A Psalm of Penitence

Text: Psalm 51:10-17


I.         There are several psalms which deal with sorrow over sin and repentance: Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 143.

            A.        The context is given at the beginning of Psalm 51

            B.        David was a man dedicated to God.

                        1.         Though he was told at an early age that he would be Israel’s next king, David showed great patience in waiting for God to bring it about - I Samuel 26:22-25

                        2.         He won numerous victories over the enemies of Israel.

                        3.         He was a gifted musician, a mighty warrior, a great general, and a wise ruler.

            C.        Before we get to II Samuel 11, David is at the pinnacle of his career.

            D.        Then an accidental glimpse of a woman bathing leads to a series of sins. David covets, commits adultery, lies, and commits murder.

                        1.         In the end he marries Uriah’s now pregnant wife and believes he has covered over his transgressions.

            E.        Nathan, the prophet, brings a story from God revealing that God knew what he had done - II Samuel 12:1-7

                        1.         Nathan’s words cut David to his heart

                        2.         Evidence of God’s displeasure is shown when the child of his adultery took ill and died.

            F.        Psalms 51 eloquently records the convicted conscience of a burdened sinner before God.

II.        Analysis of Psalm 51

            A.        He admits the gravity of his sins - Psalm 51:1-4

                        1.         No longer caught up in the passionate moment of sin David realizes that what he had done was malicious sin of the greatest magnitude.

                        2.         Obviously he sinned against Uriah, his wife Bathsheba, and the innocent child who died, but David’s focus is on the Almighty God.

                                    a.         Earlier he focused only on his own desires

                                    b.         Then he focused on covering his tracks

                                    c.         But now he realizes how poorly he treated God.

                        3.         The starting point of genuine repentance is not so much sorrow over the hurt we have done to others as a realization of the grief we have caused God.

                                    a.         It is that understanding that kept Joseph from sin - Genesis 39:9

                        4.         We stand before God to be judged - II Corinthians 5:10

                                    a.         And David realized there was no justification for what he had done.

                                    b.         Instead, he admits that God is right in His declarations and would be blameless in holding David accountable.

                        5.         Too many are sorry they were caught or express sorrow so they won’t get punished as they deserve. But true repentance is removing all the self-deception and the excuses we give ourselves - II Corinthians 7:8-10

            B.        He realizes that he can’t solve this problem on his own - Psalm 51:5-9

                        1.         David is not excusing his sin, saying he can’t help it.

                                    a.         He is admitting he lives in a world full of iniquity that has been influencing him all his life.

                                    b.         David is stating that these sins are not some freak occurrence that has never been an issue before in his life. He is admitting that he has always struggled against sin.

                                    c.         It is a form of hyperbole, emphasizing a point by taking it to the extreme - Psalm 58:3

                                                (1)       It is clearly seen in Job’s description of his care for orphans and widows - Job 31:16-18

                                                (2)       Obviously Job could not have cared for widows before his birth, but what he is emphasizing is that he has always cared for orphans and widows.

                                                (3)       David, when in a better frame of mind, used the same hyperbole to describe his dependence on God - Psalm 22:9-10

                        2.         David realizes that God wants consistency between what a person professes externally and what he believes internally - Psalm 51:6

                                    a.         This is why David later says that God is more interested in the heart than external acts of worship - Psalm 51:16-17

                        3.         David asks to be cleansed by referring to the ritual of cleansing the unclean.

                                    a.         He is a broken man, but he desires to rejoice in knowing his sins have been removed.

                                    b.         Psalm 32:1-5

                        4.         Again, many make the mistake of thinking that though they failed this time, they can do better if they just try harder next time.

                                    a.         Repentance requires seeing that we are helpless without God’s help.

            C.        He asks for endurance to remain faithful - Psalm 51:10-13

                        1.         He wants a clean, fresh start

                        2.         He wants God by his side

                        3.         He wants joy back in his life and the strength of a willing spirit

                        4.         Then he can return to doing God’s will, such as teaching the wicked.

                        5.         Once again, we often reverse the order.

                                    a.         There has to be a change first, then we can serve God - II Corinthians 7:11

                                    b.         Instead, we push people into serving hoping that it will bring about a change.

            D.        He pledges to do better - Psalm 51:14-17

                        1.         David realizes that if God forgives him, then it brings him responsibilities to God.

                                    a.         David declares he will sing and tell of God’s praises

                        2.         He realizes that God isn’t looking for rituals, but a change in heart that David willingly offers up to Him.

                        3.         These are not points of negotiation where David offers to do something if God will give him something in return.

                                    a.         This is a man who is broken and has nowhere else to go and nothing else to offer his God for his sins, but sincere praise and his heart.

                                    b.         Nothing he has could atone for his sins, but these humble things he can give to the One who did not turn His back on him.

            E.        Only then will God delight in the worship offered Him - Psalm 51:18-19

                        1.         Notice the contrast from verse 16.

                        2.         Until there is a change. Until the outside actions matches the inside heart, God has no pleasure in what is offered up to Him

                        3.         But when a man gives himself wholly to the Lord, then the worship he offers is delightful to God.

                        4.         Yet how many think that by more worship and faithful attendance they can make up for their sins?

III.       A challenge to you and I is found in this Psalm

            A.        It tells us what repentance is truly about

            B.        It tells us the proper order it must be done

            C.        It tells us it is a matter of the heart first and foremost.

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