SELECTED PSALMS – Psalm 51 Pt. 4

“…then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you – Psalm 51:13

Teaching from knowledge and teaching from experience. We learn from the Bible as we read and study and we learn also from our experiences. I learn what anger and slander are, but I have also learnt the same from experience. I know exactly what sin is from my own experiences so when I read from God’s word about the same, I know, as I now know myself before God. The Bible never condones doing wrong to become a better teacher but David adds this dimension as a fact of the matter. We may note David’s use of the personal pronouns of, ‘Me’ and ‘I’, throughout the Psalm. He is making it personal (as it should be) and this is what makes it ‘Sacred ground’ that we tread and sacred ground it becomes for us as well as we pray our own self in the events of sinful actions before God.

Psalm 51 is quite expansive as we explore closely. David admits his sin. He pleads for God’s mercy. He offers meaningful repentance in attitude and action. He falls upon the God he has come to know as compassionate and with unfailing love (v1). God, who is able to create a pure heart (v10); and God, “You who are…my saviour.” (v14). Now in v13 a future tense is added to the past and present. Now David envelopes further steps in repentance and dealing with his sinful acts. Now he sees the possibilities of being in a position to teach others and so show to others what they can also do. I guess in the climactic moments of our distress it can be easy to make promises and not follow through when the heat is off. We may note that David sets a godly pattern to follow. Just as he has asked for a ‘Pure heart’ and not rely upon his own resources, so, to be able to teach others he also asks of God, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” The prayer is for God to ‘Sustain me’- don’t leave me to do it myself without your help. “Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.”

Now, this does not mean you cannot teach and lead others back to God whose experiences are not your own. But the context puts David firmly into that place that he can teach from his own experience; and indeed isn’t Psalm 51 an experiential teaching on how we may deal with our sinful life events no matter what they may be? The Psalms ‘Speaking for us”.

There is one more dimension to add. V15 “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.” To instruct others and also to publicly declare the praise of God for indeed, God forgives our sin when we come to him in the right manner. We do have a saviour in Christ Jesus and his promise is clear and certain. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9. Note the ‘purify us from all unrighteousness’ and the ‘Create in me a pure heart.’ To declare our praise of God in the forgiveness of sins is not only a private affair but a public (appropriately!) one as well.

So to teach and warn (appropriately!) others who have gone down similar pathways to ourselves becomes a powerful testimony and personal aid for others to hear. Especially as we would declare our praise of God’s ways: his mercy, compassion and forgiveness in Christ to all who would come in repentance.

One last time to repeat, Psalm 51 is a template as if David is sitting beside us and speaking out his experience and his great knowledge of God (in spite of it being under the old covenant!) when we fall into sin. But let’s not make it purely a template for when we fall but one which guides us away from the pitfalls, distress and heartache which sin produces in the first place. When choices come our way, when temptations come, think hard of the consequences but also remember the place we can come when sin takes place. PRAYER: How might this lead you into prayer today?

(Written by Kevin Carlson)

HYMN: Rock of Ages – Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling by Rosemary Siemens –