Psalm 51: True Theology – Part 4
“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
Last week in Part 3 of this four part series on Psalm 51, we examined David’s plea for renewal (vv. 7-12). This week we will conclude this series by looking at David’s vow to teach and praise (vv. 13-17).
Part 4 – The Vow to Teach and Praise (vv. 13-17)
“13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
David is so confident that God will grant his petitions for forgiveness and renewal that he vows: “I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” The joy the Gospel creates in the heart of a penitent sinner is often irrepressible. We are given similar examples in the gospels. Often when Jesus healed someone, He would strictly command them to tell no one, but they would not keep silent. For example: “And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” (Mark 7:35-36; see also Mark 1:45 and Luke 5:15)
Note that David did not say “I will teach transgressors ‘your laws.’ ” He says “your ways.” David understands that sinners will return (i.e., repent or convert) to the God of steadfast love and abundant mercy, to the God who is gracious to contrite hearts.
The law can spiritually break a sinner’s bones and ready him for grace, but it cannot create a clean heart or renew a right spirit. Paul also wrote: “for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” On the other hand, the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel creates faith, a clean conscience, a new heart and a right spirit. Thus David vows to proclaim the Gospel to transgressors. Moreover, he is confident that others will receive the Word and return to God with joy and gladness.
David’s second vow has the characteristics of both teaching and praise. The dead can do neither from the grave. Thus if God delivers David from divine judgment for his culpability in the murder of Uriah, David will “sing aloud of [His] righteousness.” The significant point here is that God’s righteousness includes his mercy. Paul explained this connection (and the connection to Christ) beautifully in his letter to the Romans:
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom 3:21-26)
David’s third vow begins with a request that God would grant him the courage to praise Him publically: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” The public praise of God is a gift of the Holy Spirit: “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3).
To praise the Lord publicly is tantamount to engaging in a battle against the devil, the world, our own flesh and all its vices. It involves personal humiliation in that we are declaring that we are not our own lords. We may be tempted, for fear of danger, gain of security or due to the bad advice of friends or family, to close our lips. Therefore, we might pray for strength to ignore the suggestions of the devil, the world and our own flesh to keep silent, and that God would grant us courage to publically declare His praise.
The sacrifice of praise from a humbled and contrite heart is most pleasing to God. These are gifts of the Holy Spirit who comes to us through the Word of God and learned in the school of experience.
“18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.”
This article concludes this series on Psalm 51. Thank you for reading!
Closing prayer: Heavenly Father, may the words of this Psalm of David dwell in us richly. For the sake of your Son our Lord, grant us your steadfast love and abundant mercy. Protect us from the schemes of the devil and deliver us from evil. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
In preparing for writing these articles, I made extensive use of the following works:
Brug, John F. Peoples Bible Commentary: Psalms 1. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2005. Print.
Ngien, Dennis. Fruit for the Soul: Luther on the Lament Psalms. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015. Print.
Terrien, Samuel. The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003. Print