Selected Psalms – Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. – Ps. 51:1-2

How do you approach God when you have fallen into sin? Well here is another Psalm which ‘Speaks for us’. As we begin we may note that we enter the sacred ground for Psalm 51 is deeply personal. “Have mercy on ME, O God….” We cannot miss the person nor the occasion (most translations include a preface at the beginning). It is David; and the occasion was a string of events commencing with adultery, endeavouring to cover up and, leading Uriah to his known death. Concluding with Nathan the prophet confronting him. (See 2 Samuel 11-12).

Like all Scripture, we are required to come with respect and none the less respect for David, for his confession and penitence paves the way for us to worthily follow. In a strange manner David’s very personal prayer becomes public but with reason. God’s reason. A treasured book I have by John Baillie, ‘A Diary of Private Prayer’ (1936) is a published work. Private prayers for public reading. The personal nature of its sharing has proved to be a beneficial worth to the wider audience. In a similar vein, David becomes a model person to whom we may also follow.

To draw a comparison between two different pathways one may go no further than the comparison between David, and Saul, his predecessor as King of Israel. Saul also sinned and failed to do the right thing but excused himself more than treating his sin as sin before God (cf 1 Samuel 15:16). When he did acknowledge it, it was quite different from Psalm 51. The attitude was different. “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave into them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” – 1 Samuel 15:24-25

So we find a ‘How to’ and a, ‘How not to’.
Let’s come back to the thought of ‘Sacred ground’; of the deeply personal words of expression that was David’s plea before the Lord. For it is these same words that we may follow, not simply to recite but to follow.

We will take the time over the next three weeks to engross ourselves in David’s journey that we may see how we can make it our own. Perhaps you can set yourself a task and read through Psalm 51 and so immerse yourself, asking God to speak his word into your life. Ancient words ever speaking into the present.

Some points then to reflect and ponder:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” v1

“Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me…” v11

David knew what the Lord had done to Saul and fearfully he was aware what the Lord could deservedly do also to him. Hence his cry for Mercy. Sin treated as sin and accordingly as it is before God. It was Bonhoeffer who coined the phrase, ‘Cheap grace’ and ‘Costly grace’. Asking God for forgiveness is recognising grace as ‘Costly’ and paid at a price. Free to us but not as something to regard as ‘Cheap’. Compare the attitude of grace between David and Saul.

In Christ we do have a Saviour but the cross demands our respect. So, should we regard our confession of sin before God as standing on our own ‘Sacred ground’? Psalm 51, ‘Speaking for us- speaking for you’. What do you think and how may this lead you into prayer today?

(Written by Kevin Carlson)

HYMN: My Faith has Found a Resting Place by J. Ansley   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkpGBevVRVM

Enough for me that Jesus saves, this ends my fear and doubt;

A sinful soul I come to him, He’ll never cast me out.

I need no other argument, I need no other plea,

It is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me.