Psalm 51

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 23, 2003

Psalm 51 – Finding Forgiveness

In 2Samuel 11-12, we have the tragic story of the fall of a hero. It was springtime, and the time when kings went out to war. But this year David stayed home for some reason. It happened in the evening. David was up on his rooftop when he spied a young gal taking a bath on her rooftop. It ended up with David committing adultery with the wife of his friend Uriah.

When she got pregnant, he tried to cover it up by having Uriah come home, and hopefully spend time with her. Uriah refused to spend time with his wife out of loyalty to his friends still back on the battlefield. Out of frustrations, David had Uriah sent back to the battlefield carrying secret instructions to the general. The instructions were to have Uriah killed in the battle.

David went on to marry Bathsheba and thought he had covered his tracks.

(2 Sam 12:1-7 KJV) And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. {2} The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: {3} But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. {4} And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. {5} And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: {6} And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. {7} And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man…

Psalm 51 is the song that David wrote at this time.


The Sunday School teacher had just finished a lesson on Christian behavior. “Now, Billy,” she asked, “tell me what we must do before we can expect to be forgiven for our sins.” Without hesitation, Billy replied, “First we gotta sin.”

:1-6 Confession

:1 …according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies

lovingkindnesscheced – goodness, kindness, faithfulness

tender merciesracham – to love deeply, have mercy, have tender affection


Count on grace

David is counting on God’s “lovingkindness” and “tender mercies”. These words speak of God’s grace, His unmerited kindness towards us.
These are the very character qualities that God considers primary as to who He is. When Moses asked to know God better, this is what God told Moses:
(Exo 34:6 KJV) And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful (Heb. for “tender mercies”) and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness (Heb. for “lovingkindness”) and truth,
One of the most repeated phrases in the Bible describes these qualities of God. We see it in a song sung at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple:
(2 Chr 5:13 KJV) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD;
This is all about God’s grace. God’s grace is when we receive good things from God that we don’t deserve.
You may be in serious trouble with God today. But you can receive God’s forgiveness, cleansing, and help for a new start because of God’s grace, not because you deserve it.
Several years ago, a businessman found out about an elderly widow who was unable to pay her rent. Feeling pity for her, he went to some of his friends and asked them if they would be kind enough to contribute something to help pay her rent. They responded, and he got two months’ rent. He went to the widow’s house that week to deliver the money.
Although he knew she was inside, when he knocked he got no answer. He knocked a second time and still no answer. He knocked a third time, still no answer. He knocked a fourth time. Not knowing what else to do, he returned to his business.
A couple of days later, he saw her downtown on the sidewalk looking destitute. He walked up to her and said, “Ma’am, some friends of mine and I found out about your situation. We want to help. We got enough money together to give you rent money for two months. I came to your house to give it to you this week, but I knocked several times and got no answer.”
She took a gasp of breath and put her hand to her face. She said, “Oh, I thought you were the landlord coming to evict me.”

-- R. Larry Moyer, "Right Smack in the Middle of Sin,

God wants to be gracious.

:3 I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

It’s been about a year between the time that David sinned and when he confessed his sin.

All he can think about is his sin. It’s become an all consuming passion.

We understand consuming passions.


Forty years ago yesterday, November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news? Most people over the age of 45 or so can. It was a horrible time in our country’s history, something that overwhelmed us.

Two years ago we encountered another one of those times. On September 11, our nation was forever changed by hatred of terrorism. I imagine any of us who will still be alive in forty years will be saying to each other, “Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001?

When we finally realize what we’ve done, the guilt of our sin can be all consuming. Just as it should be.


In the late 1980’s, televangelist Jim Bakker was convicted of fraud and conspiracy. Part of the downfall of his ministry involved an affair he had with a gal named Jessica Hahn. In his book I Was Wrong (Nelson, 1996, p. 21), Jim writes,

“I knew that what I was doing went directly against everything I believed as a Christian. I had never cheated on my wife in all our years of marriage. Jessica Hahn, however, seemed quite comfortable with the situation. I simply abandoned myself to the moment. We did not make love; we had sex. When it was over, I quickly left the room, and in a daze, hurried to the elevator and pressed the button marking the eighth floor. The winter afternoon sun was already beginning to slide down on the horizon as I stepped inside my room. I was horrified. Oh, God! What have I done? I had not considered the consequences of my absurd attempt to make Tammy Faye jealous. I had not even paused to think of the potential ramifications of my actions while I was giving in to the temptation of having sex with a woman other than my wife. I had simply reacted. I had opened the door to attack on the ministry I headed, my family, and me personally. Worse yet, the devil had not made me do any of it; I had done it of my own stubborn will. I disrobed and immediately stepped into the shower, turning the water on as hot as I could stand it. I never felt so dirty in all my life. Maybe if I make the water hotter, it will wash it all away, I thought.”

:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned



David is asking for forgiveness, but forgiveness doesn’t come until a person acknowledges and confesses their sin before God. David is agreeing that God is correct in His condemnation of David’s sin.
Ultimately, sin is against God, so we need to confess our sin to Him.
When we confess our sin, God will forgive us.

(Psa 32:5 KJV) I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Though Jesus paid for our sins by dying on the cross in our place, it’s the act of confession, admitting our sin before God, that brings about the receiving of forgiveness.

(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

David found this to be true. When confronted with his sin, David admitted it.
(2 Sam 12:13 KJV) And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
God is not out to punish. God is out to pardon. But we need to open the door when He knocks. We need to admit our need to Him. We need to confess our sin to Him.

:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

David is not saying that giving birth or the act of conceiving a child is sinful. He’s talking about what we would call “original sin”. He’s stating the fact that’s true for all of us. We are sinners from conception. We have inherited a sin nature from Adam. We sin because we are sinners.

(Ps 51:5 The Message) I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born.

We are all born sinners. Blame it on Adam.

:6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts…


Live in reality

God doesn’t want us living in a fantasy land. He wants us to face the facts of our sin.
I grow when I learn to live in the truth. God teaches me wisdom when I learn to live in the truth.
(Eph 4:15 KJV) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Friends, if we be honest with ourselves, we shall be honest with each other.

-- George MacDonald, Scottish writer, 19th century.

Living in reality is like living in the “light”. When you’ve lived your whole life in a dark room and someone finally turns on the light and you look in the mirror – that’s reality.
Everyone has heard the expression, “face the music.” There is an interesting story about how this expression began years ago in Japan. According to the story, a man of great influence and wealth demanded that he be given a place in the imperial orchestra because he wanted to “perform” before the Emperor. The conductor agreed to let him sit in the second row of the orchestra, even though he could not read music. He was given a flute, and when a concert would begin, the man would raise his instrument, pucker his lips, and move his fingers. He would go through all the motions of playing, but he never made a sound. This deception continued for two years. Then a new conductor took over. He told the orchestra that he wanted to audition each player personally. One by one they performed in the conductor’s presence. Then came the flutist’s turn. He was frantic with worry, so he pretended to be sick. However, the doctor who had been ordered to examine him declared that he was perfectly well. The conductor insisted that the man appear and demonstrate his skill. Shamefacedly, he had to confess that he was a fake. He could not “face the music.”

:7-13 Cleansing

:7 Purge me with hyssop, …wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

hyssop‘ezowb – hyssop, a plant we think might be related to a type of oregano, used for medicinal and religious purposes. The plant was gathered in bunches and used either as a brush or sprinkler in rituals.

In the Old Testament, the word is found in a couple of places:

The Passover (Ex. 12:21-22) – where a bunch of hyssop was used as a brush the doorposts of the houses with lamb’s blood.

The Cleansing the Leper (Lev. 14:4-6) – a special ritual for a miraculous event, where a person with leprosy was actually cured. The ritual involved sprinkling blood on a bird, a picture of cleansing.


Be Cleansed

Hyssop seems to have a link with blood. The cleansing comes through the blood.
After twenty years of shaving himself every morning, a man in a small Southern town decided he had enough. He told his wife that he intended to let the local barber shave him each day. He put on his hat and coat and went to the barber shop, which was owned by the pastor of the town’s Baptist Church. The barber’s wife, Grace, was working that day, so she performed the task. Grace shaved him and sprayed him with lilac water, and said, “That will be $20.” The man thought the price was a bit high, but he paid the bill and went to work. The next morning the man looked in the mirror, and his face was as smooth as it had been when he left the barber shop the day before. Not bad, he thought. At least I don’t need to get a shave every day. The next morning, the man’s face was still smooth. Two weeks later, the man was still unable to find any trace of whiskers on his face. It was more than he could take, so he returned to the barber shop. “I thought $20 was high for a shave”, he told the barber’s wife, “but you must have done a great job. It’s been two weeks and my whiskers still haven’t started growing back.” The expression on her face didn’t even change, expecting his comment. She responded, “You were shaved by Grace. Once shaved, always shaved.”
When we confess our sins to God, the blood of Jesus cleanses us, and we don’t have to worry about any “stubble” growing back from that sin ever again!
The prophet Isaiah wrote,
(Isa 1:18 KJV) Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Scientists have discovered that every snowflake has a tiny piece of dust at its core. Yes, every snowflake has a “dirty heart”. In the spiritual realm, when the blood of Christ is applied to the heart of an unbeliever, it cleanses him from all sin. Not a speck of defilement remains, for God removes every stain and washes him even whiter than snow.

Our cleansing comes from the blood of Jesus.
(1 John 1:7 KJV) But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Receive His cleansing.

:8 that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.

Sometimes God has to do things to get my attention, like breaking bones.

(Lam 3:31-33 KJV)  For the Lord will not cast off for ever: {32} But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. {33} For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

God isn’t looking for opportunities to make us miserable.  But sometimes He has to resort to drastic measures to get our attention.

:13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways


Teach others

Sometimes we feel that because we’ve sinned, that God could never use us again. But in reality, when you’ve learned to turn from your sin, acknowledge and confess your sin, and receive God’s cleansing, then God can use you to teach others not to go down the roads you’ve gone down.
But you can’t teach others until you’ve learned it yourself.
John R. W. Stott, writes, “It’s quite futile saying to people, “Go to the cross.” We’ve got to be able to say “Come to the cross.” There are only two voices that can issue that invitation. One is the voice of the sinless Redeemer, with which we cannot speak, and the other is the voice of the forgiven sinner who knows himself forgiven. And that is our part.”
A man once asked Gipsy Smith, the famed evangelist, how to have a revival. Smith asked, “Do you have a place where you can pray?” The man answered that he did. “Tell you what you do,” Smith said. “You go to that place, and take a piece of chalk along. Kneel down there, and with the chalk, draw a complete circle all around you. Then pray for God to send a revival to everything inside of the circle. Stay there until He answers... and you will have revival.” Gipsy Smith knew that true revival begins in the heart of each person.
It begins with you, then you teach others.