’s loving-kindness and tender mercies! We, as Christians, can look back and see how God can so forgive, wash and cleanse – “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7). Jesus gave His life to pay for our sins on the cross. When we invite Him into our hearts and lives, we are made clean and acceptable to the Father by the Son’s own imputed righteousness. And as Christians, we are kept clean by His blood as we confess our sins to Him. (see I John 1:9).
Now, back to the psalm’s introductory heading: “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba.” David wanted this to be a public record of his terrible sin and his confession. And he also wanted the people to know by what means he was cleansed and restored to fellowship with Jehovah God. He had tried to cover up his sin by adding more sin – murder – to his rap sheet! But his sins were no longer secret. Since God knew all of the kings nefarious deeds, and washed him clean by His loving-kindness and tender mercies, David wanted the people of his kingdom to know that same way back to joy and fellowship with God. That’s why he started the introduction with “To the chief Musician….” This psalm of repentance was to be sung as part of temple worship!
Thank God David was so open to a public record of his sin and confession! I have used this psalm to express my own heartfelt confession to God! I can’t imagine better words to pray when I realize my sin and want to come back into fellowship with my Heavenly Father!