Psalm 51

1650 psalter

The broken-hearted sinner’s cry to the God of grace

We are taught by the example of David that even the foremost Christian can fall prey to temptation. This psalm was written after Nathan the prophet had confronted David with his sin with Bathsheba. But his example should not make us so presumptuous as to excuse any sin that we may commit. Rather, we ought to use it as continual admonition to prevent ourselves falling into temptation and a snare. 

Nearly every verse is a petition and an acknowledgment of his transgression. His prayer is redolent with repentance. He calls his lapse, transgression, iniquity and sin, a three-fold description of his impugning the law and holiness of God. He sinned against Bathsheba, her husband and his own soul, but he realised that the greatest sin was against God (v. 4). 

But blessed be His Name, there is forgiveness and mercy with God. A broken spirit and a contrite heart can know a cleansing whiter than the snow. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, can cleanse from all unrighteousness.

Pastor Jeff O’ Neil

Recommended Tune: St Mary, Coleshill, Bangor, St Kilda

St Mary
St Kilda

Psalm 51

¹After thy loving–kindness, Lord,
Have mercy upon me:
For thy compassions great, blot out
All mine iniquity.

²Me cleanse from sin, and throughly wash
From mine iniquity:
³For my transgressions I confess;
My sin I ever see.

⁴’Gainst thee, thee only, have I sinn’d,
In thy sight done this ill;
That when thou speak’st thou may’st be just,
And clear in judging still.

⁵Behold, I in iniquity
Was form’d the womb within;
My mother also me conceiv’d
In guiltiness and sin.

⁶Behold, thou in the inward parts
With truth delighted art;
And wisdom thou shalt make me know
Within the hidden part.

⁷Do thou with hyssop sprinkle me,
I shall be cleansed so;
Yea, wash thou me, and then I shall
Be whiter than the snow.

⁸Of gladness and of joyfulness
Make me to hear the voice;
That so these very bones which thou
Hast broken may rejoice.

⁹All mine iniquities blot out,
Thy face hide from my sin.
¹⁰Create a clean heart, Lord, renew
A right sp’rit me within.

¹¹Cast me not from thy sight, nor take
Thy Holy Sp’rit away.
¹²Restore me thy salvation’s joy;
With thy free Sp’rit me stay.

¹³Then will I teach thy ways unto
Those that transgressors be;
And those that sinners are shall then
Be turned unto thee.

¹⁴O God, of my salvation God,
Me from blood–guiltiness
Set free; then shall my tongue aloud
Sing of thy righteousness.

¹⁵My closed lips, O Lord, by thee
Let them be opened;
Then shall thy praises by my mouth
Abroad be published.

¹⁶For thou desir’st not sacrifice,
Else would I give it thee;
Nor wilt thou with burnt–offering
At all delighted be.

¹⁷A broken spirit is to God
A pleasing sacrifice:
A broken and a contrite heart,
Lord, thou wilt not despise.

¹⁸Show kindness, and do good, O Lord,
To Zion, thine own hill:
The walls of thy Jerusalem
Build up of thy good will.

¹⁹Then righteous off’rings shall thee please,
And off’rings burnt, which they
With whole burnt–off’rings, and with calves,
Shall on thine altar lay.