(The following texts highlighted in this color of blue is taken from

The Treasury of David by Charles Haddon Spurgeon that in

black is from the King James Version and from the Pulpit Commentary) 



                                                Psalm 51

Title. To the Chief Musician. Therefore not written for private meditation

only, but for the public service of song. Suitable for the loneliness of

individual penitence, this matchless Psalm is equally well adapted for an

assembly of the poor in spirit. A Psalm of David. It is a marvel, but

nevertheless a fact, that writers have been found to deny David's authorship

of this Psalm, but their objections are frivolous, the Psalm is David like all

over. It would be far easier to imitate Milton, Shakespeare, or Tennyson,

than David. His style is altogether sui generis, and it is as easily

distinguished as the touch of Rafaelle or the colouring of Rubens. "When

Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba."

(This was the devil’s nest egg that caused many sins to be laid, one upon

another – John Trapp)  When the divine message had aroused his dormant

conscience and made him see the greatness of his guilt, he wrote this Psalm. He

had forgotten his psalmody while he was indulging his flesh, but he returned to his

harp when his spiritual nature was awakened, and he poured out his song to the

accompaniment of sighs and tears. The great sin of David is not to be

excused, but it is well to remember that his case has an exceptional

collection of specialities in it. He was a man of very strong passions, a

soldier, and an Oriental monarch having despotic power; no other king of

his time would have felt any compunction for having acted as he did, and

hence there were not around him those restraints of custom and association

which, when broken through, render the offense the more monstrous. He

never hints at any form of extenuation, nor do we mention these facts in

order to apologize for his sin, which was detestable to the last degree; but

for the warning of others, that they reflect that the licentiousness in

themselves at this day might have even a graver guilt in it than in the erring

King of Israel. When we remember his sin, let us dwell most upon his

penitence, and upon the long series of chastisements which rendered the

after part of his life such a mournful history.


Divisions. It will be simplest to note in the first twelve verses the penitent's

confessions and plea for pardon, and then in the last seven his anticipatory

gratitude, and the way in which he resolves to display it.


THIS is the first psalm in which we have the word Spirit used in application to the

Holy Ghost  (William S. Plumer).  THIS is the first of a series of fifteen psalms

assigned by their titles to David, and mostly attached to special circumstances in

his life, which are said to have furnished the occasions for their composition. 

The psalm consists of:


  • an opening strophe, extending to four verses, which is an earnest prayer

for mercy and forgiveness (vs. 1-4);

  • a second strophe, of eight verses, which is an entreaty for restoration and

renewal (vs. 5-12);

  • a third strophe, of five verses, setting forth the return which

the psalmist will make, if he is forgiven and restored (vs. 13-17); and

a conclusion, in two verses, praying for God’s blessing on the people, and

promising an ample return on their part (vs. 18-19).


1 “Have mercy upon me, O God according to thy lovingkindness” - It is

observable that the whole psalm is addressed to God (Elohim), and not to Jehovah

(the “Lord” in v. 15 is Adonai), as though the psalmist felt himself unworthy to utter

the covenant-name, and simply prostrated himself as a guilty man before his offended

Maker. It is not correct to say that “loving-kindness implies a covenant” (Cheyne),

since God is “good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works”

(Psalm 145:9). Have mercy upon me, O God. David appeals at once to the mercy of

God, even before he mentions his sin. The sight of mercy is good for eyes

that are sore with penitential weeping. Pardon of sin must ever be an act of

pure mercy, and therefore to that attribute the awakened sinner flies.

"According to thy lovingkindness." Act, O Lord, like thyself; give mercy

like thy mercy. Show mercy such as is congruous with thy grace.


"Great God, thy nature hath no bound:

So let thy pardoning love be found."


What a choice word is that of our English version, a rare compound of

precious things: love and kindness sweetly blended in one - "lovingkindness."

 According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my

transgressions” -  David’s first prayer is for pity; his second, to have his offences

“blotted out,” or “wiped out” — entirely removed from God’s book (compare

Exodus 32:32; Isaiah 43:25; 44:22). He says “my transgressions,” in the plural,

because “his great sin did not stand alone — adultery was followed by

treachery and murder” (Canon Cook).  My revolts, my excesses, are all recorded

against me; but, Lord, erase the lines. Draw thy pen through the register. Obliterate

the record, though now it seems engraven in the rock for ever; many strokes of thy

mercy may be needed, to cut out the deep inscription, but then thou has a multitude

of mercies, and therefore,  I beseech thee, erase my sins. Let thy most loving

compassions come to me, and make thou thy pardons such as these would

suggest. Reveal all thy gentlest attributes in my case, not only in their

essence but in their abundance. Numberless have been thine acts of

goodness, and vast is thy grace; let me be the object of thine infinite mercy,

and repeat it all in me. Make my one case an epitome of all thy tender

mercies. By every deed of grace to others I feel encouraged, and I pray

thee let me add another and a yet greater one, in my own person, to the

long list of thy compassions. (The New Testament teaches that “the blood

of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from ALL sin(CY – 2009)



The Penitent’s Plea for Pardon (v. 1)


“Have mercy, O God!” This psalm is like a page of autobiography written in the

author’s life-blood. It is, indeed, the utterance of what  v. 17 describes, “a broken and

a contrite heart.” Nowhere in the Old Testament Scriptures do we find so profound

depth and tenderness of penitence, joined with such childlike faith in God’s pardoning

mercy. If the dark record of David’s crime had been silently omitted, we should have

been utterly at a loss to understand this psalm. Who could have thought that from the

same harp which uttered the sweet strain of Psalm 23, could proceed so deep a wail

of grief and self-abasement? Yet it is just because David’s joy in God and love to

God were so real that his repentance was so bitter. No hypocrite could have penned

this psalm. Any one who calls David a hypocrite shows dense ignorance of human

nature.“is psalm is like a page of autobiography written in the author’s life-blood.

It is, indeed, the utterance of what v. 17 describes, “a broken and a contrite heart.”

Nowhere in the Old Testament Scriptures do we find so profound depth and tenderness

of penitence, joined with such childlike faith in God’s pardoning mercy. If the dark

record of David’s crime had been silently omitted, we should have been

utterly at a loss to understand this psalm. Who could have thought that

from the same harp which uttered the sweet strain of Psalm 23, could

proceed so deep a wail of grief and self-abasement? Yet it is just because

David’s joy in God and love to God were so real that his repentance was

so bitter. No hypocrite could have penned this psalm. Any one who calls

David a hypocrite shows dense ignorance of human nature.


  • THE PENITENT’S PLEA FOR PARDON. “According to thy

lovingkindness [or, ‘mercy’]; according to the multitude of thy tender

mercies [or, ‘compassions’.].” He has nothing to plead in defense or

palliation (reduce the violence of a disease).  God’s mercy and pity are

David’s sole hope. What warrant has he to expect them?   Answer:  God’s

covenant with Israel. Such sins as David’s (murder and adultery)

could not be purged by sacrifice (see Hebrews 10:28).  While under the

condemnation of such guilt, it would have been vain presumption to offer peace

offerings. V. 16 may include both, but the whole law of sacrifice revealed God’s

delight in mercy, while it foreshadowed the true atonement. The gospel puts this

plea in our mouth in a new form. It supplies an incomparably more glorious

warrant and encouragement than the Old Testament believer possessed — the

atonement which God Himself has provided (II Corinthians 5:21;  Ephesians

1:7; Romans 5:8


  • THE UNLIMITED EFFICACY OF THIS PLEA.  It is difficult to imagine

sins more heinous than those of which David had been guilty.  Their guilt was

enormously aggravated by the fact that he was the divinely chosen king of the

chosen people, an inspired prophet, and the object of signal and unrivalled

blessings from God. Perhaps we have sometimes wished this dark page of

Scripture had remained unwritten. But there it stands, to teach us that no

sinner need despair of God’s mercy. The door at which David entered is wide

enough for every true penitent. So Paul points to his own case as an

encouragement to all (I Timothy 1:15-16).


  • THE EXCLUSIVE ADEQUACY OF THIS PLEA.  It admits no addition,

no partnership, no substitute. It is this or none (Romans 3:23-26).  By one sin,

James teaches us, God’s Law is as completely broken as by many (James 2:10).

Therefore only the blood which cleanses from all sin (I John 1:7) can cleanse

from any (Titus 3:4-7).  The ground of pardon and salvation — all stand on one

level; all join in one song (Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9).  The folly and guilt of

impenitence appear most of all in this — that it is a despising of God’s

mercy and compassion (Romans 2:4 Hebrews 10:29).


2  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity” -  Wash me, as a fuller

washes a fouled garment (πλῦνονplunonwash, cleanse -  Septuagnint

 not υίψονuipson -  not as a man washes his skin).  It is not enough to blot out

the sin; his person is defiled, and he fain would be purified. He would have God

Himself cleanse him, for none but He could do it effectually. The washing must

be thorough, it must be repeated, therefore he cries, "Multiply to wash me."  The

dye is in itself immovable, and I, the sinner, have lain long in it, till

the crimson is ingrained; but, Lord, wash, and wash, and wash again, till the

last stain is gone, and not a trace of my defilement is left. The hypocrite is

content if his garments be washed, but the true suppliant cries, "wash me."

The careless soul is content with a nominal cleansing, but the truly awakened

conscience desires a real and practical washing, and that of a most complete and

efficient kind.  Wash me throughly from mine iniquity”. It is viewed as one great

pollution, polluting the entire nature, and as all his own; as if nothing were so much

his own as his sin. The one sin against Bathsheba, served to show the psalmist the

whole mountain of his iniquity, of which that foul deed was but one falling stone. He

desires to be rid of the whole mass of his filthiness, which though once so little

observed, had then become a hideous and haunting terror to his mind.and cleanse

me from my sin”. “Transgressions,” “iniquity,” “sin,” cover every form of moral

evil, and, united together, imply the deepest guilt (comp. vs. 3, 5, 9, 14  This is a more

general expression; as if the psalmist said, "Lord, if washing will not do, try some

other process; if water avails not, let fire, let anything be tried, so that I may but be

purified.  Rid me of my sin by some means, by any means, by every means, only do

purify me completely, and leave no guilt upon my soul." (Reader, remember, this

is before Christ, David was desperate and have we not all felt this separationfrom

Christ when under the pressure of unatoned sin?  - CY – 2009)  It is not the punishment

he cries out against, but the sin.  Many a murderer is more alarmed at the gallows than

at the murder which brought him to it. The thief loves the plunder, though he fears the

prison.  Not so David: he is sick of sin as sin; his loudest outcries are against the evil of

his transgression, and not against the painful consequences of it.  When we deal

seriously with our sin, God will deal gently with us. When we hate what the Lord hates,

He will soon make an end of it, to our joy and peace.


3 “For I acknowledge my transgressions” (compare Psalm 32:5,

“I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest

the iniquity of my sin”). The first step in repentance is contrition; the

second, confession; the third, amendment of life – “and my sin is ever before me.

I bear it in mind; I do not hide it from myself. I keep it continually before my mental

vision. This, too, is characteristic of true penitence. Mock penitents confess their sins,

and straightway forget them.  Real genuine ones find it impossible to forget.  My sin

as a whole is never out of my mind; it continually oppresses my spirit. I lay it before

thee because it is ever before me: Lord, put it away both from thee and me. To an

awakened conscience, pain on account of sin is not transient and occasional, but

intense and permanent, and this is no sign of divine wrath, but rather a sure preface of

abounding favor.




A Portrait (v. 3)


Lord Macaulay tells us that the Earl of Breadalbane, who was the chief

hand in the Massacre of Glencoe, never had rest afterwards. “He did his

best to assume an air of unconcern. He made his appearance in the most

fashionable coffee-house in Edinburgh, and talked loudly and self-complacently

about the important service in which he had been engaged in

the mountains. Some of his soldiers, however, who observed him closely,

whispered that all this bravery was put on. He was not the man that he had

been before that night. The form of his countenance was changed. In all

places, at all hours, whether he waked or slept, Glencoe was for ever

before him” (vol. 3. p. 216). So it was also with David. As Chrysostom has

said, “He carried in his bosom a painted picture of adultery and murder.”

Let us consider this.


  • THE SUBJECT OF THE PAINTING. Sin is everywhere. It is in the

world, in society, in our friends, but worst of all IT IS IN OUR OWN

HEARTS!  “My sin!” What is “before” us is not the sins of others,

but our own sins, or perhaps some particular sin that stands out in all

its hideousness and enormity.



It is not said before the world or the Church, but “before me.” Everything

is individualized.


“Awakened conscience acts the artist,

Uses the sun of heaven’s law

To photograph the sinner’s life;

Then holds it up, a hideous monster,

To the affrighted eye!”  (Yesterday, I showed my seven year old

grandson some slides which he held up to the light to look at!

CY – August 2, 2017)


But conscience has its allies. (I read where grandparents and grandchildren

are natural allies!  Well, they are not the only allies in the world!  CY – 2017)

There is memory. All that we have thought and felt and done, all the varied

events and experiences of our life, are recorded by memory. (And to think

that man gets puffed up by the invention of the camcorder – and now

everyone has a smart phone with a recorder – and to think not only does

God have His Archives with you and me in it, but mankind has his

smart phone and nothing is private anymore?  Well, God has had His

Super Virtual Reality contraptions to record history from time immemorial!

CY – 2017)  Much may seem to be forgotten, BUT NOTHING IS REALLY

LOST!   Go where you will:


Yet doth remembrance, like a sovereign prince,

For you a stately gallery maintain of gay and tragic pictures?


“My sin!” It is there, in memory, to be brought out at the call of conscience.


“The austere remembrance of that deed

Will hang upon thy spirit like a cloud,

And tinge its world of happy images with hues of horror.”


There is also association. One of its chief uses is to add force to

conscience. We are strangely linked with the past. A book will recall the

giver. A letter will start various trains of thought, according to its contents

and the circumstances in which it is received. A portrait will bring up

memories of the departed. Remember how Cowper’s heart was moved by

the portrait of his mother — “faithful remembrancer of one so dear.”

How much of our lives are associated with certain songs of popular or

religious music?  CY – 2017)  So it is as to our sin:


Ø      the place,

Ø      the surroundings,

Ø      the circumstances, or some

Ø      link of association,


may bring all the past before us fresh as a yesterday event. Remember

Pharaoh’s butler (Genesis 41:9), the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:18),

Peter the apostle (Mark 14:72).


And what is presented to conscience by  memory and association, the

imagination works out with powerful effect, bringing in not only the past,

but the future, the terrible result. But besides all this, we are to take into

account the hand of God, working by conscience through providence and

Holy Scripture. David’s eyes were opened by the ministry of Nathan. He

presented his sin to him in a parable, and then brought it home to himself in

demonstration of the Spirit. “Thou art the man!”  (II Samuel12:7)  And so

it is still. “By the Law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20) “When the

commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”  (ibid. ch. 7:9)  We have a

striking illustration of this in Augustine (‘Confessions,’ bk. 8. ch. 7): “Thou,

O Lord, whilst he was speaking, didst turn me round towards myself, taking

me from behind my back, where I had placed me, unwilling to observe myself,

and setting me before my face, that I might see how foul I was, how crooked

and defiled, bespotted and ulcerous.” Sooner or later, THIS VISION WILL

COME TO US ALL!   “My sin is ever before me.”  (v. 3)  This may be the

cry in the torments of hell, but THERE, THERE IS NO HOPE!   It may be

said under the power of a guilty conscience, and then the answer is,

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” 

(John 1:29)



CONTEMPLATED.  The sight is painful, but salutary. If it humbles us, it

leads us to exalt God. If it embitters sin to us, it endears Christ to us, and

binds us for ever to Him in love and devotion.


Ø      Sense of personal guilt. “My sin.” We may have been tempted; but in

the deepest sense the guilt is ours, surely and inalienably. Our sins are more

our own than anything else we possess. With this conviction we cry, “....

men and brethren, what shall we do?”  (Acts 2:37)


Ø      Grief and self-abasement. Others may speak of “my place,” “my

merits,” “my services;” but for me it is “MY SIN!” The more we study

this picture — looking at it in the light of the crossthe more VILE

and WICKED do we become in our own eyes. We see ourselves AS

GOD SEES US  and are filled with AMAZEMENT and HORROR.

Besides, we come to understand that our sin is not a casual thing, but

the product of the sinful heart within. True grief will lead to sincere

and full confession, and confession to forgiveness.  When we justify God,

God will justify us.


Ø      Simple and unfeigned faith. Despairing of ourselves, we cease from our

own works, and cast ourselves upon THE MERCY OF GOD!   We accept

the testimony which God has given of His Son, and, trusting in Him, WE



Ø      Adoring gratitude and love. To whom much is forgiven, the same loveth

much. (Luke 7:47)  We owe everything to Christ, and the love of Christ

constraineth us (II Corinthians 5:14-15). The thought of the sins of the past,

which we carry with us, will not only make us humble and watchful, but

stimulate us to increasing love and zeal in the service of HIM WHO HATH


“......the worshippers once purged should have no more conscience of sins!”

I know that is true because great sins I once committed, and some of have

had besetting sins:


“In the life of every individual, there is a "besetting" sin that can tower like a mountain

between the individual and God. This is "the sin which doth so easily beset us"

[Hebrews 12:1]. and it differs according to the person. What is a besetting sin to

one person may not trouble another at all. Sometimes this sin, or persistently assailing

evil, is quite obvious to others, while in other cases it is hidden in the heart and known

only to the individual and God. In either case, it is perplexing and harassing, and, if

allowed to linger and grow, it may end in tragic moral failure. Practically every

believer wrestles with an habitually assaulting sin, even those whose service to

Christ is of outstanding quality.”  http://www.isaiah58.com/tracts/besettingsin.html

Pioneer Tract Society 


Those sins, unforgiven, were a heavy load on the conscience.  Now

forgiven by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and the mercy of

God the Father, the conscience no longer bothers the forgiven one!

However, there is still a memory of sin {although God forgets and

remembers our atoned for sins, no more – Hebrews 8:12}, yet

we remember, but the purpose I believe is to help us to remember

NEVER TO DO THAT AGAIN!  I know, because I have experienced

both the besetting sin and THE FORGIVENESS OF GOD!  CY – 2017)


4 “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned-  ("Behold! I, so holy a king, who

have with so much pious devotedness observed the law and the worship of God,

have been so tempted and overcome by the inbred evil and sin of my flesh, that

I have murdered an innocent man, and have for adulterous purposes taken away

his wife! And is not this an evident proof that my nature is more deeply infected and

corrupted by sin than ever I thought it was? I who was yesterday chaste am today

an adulterer! I who yesterday had hands innocent of blood, am today a man of

blood guiltiness!"  (Martin Luther) Though no sins could be more directly against

man than adultery and murder, yet David feels that that aspect of them shrinks away

into insignificance, and is as if it were not, when they are viewed in their true and real

character, as offences against the majesty of God. Every sin is mainly against God;

and the better sort of men always feel this. The virus of sin lies in its opposition to God:

the psalmist's sense of sin towards others rather tended to increase the force of this

feeling of sin against God. All his wrong doing centered, culminated, and came to a

climax, at the foot of the divine throne.  To injure our fellow men is sin, mainly because

in so doing we violate the law of God. The penitent's heart was so filled with a sense of

the wrong done to the Lord Himself, that all other confession was swallowed up in a

broken hearted acknowledgment of offence against Him.How can I do this great

wickedness,” says Joseph, when tempted by Potiphar’s wife, (Genesis 39:9) and sin

against God?” And so David to Nathan, when he was first rebuked by him, “I have

sinned against the Lord (2 Samuel 12:13) -  “and done this evil in thy sight;

David was so bent upon his sin, as that the majesty and presence of God did not awe

him at all: this is a great aggravation of sin, and which makes it to be so much the

more heinous.  For a thief to steal in the very sight of the judge, is the height of

impudence that may be; and thus it is for any man to offend in the sight of God and not

to be moved with it. (Thomas Horton)  To commit treason in the very court of the king

and before his eye is impudence indeed: David felt that his sin was committed in all its

filthiness while Jehovah Himself looked on. None but a child of God cares for the eye

of God, but where there is grace in the soul it reflects a fearful guilt upon every evil act,

when we remember that the God whom we offend was present when the trespass

was ommitted.  - “that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear

when thou judgest  Clear in the eyes of the world, that is; free from

all charge of harshness or injustice, when thou judgest me, and condemnest me for

my sins, as thou must do.  He could not present any argument against divine justice,

if it proceeded at once to condemn him and punish him for his crime. His own

confession, and the judge's own witness of the whole transaction, places the

transgression beyond all question or debate; the iniquity was indisputably

committed, and was unquestionably a foul wrong, and therefore the course of

justice was clear and beyond all controversy.


Vs. 5-12. — The prayer now makes a stride in advance. It has been hitherto for the

first step in justification — the wiping out of past transgressions. It is now for

restoration, for a renewal of spiritual life, for a return to God’s favor, and to the

spiritual joy involved in it. First, however, an additional confession is made (vs. 5-6).

Not only have I committed acts of sin (vs. 1-4), but sin is thoroughly ingrained into

my nature. I was conceived in it; I was brought forth in it; only the strongest

remedies can cleanse me from it (v. 7). But cleansing alone is not enough. I need

renewal (v. 10); I need thy Holy Spirit (v. 11); I crave, above all, the sense of a

restoration to thy favor — a return to the old feelings of “joy and gladness” (v. 8), 

even “the joy of thy salvation” (v. 12).


5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity” rather, in iniquity was I brought forth -

He is thunderstruck at the discovery of his inbred sin, and proceeds to set it forth.

This was not intended to justify himself, but it rather meant to complete the

confession.  It is as if he said, not only have I sinned this once, but I am in my very

nature a sinner. The fountain of my life is polluted as well as its streams.  My birth

tendencies are out of the square of equity; I naturally lean to forbidden things. Mine

is a constitutional disease, rendering my very person obnoxious to thy wrath. - “and in

sin did my mother conceive me”.  The fact of congenital depravity is stated,

not only here, but also in Job 14:4; Psalm 58:3; it is also implied in Isaiah 43:27 and

Hosea 6:7.  He goes back to the earliest moment of his being, not to traduce his

mother, but to acknowledge the deep tap roots of his sin. It is a wicked wresting of

Scripture to deny that original sin and natural depravity are here taught. Surely men

who cavil at this doctrine have need to be taught of the Holy Spirit what be the first

principles of the faith. David's mother was the Lord's handmaid, he was born in

chaste wedlock, of a good father, and he was himself, "the man after God's own

heart; " (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22) and yet his nature was as fallen as that of any

other son of Adam, and there only needed the occasion for the manifesting of

that sad fact. Alas, for poor humanity! Those who will may cry it up, but he is most

blessed who in his own soul has learned to lament his lost estate.


6Behold” – Here is the great matter for consideration. God desires not merely

outward virtue, but inward purity, and the penitent's sense of sin is greatly deepened

as with astonishment he discovers this truth, and how far he is from satisfying the

divine demand. This second "Behold" is fitly set over against the first (v. 5), how

great the gulf which yawns between them!  “thou desirest truth in the inward

parts” -  (comp. Job 38:36). God requires not merely such purity as might be

attained by the use of legal and ritual methods; but true inward purity of thought

and heart, which is a very different matter.  Reality, sincerity, true holiness, heart

fidelity, these are the demands of God. He cares not for the pretence of purity, He

looks to the mind, heart, and soul. Always has the Holy One of Israel estimated men

by their inner nature, and not by their outward professions; to Him the inward is as

visible as the outward, and He rightly judges that the essential character of an action

lies in the motive of him who works it - “and in the hidden part thou shalt make

me to know wisdom”.  Rather, do thou make me. An optative. The meaning is,

“As nothing will content thee but this perfect, inward purity, do thou give me into

my heart its fundamental principle-wisdom, or the fear of God.”  The penitent feels

that God is teaching him truth concerning His nature, which he had not before

perceived. The love of the heart, the mystery of its fall, and the way of its purification –

this hidden wisdom we must all attain; and it is a great blessing to be able to believe

that the Lord will "make us to know it."  No one can teach our innermost nature but

the Lord, but He can instruct us to profit.  The Holy Spirit can write the law on our

heart, and that is the sum of practical wisdom. He can put the fear of the Lord within,

and that is the beginning of wisdom.  He can reveal Christ in us, and He is essential

wisdom. Such poor, foolish, disarranged souls as ours, shall yet be ordered aright, and

truth and wisdom shall reign within us.


7  Purge me with hyssop”-  “Hyssop” alone could by the Levitical Law

cleanse from contact with a corpse (Numbers 19:18) or from the defilement of

leprosy (Leviticus 14:4). David recognizes that his impurity is of the extremest kind,

and needs the remedy which has the greatest purifying power. Legally, this was the

hyssop, with its “blood of sprinkling” (Leviticus 14:6-7); spiritually, it was the

blood of Christ, which was thus symbolized. Sprinkle the atoning blood upon me

with the appointed means. Give me the reality which legal ceremonies symbolize.

Nothing but blood can take away my blood stains, (Dear reader – millions of

Americans and people from around the world have sung the precious song “Nothing

But the Blood”[see Psalm 51 – Nothing But the Blood of Jesus – this web site]

nothing but the strongest purification can avail to cleanse me. Let the sin offering

purge my sin. Let Him who was appointed to atone, execute His sacred office on me;

for none can need it more than I. The passage may be read as the voice of faith as well

as a prayer, and so it  runs- Thou wilt purge me with hyssop” -  “and I shall be

clean” - Foul as I am, there is such power in the divine propitiation, that my sin shall

vanish quite away. Like the leper upon whom the priest has performed the cleansing

rites, I shall again be admitted into the assembly of thy people and allowed to share in

the privileges of the true Israel; while in thy sight also, through Jesus my Lord, I shall

be accepted – “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His

blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through

the forbearance of God” – (Romans 3:25). Wash me, and I shall be whiter than

snow” - Again the word is used which corresponds to the Greek πλῦνονplunon

wash, cleanse. “Wash me as garments are washed by the fuller” (see the comment on

v. 2).  Let it not merely be in type that I am clean, but by a real spiritual purification,

which shall remove the pollution of my nature. Let the sanctifying as well as the

pardoning process be perfected in me. Save me from the evils which my sin has created

and nourished in me.  None but thyself can whiten me, but thou canst in grace outdo

nature itself in its purest state.  Snow soon gathers smoke and dust, it melts and

disappears; thou canst give me an enduring purity. Though snow is white below as

well as on the outer surface, thou canst work the like inward purity in me, and make

me so clean that only an hyperbole can set forth my immaculate condition. Lord,

do this; my faith believes thou wilt, and well she knows thou canst.         


Scarcely does Holy Scripture contain a verse more full of faith than this. Considering

the nature of the sin, and the deep sense the psalmist had of it, it is a glorious faith to

be able to see in the blood sufficient, nay, all sufficient merit entirely to purge it

away. Considering also the deep natural inbred corruption which David saw and

experienced within, it is a miracle of faith that he could rejoice in the hope of perfect

purity in his inward parts. Yet, be it added, the faith is no more than the word

warrants, than the blood of atonement encourages, than the promise of God

deserves. O that some reader may take heart, even now while smarting under sin, to

do the Lord the honor to rely thus confidently on the finished sacrifice of Calvary

and the infinite mercy there revealed.



Secrets of the Heart (vs. 5-7)


“Behold!” This is a word of power. It takes hold. It demands attention. It

marks the solemnity and seriousness of the things to be brought before us.

The veil is so far lifted. In the light of God, we get glimpses into the awful

secrets of the heart.



first thing that startles and staggers us may be some actual transgression;

but as we consider the matter, we are forced back and back, and closer and

closer, till we end with the corrupt heart. Sin is everywhere; but always,

when we seek its origin, we come to the same source. We may not be able

to explain fully why and how the heart is corrupt, but of the fact there can

be no question. It is better to seek deliverance from the pit, than to weary

and vex ourselves in vain with inquiries how we came there.



TRUTH. What God desires must be right and good. But instead of “truth

in the inward parts,” it is the opposite.


Ø      Instead of law, there is self-will;

Ø      instead of order, there is confusion;

Ø      instead of the unity of the Spirit, there is enmity and strife.


The mind and the will are in contradiction to God. It is this that makes

the disease so desperate, and the remedy so difficult. We might

make clean the outside of the cup, but it remains defiled within. We may

whitewash the sepulchre, but after all it is a sepulchre, full of dead men’s

bones and of all uncleanness. (ch. 23:25-28)  Helpless, and well-nigh

despairing, our cry is, “O wretched man that I am! who shall

deliver me from the body of this death?”  (Romans 7:24)




HEART. Healing that does not go to the root of the disease is vain and

delusive. The heart must be made right OR NOTHING IS RIGHT!  This is

the work of God through Christ Jesus (Romans 6:8-14). It is not slight, or

half and half work, but THOROUGH!   We cannot serve two masters. But

by the grace of Christ we are saved from the bondage and misery of our old

master, and God is again enthroned in our hearts as our true and rightful

Lord, whose service is perfect freedom, and whose rewards are peace and





Whiter than Snow (v. 7)


Snow is remarkable for whiteness. As it glistens on the mountains, or lies

in virgin purity on the fields, what can compare with it? And yet David

speaks of something whiter. Where? Not in nature, but in the kingdom of

grace. Of whom? Not Christ, not the holy angels, not the saints in glory,

but, strange to say, of himself. Like Paul, he was “the chief of sinners”

(I Timothy 1:15) and he was, therefore, the fitter ensample of the marvelous

kindness and grace of God. In his prayer we find:


  • THE RECOIL OF THE SOUL FROM SIN. Many find pleasure in sin;

but when once the soul is quickened, there is an end to this. Sin is felt to be

vile and loathsome. Its touch is defilement; its presence is abhorrent; its

effects are dreaded as the most terrible.



us that retain their freshness and their purity condemn us and put us to

shame. They show what we have lost; they intensify our pains and our

sorrows. At the same time, they help to keep alive our hopes. While they

testify that we are fallen, they testify also that sin is not of our true nature

— that it is not something that rightly belongs to us, but that it should be

abjured and abhorred. The more we compare ourselves with God’s Law,

and the more truly we realize God’s will concerning us, the more earnestly




“Wash me!” This implies weakness and submission. We cannot “wash”

ourselves. Our tears and prayers, our penitences and endeavors, are in

vain. We cast ourselves implicitly upon God. Let God, who is holy and

good, do this great thing for us, and do it in His own way. It is not the

priest, it is not the saints; GOD ONLY CAN SAVE!   There is also the

glad faith.  “And I shall be whiter than snow.” The lost purity will be

restored. What God does, HE DOES PERFECTLY!  (“The Lord will

perfect that which concerneth me.”  Psalm 138:8)  What joy in being

“whiter than snow”! — not only pardoned (Isaiah 1:18), but cleansed

(I John 1:7; Revelation 7:14). It is heaven begun.


8 “Make me to hear joy and gladness” - (compare v. 12).  On forgiveness

follows naturally the sense of it, and this sense is in itself a deep satisfaction. But

the psalmist seems to ask for something more. He wants not mere negative peace

and rest, but the active thrilling joy which those experience who feel themselves

restored to God’s favor, and bask in the light of His countenance.  David prays

about his sorrow late in the Psalm; he began at once with his sin; he asks to hear

pardon, and then to hear joy. He seeks comfort at the right time and from the right

source. His ear has become heavy with sinning, and so he prays, "Make me

to hear." No voice could revive his dead joys but that which quickeneth the dead.

Pardon from God would give him double joy--"joy and gladness." No stinted bliss

awaits the forgiven one; he shall not only have a double blooming joy, but he shall

hear it; it shall sing with exultation. Some joy is felt but not heard, for it contends

with fears; but the joy of pardon has a voice louder than the voice of sin. God's

voice speaking peace is the sweetest music an ear can hear. “That the bones which

thou hast broken may rejoice” - That every ache and pain may cease, and be

replaced by gladness and rejoicing.  He was like a poor wretch whose bones are

crushed, crushed by no ordinary means, but by omnipotence itself. He groaned under

no mere flesh wounds; his firmest and yet most tender powers were "broken in pieces

all asunder; "his manhood had become a dislocated, mangled, quivering sensibility.

Yet if he who crushed would cure, every wound would become a new mouth for

song, every bone quivering before with agony would become equally sensible of

intense delight. The figure is bold, and so is the supplicant. He is requesting a

great thing; he seeks joy for a sinful heart, music for crushed bones. Preposterous

prayer anywhere but at the throne of God!  Preposterous there most of all but for

the cross where Jehovah Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree. A

penitent need not ask to be an hired servant, or settle down in despairing content with

perpetual mourning; he may ask for gladness and he shall have it; for if when prodigals

return the father is glad, and the neighbors and friends rejoice and are merry with music

and dancing, what need can there be that the restored one himself should be wretched?




Repentance and Forgiveness (vs. 1-8)


Some deny the Davidic origin of this psalm; but most refer it to the time

when Nathan charged David with the sins of adultery and murder. In these

verses we have set forth:


Ø      the nature of forgiveness, and

Ø      the nature of repentance.




Ø      Forgiveness is the inward and outward cleansing from sin. It is blotting

out a record or a debt that is against us — that is, the outward cleansing.

And it is a washing, or cleansing, or purging - that is, the inward

forgiveness, or the taking away of sin. So that it is a double work.


Ø      When we become conscious of such forgiveness, we rejoice with a great

gladness. (v. 8.) The strength (bones) which sin has broken is restored

and rejoices.




Ø      It is a trust in the Divine goodness and mercy. (v. 1.) Sorrow for sin

without hope in God is remorse and deathnot repentance.  

(“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be

repented of:  - II Corinthians 7:10)

Ø      A consciousness that our sin is more against God than against man.

Ø      An acknowledgment of the Divine righteousness in the punishment he

has suffered. (v. 4.)

Ø      He not only confesses the sinful deed, but traces it to the inheritance of

a nature sinfully inclined. (v. 5.)

Ø      He prays for inward truthfulness and wisdom as his only safety for the

future (v. 6).


9 “Hide thy face from my sins. Turn thyself away from them — do not so much

as see them. The apostle speaks of times of ignorance, which God “winked at”

(Acts 17:30) – Do not look at them; be at pains not to see them. They thrust themselves

in the way; but, Lord, refuse to behold them, lest if thou consider them, thine anger burn,

and I die - “and blot out all mine iniquities” - (comp. v. 1).  He repeats the prayer of

the first verse with the enlargement of it by the word "all." All repetitions are not

"vain repetitions" (Matthew 6:7).  Souls in agony have no space to find variety

of language: pain has to content itself with monotones. David's face was ashamed with

looking on his sin, and no diverting thoughts could remove it from his memory; but

he prays the Lord to do with his sin what he himself cannot. If God hide not his face

from our sin, He must hide it forever from us; and if He blot not out our sins, He

must blot our names out of his book of life.


10Create in me a clean heart, O God” - i.e. do more than purify me — do

more than cleanse me (v. 7); by an act of creative power (בּרא) make in me a new

 clean heart. Compare the Christian doctrine of the “new birth” and “new life.”

This "creation" is from nothing. David uses the same word of our

creation which Moses uses of "the creation of the heaven and the earth." Our

creation "in Jesus Christ" is no mere strengthening of our powers, no mere aiding

of our natural weakness by the might of the grace of God, it is not a mere

amendment, improvement of our moral habits;  it is a creation out of nothing, of

that which we had not before. There was nothing in us whereof to make it. We

were decayed, corrupt, dead in trespasses and sins. What is dead becometh

not alive, except by the infusion of what it had not. What is corrupt receiveth not

soundness, save by passing away itself and being replaced by a new production.

"The old man" passeth not into the new man, but is "put off." (Ephesians 4:22-24)

It is not the basis of the new life, but a hindrance to it. It must be "put

off" and the new man "put on", created in Christ Jesus. E. B. Pusey, D.D., 1853.

Compare the Christian doctrine of the “new birth” and “new life.”  “Create” - 

What! has sin so destroyed us, that the Creator must be called in again?  What

ruin then doth evil work among mankind!Create in me” -  I, in my outward

fabric, still exist; but I am empty, desert, void. Come, then, and let thy power be

seen in a new creation within my old fallen self. Thou didst make a man in the

world at first; Lord, make a new man in me! “A clean heart” In the seventh verse

he asked to be clean; now he seeks a heart suitable to that cleanliness; but he does not

say, "Make my old heart clean; " he is too experienced in the hopelessness of the

old nature. He would have the old man buried as a dead thing, and a new creation

brought in to fill its place. None but God can create either a new heart or a new

earth! Salvation is a marvelous display of supreme power; the work in us as much as

that for us is wholly of Omnipotence. The affections must be rectified first, or all our

nature will go amiss. The heart is the rudder of the soul, and till the Lord take it in

hand we steer in a false and foul way. O Lord, thou who didst once make me, be

pleased to new make me, and in my most secret parts renew me - “and renew

a right spirit within me”.  “Heart” and “spirit” are used  interchangeably for the

inward essence of man; heart emphasizes the individual side of man’s life, spirit, its

Divine.  David, in asking both for a new heart and a new spirit, requests the

RENOVATION of his entire mental and moral nature, which he recognizes as

corrupt and depraved.  The great inner world of joy and sorrow, love and hate, faith

and unbelief, nobleness and baseness, holiness and sin, is the same in England

(United States) to-day as in Judaea three thousand years ago. It has not ceased to

be true that “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.”

(Proverbs 27:19). There is still the same room and need for

the prayer of the text, “Create in me a clean heart, O God”.  It is still true that it is a

prayer which only the Spirit of God could inspire, can fulfil, or can interpret.  David

felt that his heart, his spirit, his inmost self, needed cleansing and renewal, which

God alone could impart.  David begins (vs. 1-9) by asking for Divine mercy; here he

invokes Divine power. He uses the strongest term possible, “create.” The same life-

breathing Spirit who brooded over the dark waters at the first creation (Genesis 1:2)

must descend on man’s dark, sinful heart, and breathe life into it (II Corinthians 4:6;

Ephesians 2:1, 5, 10). Our Savior expresses the same great spiritual change as a

new birth (John 3:3, 5-8). Thus the Old Testament here anticipates the deepest

teaching of the New. But there is another side, equally recognized in Scripture

(Ezekiel 18:31; Isaiah 1:16). As strongly in the New Testament (James 4:4, 8;

I John 3:3). God does not deal with men as machines or statues. God speaks to

men, beseeches, warns, invites. Our Savior did so, even to the very persons He

described as closing their eyes, etc. (Matthew 13:15). It is by the reception of

Divine truth that the heart is purified, spiritual life conveyed (I Peter 1:22; James 1:18;

John 6:63).  This cannot take place passively and unconsciously. Still, when all is

said, life can come only from God (Psalm 36:9; Ezekiel 11:19). David’s prayer

goes to the central depth, the innermost need of our nature.  “Renew a right

spirit within me” - It was there once, Lord, put it there again. The law on my heart

has become like an inscription hard to read: new write it, gracious Maker. Remove

the evil as I have entreated thee; but, O replace it with good, lest into my swept,

empty, and garnished heart, from which the devil has gone out for a while, seven

other spirits more wicked than the first should enter and dwell (Luke 11:26).The two

sentences make a complete prayer. Create what is not there at all; renew that which

is there, but in a sadly feeble state.


The utterance of this prayer with no sense of sin, no longing for holiness,

would be mockery. If you feel you cannot honestly utter it, what you have

to do is to ask that God’s Holy Spirit will teach and enable you (John 1:12,

16:8-11).  If this is truly your prayer, the Holy Spirit must have taught you.

And the prayers He teaches carry the earnest of their fulfillment.




Prayer For a Pure Heart (v. 10)


“Create in me a clean heart, O God,”  Human life belongs to two different worlds,

distinct, yet inseparably interwoven — the world of outward nature, and the world

of inward experience. Since this psalm was written, amazing changes have

passed on outward nature in relation to man’s life; but the world of inward

experience is substantially unchanged. Even within half a century or less,

human labour, discovery, and invention have so modified our relations to

the globe we inhabit, and to the forces of nature, that we sometimes say we

live in a different world. But the great inner world of joy and sorrow, love

and hate, faith and unbelief, nobleness and baseness, holiness and sin, is the

same in England/America to-day as in Judaea three thousand years ago. It has not

ceased to be true that “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man

to man.”  (Proverbs 27:19). There is still the same room and need for the prayer

of the text. It is still true that it is a prayer which ONLY THE SPIRIT OF GOD

could inspire, can fulfill, or can interpret.



How else can it be rationally accounted for? A prayer to God as Creator,

for spiritual purity and rectitude: “a clean heart and a right spirit.” Whence

came these ideas? Still more, whence came these desires? It is easy to

answer They were suggested by the purifications ordained by the Law

of Moses; sprinkling with blood, with the water of purification in which the

ashes of the heifer had been steeped, and “divers washings.” But even

supposing these rites could have originated the notion of inward purity and

spiritual holiness, how could they create any corresponding desire? But, in

fact, these spiritual ideas were the very meaning of those rites, for the sake

of which they were ordained (see e.g. Exodus 19:5, 10-11). It has been

asserted by scholars, who ought to know better, that the original notion of

sin, in the Old Testament Scriptures and among the ancient Hebrews, was

merely ceremonial. The doctrine of the inward, spiritual nature of sin, and

need of inward purification, was gradually developed, it is said, by the

prophets. No assertion can be more baseless. Of all the words (not fewer

than ten) used in the sacred tongue to express sin, not one originally refers

to outward defilements; all are moral. The three principal occur in vs. 1-2,

(compare Psalm 32:1-2; Exodus 34:7).


(1)   “Transgression,” equivalent to “rebellion, viz. against God (compare

II Kings 8:20 for Hebrew word).  pasa - פֶּ֫שַׁע - “to transgress, rebel.” Apart

from biblical Hebrew, this verb occurs in post-biblical Hebrew, in Palestinian

Aramaic, and in Syriac, where it has the significance of “to be terrified” or

“to be tepid, to be insipid.” It does not appear in any other Semitic languages.

The verb occurs 41 times in the Old Testament. It is not found in the

Pentateuch.  The first occurrence is in Solomon’s prayer at the occasion of the

dedication of the temple: “And forgive Thy people who have sinned against

Thee and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against Thee

…” (I Kings 8:50, NASB). The basic sense of פֶּ֫שַׁע is “to rebel.” There are

two stages of rebellion. First, the whole process of rebellion has independence

in view: “Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab”

(II Kings 1:1). Second, the final result of the rebellion is the state

of independence: “In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of

Judah, and made a king over themselves” (II Kings 8:20, NASB). A more

radical meaning is the state of rebellion in which there is no end of the

rebellion in view. The process is no longer goal oriented.

The state thus described refers to a status quo. “So Israel rebelled against the

house of David unto this day” (I Kings 12:19). The prepositions used “against,”

and more rarely, mittahat yad  “from under the hand”) indicate the object of

revolt. The usage of mittahat yad  with  pasa fits into the category of rebellion

with no goal in view (II Chron. 21:8, 10). It is best translated as an absolute,

radical act (“to break away from”).  (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of

Old and New Testament Words)


(2) “Iniquity,” equivalent to “perverseness” — crooked and unjust thought

or action.


(3) “Sin,” equivalent to “error” — missing the mark.  These are moral, not

ceremonial ideas. The notion of pollution or defilement by crime was

familiar among ancient heathen nations. But it was external, to be removed

by outward ceremonies (see the story in Herodotus, 1:35-44). David felt

that his heart, his spirit, his inmost self, needed cleansing and renewal,




David begins (vs. 1-9) by asking for Divine mercy; here he invokes

Divine power. He uses the strongest term possible, “create.” The same

life-breathing Spirit who brooded over the dark waters at the first creation

(Genesis 1:2) must descend on man’s dark, sinful heart, and breathe life

into it (II Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 2:1, 5, 10). Our Saviour

expresses the same great spiritual change as a new birth (John 3:3, 5-8).

Thus the Old Testament here anticipates the deepest teaching of the

New. But there is another side, equally recognized in Scripture (Ezekiel

18:31; Isaiah 1:16). As strongly in the New Testament (James 4:4, 8;

I John 3:3). God does not deal with men as machines or statues.



Ø      speaks to men,

Ø      beseeches,

Ø      warns,

Ø      invites.


Our Saviour did so, even to the very persons He described as closing their

eyes, etc. (Matthew 13:15). It is by the reception of Divine truth that the heart

is purified, spiritual life conveyed (I Peter 1:22; James 1:18; John 6:63).

This cannot take place passively and unconsciously. Still, when all is said,

life can come ONLY FROM GOD!  (Psalm 36:9; Ezekiel 11:19). David’s

prayer goes to the central depth, the innermost need of our nature. Our

reason is incompetent to reconcile these opposite views (Divine grace and

human will); but Paul shows their practical harmony (Philippians 2:12-13).




needful to readers as to writers of the Scriptures; not the same, but as real.

The inspiration of the writer of this psalm we do not need. Here is the

psalm, perfect, unrivalled, unexhausted. But before David wrote it he

prayed it and felt it. We need that inspiration which taught him to pour out

this prayer into God’s ear (Romans 8:26). “A clean heart.” In the

earlier part of the psalm, washing and cleansing are the images of

forgiveness (so Isaiah 1:18; I John 1:7). But here, of renewal, spiritual purity

(II Corinthians 7:1). As the former prayer expresses sense of guilt, and desire

for God’s favor; so this sense of the foul impurity and hatefulness of sin,

and desire for God’s likeness. See what follows.




Ø      The utterance of this prayer with no sense of sin, no longing for holiness,

would be mockery. If you feel you cannot honestly utter it, what you

have to do is to ask that God’s Holy Spirit will teach and enable you

(John 1:12; 16:8-9).


Ø      If this is truly your prayer, the Holy Spirit must have taught you. And

the prayers He teaches carry the earnest of their fulfillment.


11Cast me not away from thy presence” - To he “cast away

from God’s presence” is to be altogether cast out of His covenant, made an

alien from Him, deprived of His favor and the light of His countenance (see

Genesis 4:14; II Kings 13:23). The psalmist deprecates so terrible a punishment,

although he feels that he has deserved itThrow me not away as worthless; banish

me not, like Cain, from thy face and favor. Permit me to sit among those who share

thy love, though I only be suffered to keep the door. I deserve to be forever denied

admission to thy courts; but, O good Lord, permit me still the privilege which is dear

as life itself to me.  “and take not thy Holy Spirit from me” - God’s Holy Spirit

had been poured upon David when he was first anointed by Samuel to the kingly

office (I Samuel 16:13). His great sins had undoubtedly “grieved” and vexed the

Spirit; and, had they been continued or not repented of, would have caused him to

withdraw himself; but they had not “wholly quenched the Spirit” (I Thessalonians

5:19). David was therefore able to pray, as he does, that the Holy Spirit of God might

still be vouchsafed to him, and not be taken away, as from one wholly unworthy.

Withdraw not His comforts, counsels, assistances, quickenings, else I am indeed as a

dead man. Do not leave me as thou didst Saul, when neither by Urim, nor by prophet,

nor by dream, thou wouldst answer him. Thy Spirit is my wisdom, leave me not to

my folly; He is my strength, O desert me not to my own weakness. Drive me

not away from thee, neither do thou go away from me. Keep up the union

between us, which is my only hope of salvation. It will be a great wonder if

so pure a spirit deigns to stay in so base a heart as mine; but then, Lord, it

is all wonder together, therefore do this, for thy mercy's sake, I earnestly

entreat thee.


12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” - Give me back that

“joy” which was mine when I was conscious of thy favor, and felt that

thou wert my Strength and my Salvation (Psalm 18:1; 62:2, etc.).   Salvation

he had known, and had known it as the Lord's own; he had also felt the joy

which arises from being saved in the Lord, but he had lost it for a while, and

therefore he longed for its restoration. None but God can give back this joy;

He can do it; we may ask it; He will do it for His own glory and our benefit.

This joy comes not first, but follows pardon and purity: in such order it is safe,

in any other it is vain presumption or idiotic delirium. “And uphold me with thy free

spirit.” There is no “thy” in the original; and it is his own spirit, not God’s Spirit,

of which the psalmist here speaks.  “Uphold me,” he says, “preserve me from falling,

by giving me a ‘free,’ or ‘generous,’ or ‘noble’ spirit — the opposite of that ‘spirit

of bondage’ which the apostle says that Christians do not receive” (Romans 8:15).

David had not lost his salvation but had lost its joy , and therefore he longed for its

restoration.  Conscious of weakness, mindful of having so lately fallen, he seeks to

be kept on his feet by power superior to his own. That royal Spirit, whose holiness

is true dignity, is able to make us walk as kings and priests, in all the uprightness of

holiness; and He will do so if we seek His gracious upholding. Such influences

will not enslave but emancipate us; for holiness is liberty, and the Holy Spirit

is a free Spirit. In the roughest and most treacherous ways we are safe with such

a Keeper; in the best paths we stumble if left to ourselves. The praying for joy

and upholding go well together; it is all over with joy if the foot is not kept;

and, on the other hand, joy is a very upholding thing, and greatly aids

holiness; meanwhile, the free, noble, royal Spirit is at the bottom of both.




Renewal and Elevation (vs. 9-12)


True repentance is not satisfied with the knowledge of forgiveness, but

goes on to seek the renewal and elevation of the nature that has sinned and

fallen into disorder.



OF GOD. (v. 9.) “Do not look upon me in anger for my sins, so as to

bring me into judgment, but lift upon me the glory of thy face, or

presence.” And to this end:



SEE THEE.” (v. 10; Matthew 5:8.)



THY WILL.” (v. 10.) A strong spirit not easily swayed to and fro

through its own weakness, or by the gusts of temptations, but persistent in

right aims and endeavors.



STRENGTH OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT. (v. 11.) Such a prayer on the

lips of David could not mean all that it means now to a Christian. Christ

has revealed the work and the necessity of the Divine Strengthener (the

Paraclete) far more clearly than it was known to David. As the Teacher of

the truth and the Helper of our weakness.  (John 16:8-11)



THE SPIRIT OF A FREE OBEDIENCE. (v. 12.) Our spirits attain to

their greatest freedom when under the influence of the Spirit of God

like water heated by fire.




A Great Evil Deprecated, and a Great Good Desired (vs. 11-12)


  • A GREAT EVIL DEPRECATED. The evil is twofold (v. 11). It is felt

that this judgment is deserved. God might justly do this. His presence had

been outraged; His Spirit had been not only resisted and grieved, but for a

time quenched. But such judgment would be utter ruin and woe, and it is

shrunk from with horror. To be “cast away” was ruin, but to have “the

Spirit taken away” was to have that ruin made complete and irremediable.

It is only those who have the Spirit, and who know something of the joys

of God’s presence, that can truly utter this prayer.


  • A GREAT GOOD DESIRED. The good is also twofold, meeting and

matching the evil. “Salvation,” with its joys, is the remedy for the dreaded

casting away. God’s free Spirit, with His loving and gracious upholding, is

the sure deliverance from the woes of desertion. This prayer is very bold.

At the very time when hanging on the verge of the precipice, the cry is

made, not for arrestment, not for delay, not for mere mercy, but for

complete restoration. The prayer is also far-reaching. It looks on. It sees

dangers ahead. It contemplates the possibility of further sins and falls. But

it also sees how all trials can be met and all temptation vanquished. The

believer stands, as it were, on the Delectable Mountains, and sees the path

clear before him; with the heavenly city gleaming bright in the distance.

The prayer is urged with childlike trust and confidence. There is the

consciousness of willingness, and, if the soul is willing, God must be

willing also. What we desire, He who kindled the desire is able to

accomplish. It is as when a child, with a sense of weakness, but with

clinging love and trust, says to its father, “I am afraid. Take my hand.

Guide me in the dark. Uphold me lest I fall. I cannot walk alone.” Thus

peace and joy are brought to the heart. The believer, committing himself to

the fatherly care of God, can tread with a free soul and a joyous step the

way set before him, knowing that it leads to glory, honor, and

immortality. In this great prayer there is:


Ø      hope for the chief of sinners, and

Ø      comfort for the most troubled of saints.



The Joy of God’s Salvation (v. 12)


Two opposite kinds of experience are wonderfully blended in this psalm — the

experience of a conscience-stricken transgressor, and the experience of

a believer rejoicing in Divine mercy. Nothing can be more mournful than

David’s profound self-abasement and piercing cry for pardon. Nothing can be

more calm, hopeful, restful, than his trust in God’s forgiving and restoring grace.

He is like one emerging from a gloomy cavern, where no ray of light shone,

who does not yet stand in the sunlight, but sees it shining at the cave’s mouth,

and knows that a few more steps will bring him into full sunshine. The secret

of this blending of opposite experiences is that David is looking so earnestly

away from himself to God.  In regard to his crimes, he looks not at the wrong

done to fellow-mortals, but at his sin against God (v. 4). And in regard to

salvation, he does not measure his expectation by anything he can offer to God —

repentance or amendment or atonement — but by the infinite fullness of God’s

love and grace. Therefore he is able to ask, not merely for pardon, to have his

forfeited life and crown spared, but for full restoration to the happy consciousness

of God’s favor.  The prayer of this verse is:


  • A YEARNING AFTER LOST JOY. It breathes a desolate sense of loss.

            Consider who utters it. Endowed with personal grace and beauty which won

            love at first sight; a man of genius, skilful in poetry and music; a hero in war,

            who had fought his way from the sheepfold to the throne; — he was in the

            heyday of prosperity and power. His armies and generals won victories for him,

            while he enjoyed the luxury of his palace. His servants devotedly obeyed,

            even when he required them to commit crimes. He had obtained the wife

            on whom his heart was passionately set. A son had been born to them. It

            might seem as though God had overlooked his sins, and was shedding on

            him the peaceful light of Divine favor. True, his sins — nay, crimes —

            had “made the enemies of the Lord blaspheme;” (II Samuel 12:14) but

            their counter-censures did not reach the royal ears. When the Prophet Nathan        

            stood before him, and told his touching parable, David had no suspicion that it     

            was aimed at himself (II Samuel 12:5). What lacked he, in the midst of his            

            prosperity?  Two things — one of which the ungodly reckon a trifle, and the

            other the worldly regard as illusion peace of conscience, and the sense of        

            Divine favor, what in happier days he called “the light of God’s countenance.”

            When Nathan’s rebuke, like lightning from a clear sky, smote him, “Thou

            art the man!” it was as though the whole fabric of his earthly bliss melted

            like a dream, leaving him alone with these two — conscious guilt and

            Divine displeasure.  The tide of worldly joy is at full with him, yet he is

            broken-hearted. He has lost what the world could not give, and all the

            world cannot make up for. “Restore,” he cries, “the joy of thy salvation!”


  • AN UTTERANCE OF STRONG FAITH IN GOD. That it was possible

      or a godly man, a man whom the Holy Spirit inspired to compose

            psalms which are among the most sacred treasures of the Church, to fall as

            David fell, is a tremendous warning that neither grace nor gifts are any

            security to one who neglects to watch and pray. Nevertheless, it is

            impossible that an ungodly man could have written this psalm. Even a new

            convert, pierced with the pangs of a first repentance, could not have

            written it. David’s self-abasement is measured by the height from which he

            has fallen. A penitent with no previous experience of communion with God

            would have thought more of his crimes against men, less of his sin against

            God. In David’s view, the former seems swallowed up in the latter (v. 4).

            Here is not mere feeling, but faith, as enlightened as simple, equally

            convinced of God’s willingness to forgive, and of His power to restore.

            David asks for both, expects both. Nowhere can you find more clearly

            discriminated, more inseparably united, these two great gifts of God which

            together make up salvation — forgiveness and renewal; righteousness

            and holiness; deliverance from the guilt of sin; and cleansing from its

            defilements (vs. 1, 2, 9, 10). See the contrast between remorse and

            repentance; the first akin to pride and despair; the second to humility and

            hope. See, too, the close union of humility and faith.  The key-note of the

            psalm is the opening plea, “According to thy loving-kindness.”


  • THE VOICE OF GOD’S OWN SPIRIT. The cry, “Take not thy Holy

            Spirit from me” - (v. 11), could not come from a heart destitute of the Holy         

            Spirit. The Spirit of God speaks here through the whole man; his deepest   

            experience is made transparent. The Holy Spirit has dipped His pen in

            the heart, and written with life-blood. This is what makes this psalm so

            precious. A candid, thoughtful sceptic would do well to study this psalm

            carefully, deeply; not its mere language, but its spirit. Can it be explained

            on mere natural principles, apart from Divine inspiration of some kind?

            Have we here a simply human or a supernatural experience? Nothing like it

            is to be found in classic literature; nothing in the sacred books of the East.

            A soul face to face with God, broken-hearted because of sin, not chiefly as

            crime or as defilement (though both are profoundly felt), but supremely as

            sin against the righteous and holy God; yet taking refuge in God, with

            confident hope of pardon, spiritual renewal, and joy in God’s favor - this

            experience is distinctly superhuman, supernatural. Therefore is it full of

            encouragement. If it were David’s alone, this would be no ground to think

            it may be ours. But the same Spirit who taught him thus to feel, thus to

            believe, thus to pray, is promised “to them that ask.”  (Luke 11:13)



The Joy of Salvation (v. 12)


“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with a joyful

[willing] spirit.”




deliverance from the greatest danger the soul can apprehend,

and is, therefore, a cause of the most rapturous joy the soul can feel. It is

preceded, in the majority of cases by:


Ø      terror of the Divine anger;

Ø      despair awakened by guilt; and by the

Ø      deep sorrow which distraction brings after it;


till the revelation of the Divine mercy through Jesus Christ is embraced,

and the way of escape is known, and then the soul is unable to

restrain its joy. This is the outward aspect of salvation. Salvation as an

inward fact is the enjoyment of a new state of the affections towards

Christ, or love to God. And this is a perpetual spring of ever-increasing joy.

Joy may become not a momentary rapture merely.



OF SALVATION. We may not utterly forfeit the hope of salvation; for

hope is a thing of degrees: how long a faint hope may linger, and in

connection with how much sin, is a practical question difficult of

determination! The question of our personal salvation may become even to

ourselves a very debatable, doubtful question, a struggle of hope against

despair. Here certainly the joy of salvation is forfeited. Then, again, though

the hope may not be gone, there may be so much remorse and sorrow in

consequence of sin as to destroy all the joy which is connected with an

assured state of the heart.





Ø      That God is the Author of all renewal and salvation in mans soul. This

prayer is therefore a prayer for the renewal of the influence and work of

the Holy Spirit: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” It is called

GOD’S SALVATION for which he prays.


Ø      This prayer for joy presupposes that which is the condition of all real

joy. The previous work of deep, genuine sorrow — repentance and

hatred of the sin which has caused the sorrow. This is the unalterable

condition on which we obtain any lasting joy.



FUTURE CONSTANCY. “Uphold me with a joyful spirit.” Doubt,

sorrow, remorse, paralyze all the powers of prayer, action, resistance to

evil. They are the sickness and disease of the soul. Joy quickens. A

joyous, willing mind has strength for the future, because it has conquered

in the past; for that is the condition of its joyousness.  (“A merry heart

doeth good like a medicine:  but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Proverbs 17:22)


vs. 13-17 - The psalmist now turns from prayer to promise. If God

will grant his petitions, restore him to favor, and renew his spiritual life,

then he will make such return as is possible to him. First, he will teach

transgressors God’s ways (v. 13). Next, he will extol His righteousness,

and show forth His praise(vs. 14-15). Finally, he will offer him, not

bloody sacrifice, but the sacrifice in which He delights — “the sacrifice of a

broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” (vs. 16-17). Such sacrifice, he

is sure, God will not despise.


13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways” - The truly grateful

heart cannot be satisfied without making some return to God for His

goodness. The most satisfactory return is by deeds, not words. David’s

determination is to do his best to promote the glory of God by bringing

others to salvation, turning them from their own evil ways to the “ways”

that God would have them walk inIt was his fixed resolve to be a teacher of

others; and assuredly none instruct others so well as those who have been

experimentally taught of God themselves. Reclaimed poachers make the best

gamekeepers.  Huntingdon's degree of S.S., or Sinner Saved, is more needful for

a soul winning evangelist than either M.A. or D.D. The pardoned sinner's matter

will be good, for he has been taught in the school of experience, and his manner

will be telling, for he will speak sympathetically, as one who has felt what he

declares. The audience the psalmist would choose is memorable--he would instruct

transgressors like himself; others might despise them, but, "a fellow feeling

makes us wondrous kind." If unworthy to edify saints, he would creep in along with

the sinners, and humbly tell them of divine love. The mercy of God to one is an

illustration of His usual procedure, so that our own case helps us to understand His

"ways", or His general modes of action: perhaps, too, David under that term refers

to the perceptive part of the word of God, which, having broken, and having suffered

thereby, he felt that he could vindicate and urge upon the reverence of other offenders.   

“and sinners shall be converted unto thee” -  The result, he hopes, will be the

conversion to God of many “sinners”.  My fall shall be the restoration of others.

Thou wilt bless my pathetic testimony to the recovery of many who, like myself,

have turned aside unto crooked ways. Doubtless this Psalm and the whole story of

David, have produced for many ages the most salutary results in the conversion

of transgressors, and so evil has been overruled for good.  (May we always remember

that it is “better to obey than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22) – CY – 2009)


14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness” - He had been the means of the

death of Uriah, the Hittite, a faithful and attached follower, and he now

confesses that fact. Besides, his sin of adultery was a capital offence, and

he puts himself down as one worthy to die the death. Honest penitents do

not fetch a compass and confess their sins in an elegant periphrasis, but

they come to the point, call a spade a spade, and make a clean breast of all.

What other course is rational in dealing with the Omniscient?  O God, thou God

of my salvation (compare Psalm 18:46; 25:5; 27:9: 88:1) – He had not ventured to

come so near before. It had been, “O God”, up till now, but here he cries, “Thou

God of my salvation”.  Faith grows by the exercise of prayer. He confesses sin

more plainly in this verse than before, and yet he deals with God more confidently:

growing upward and downward at the same time are perfectly consistent. None but

the King can remit the death penalty, it is therefore a joy to faith that God is King,

and that he is the author and finisher of our salvation (Hebrews 12:2).  -  and my

tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness”.  In further acknowledgment of

God’s goodness, and as, in some sort, a return for it, David will employ

himself in singing the praises of God (see his many psalms of praise) and

will especially exalt God’s righteousness. One would rather have expected him to

say, I will sing of thy mercy; but David can see the divine way of justification, that

righteousness of God which Paul afterwards spoke of by which the ungodly are

justified, and he vows to sing, yea, and to sing lustily of that righteous way of mercy.

After all, it is the righteousness of divine mercy which is its greatest wonder. Note

how David would preach in the last verse, and now here he would sing. We can

never do too much for the Lord to whom we owe more than all. If we

could be preacher, precentor, doorkeeper, pew opener, foot washer, and all

in one, all would be too little to show forth all our gratitude. A great sinner

pardoned makes a great singer. Sin has a loud voice, and so should our

thankfulness have. We shall not sing our own praises if we be saved, but

our theme will be the Lord our righteousness, in whose merits we stand

righteously accepted.


15  O Lord (not Jehovah, but Adonai), open thou my lips” - He is so afraid

of himself that he commits his whole being to the divine care, and fears to speak till

the Lord unstops his shame silenced mouth. How marvelously the Lord can open

our lips, and what divine things can we poor simpletons pour forth under His

inspiration! This prayer of a penitent is a golden petition for a preacher, Lord, I offer

it for myself and my brethren. But it may stand in good stead any one whose shame

for sin makes him stammer in his prayers, and when it is fully answered, the tongue

of the dumb begins to sing. – “and my mouth shall show forth thy praise” - A sense

of his guilt has long kept the psalmist’s lips closed. Let his sins be forgiven, and his

conscience relieved, then praise and thanksgiving will flow from his mouth freely

and copiously.  If God opens the mouth he is sure to have the fruit of it. According to

the porter at the gate is the nature of that which comes out of a man's lips; when

vanity, anger, falsehood, or lust unbar the door, the foulest villainies troop out; but if

the Holy Spirit opens the wicket, then grace, mercy, peace, and all the graces come

forth in tuneful dances, like the daughters of Israel when they met David returning

with the Philistine's head.


16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it” - If there

had been any sacrifices which God desired or required for such offences as

adultery and murder, David would have willingly offered them. But there

were none. As Hammond observes, “The Mosaical Law allows no

reconciliation, no sacrifice, for such sins.” He would have been glad enough

to present tens of thousands of victims if these would have met the case. Indeed,

anything which the Lord prescribed he would cheerfully have rendered. We are

ready to give up all we have if we may but be cleared of our sins; and when

sin is pardoned our joyful gratitude is prepared for any sacrifice.  Thou delightest

not in burnt offering” - In the mere act of sacrifice — the untimely slaying of his

own creatures — God could at no time have had any pleasure. His satisfaction

could only arise from the spirit in which sacrifices were offered — the gratitude,

devotion, self-renunciation, obedience, of those who approached Him with them

(comp. Psalm 40:6; 50:8-13; Isaiah 1:11-17)  David knew that no form of burnt

sacrifice was a satisfactory propitiation. His deep soul need made him look from

the type to the antitype (Jesus Christ) , from the external rite to the inward grace.


17  The sacrifices of God; i.e. the sacrifices which God really

values and desires. Are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O

God, thou wilt not despise”. “The contrite heart,” says Hengstenberg,

“denotes deep but soft and mild distress.” It sets up no wild shriekings, no

howls, like those of Oriental fanatics. But it nourishes a sorrow that is deep

and persistent. The joy on account of forgiveness and restoration to favor

does not exclude continued pain on account of past sin.  The sacrifices of God

are a broken spirit.  When the heart mourns for sin, thou art better

pleased than when the bullock bleeds beneath the axe. "A broken heart" is

an expression implying deep sorrow, embittering the very life; it carries in it

the idea of all but killing anguish in that region which is so vital as to be the

very source of life. So excellent is a spirit humbled and mourning for sin,

that it is not only a sacrifice, but it has a plurality of excellences, and is

pre-eminently God's sacrifices.  A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou

wilt not despise”.  A heart crushed is a fragrant heart. Men contemn those

who are contemptible in their own eyes, but the Lord seeth not as man

seeth. He despises what men esteem, and values that which they despise.

Never yet has God spurned a lowly, weeping penitent, and never will He

while God is love, and while Jesus is called the man who receiveth sinners.

Bullocks and rams He desires not, but contrite hearts He seeks after; yea,

but one of them is better to Him than all the varied offerings of the old

Jewish sanctuary.



True Prayer (vs. 10, 17)


Prayer is the index of the heart. When true, it is the “heart’s sincere

desire,” and expresses not only the feeling, but the cry of the soul to God.


  • THE PRAYER HERE IS THOROUGH-GOING. It is not pardon that is

asked — that has been obtained; but renewal. It is not present relief that is

craved, but complete restoration, such a change wrought in the heart as is

equivalent to a reconstruction, and as will re-establish and fix the right

relation to God for evermore.



only ask for things agreeable to God’s will. Here we can have no doubt.

what God wants is a “clean heart.” What God delights in is “a broken and

a contrite heart.” When we look to ourselves, and remember God’s

command, “Make you clean” (Isaiah 1:16); Make you a new heart”

(Ezekiel 18:31), we are filled with despair. But when we look to God,

and remember His promises, “A new heart will I give you’ (Ezekiel

36:26), hope springs up anew. God’s commands are not the commands of

a tyrant like Pharaoh (Exodus 5:6-8), but of a Father great in love as in

power. We should put His commands and His promises side by side, and

then we have confidence that what we ask we shall receive.



THE WILL AND WAYS OF GOD. God is sovereign and holy. He has His

own ways of working. We must be brought low before we are raised up.

We must be emptied of self before we can be filled with the fullness of God.

There will be not only the Word which quickeneth, but the rod which

disciplineth (v. 8).



AND OBEDIENCE. Life is made a sacrifice (Romans 12:1) —

offered, not on the altar of burnt offering, but upon the golden altar of

incense; not as an atonement, for Christ’s blood alone maketh atonement,

but as a thanksgiving for REDEMPTION.




The Sacrifices of God  (v. 17)


We may call this psalm “the penitents prayer-book.’ The spectacle of a

good man falling into open sin is a sight to make angels weep, especially a

man so distinguished as David falling into sins so gross and flagrant. We

are ready to ask why a veil of silence was not allowed to hide this shameful

example. This psalm supplies a twofold answer: the record of David’s

profound humiliation and bitter repentance is a warning to those who

“think they stand”  (I Corinthians 10:12), his humble but assured faith in God’s

pardoning mercy is an encouragement to those who know they have fallen. We

could none of us afford to lose this page out of the Bible. No part of

Old Testament Scripture enters more deeply into the spiritual life. These words

set before us:



atonement for his sin, fulfil no duty that can be accepted as a counterpoise

to his transgression. HE HAS NO HOPE but in the simple undeserved

MERCY OF GOD!  (v. 16) The word here for “sacrifice” is general,

including sin offerings, Passover lambs, thank offerings — any sacrifice in

which the victim was slain (so I Samuel 3:14; Exodus 12:27; this is

overlooked by some good writers). The sin offerings appointed by the Law

provided for sins of ignorance, infirmity, and error, not for willful

transgressions of known law (“with a high hand”) (Leviticus 4:2;

Numbers 15:27, 30). They were not designed to interfere with the

course of civil justice; otherwise religion and law would have been in open

conflict (Hebrews 10:28). Therefore crimes like David’s — adultery

and murder, for either of which the Law sentenced him to death — could

not be purged by sacrifice. He deserved to die, and he knew it. He casts

himself on the sovereign mercy of God: “Deliver me from blood-guiltlness!”

(v. 14).



ACCEPT. “A broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart” Why is this

called a “sacrifice” — a consecrated gift to God?


Ø      Because we glorify God by frank, full acknowledgment that His Law is

holy, His authority supreme, and that he may justly condemn and punish

(see v. 4). David had deeply sinned against men; but he seems to lose

sight of this in the awful overwhelming view of his guilt against God

(compare Joshua 7:19).


Ø      Because this “broken and contrite heart” implies the full giving up of

ourselves to God, not only that He may forgive our sin, set us free from

the burden of guilt, but that He may “renew a right spirit within” us

(vs. 9-12), that He may make us wholly His own (compare Romans 12:1).

Note that this word “sacrifice” does not of itself mean atonement. That

meaning was given to sacrifice by express Divine teaching (Leviticus



  • THE DEEPEST PENITENCEthe truest sense of guilt and shame


GOD’S FORGIVING MERCY. If ever there was the utterance of a

broken, contrite heart, it is this psalm. No hypocrite, no ungodly man,

could possibly have written it. No, nor yet a sincere godly penitent, without

a mighty inspiration of God’s Spirit. And the Holy Ghost, the Comforter,

breathes into the broken heart the healing balm of hope, trust, joy, and

thankfulness. David, who dares not offer a sacrifice until he knows that he

is forgiven, looks forward to the time when he shall offer sacrifices of

thanksgiving, peace offerings, and whole burnt offerings; when God will

bless him in his work of building the holy city, and will himself bless and

guard Jerusalem (vs. 18-19), without which verses the psalm would be

maimed and incomplete.


  • THE WARRANT OF THIS ASSURED FAITH is found, not in the

sinner’s repentance, but in God’s mercy and promise (v. 1). Nathan had

been commissioned to assure David of pardon as well as to charge him

with his sin (II Samuel 12:13). If David had asked how it could be right

and just for God thus to pardon crimes which, as king, David himself

would have been bound to punish in another man, we know not what

answer he could have found, except to say, “God is Sovereign!” The

gospel alone reveals how God is “just, and the Justifier of him who

believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26). It was a wonderful new doctrine

which the apostles proclaimed, that sins for which the Law of Moses

provided no sin offerings are atoned for by Him (Acts 13:38-39). “All

sin” (I John 1:7). God has Himself provided the Sacrifice which all the

sacrifices of the Law faintly foreshadowed (John 1:29). Therefore the

sacrifice of one contrite heart and of one joyful tongue, blemished, blind,

lame, though it too often is, is acceptable to God, because our High Priest

ever lives to intercede.


Vs. 18-19 - “Build thou the walls of Jerusalem,” which has been supposed to

imply that the walls were in ruins, whereas under David they should have

been, it is thought, in good condition. But it has been pointed out, very

justly, that the fortifications of Jerusalem were not complete in David’s

time, and that both he and Solomon added considerably to them (II Samuel 5:9;

I Kings 3:1; 9:15, 19). David may well have thought that, as a punishment for

his sin, God might interfere with the work which he was doing for the benefit of

his people, and hence have felt it needful to pray, “Do good unto Zion: build

thou the wails of Jerusalem.”



18  Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion” - Zion was David's

favorite spot, whereon he had hoped to erect a temple. The ruling passion

is so strong on him, that when he has discharged his conscience he must

have a word for Zion. He felt he had hindered the project of honoring the

Lord there as he desired, but he prayed God still to let the place of his ark

be glorious, and to establish his worship and his worshipping people.  It is

characteristic of David to pass from prayer for himself to prayer for the people

committed to him, and especially to do so at or near the end of a psalm (see Psalms

5:11-12; 25:22; 28:9; 40:16). And he closely connects —nay, identifies — the people

with their capital city (see Psalms 46:4; 48:11: 69:35) – “Build thou the walls of

Jerusalem” - He had done mischief by his sin, and had, as it were, pulled down her

walls; he, therefore, implores the Lord to undo the evil, (let us not have a role or

contribution to the national sin of the United States and her demise! CY – 2009)

and establish His church.  God can make His cause to prosper, and in

answer to prayer He will do so. Without His building we labor in vain; therefore are

we the more instant and constant in prayer. There is surely no grace in us if we do not

feel for the church of God, and take a lasting interest in its welfare. Josephus says that

David encompassed the whole city of Jerusalem with walls (‘Ant. Jud.,’7:3, § 2); and

we are told, in II Samuel 5:9, that he “built round about from Millo and inward.” 

It has been argued that his walls were just approaching their completion at the time of

his great sin.  David’s work of “building the walls of Jerusalem was left incomplete,

and finished by Solomon (II Samuel 5:9; I Kings 9:15; 11:27). But he knew and felt that

the true wall of Zion was God’s protection (Psalm 125:2). And as his people Israel

had shared the shame, though not the guilt, of his crimes, he trusted they would share

the blessing of God’s pardoning mercy and restoring grace. (With v. 19 compare

II Samuel 24:25; I Kings 3:15; 8:63.) We are reminded:



Relations of Ruler and People (v. 18)


“Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion,” etc. This psalm would be very

defective if it ended without such a prayer as this. For David the penitent

transgressor, David the inspired psalmist, was also David the anointed of

God, king of His people Israel. Modern criticism, eager to use its sharp

shears, would cut away these two verses as added by a later hand. But

modern criticism, keen and accomplished as it is, is sorely lacking in

sympathy and imagination. As matter of history, David’s work of “building

the walls of Jerusalem was left incomplete, and finished by Solomon

(II Samuel 5:9; I Kings 9:15; 11:27). But he knew and felt that the

true wall of Zion was God’s protection (Psalm 125:2). And as his

people Israel had shared the shame, though not the guilt, of his crimes, he

trusted they would share the blessing of God’s pardoning mercy and

restoring grace. (With v. 19 compare II Samuel 24:25; I Kings 3:15; 8:63.)

We are reminded:



guilt in the ruler is calamity for the people. This is not arbitrary or unjust. It

is but a case of the great law of solidarity pervading human life

(Romans 14:7). So with the parent and the family, teacher and scholars,

head of a business and all in his employ. Power and privilege mean

tremendous responsibility. No men have such heavy burdens as rulers,

and few get less sympathy.



even the history of Israel illustrates this more wonderfully than the history

of our own nation.




FAMILY, PRIVATE DEVOTIONS. (Psalm 122:6.) Yet a venerable

Jewish tradition. It belongs to the time when the temple at Jerusalem had

not even been thought of. The tabernacle was at Nob, not far from the

Mount of Olives (I Samuel 21.; ‘Handbook to Bible,’ p. 277). It is possible

to maintain Christian life in secrecy and solitude. But that is not what the

New Testament describes as history, and reveals as Christ’s will. It is

neither natural nor safe. Mushrooms may grow in cellars; not fruit trees.

The embodiment of spiritual life in fellowship is one of the most

remarkable presentments of the New Testament records. Wherever the

gospel took root, the fence of Church fellowship was built round it, not by

man’s wisdom, but by Him who said, “I will build my Church and the

gates of hell shall not prevail against it!”  (Matthew 16:16)




FAITH. “I will trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.” The olive did

not grow because it was planted in the house of the Lord, but because God

put the hidden life into the seed. Church forms are but a delusion and a

danger, if trusted in, to those who are strangers to the hidden life

(Galatians 2:20).


19 “Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of

righteousness” -  “Then” — when the walls are completed — thou shalt

receive the public sacrifices which will naturally be offered on the

accomplishment of such a work (Nehemiah 12:43). And these

sacrifices, offered willingly by grateful hearts, will be pleasing and

acceptable unto thee – “with burnt offering, and whole burnt offering”.

Only the head, the fat, and certain portions of the interior were ordinarily

burnt when a victim was offered (Leviticus 1:8, 12; 3:3-4); but

sometimes, when the offerer’s heart was full, and he desired to indicate its

complete and undivided surrender to God, the entire victim was consumed

“Then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar” -  Bullocks, or oxen, were

offered on all great occasions (see II Samuel 24:22-25; I Kings 8:63; I Chronicles

29:21; II Chronicles 7:5; 29:32-33; 35:7, 9; Ezra 6:17).


Though we bring no more sacrifices for sin, yet as priests unto God our

solemn praises and votive gifts are thank offerings acceptable to God by

Jesus Christ. We bring not the Lord our least things--our doves and

pigeons; but we present him with our best possessions--our bullocks. We

are glad that in this present time we are able to fulfil in person the

declaration of this verse: we also, forecasting the future, wait for days of

the divine presence, when the church of God, with unspeakable joy, shall

offer gifts upon the altar of God, which will far eclipse anything beheld in

these less enthusiastic days. Hasten it, O Lord.




The Minister’s Psalm (v. 1-19)


We may imagine the servant of the Lord engaged in devout meditation. He

looks before and after. He communes with himself as to his life and work.

The deepest thoughts of his heart are revealed.


  • EVER-GROWING SENSE OF THE EVIL OF SIN. Sin is thought of in

the abstract, and its badness is seen. It is looked at in the world, in society,

in the Church, and more and more its evils are discerned. But worst of all,

it is felt to belong to one’s self “My sin.”



TRUTH AND HOLINESS. The task is noble, but difficult. Only these who

have tried know how difficult. There are not only obstacles without, but

there is the fearful obstacle within of a sinful heart.



OF RESTORATION. Experience is the best teacher. It is better to judge

from fact than from theory. Such as have themselves been “restored” are

the fittest to speak of restoration. They know that the work is possible,

though hard, for they themselves have experienced it. Like John Newton,

the minister may take heart in time of despondency: “God has converted

me, therefore I can never doubt of his power to convert the greatest

sinner.” This was Paul’s argument (I Timothy 1:15-16).



CONSECRATION. Looking to the past, there is much to humble us.

Looking to God, there is everything to encourage us. We need to give

ourselves anew to Christ. Opportunities are precious. To save ourselves

from bloodguiltiness,” we must pray more and watch more. The nearer

we live to God, the more interested we shall be in God’s work.



PEACE TO SINNERS. What we prize ourselves we commend to others.

The peace we enjoy we would have others enjoy also. The freedom and the

bright hopes that cheer our path we would gladly impart to others. When

pressed with the burden of our own sins, we are under restraint; but when

freed from guilt and fear, we can plead for God with boldness.



Our highest ambition is to “convert” sinners, not to a Creed, or a party, or

a Church, but to God. “To thee.” But this is God’s work. He only is able to

make the Word effectual unto salvation. Having the witness in our own

hearts of His saving might, we speak with all boldness. “The love of Christ

constraineth us.”  (II Corinthians 5:14)


  • BRIGHTER HOPES OF THE FUTURE. There is a good time

coming. The hope of this springs immortal in the hearts of the redeemed.

When we are low, we take low views of things. If it be a dark time with

ourselves, we are apt to despond as to the work of God in others. But

when we are lifted up, all things seem possible. The future grows bright

and yet brighter before us, and our hearts are thrilled with a foretaste of

celestial joys. “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and

unto the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10)





Working for God (vs. 13-19)


With a conscience set free from guilt, with a heart renewed by the Spirit of

God, and full of thankfulness for God’s great mercy, he cannot keep silent,

but will seek to turn other sinners to God. The thirty-second psalm shows

how this resolution was kept.




OBEDIENCE. (v. 13.) To the ways of God’s commandment. We

cannot undo all the evil which our example has done; but we can in part

repair it if we renew our lives.




HIM. (v. 14.) God is good and righteous in both:


Ø      in punishing and

Ø      in saving from sin.


If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins,

and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)




PRAISE GOD. (v. 15.) God opens the lips by giving the sense of

forgiveness; then we can preach and sing with a full heart.



SIN IS REPENTANCE. (vs. 16-17.) Not blood or burnt offering; the

cleansing of the heart by sorrow and renewal of mind — the work of God’s





AND THE WORLD. (vs. 18-19.) Genuine concern for others is

founded upon the regeneration of our own spiritual nature. Zeal for others

is spurious if we have not been zealous about ourselves; like those

philosophers Cowper speaks of:


“Giving lives to distant worlds,

And trifling in our own.”

"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."